My crisps!

Philosophy, you may think, is about big questions, questions that rock your life, like:

You can only save one patient; who do you choose: the baker or the rough sleeper?


You’re in a leaky boat and one of you has to be thrown overboard, who will it be?


Philosophical conversations, however, especially at home, are more revealing, when they address small things. Or less friendly said: most of the irritations in daily life are around petty things: 

  • son A does not want to move a few inches so that son B can sit at the table
  • mom calls that dinner is ready, but nobody hears her, because of the streamed music through the mini-earphones
  • and the garage door has been left unlocked last night, dad grumbles.

Where is the philosophy? It is in the detection, the uncovering of the underlying ‘rule of life’. We all have those rules, which help us to decide instantly what our response will be in a particular situation, so that we don’t need to deliberate, but instantly shout “My crisps!!”.

Philosophy is an invitation to look at the underlying rules.

There are more of them than you may expect:

  • “I sat here first” – rule of priority
  • “This is my plate” – rule of ownership
  • “Yesterday I did … for you” – rule of reciprocity
  • “I’ve done the laundry, so you guys …” – rule of fair share / equality
  • “Don’t ask me, do it yourself” – rule of responsibility
  • “You promised to do …” – rule of trust
  • “No problem, I’ll …” – rule of kindness
  • “Just be kind, we’re family, after all”! – rule of obligation.

Philosophers don’t like such a situation, where different responses refer to different rules, because now the battle between the family-members moves up to a battle between the rules: which rule ‘over-rules’ the other ones? And why?

Here you go: what is your “house rule” number one?

And don’t forget: choose a small example; don’t wait till you feel tempted to throw somebody over board!



                                                                                                [Pieter Mostert, 28 March 2020]

Posted by Kim Down on 28th March 2020 at 12:00am