Bruces' Philosophers Song

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"Bruces' Philosophers Song (Bruces' Song)" is a popular Monty Python song written and composed by Eric Idle[1] that was a feature of the group's stage appearances and its recordings. According to the sketch, it was rendered by a number of Australian university lecturers. They were all called Bruce and taught at the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolloomooloo. (Woolloomooloo is an inner suburb of Sydney. There is actually no university there, though the real-life University of Sydney is not far away.) Although the fictitious faculty first appeared in the Bruces sketch in the TV show Monty Python's Flying Circus, the song itself was not included, making its debut on the album Matching Tie and Handkerchief as a coda for the sketch. It was subsequently included in most of their live shows, sometimes as a singalong with musical accompaniment provided by a Jew's harp.

The song's lyrics make a series of scurrilous allegations against a number of highly respected philosophers, usually with regard to their capacity or incapacity for imbibing intoxicating liquors.[2]

There is some debate over whether the sixth line is officially supposed to be "Schopenhauer and Hegel" or just "Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel". The reason for the confusion is that existing live recordings of the song (included in the Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl film and on the albums Live at Drury Lane and Live at City Center) have the "Schopenhauer and Hegel" version, while the studio recording on Matching Tie and Handkerchief features the "Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel" version. However, the publication of the lyrics with the release of Monty Python Sings suggests that the "Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel" version is the official one.

All the thinkers whom the song mentions were dead by the time it appeared, apart from Martin Heidegger.

Philosophers mentioned in the song (in order):

  1. Immanuel Kant
  2. Martin Heidegger
  3. David Hume
  4. Arthur Schopenhauer (some versions)
  5. G.W.F. Hegel
  6. Ludwig Wittgenstein
  7. Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel and/or August Wilhelm Schlegel
  8. Friedrich Nietzsche
  9. Socrates (the only one mentioned twice in the song)
  10. John Stuart Mill
  11. Plato
  12. Aristotle
  13. Thomas Hobbes
  14. René Descartes

Philosophical references[edit]

Some of the philosophers are portrayed according to their works.

  • Kant being "very rarely stable" harkens to his theory of a stable universe.
  • John Stuart Mill becoming ill "of his own free will" alludes to his work On Liberty, which argues for liberty that does no harm to others.
  • Plato is, famously, the author of the dialogue Symposium, taking place at a drinking party, as the title itself says. Socrates appears prominently in it.
  • The Descartes line, "I drink therefore I am", is a twist on his well known phrase "Cogito, ergo sum," or "I think therefore I am".

References[edit]

  1. ^ Monty Python Sings CD booklet. 1989 Virgin Records
  2. ^ Gary L. Hardcastle, George A. Reisch, Monty Python and philosophy: nudge nudge, think think!