The Short Humour Site

Home : Writers' Showcase : Submission Guidelines : A Man of a Few More Words : Links

Writers' Showcase

Philosophy 101
by Jeffrey Wald

It was Wednesday. 8:55 a.m. Soon a troop of St. Bairfhion Catholic College freshman would languidly saunter into Dr. Plat’s Philosophy 101 class. Professor Plat sat at the desk in the front of the classroom, his eyes entranced by the northwest corner of the room where the walls met the ceiling. What thought produced that wrinkled brow, that hardened mouth and look of deep consternation? Was he pondering today’s lesson, Aquinas’s Five Proofs for God’s Existence? Or maybe he had a breakthrough in his article on the ontology of the National Labor Relations Board?! Alas, no such thoughts pervaded his mind. Instead, he was simply trying to remember whether he had set the DVR to record The Bachelor that evening since he had a faculty meeting and would miss it. That uncertainty, and the turkey bacon he had consumed that morning, had put his stomach in a swoon.

The first sleep-deprived, pajama-wearing, miniature-adults began sauntering into the classroom at 9:03. Professor Plat arose and stood by the white board. He wore a short-sleeved white oxford shirt with buffet stains down the front, and a polka dot tie that was at least 2-feet too short. He smelled like a mobile Starbucks.

“Good morning students. Good morning. Please take your seats,” he said as a critical mass of students had now assembled. It was 9:08. Professor Plat proceeded to take roll.

“Ms. Wade?”


“Mr. Banks?”


“Ms. Nordstrom.”

Silence again. Professor Plat continued reading off the names of the class enrollment. 10 of 16 students were present. A quorum!

“Alright class, let’s get started. Today we shall be discussing Aquinas’s Five Proofs for the Existence of God. I hope you found the reading stimulating.”

Ms. Wollstone yawned in the corner. A heavy aroma of Ron Diaz hung around her, and a frothy iced latte sat next to her on her desk.

“As we always do, let’s start with a brief biography of today’s philosopher. Mr. Toole, tell me something about St. Thomas.”

“The intro said he was dumb. Don’t know why we’d read philosophy from a dumb person,” responded Mr. Toole.

“Very good Mr. Toole. His teachers did call him the ‘dumb ox.’ Why do you suppose they called him that?”

“Cuz he was stupid I suppose.”

“Not quite. He was big for his age. And very bright. He sat in a stupor contemplating the nature of being as his peers played goose the girl and his teachers taught spelling lessons. He was likely bored and unchallenged. His teachers didn’t recognize his brilliance.”

“Proves that teachers don’t know a thing,” Mr. Toole said smugly.

“Thanks for your great insight Mr. Toole. Anyone else have anything to add about St. Thomas?”

“He chased a naked prostitute out of his room with a burning stick” stated the seminarian, Mr. Alberts.

“You sure she didn’t run out of her own free will when she laid eyes on the ‘dumb ox’?” responded Mr. Toole.

“That’s enough commentary from the peanut gallery Mr. Toole. Why do you suppose he did that Mr. Alberts?”

“Love of God. His parents were nobles and they didn’t want him to become a Dominican. So they locked him in a tower and tempted him.”

“Love of God you say” responded Professor Plat. “Some say love of philosophy. It’s told he spent all his time in the tower writing metaphysical treatises.”

“No offense prof,” retorted Mr. Toole, “but ain’t nobody loves this class enough to turn away a hooker.”

“Mr. Toole that’s quite enough! Please use language befitting a philosophy discussion. Let’s get on with class.” It was now 9:21. “Ms. Miller, could you tell us one of Aquinas’s proofs for God’s existence?” asked the professor, doing his best imitation of the Socratic method.

“The cosmetological?”

Mr. Alberts rolled his eyes. Mr. Toole smirked. Ms. Wollstone snored.

“Very close Ms. Miller. The word you’re looking for is ‘cosmological.’ And it’s actually a whole category of Aquinas’s arguments. Four of the five proofs are labeled ‘cosmological.’ Ms. Miller, can you summarize those arguments for the class?”

“They deal with stars and stuff, right? Like horoscopes?”

Professor Plat shook his head solemnly. “Not quite. Anyone else in class want to help Ms. Miller out?”

Immediately the seminarian’s hand shot up. Professor Plat begrudgingly shook his head up and down, in acknowledgement that the seminarian could begin his exegesis.

Mr. Alberts proceeded to enunciate Aquinas’s proofs. “The first four proofs, as you noted Professor Plat, are all cosmological proofs for God’s existence. They are 1) the argument from motion, 2) the argument from causation, 3) the argument from contingency, and 4) the argument from the gradation of being.”

At some point during the seminarian’s oral treatise, Ms. Wollstone awoke with a jerk, her right hand convulsively flinging out and knocking over her latte. Its creamy contents spread over the floor and onto the brick wall. Like an epileptic after an episode, Ms. Wollstone then resumed her snoring.

