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Brief Seasons Of Intellectual Dissipation
by [?]


FOOL.–I have a question for you.

PHILOSOPHER.–I have a number of them for myself. Do you happen to have heard that a fool can ask more questions in a breath than a philosopher can answer in a life?

F.–I happen to have heard that in such a case the one is as great a fool as the other.

PH.–Then there is no distinction between folly and philosophy?

F.–Don’t lay the flattering unction to your soul. The province of folly is to ask unanswerable questions. It is the function of philosophy to answer them.

PH.–Admirable fool!

F.–Am I? Pray tell me the meaning of “a fool.”

PH.–Commonly he has none.

F.–I mean–

PH.–Then in this case he has one.

F.–I lick thy boots! But what does Solomon indicate by the word fool? That is what I mean.

PH.–Let us then congratulate Solomon upon the agreement between the views of you two. However, I twig your intent: he means a wicked sinner; and of all forms of folly there is none so great as wicked sinning. For goodness is, in the end, more conducive to personal happiness–which is the sole aim of man.

F.–Hath virtue no better excuse than this?

PH.–Possibly; philosophy is not omniscience.

F.–Instructed I sit at thy feet!

PH.–Unwilling to instruct, I stand on my head.

* * * * *

FOOL.–You say personal happiness is the sole aim of man.

PHILOSOPHER.–Then it is.

F.–But this is much disputed.

PH.–There is much personal happiness in disputation.


PH.–Hold! I detest foreigners.

F.–Wisdom, they say, is of no country.

PH.–Of none that I have seen.

* * * * *

FOOL.–Let us return to our subject–the sole aim of mankind. Crack me these nuts. (1) The man, never weary of well-doing, who endures a life of privation for the good of his fellow-creatures?

PHILOSOPHER.–Does he feel remorse in so doing? or does the rascal rather like it?

F.–(2) He, then, who, famishing himself, parts his loaf with a beggar?

PH.–There are people who prefer benevolence to bread.

F.–Ah! De gustibus

PH.–Shut up!

F.–Well, (3) how of him who goes joyfully to martyrdom?

PH.–He goes joyfully.

F.–And yet–

PH.–Did you ever converse with a good man going to the stake?

F.–I never saw a good man going to the stake.

PH.–Unhappy pupil! you were born some centuries too early.

* * * * *

FOOL.–You say you detest foreigners. Why?

PHILOSOPHER.–Because I am human.

F.–But so are they.

PH.–Excellent fool! I thank thee for the better reason.

* * * * *

PHILOSOPHER.–I have been thinking of the pocopo.

FOOL.–Is it open to the public?

PH.–The pocopo is a small animal of North America, chiefly remarkable for singularity of diet. It subsists solely upon a single article of food.

F.–What is that?

PH.–Other pocopos. Unable to obtain this, their natural sustenance, a great number of pocopos die annually of starvation. Their death leaves fewer mouths to feed, and by consequence their race is rapidly multiplying.

F.–From whom had you this?

PH.–A professor of political economy.

F.–I bend in reverence! What made you think of the pocopo?

PH.–Speaking of man.

F.–If you did not wish to think of the pocopo, and speaking of man would make you think of it, you would not speak of man, would you?

PH.–Certainly not.

F.–Why not?

PH.–I do not know.

F.–Excellent philosopher!

* * * * *

FOOL.–I have attentively considered your teachings. They may be full of wisdom; they are certainly out of taste.