Padlock head – a cartoon about psychology

Illustration - person with a head in the form of a padlock and holding the key in

Padlock head cartoon

A surreal or bizarre image showing a person with a head in the form of a padlock.
The person is holding the padlock’s key in their hands.
The drawing was created with no idea what it means, although it’s probably an unconscious metaphor for something as it gives the impression of aspiring to be psychologically profound. Perhaps it’s meant to refer in some ways to psychology, the workings of the mind, the conceptualisation of ideas and so on. Maybe it’s about the way that people become locked into patterns of thought and behaviour (while holding the key to escaping).

A cartoon about cognition, thought processes, psychiatry, the mind

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Philosophy cartoon – a philosopher talking to a man with no insight

Philosophy cartoon - men talking about the meaning of life

Philosophy cartoons
Strip cartoon about the nature of philosophy

A philosopher and a layman talk about the meaning of life

The joke in this cartoon is that the layman is intrigued about the purpose of life but the philosopher has come to the conclusion that it isn’t an important question.
It’s a cartoon that questions our assumptions of what is important

Ref: a597

Yes or No? Being pulled in opposite directions – illustration

Yes and No pulling in opposite directions

Yes or No – which will win in a tug-of-war?

A cartoon illustrating the idea of being pulled in two directions at once, or of indecision.

A conceptual illustration that might be about voting, a yes and no vote in an election, indecisive behaviour, being pulled in several directions, opposites pulling in opposite directions, weighing up an argument, forming opinions, decisiveness
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Professor Brian Cox cartoon – we are stardust

professor brian cox cartoon we are stardust

Professor Brian Cox cartoon
We are made of stardust

A humorous comment about the fact that all of the elements apart from hydrogen and helium were created inside stars – so everything is made of stardust

The joke here is that when the tv astronomer Professor Brian Cox says that everything is made of stardust he really lays it on thick in a way that many people, especially women, find very attractive. So here the woman is actually saying that she finds Brian Cox attractive, and it even affects her attitude to slugs

See my book on the nature of the universe
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Philosophy cartoons

philosophy cartoon - cognition

Philosophy cartoons
Cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am

The cartoon refers to the idea that people create their own reality or project reality outwards from their minds. The idea is that the outer reality is an illusion created by neurological activity (or some other process if neurological activity is an illusion)

The cartoon shows a person creating a thought bubble inside which the person is sitting – thus creating their own reality
The phrase cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) is attributed to philosopher René Descartes
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Giant space monster cartoon – size is relative

Space monster cartoon - size is relative

Cartoon – a giant space monster is still insignificant when compared to the size of the universe
A cartoon about the importance of context to significance

The cartoon shows two astronauts about to be devoured by a huge space worm

The inspiration behind this cartoon is the assertion that people sometimes make that people are insignificance when compared to the vastness of the universe. It’s my view that the size of the universe is of no significance for all practical purposes
Cartoon reference number: a567

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Cartoon – aliens trying to deduce what humans look like based on limited evidence

aliens trying to visualise what humans look like from glove and shoe

Cartoon – aliens trying to deduce what humans look like based on limited evidence

Aliens trying to visualise what humans look like based on their clothing – however the aliens only have a glove and a shoe with which to work

A cartoon about trying to reach conclusions when you don’t have enough evidence

In the cartoon the aliens have deduced that a human glove is a garment for the body and the (five) legs, while the shoe is an article of headgear like a hat.
The aliens have reached their conclusion due to their bias towards their own body forms.
A cartoon about cognitive limitations, cultural bias

Cartoon reference number: a565

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Cartoon – an alien visiting earth observes man’s inhumanity to man

Cartoon - an alien asking a soldier what monster he is fighting

Cartoon – an alien asking a soldier what monster he is fighting

The cartoon shows an extraterrestrial creature that has landed on earth. The alien is talking to a soldier who is dressed in fighting gear and is heavily armed. The alien is asking the soldier what sort of monster he shares his planet with that he has to be so well armed against it

The joke, of course, is that the monster is us, the human race

This cartoon makes a very negative point about the human race. Personally I think that the human race is okay, but that we tend to have too high an expectation of ourselves and an unrealistic view of the possibility that we can attain an ideal state of existence.
I drew this cartoon in the 1970s. It’s now forty years later. By coincidence I’ve just read a few articles about philosopher John Gray, who is of the opinion that the human race is not exactly the best thing to have evolved on this planet. Possibly a bit misanthropic, but not deluded in the way that some of the more shiny concepts of the nature of humanity are. John Gray’s latest book is The Silence of Animals

