Dateline: PITTSBURGH—Lisa Prettysweet, an achingly beautiful 26-year old, stunned her family and friends by showing the slightest interest in philosophy. Predictably, her reading of philosophy has made her more skeptical, pessimistic, and cynical and her parents are convinced that somewhere along the line, some dark miracle has brought about this ruinous diversion.
“I see no other explanation,” says Lisa’s father. “What the hell are her genes thinking, allowing this to happen? Already, she’s turned down job offers because they don’t live up to her newfangled ideals. Soon she’ll still be single but she’ll also be homeless and a couple decades from now, when she’s lost her youthful beauty, she’ll no longer have her golden ticket to fame and fortune.”
A hunchbacked academic philosopher, Joseph Bitterman, is also perplexed by Miss Prettysweet. “The mystery,” he says, “is how anyone could willingly surrender such a natural advantage for so paltry a reward as philosophical insight. Beauty earns you tangible goods such as success in all your endeavours, whereas philosophy is just consolation for the downtrodden. If you’re not in dire straits, you’ve no need for consolation. However, if you learn the dark philosophical truths, pretty soon you will find yourself miserable and then you’ll need more and more philosophy. So you’ll have entered the trap, but you’ll have done it to yourself. Why would anyone do that?”
One evolutionary psychologist sees Lisa’s peculiar interest as an extreme case of self-sacrifice. “I don’t go in much for Christian theology,” he says, “but if I were so inclined I might get down on my knees and worship this weirdly altruistic young woman. Jesus gave up only his heavenly father’s kingdom, which obviously doesn’t exist; and anyway, Jesus supposedly got it all back when he was resurrected.
“But the blessed Lisa Prettysweet is sacrificing her physical beauty, something which is obviously real. And she won’t ever get it back. Thanks to philosophy, all she’ll be left with is knowledge of life’s absurdity. Fat lot of good that will do her when her face is all wrinkled and her breasts are saggy! Turning your back on heaven to help out some conquered desert tribe is all very moral. But throwing away the chance to earn millions of dollars thanks to your having won the cosmic lottery, with full lips, large eyes, and a flat belly? That’s just insane.”
However, Lisa is not insane. When she first began reading philosophy as a teenager, her parents assumed she was developing a mental illness and they took her to a therapist. “Without anyone forcing this on her, she started reading Nietzsche,” relates the therapist. “I agree this is baffling, considering her beauty, but I ran all the standard tests and despite that anomalous and counterproductive interest in philosophy, her mental faculties are normal.”
Asked why she bothers to study philosophy when she could be entrancing the average person with her good looks, Lisa Prettysweet smiled, shook her head slowly, and turned and looked out the window.