Cartoon. Holy books v factual books

knowledge from holy books - cartoon

Cartoon – knowledge from holy books
The difference between religious books and scientific and factual books

A cartoon showing a child reading from a pile of books – and another child reading from only one holy or religious book

This cartoon illustrated the way that some religious groups think that all necessary knowledge can be found in their holy book.
It illustrates the sort of argument put forward by people such as Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion or Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great
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Cartoon – skiing uphill

skiing uphill - cartoon

Skiing cartoon
Skiing uphill cartoon

A cartoon showing skiers skiing in opposite directions – one is skiing downhill while the other is skiing uphill.
The image is on its side, so when viewed initially the viewer is confused by conflicting visual cues, mistaking the direction of the slope (look at the trees).

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Philosophy cartoons – human significance compared to the scale of the universe

human insignificance in a huge universe - cartoon

Cartoon – the insignificance of humans in the universe

A cartoon about the question: does the vast immensity of the universe mean that people are insignificant?
Personally I think that the answer is no, but it’s a thing that a lot of people think (My opinion is that it’s a mistake to judge significance in terms of physical scale – you can find out more about my views on this in my book on related subjects
The cartoon answers critics of science who claim that science strips away the wonder and awe of creation (as in the expression by Keats – unweaving the rainbow – adopted by Richard Dawkins as the title of one of his books)

A cartoon about life, the universe and everything, the cosmos, the human condition, the fallacy of scale, meaning of life, religion, spirituality. A spiral galaxy cartoon, astronomy cartoon
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Tree of knowledge cartoon

Tree of knowledge cartoon

Tree of knowledge cartoon

The tree of knowledge discovers where paper comes from.

Tree of knowledge discovers a disturbing truth.
This cartoon may be used as an environmental cartoon about the use of wood for the production of paper products.
It may also be used as an illustration concerning the human condition – about the way that people, through their own intelligence, have become aware of the ultimate fate of all of us, death. (a fate that other species of animal are possibly blissfully unaware in any deep way).
The cartoon is also about the way that human intelligence as well as bringing about awareness has brought us to the situation in which we are destroying the environment.
A cartoon about paper manufacturing, philosophical insight and the curse of self awareness

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Meaning of life cartoon – cosmic jigsaw puzzle

 cosmic jigsaw cartoon

Meaning of life cartoon
Philosophy cartoons
The puzzle of existence – cartoon

A cartoon showing two figures who look like pieces fro a jigsaw puzzle.
One is saying to the other “Do you ever gety that feeling that you’re part of a gigantic cosmic jigsaw puzzle?”

The drawing deliberately has no background or other setting, because the question in the image is appropriate to all situations
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Quotation about pedants

humorous quote about pedants

A humorous quotation about pedantry
“I’m not a pedant (in the strict definition of the term)
The quote is my own

A typography-based image showing a funny quote about pedants

The humour is in the fact that only a pedant would qualify their lack of pedantry as quoted here
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Looming presences. A drawing

threatening presences and small person

A moody illustration about oppressive thoughts and entities

This is an atmospheric drawing of a small person between two overwhelming and threatening forms.
It is a psychological illustration of the feeling of threat

A drawing about psychology, paranoia, neurosis, neurotic thoughts, looming danger

This drawing is mostly a sketch drawn with a ballpoint pen. It’s been added to in Photoshop, especially in the sky.

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Life coach cartoon – wise sayings about life

Wise sayings cartoon: just because there’s a bridge you don’t have to cross it
One of a series of “Mrs Walton, life coach and spiritual adviser” cartoons.

A joke about the current fashion for so called life coaches and spiritual advisers.
Here the life coach is just an ordinary, stereotypical middle aged housewife rather than an authoritative guru-like figure.

The caption of the cartoon reads “Just because there’s a bridge doesn’t mean you have to cross it”.
Its meaning is that you shouldn’t necessarily take the route that seems the most obvious or the most natural.
Bridges are routes across obstacles, but if the obstacle isn’t actually in your way, don’t follow the urge to cross it (without asking why you need to).

The cartoon is partly about the way that spiritual gurus and similar people often dress mundane and obvious common sense observations up as pseudospiritual and pseudo-profound utterances. However the sayings are sometimes true (as here).

