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.

Origins[edit]

The Bruces' Philosophy Song is sung by the Bruces, stereotypical "ocker" Australians of the period. The Bruces are kitted out in khakis, slouch hats and a cork hat and are faculty members of the Philosophy Department at the fictional University of Woolamaloo. (N.B. there is no such place as Woolamaloo in Australia but Woolloomooloo is an inner suburb of Sydney. There is no university there, though the real-life University of Sydney is not far away.)

The Bruces themselves first appeared in the Bruces sketch which featured in episode 22 "How to Recognise Different Parts of the Body" of the TV show Monty Python's Flying Circus, first broadcast on the 24th of November 1970. The sketch shows a English academic (played by Terry Jones) coming to a hot and perhaps remote part of Australia and being inducted by the Bruces (Cleese, Chapman, Idle and Palin) into their Philosophy Department, seemingly located in a simple wooden shack. The Bruces are lounging around a wooden table and soon start drinking cans of Foster's Lager.

The song was not part of the TV sketch; it first appeared on the Monty Python's 1973 album Matching Tie and Handkerchief as a coda for the album version of the sketch. The song was subsequently included in most of the Monty Python team's live shows, sometimes as a singalong with musical accompaniment provided by a Jew's harp.

Lyrics[edit]

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[who?] over whether the sixth line is 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[original research?] that the "Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel" version is the official one. (The reason for the change of lyric may be that the philosopher in question's name is actually Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and that Georg is pronounced in German with two syllables (GAY-org) making it difficult for the philosopher's full name to fit in the song.)

The Philosophers[edit]

Heidegger in 1960.

All the philosophers 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! 

External links[edit]