Bruces' Philosophers Song

Bruces' Philosophers Song

Bruces' Philosophers Song (Bruces' Song) was a popular Monty Python song written by Eric Idle, and was a feature of the group's stage appearances and its recordings. According to the sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, it was rendered by a number of Australian university lecturers. They were all called Bruce and taught at the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolloomooloo. (Woolloomooloo is an inner suburb of Sydney. There is actually no university there, though the real-life Sydney University is not far away.) Although the fictitious faculty first appeared in the Bruces sketch in the TV show Monty Python's Flying Circus, the song itself was original to the stage show.

The song's lyrics make a series of scurrilous allegations against a number of highly respected philosophers, usually with regard to their capacity or incapacity for imbibing intoxicating liquors.[1]

There is some debate over whether the sixth line is officially supposed to be "Schopenhauer and Hegel" or just "Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel". The reason for the confusion is that existing live recordings of the song (included in the Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl film and on the albums Live at Drury Lane and Live at City Center) have the "Schopenhauer and Hegel" version, while the studio recording on Matching Tie and Handkerchief features the "Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel" version. However, the publication of the lyrics with the release of Monty Python Sings suggests that the "Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel" version is the official one.

All the thinkers whom the song mentions were dead by the time it appeared, apart from Martin Heidegger.

Philosophers mentioned in the song (in order):

  1. Immanuel Kant
  2. Martin Heidegger
  3. David Hume
  4. Arthur Schopenhauer (some versions)
  5. G.W.F. Hegel
  6. Ludwig Wittgenstein
  7. Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel and/or August Wilhelm Schlegel
  8. Friedrich Nietzsche
  9. Socrates (the only one mentioned twice in the song)
  10. John Stuart Mill
  11. Plato
  12. Aristotle
  13. Thomas Hobbes
  14. René Descartes

Philosophical references

Some of the philosophers are portrayed according to their works.

  • Kant being "very rarely stable" harkens to his theory of a stable universe.
  • Nietzsche's teaching of the "raising of the wrist" possibly references the rising of the sun at the beginning of "Thus spoke Zarathustra." or simply the act of raising a drinking glass.
  • John Stuart Mill becoming ill "of his own free will" alludes to his work On Liberty, which argues for liberty that does no harm to others.
  • The Descartes line, "I drink therefore I am", is a twist on his well known phrase "Cogito, ergo sum," or "I think therefore I am".

See also


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