A cartoon about gurus, idioms,

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Thinking, Fast and Slow – a tortoise and hare Cartoon

tortoise and hare thinking fast and slow cartoon

Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Tortoise and Hare Cartoon

A cartoon of the tortoise and hare from Aesop’s fables.
The hare is reading the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is about the theory that the cognitive functions of the brain operate in two distinct systems, one that operates impulsively and on reflect and one that operates on a more thoughtful and considered level. Both are necessary for survival, with the impulsive system making the snap decisions that are needed to keep you out of trouble.
In my cartoon the tortoise (representing the fast, impulsive part of the brain) is sitting on the back of the tortoise, with the implication that it’s trying to be a bit less impulsive and a bit more thoughtful.

A cartoon about psychology, evolutionary psychology, the mind, fables

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Did life come to earth from outer space?

earth as egg with sperm from outer space - illustration

Illustration: did life come to earth from outer space?

A cartoon or illustration showing the earth in space, with sperm approaching the earth

The concept that life was planted on earth by super-intelligent extraterrestrials, a concept known as directed panspermia (popularised by the question, Was God an Astronaut? as written about by Erich von Däniken, amongst others)has been revived recently with the film Prometheus by Ridley Scott, and will no doubt be aired again when the sequel is released.

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Illustration of an eye with a tiny person inside it looking out. A homunculus?

person looking out through an eye

A picture of a person looking out through an eye
Illustration of an eye, with a tiny person inside it looking out

Illustration: looking through someone else’s eyes.

An eye with a face looking out through the pupil as though it’s a window or the entrance of a dark cave

In this image the eye is a window with someone looking out through it. It may have something to do with the saying “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. Or maybe not.
It’s as though there’s a tiny person living inside the person’s eye, or maybe inside their head. This is related to the homunculus argument (homunculus: Latin for “little man”), which is a philosophical concept that imagines that there is a tiny person inside the head monitoring the activity of the person whose head it’s in.
Homunculus arguments are used in psychology and the philosophy of mind to detect where theories of mind fail or are incomplete, usually betrayed by the recursive nature of the concept under examination (where a problem isn’t resolved but is simply repeated art one step removed, as in “Who’s watching the watcher?” or “Is there a homunculus inside the head of a homunculus?”.

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Philosophy cartoon – why do we like sunsets?

Philosophy cartoons - aesthetic values

Cartoon – why do we like sunsets?

Cartoon about evolutionary psychology

Why do we find sunsets spiritually uplifting?
A cartoon about the fact that sensory stimuli that are of a greater than average intensity often evoke profound emotions. This applies to such things as sunsets and flowers, and is also a factor in our appreciation of the arts, from music to cinema. A comment on spirituality and pseudo-spirituallity (I’m a believer in pseudospirituality myself).
This cartoon first appeared in BBC Knowledge magazine

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Questioning authority – illustration

questioning authority cartoon

Questioning authority – cartoon.
A student questioning the authority of a lecturer

Cartoon showing a lecture on politics authority

A joke about authority, questioning, totalitarianism, anarchy, anarchism, authority figures

The joke is that the student is questioning the authority of a lecturer who is telling the audience to question authority.
This illustration first appeared in BBC Knowledge magazine

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Michelangelo – Hand of God parody. Did life come from outer space?

leonardo hand from ufo - cartoon

Michelangelo – Hand of God cartoon
Sistine Chapel Creation of Man parody

Parody of Michelangelo’s Hand of God painting in the Sistine Chapel, being used to illustrate the concept that live on earth could have been deliberately brought to earth from outer space by aliens.

The cartoon could be linked to theories such as the ones offered in books such as Erich von Daniken’s “Chariots of the Gods”, although personally I’d rather be disassociated with such theories (if that’s what such sensationalist speculation can be called).

The concept of Was God an Astronaut? has been revived recently with the film Prometheus by Ridley Scott, and will no doubt be aired again when the sequel is released.

The theory that life may have been planted on Earth billions of years ago by an advanced alien civilization is sometimes known as directed panspermia. This theory was (mischievously?) proposed by Francis Crick (of dna fame) together with biologist Leslie Orgel in 1971. Directed panspermia is sometimes evoked to solve a particular problem in the science of life – science’s current inability to explain life’s origin. Of course the theory simply puts off the explanation, very much in the way that religions do – hence my use of Michelangelo’s hand of God creating Adam in the cartoon

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Philosophy logo

philosophy logo

Philosophy logo

This is a typographical logo that I designed as part of my stock of philosophy cartoons.
The typography incorporates a letter ‘P’ in the word philosophy that is also a question mark.
The cartoons are published in Philosophy Now magazine.

