Metaphysics isn’t ordinarily much of a laughing matter. But in the hands of acclaimed comedy writer and scholar Eric Kaplan, a search for the truth about old St. Nick becomes a deeply insightful, laugh-out-loud discussion of the way some things exist but may not really be there. Just like Santa and his reindeer.
Even after we outgrow the jolly fellow, the essential paradox persists: There are some things we dearly believe in that are not universally acknowledged as real. In Does Santa Exist? Kaplan shows how philosophy giants Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein strove to smooth over this uncomfortable meeting of the real and unreal—and failed. From there he turns to mysticism’s attempts to resolve such paradoxes, surveying Buddhism, Taoism, early Christianity, Theosophy, and even the philosophers at UC Berkeley under whom he studied. Finally, this brilliant comic writer alights on—surprise—comedy as the ultimate resolution of the fundamental paradoxes of life, using examples from The Big Bang Theory, Monty Python’s cheese shop sketch, and many other pop-culture sources.
Finally Kaplan delves deeper into what this means, from how our physical brains work to his own personal confrontations with life’s biggest questions: If we’re all going to die, what’s the point of anything? What is a perfect moment? What can you say about God? Or Santa?
“A witty, provocative, and profound exploration of reality, meaning, morality, and yes, Santa Claus.” — The Huffington Post
“Kaplan’s deadpan style lets you read this as a serious philosophical treatise — but you can also take it as a well-done farce.” - New York Post
“Kaplan’s investigation into the ontology of Santa Claus is erudite, readable and exceedingly funny.” - Kirkus Reviews
“Eric Kaplan’s Does Santa Exist? is the funniest book of philosophy since…well, ever.”
–Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama and author of Life in Hell
“If you can put this book down, you should see a doctor. Kaplan’s message burrows into the mind, beats up a few beliefs and then leaves with a triumphant bang.”
–Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology University of California Santa Barbara, Director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, and Founder of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society
“Exceptionally interesting, rigorous and I found it not only weirdly funny but deeply moving.”
–Hubert Dreyfus, Professor of Philosophy, University of California Berkeley, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
“This is truly a book that I wish I had written. Eric brings great clarity of thought to some of the deepest questions of the mind and our understanding of the world. And he’s really funny.”
–Daniel Levitin, New York Times Bestselling author of This is Your Brain on Music, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience at McGill University, Dean of Arts and Humanities, Minerva Schools at KGI
“Eric Kaplan is more than a talented comedy writer. He is a deep soul, an intellectual master, and a brilliant communicator of the subtleties of the intersections between faith and logic. He will have you laughing, thinking harder than you’ve ever thought, and falling in love with the process of intellectual exploration all over again. A masterpiece.”
–Mayim Bialik, PhD (neuroscience, UCLA), actress known for her roles as Blossom Russo in Blossom and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in The Big Bang Theory
“I’m not sure I’ve ever read a more peculiar book. Fortunately, it’s also smart, wise, charming, lucid, entertaining, big-hearted and maybe even profound.”
–Kurt Andersen, New York Times Bestselling author of Heyday, host of Studio 360, and former editor of Harvard Lampoon
“Kaplan finds just the right balance between rigor and humor, seriousness and irreverence. You learn something (even about Santa), you laugh out loud, and you can’t help but enjoy the mixture of philosophy and edgy jokes. This book is not just clever and a very engaging read, it’s intelligent. I can’t wait for his next piece, presumably on the Easter Bunny.”
—David Poeppel, Professor of Psychology and Neural Science New York University
“Eric Kaplan’s engaging book explores the big questions we need to find more time for, like: what should we believe, what makes us happy, and how should we react to suffering and death. In a clear, non-polemical style, he moves effortlessly between philosophy, neuroscience, ethics, and religion. His contrast between rationality, mysticism, and humor as responses to life’s conflicts is especially original and convincing. I plan to work this book into my course “Comedy, Tragedy, and Religion.”
- John Morreall, Professor of Religious Studies, College of William & Mary, author of Comedy, Tragedy, and Religion and Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor
“One of the most enjoyable and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. Eric Kaplan will comvince you that comedy provides as much insight as logic or mysticism into the fundamental nature of reality.”
- Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at Caltech and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe