Bruces' Philosophers Song
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"Bruces' Philosophers Song", also known as "The Bruces' Song", is a popular Monty Python song written and composed by Eric Idle that was a feature of the group's stage appearances and its recordings.
The Bruces' Philosophers 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. (There is no such place as Woolamaloo in Australia; but Woolloomooloo is an inner suburb of Sydney. There is no university there, although 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 24 November 1970. The sketch shows an 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.
The song's lyrics make a series of scandalous allegations about a number of highly respected philosophers, usually with regard to their capacity or incapacity for imbibing intoxicating beverages.
There is a discrepancy over whether the sixth line refers to "Schopenhauer and Hegel" or merely "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. 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.)
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):
- Immanuel Kant (a real pissant who was very rarely stable)
- Martin Heidegger (a boozy beggar who could think you under the table)
- David Hume (able to outconsume G. W. F. Hegel)
- Arthur Schopenhauer (some versions) (outconsumed by Hume)
- G. W. F. Hegel (Ibid)
- Ludwig Wittgenstein (a beery swine who was just as sloshed as Schlegel)
- Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel and/or August Wilhelm Schlegel (Wittgenstein is alleged be just as sloshed as)
- Friedrich Nietzsche (particularly knowledgeable about "the raising of the wrist")
- Socrates (the only one mentioned twice in the song) (permanently pissed)
- John Stuart Mill (particularly ill after half a pint of shandy)
- Plato (said to regularly consume half a crate of whiskey daily)
- Aristotle (a bugger for the bottle)
- Thomas Hobbes (fond of his dram)
- René Descartes (a drunken fart)
- Socrates (second mention) (particularly missed, noted as both a lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he's pissed)
Some of the philosophers seem to be portrayed according to their works.
- Kant being "very rarely stable" could harken to his theory of a stable universe.
- John Stuart Mill becoming ill "of his own free will" could allude to his 1859 work On Liberty, which argues for liberty that does no harm to others. Also in Chapter 5 of Utilitarianism, Mill uses the expression "freedom of the will" when considering the Robert Owen principle that it is unjust to punish anyone for what he cannot help.
- 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 clearly a twist on his well-known phrase "Cogito, ergo sum," or "I think therefore I am".
- Monty Python Sings CD booklet. 1989 Virgin Records
- Hardcastle, Gary L; Reisch, George A., 1962- (2006), Monty Python and philosophy : nudge nudge, think think!, Open Court, ISBN 978-0-8126-9593-9CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Hardcastle, Gary L; Reisch, George A., 1962- (2010), Monty Python and philosophy : nudge nudge, think think!, Read How You Want, ISBN 978-1-4596-0103-1CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)