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Philosophy Cartoon

Existentialism - philosophy cartoons

Existentialist philosophy cartoon: a child’s introduction to existentialism

A philosophy cartoon showing a child reading a book titled “My First Book of Existentialism”.
The philosophical theory of existentialism is usually associated with Jean Paul Sartre.

The humour in the illustration is that an elementary book at the level illustrated in the cartoon is far too basic to explain the theory underlying existentialism (or any other philosophical theory for that matter).
The cartoon also hints at the possibility that some philosophical concepts are more basic than is sometimes thought – and that some philosophies are probably flawed due to fundamental errors due to the limitations of the human brain to grasp concepts.
A cartoon about philosophy, existentialism, existentialist philosophy, philosophical theory.

See my book about life, the universe and everything.

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Cartoon – awareness of death always lurking in the corner of our thoughts

 Cartoon - awareness of death always there in the corner of our thoughts

Cartoon showing how the thought of death is always lurking in the back of your thoughts (unless you’re still young that is)

An illustration illustrating the face of death, symbolised by a skull, peeking round the edge of someone’s thoughts, because it’s always there somewhere, making its presence known.

A cartoon about mortality, intimations of mortality, mid-life crisis, life and death, existence, lifespan, philosophy, the grim reaper, awareness of death.
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Cognition cartoon. Man thinking himself into existence

cogito-ergo-sum-consciousness-detail-cartoon

I think therefore I am.
Descartes maxim “Cogito ergo sum” illustrated.
Consciousness of self.

Cartoon showing a person thinking himself into existence.
Cartoon of a man thinking, with the cartoon thought bubble that he’s generating containing the man himself. The man is inside his own thought bubble.
The cartoon is a depiction of Rene Descartes’ maxim “Cogito ergo sum”, often translated as “I think therefore I am”.
A cartoon about the problem “How do I know I exist?” or “Am I a figment of my own imagination?” (or of someone else’s?)

A cartoon illustration about existentialism, philosophy, solipsism, solipsistic concepts, self awareness, self generation, cognition.
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Following the news cartoon. Only watch the news once a day

Wise sayings cartoon. Only watch the news once a day

Cartoon about advice on how to live your life.
Only watch the news once a day
The news as noise and the illusion of engagement

The cartoon shows a ‘lifestyle guru’ telling someone to only watch the news once a day.
Some people (myself included) watch the news far too often. One of the problems with the broadcast news on tv is that it is extremely superficial, especially when broadcast on a 24 hour rolling news channel. Watching the news sometimes gives the illusion that you are actively engaged in the news, however, we should really be doing other things instead, such as reading books and magazines that analyse and explain in greater depth the implications of the news events of the day. The news is ‘noise’.
This analysis of the news is similar to that put forward in the book by Alain de Botton, The News. The cartoon predates the book.

This cartoon is from a series about the phenomenon of gurus, personal counsellors, lifestyle coaches (a recent and rather ludicrous twist on the phenomenon of personal fulfilment), motivational speakers and suchlike. In the series the guru, counsellor or what-have-you is a very ordinary middle aged woman rather than someone who is removed from the humdrum of everyday life, and is meant to represent a parody of lifestyle advisers and self improvement gurus.

Cartoon about truth, knowledge, opinions, prejudice, bias, philosophy, lifestyle, lifestyle coaching, gurus, motivational speakers, therapy, counselling, current affairs, engagement in society.
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Wise sayings. “Never believe anyone you agree with”

never believe anyone you agree with - cartoon

Cartoon about how to avoid reinforcement of prejudice.

Cartoon showing how to avoid having your prejudices confirmed.
The cartoon shows a ‘lifestyle guru’ telling someone to ‘never believe anyone you agree with’.

This cartoon is part of a series about the phenomenon of gurus, personal counsellors, lifestyle coaches, motivational speakers and so on. In the series the guru, counsellor or what-have-you is a very ordinary middle aged woman rather than someone who is removed from the humdrum of everyday life, as a deliberate parody of the usual lifestyle advisers and self improvement gurus.

Cartoon about reinforcement of prejudice, philosophy, lifestyle, lifestyle coaching, gurus, motivational speakers, counselling, truth, knowledge, opinions, prejudice, bias, bigotry, thinking outside the box.
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Cartoon: the pursuit of happiness

The pursuit of happiness

Cartoon showing a lifestyle guru explaining the secret of happiness.

