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Be prepared to scream with laughter!

From the 2008 additions to the philosophical lexicon (stress mine):

bernard, n. (1) (from St Bernard) A shaggy dog story. Hence bernard, v. to tell such stories in lieu of making general arguments. “The risk one takes in bernarding is that one may be outsmarted.” Also baown. the punch line of a bernard. (2) A psychotic state in which one finds it impossible to visualise a bath without a naked woman in it.

I guess this is a reference to a certain well-known philosopher who had, among other things, a fondness for the metaphor of throwing out the bath… .  And of course the image of a  naked woman is just very funny,  isn’t it.  Or not.

5 thoughts on “No comment

  1. I’d read it very differently. I’d assume that the naked woman stuff was drawing attention to lecherous tendencies and actually being very critical of them. (I don’t actually know whether he was reputed to be a lech, but the def certainly gives that impression.)

  2. I tend to agree with Jender’s interpretation. After all, it is a “psychotic state”…

  3. Jender and Uncia, I don’t disagree at all. That seems the right interpretation. But these are supposed to be very amusing. I find myself uncomfortable at the description of the content of his supposed fantasy life, along with the assumption that it’s funny.

    For me, it’s a reminder that I don’t share the dominant casual discourse of my profession and that those who do are just unaware that some people don’t.

    I’d be willing to bet that men would find a comparable female sexual fantasy an unwelcome addition to the lexicon, but perhaps we should try and see.

  4. Unfair! The definition alludes to a passage in Williams’s ‘Imagination and the Self’ which makes a sly dig at the painter Bonnard, by envisaging a man who ‘having been recently much at the Bonnard exhibition, … finds himself unable to visualise a bath without a woman in it.’

  5. Thanks so much, Anonymous. It’s interesting that ‘naked’ seems not to be in the original.

    Let me just point out that the fact that there is such a sentence in Williams’ work does not show the interpretation is wrong. One would still want to know why that gets attached to his name, for example.

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