It’s a visit to the lighter side of philosophy in popular culture this week with a look at the recent “Epic Rap Battle” production “Eastern Philosophers versus Western Philosophers.” The popular YouTube franchise ERB built its reputation on a collision between high and low culture. Although reliably silly and scatalogical, the long running series of videos is built on solid research, intellectually substantive jokes, and solid rhymecraft.
The basic conceit is that two historical (or fictional) characters meet head to head in a “rap battle,” a series of dire insults delivered over a hip-hop beat. To work, the lines delivered need to be shockingly outrageous, yet seem true to the character portrayed.
So how did they do with the greats of philosophy? While they don’t go particularly deep, there are some choice lines that suggest at least some understanding of what these different thinkers stand for. Perhaps the most apt point in the video, however, is when the putative teammates can’t even agree amongst themselves. As they say, put any two philosophers in a room together, and you’ll end up with a minimum of three incompatible opinions.