Cartoon showing someone being told by a ‘lifestyle guru’ that to be truly contented you must transcend the present moment of your being.
The joke is that the person who is being given this advice is obviously in a very good place right now, and transcending his present moment of being is probably the last thing that he’d want to do.
This cartoon is part of a series about the phenomenon of gurus, personal counsellors, lifestyle coaches (a recent and rather ludicrous twist on the phenomenon of personal fulfilment), motivational speakers and suchlike. In the series the guru, counsellor or what-have-you is a very ordinary middle aged woman rather than someone who is removed from the humdrum of everyday life. The speaker is meant to represent to some extent a parody of lifestyle advisers and self improvement gurus, especially those who have a pseudo-spiritual twist to their advise (commonly of a pseudo buddhist inclination).

Cartoon about philosophy, lifestyle, lifestyle coaching, gurus, motivational speakers, therapy, counselling, charlatanism, self delusion, aspiration, buddhism.
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Funny philosophy cartoon: self absorption

Philosophy

Cartoon showing a drawback of thinking too much, especially about one subject.
Cartoon of someone so immersed in thought that he can’t see where he’s going (but doesn’t notice).

Cartoon showing someone immersed in thought to the extent that he doesn’t notice where he’s going.
He’s going to fall down an open manhole (which is a cartoon cliche, which is why I’ve used it. People in cartoons should always be on the lookout for open manhole covers. I’ve never seen one in real life I have to admit).

Cartoon about philosophy, epistemology, thought processes, thinking, knowledge, consciousness, lack of perspective, intellectuals, over intellectualisation, head in the clouds, narrow specialisation, specialisation bias, blinkered vision or outlook.
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Cartoon: a person floating in the air in a balloon powered by thought – a thought balloon

Person floating with aid of thought balloon

Cartoon showing the power of thought to transport a person to another place – in this case literally, because the thought balloon has become a proper person-carrying balloon.

Cartoon showing the power of thought to raise a person to a higher level of appreciation, from which the person can comprehend more due to the elevated position and new perspective.

Cartoon about philosophy, epistemology, thought processes, thinking, knowledge, power of thought, consciousness.
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Cartoon. The Tibetan Book of the Dead Funny

tibetan book of the dead funny

Cartoon. The Tibetan Book of the Dead Funny.
Mystical teachings on how to laugh in the face of death.

I’ve added this cartoon of mine now because it looks a little like a David Shrigley drawing, and because the last few cartoons that I’ve added are similar in some ways to David Shrigley artwork too (This interest in David Shrigley is because he has an exhibition of his art – Brain Activity – at the Hayward Gallery in London at the moment (Feb 2012)

The cartoon shows “The Tibetan Book of the Dead Funny”. Subtitled “Mystical teachings on how to laugh in the face of death”.
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Cartoon/illustration: God, creation myths and the nature of the universe

God reading about the true nature of the universe

Cartoon about God and the creation of the universe

Illustration showing a creation myth

Part of the joke in the cartoon is that the god figure is reading a book that explains the origins of the universe.
A cartoon about creation myths, intelligent design, genesis
The cartoon is an updated version of an illustration that I produced in the 1980s for the Guardian newspaper.
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Ockham’s razor cartoon (or Occam’s razor cartoon)

Ockham's razor cartoon

Ockham’s razor cartoon (or Occam’s razor cartoon)

Ockham’s razor cartoon (or Occam’s razor cartoon). Occam’s razor is the name given to the principle that from among competing hypotheses or ideas the one that gives the simplest and least complex explanation or that makes the fewest new assumptions is more likely to be correct.

Occam’s razor gets its name from William of Ockham, an English Franciscan friar and philosopher. He didn’t actually originate the maxim that the simpler an explanation was the more likely it was to be correct, but he used the concept frequently so the maxim became associated with him.
The joke in the cartoon is that Occam finds all of the razors in a shop too complicated, as he thinks that a simpler one will do the job better.
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Cartoon – the web of life – and the spider of death

Web of Life joke, Spider of Death

Cartoon about the web of life – and the spider of death.

Cartoon about the web of life & the spider of death.
The term “The Web of Life” is generally taken to imply something positive, about the interrelatedness of all living things. However, in nature, webs are generally dangerous things, constructed to ensnare prey. I like this dichotomy. In fact, rather than it pointing out the inappropriateness of the ‘web’ metaphor I think it gets it right, even if it does so inadvertently.

