This made me laugh.
The Stoics were one of the philosophical schools that flourished in Athens in the third century BCE. They went on to conquer Rome, to the point that one of the greatest Stoic philosophers was the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. We’ll talk more about the Stoics later on, but for now, a key part of their vision was that each philosopher should aspire to be the infallible sage, a figure who fully understood the connectedness of the physical world, who saw the necessity in all things, and who could answer any conceivable question.
Such as, how many grains of sand make a pile? (This is known as the sorites paradox – sorites being the Greek word for ‘heap’.)
Clearly, we all know a pile of sand when we see one, and we also know that three grains don’t equal a pile. So there must be a point at which adding an extra grain turns the not-pile into a pile. But how can one single grain make such a difference? The same problem applies to balding men. The full head of hair gradually thins, until the man is undeniably bald. But when doe he become bald? Again, a single hair must mark the transition and yet how can bald and not-bald be distinguished by so fine a… hair?
And at school, a version of the sorites paradox formed an introduction for me to the world of speculation. A big rough kid would come up to you in the playground, grab you and demand an answer to the question: ‘Would you snog Hilda for a quid?’
Hilda was the ancient, irascible, snaggle-toothed dinner lady who ladled reconstituted dried mash and a brown meat slurry into your school tray.
‘No!’ would come your answer
‘So, what would you snog Hilda for, then?’
‘Hah, you’d snog Hilda for nothing!’ And soon the whole schoolyard would be singing out the fact that not only would I snog Hilda for nothing, but that I loved her and wanted to marry her’.
Well, that isn’t quite the paradox. The paradox would come later when you’d think through the question. Would I snog Hilda for, say, ten million pounds? I probably would, yes. So, for some figure between one pound and ten million, I would agree to snog Hilda. And that means at the threshold, one pound would make the difference between snogging and not-snogging Hilda. So, in effect, you would always snog Hilda for one pound.
-How to teach Philosophy to your dog, Anthony McGowan, One World, 2019
And while we’re on the topic of stoicism, this also made me laugh…
… although you probably need some appreciation of how Stoicism is championed in the modern world to truly admire the veracity of this meme.