A Philosophical Lunch

A Philosophical Lunch

It was seventeen hundred and seventy three,

The flow’ring of Britain’s Philosophy.

George Berkely’d been dead for nigh on twenty year

And his friends thought a jolly would give them some cheer.

‘Twas Bentham who first of all mooted the plan

And soon he had listed some guests, and began

To write letters to all in his spidery hand

For some lived abroad in a faraway land.

Immanuel Kant was invited to come

And Bentham wrote, “Pleasure? I think there’ll be some;

The pain of the journey will soon be repaid

By meeting admirers of works that you made.”

But Kant was regretful, his RSVP

Said imperative reasons meant he was not free;

He had made it a rule, “categoric’lly so,

To home never leave, or to travelling go.”

So Bentham tried others, J. Priestley in Leeds,

Whose ideas he’d found out could chime well with his creeds;

Original thinker, a chemist as well

With plenty of after-lunch stories to tell.

But Priestley replied he was busy just now

And went on to give his excuses and how

He had nearly succeeded dephlogisting air

And to halt the experiment would not be fair.

Next came Dr Johnson (and sidekick Boswell),

Whose diction’ry so many copies would sell.

He laughed as he struck a large rock with his toe

And quipped, ‘Will a lunch still exist if I go?’

Now Bentham was worried; he’d hired them a room.

The last letter went to the Scot David Hume.

He’d known Berkeley’s works and had followed his line;

Surely this fact alone would compel him to dine.

But Hume was now frail and replied that the fact

His debt to George Berkeley was no cause to act;

‘A statement of is cannot lead on to ought,

And the journey to England would kill me, it’s thought.’

So Bentham was left to toast Berkeley alone

And to ponder upon some ideas of his own;

He’d done right to plan and to write to his friends,

Utility lies in the good of our ends.

This poem has also been published In the June/July 2022 edition of 'Philosophy Now’ 

© Sarah Rochelle 2020