The cartoon is an attempt to overturn the rather anodyne and pseudo-spiritually reassuring notion of a benevolent web of life, replacing it with a more ambiguous and unsettling notion based on the same metaphor.
It’s partly about the notion of nature, red in tooth and claw.
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Cartoon about Hell – there is no cell phone signal in Hell

Cartoon - Mobile phone - no signal in Hell

Cartoon about Hell – Mobile phone gets no signal in Hell.

Cartoon about Hell – there is no cell phone signal in Hell (which is one of the reasons why it’s Hell.

Part of the humour of this joke is that people are so reliant on cell phones or mobile phones that the idea of not being able to get a signal is truly terrifying and hellish.
It’s a cartoon about people’s over reliance on modern technology, without which they feel alienated and cast adrift.
Cartoons about Hell are a common theme, found everywhere from Gary Larson Far Side cartoons to cautionary depictions in medieval illuminated manuscripts.
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Religion cartoon – evangelists trying to convert people to a religion by making special introductory offers

Religion salesmen cartoon

Cartoon about religious evangelism – trying to convert people to a religion by making special introductory offers.

Cartoon – evangelists trying to convert people to a religion by making special introductory offers – eternal life, forgiveness of sins and so on.
For more on my thoughts on religion, philosophy and related matters, see my book on the subject.

Cartoon about religious conversion, door-knocking religions, incentives for religion, missionaries, religions saving people’s souls, religious pragmatism.
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Cartoon about the human lifespan as a race track – with a start and a finish

life track - start to finish -  cartoon

Cartoon about the passage of life.

Mortality cartoon – a person walking along a track that represents ‘life’ – with a starting point and an end.

The point of this cartoon is that it illustrates an individual life as a short event that is surrounded by a void – it has ’emptiness’ surrounding it (before it started and after it ends).
I’ve deliberately depicted the course of the person’s life as nothing more than a track similar to a race track for a short running race. This emphasises the brevity of life, as seen in some ways. The track is also totally lacking in features, as if nothing is achieved during the life of the person. This is a deliberate over exaggeration, used here to depict only one possible ‘mood’ about the nature of existence. It also emphasises the vast space at ether end of life.
This rather depressing view of existence isn’t my own personal view – it’s just one of many possible views (See the cartoon of the person sunbathing in an hourglass for an alternative).
Cartoon about intimations of mortality, existentialism, mid life crisis, existentialist crisis, death, meaning of life, purpose of life, life’s brief candle, philosophy, the fearful void.
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Cartoon about mortality – sunbathing on the sand in an hourglass

sunbathing in hourglass cartoon

Cartoon about the passage of time and its implications on our view of life.

Mortality cartoon – a person sunbathing by lying on the sand in an hourglass – as the sand trickles away.

The person in the cartoon doesn’t seem to mind the fact that time is running out, otherwise he’d perhaps try to block the hole in the hourglass rather than just lie on the sand. Or is he unaware of what’s happening? It’s all very ambiguous, which it should be.
Cartoon about time running out, intimations of mortality, existentialism, zen, mid life crisis, existentialist crisis (or lack of), death, meaning of life, purpose of life, hedonism, philosophy.
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A cartoon about identity. A person wearing a mask. Is the face behind the mask a mask too?

the mask behind the mask cartoon

A cartoon about identity.

Cartoon about identity and masks – person wearing a mask, with the face behind the mask being the same as the mask itself

Cartoon about masks. The joke in the cartoon is that the face behind the mask is exactly the same as the mask. Is it a mask itself? It’s ambiguous.
A cartoon about hidden identities, the subconscious, personality projection, true self, anonymity, psychology, psychiatry,, alternative identities.
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Happiness cartoon – the pursuit of happiness

Cartoon - the pursuit of happiness

Happiness cartoon. The pursuit of happiness

Happiness cartoon – the pursuit of happiness. Showing a person chasing party balloons like a donkey pursuing a carrot on a stick.

Happiness cartoon.
The cartoon illustrates people’s innate desire to pursue happiness.
The cartoon illustrates the concept that happiness is transient and can’t be grasped and kept permanently (symbolised by the idea of grabbing and hanging onto the party balloons in the illustration).
The cartoon depicts the pursuit of happiness as a motivation for people doing things.
A cartoon about people’s expectations of happiness, the elusiveness of happiness, the search for happiness, the pursuit of happiness, thwarted expectations, motivation, sense of discontentment, motivational activities.
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