Professor Plat ignored the interruption and set to work listing the arguments on the whiteboard in black marker. As he was writing “the argument from caus…,” a noise like a small boy playing a trumpet emitted from his backside. Professor Plat pretended that nothing was amiss and went on writing. The students looked at one another with knowing glances. Mr. Toole chuckled.

“Alright Mr. Alberts, you have correctly named Aquinas’s four cosmological proofs for God’s existence. Now, can you please try to explain them to the class?”

“Well they proceed from the principle that nothing comes from nothing. All things inferior point to the superior. All effects have causes. And causation can’t go back ad infinitum, that would be absurd!” extolled the seminarian in rhetorical flourish.

“Right, like that fart a minute ago from the front of the class!” interjected Mr. Toole. “It must have come from somewhere. Or rather someone.”

“Of what flatulence do you speak Mr. Toole?” responded the professor, feeling accused. “Are you talking potty humor again?”

“No sir! I’m merely reporting what I heard. And trying to assist Mr. Alberts with his brilliant synopsis.”

“Well I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Professor Plat lied. “You’ve gone too far this time Mr. Toole with your crass jokes. Now please class, let’s get back on topic.” He glanced up at the classroom clock. It was now 9:37.

“Proof that God does not exist!” Mr. Toole thundered, jumping up from his seat. “An effect without a cause! An unmoved movement! Mark it in your notes today fellow students, today is a monumental day. For today is the day that our very own Bairfhion lecturer, Professor James P. Plat, has once and for all toppled the ‘dumb ox.’” His voice rose in a crescendo, again awaking Ms. Wollstone who, upon noticing her lava of iced latte flowing around her, picked up her backpack and left. Mr. Alberts sat gloomily. Professor Plat blushed.

“Really, Mr. Toole, I don’t know what you’re talking about. But let’s put this whole distraction aside and try to learn something today. We’ve one more proof to go. Who can tell me what it is?”

“It’s the teleological argument,” quickly responded a young student dressed in black, heretofore completely silent. “It posits that the world is full of non-rational natural bodies, behaving in set, predictable ways, working apparently toward some end or goal. The non-rational bodies could not direct themselves to this rational end. So, the argument goes, this behavior must be set by an intelligent creator outside the objects themselves. Like a watch and a watchmaker. It’s all a bunch of rubbish if you ask me.” (The student had been watching a lot of Guy Ritchie movies lately.)

“Now Mr. Niese,” said the professor, “why say you it’s all a ‘bunch of rubbish?’”

“Aquinas begs the question! The question being, of course, whether the world is rational, and logical, and orderly. Aquinas ipso facto declares that it is! But this is contrary to the evidence all around us. What of the cancerous cells that lurk in man’s body for no apparent reason than to make him suffer and die? Or why does the mother sloth eat her own newborns? Think also of the maniac, fitting within Aquinas’s subspecies of non-rational bodies, who acts not in an orderly predictable way, but uncontrollably and out of madness. No, I think the evidence clearly proves that this world is a cold, cruel, chaotic place that could not have been ordained by an intelligent creator. A madman perhaps, but not a rational, loving god.”

As Mr. Niese was proclaiming his opinions, the seminarian’s face grew more and more livid. Finally, he could take it no longer and burst out:

“But what about the sunflower seed, planted in cool spring ground that lifts its leafy head out of the black earth and follows the sun on its daily rise and descent? Or what of the human heart, more powerful than a V8 engine, pushing and pumping blood and daily sustaining your sorry life without a second’s thought from you! Or consider the Arctic Tern, traveling 44,000 miles from pole to pole each year to preserve its life! Look at these examples, and so many others from nature, and convince me that God does not exist!

“Wow, the next Emily Dickinson in our midst,” quipped Mr. Niese.

“If you don’t believe in God, why would you come to a Catholic college?” shouted the seminarian.

“Tuition is cheaper by half. My dad works here.”

Professor Plat took this brief break in the argument to turn his back on his students and glance up at the clock behind him. As he did, a middle school student trumpeted behind him.

“Again, nature reveals her proof for the nonexistence of God!” bellowed Mr. Toole. “We have been twice visited today! We should all get A’s for debunking Aquinas’s Five Ways!”

Mr. Toole was standing on his chair. Mr. Alberts arose too, fists drawn. Mr. Niese sat back with a smirk, enjoying what he was about to witness. Ms. Miller screamed. The rest of the class finally looked up from their iPhones, considering whether to livestream the forthcoming fisticuff.

Just when Professor Plat was about to intervene, the bell rang. It was 10 a.m. Class was over. “Thanks be to God!” thought the professor to himself. “Saved by the providence and grace of God!”

“Class dismissed! See you Friday!” Professor Plat wiped his brow, hurriedly scooped up his belongings, and headed toward his office. He had just enough time before his 10:15 class began to call his wife and ask if she could leave work to make sure the DVR was taping. But first he had to make a quick pit stop in the boy’s room.