/14 big brains on Brexit

14 big brains on Brexit

Brexit is baffling and the campaign for the impending U.K. election is only going to make it more so.

That’s why we’ve decided to cut through the noise by asking 14 of the greatest philosophers of all time to make sense of it.

Here are their pithy reflections and predictions.

PLATO

Which maniac held a referendum? Democracy is a crazy idea. Brexit must now be entrusted to a philosopher-king. Does Boris Johnson qualify as this kind of enlightened monarch? Let me put it this way: A philosopher-king must be selfless and not motivated by public adulation or money; he must be a detail-oriented lover of truth and never driven by his baser passions.

CONFUCIUS

The path of Brexit will be smooth as long as Britain’s leader is supremely virtuous and has cordial relations with his younger brother. If he fails in these basic requirements, he will lose the “mandate of heaven” and 10,000 marauding horsemen from a rival clan will put Britain to the sword.

ARISTOTLE

I told you this would happen! Happy, virtuous people avoid extremism. Everyone should pursue a “golden mean” in their daily conduct, but I’ve always feared that the Celts of the north will never find this delicate equilibrium. They are fearless madmen who dread “neither earthquakes nor the waves.”

ST. AUGUSTINE

Brexit is a product of original sin. Don’t put your faith in earthly Britain. It is unjust and corrupt. The barbarians were always within the gates. Strive for an eternal Britain, where there will be oceans of sanctified tea, endlessly enjoyable queues in the cloisters and bottomless larders of sacramental Melton Mowbray pork pies.

HERACLITUS

Don’t sweat Brexit. Everything flows. You cannot step in the same river twice. Today’s Brexit is no longer the original Brexit you stepped into. And you are no longer the voter you were in 2016. In this world of flux, the road up and the road down are actually the same. Just like the road in and out of the EU.

THE BUDDHA

It all depends on your motivation, man. If you escape the illusion of the ego in your quest for an altruistic Brexit deal, you will free yourself from suffering. But if your motives are selfish and you show no compassion toward hard-working Polish immigrants, then a ton of pain is heading your way. Uncharitable actions have nasty consequences. Excuse my Prakrit, but karma will bite you in the ass.

THOMAS HOBBES

England must submit to a mighty Leviathan as sovereign to end these years of vacillation. Will England choose Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn as one man? Parliament as an assembly of men and women? The monarch? Any one of these will do, but a sovereign must take resolute decisions to steer the bewildered multitude. Otherwise, post-Brexit life without medicine, pesto and croissants will be “nasty, brutish and short.”

IMMANUEL KANT

Three things fill the human mind with awe: the starry heavens above us, the moral law within us and the dogged British insistence that trade deals with Fiji and the Faroe Islands can help compensate for Brexit.

 

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

Brexit, like human life, must be some kind of mistake. It will create a penal colony where each Briton must atone for the crime of having being born. The great error of the British is to think they exist to be happy in this world of suffering. Like coitus, Brexit is a product of enslaving desires that will never be satisfied. Afterwards, the British will hear the devil’s laughter. Or Vladimir Putin’s.

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

God is dead, and Brexit has propelled us into the age of the Übermensch. I once believed that the superman was only an aspiration but now I have seen these British titans, Johnson and Corbyn, I know that man can become more than a man. I should caution that I make this observation from the mental asylum in Jena, where I have been committed after a harrowing incident with a horse.

ERWIN SCHRÖDINGER

Is Britain inside or outside the European Union? For now, like my poor cat in its box, it’s both dead and alive. The country will be simultaneously Brexin and Brexout for some time yet. Do you really want to force the issue by opening the box and peering inside?

EARLY LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN

“What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.” Since nothing remotely clear can be said about Brexit, we should all shut up. That includes you, Nigel Farage.

RINGO STARR

Controlling “your own country is a good move … The people voted and they have to get on with it. Suddenly, it’s like, ‘Oh well, we don’t like that vote.’ What do you mean you don’t like that vote? You had the vote, this is what won, let’s get on with it.”

LATE LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN

Ringo Starr must be playing some type of language game that is only comprehensible to people who are in on the joke. Or maybe he just makes no sense to anyone.

ALBERT CAMUS

The only real philosophical question is whether life is worth living. Even Sisyphus found joy in his drudgery when he had to roll a rock up a hill in hell for eternity. Despite his rock rolling back down the slope every time he got to the top, Sisyphus learned to love his torment. The British will also come to love their perpetual Brexit stone-rolling. Il faut imaginer les Britanniques heureux. 

Additional philosophizing by Ivo Oliveira and Stephan Faris. 

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