Cartoon reference number: a566

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The uninvention of the wheel – a nonsense cartoon

Cartoon/illustration - the uninvention of the wheel

The uninvention of the wheel – a nonsense cartoon

A cartoon or illustration illustrating the fanciful notion that inventions can be ‘uninvented’

Here, in an imaginary setting in a fictitious world, the inhabitants are discovering that by removing the wheels from a cart the cart becomes really hard to move. They seem to be excited by this revelation. Quite why I’m not sure. In fact, I’m not really sure what the cartoon’s about at all. Perhaps it’s about the discovery of the significance of meaninglessness.

This cartoon was drawn quite a few years ago, maybe in the 1980s. I must check.
A quite surreal cartoon, bizarre both in subject and style

Cartoon reference number: a561

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Unicorn cartoon. Proof that unicorns don’t exist

unicorn proof of existence cartoon

Unicorn cartoon. Proof that unicorns don’t exist

In the illustration a unicorn is reading a magazine or newspaper article with the headline “Unicorns don’t exist – the proof”.
The joke is that something that doesn’t exist is reading an article giving proof that it doesn’t exist.
The cartoon is based on the fact that generally you can’t prove a negative. For instance, in Britain before the time of ocean-going discovery all swans that were observed were white – however this didn’t mean that there were no swans that were black (as indeed there were in Australia).
The argument is often applied to religion and the subject of attempting to prove the existence of god. Believers in god frequently ask nonbelievers to disprove the existence of god. Atheists have to reply that disproving the existence of god is similar to disproving the existence of unicorns. The onus is really on the believer to prove the existence of god (or prove the existence of unicorns).

A cartoon about mythical or mythological creatures, the burden of proof
Cartoon reference number: a545
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Illustration – do we live inside a hologram?

hologram credit card cartoon

Do we live inside a hologram? Cartoon

A cartoon showing people climbing out of the holgram panel on a credit card.
The caption reads “Bad news. Not only are we living inside a hologram, but we’re nearing our expiry date.”

The illustration is about whether our three dimensional reality is a form of hologram like projection or illusion.
The joke is in comparing a grand theory of a hologramic universe with the mundane hologram on a credit card.
A cartoon about the nature of the universe, virtual reality
Cartoon reference number: a538

Altruism cartoon.

mindless violence and mindless altruism cartoon

Altruism cartoon. Mindless violence and mindless altruism.
The evolution of altruism

A cartoon about the emergence of altruism in nature.

The cartoon shows prehistoric men or cave men fighting. Another prehistoric man is rushing to the scene of the violence to care for the wounded. Yet another caveman is wondering about the evolution of altruism as a personality trait.
Cartoon reference number: a535

Culturally determined world views – cartoon

culturally based science cartoon

A cartoon about culturally determined world views
The idea that different cultures will use whatever methods are at their disposal to reinforce their established philosophy of how the world works.

An observation about theological determinism, cultural bias in science, cognitive dissonance, pseudoscience

The cartoon shows a nonspecific non-western culture planning to build their own large hadron collider (LHC) to obtain results that are consistent with their cultural heritage.
It is an illustration about the misrepresentation of science or the lack of use of the scientific method.
Cartoon reference number: a534
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Social control through the ages – cartoon

social control through the ages - cartoon

Cartoon – social control through the ages
In medieval times social control was imposed by the church and religion.
In the twenty first century social control is imposed by technology

A cartoon showing society in the middle ages being controlled by the church (symbolised by a cross), contrasted with society today being controlled by technology (symbolised by a cctv surveillance camera)

A cartoon about coercion, repression, repressive societies
Cartoon reference number: a502
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Cartoon about Utopia

utopia by-laws - cartoon

Welcome to Utopia – cartoon
You are now entering Utopia – please abide by these by-laws

A cartoon illustrating the idea that utopian societies can only exist if they are repressive or prescriptive to some degree (probably a necessary degree to be honest).

The list of by-laws that have to be enforced in Utopia show that it’s maybe impossible for people to act unselfishly without a degree of coercion. A cartoon about politics, philosophy.
Cartoon reference number: a500

The trouble with Utopia – cartoon

utopia surveillance camera - cartoon

The down side of Utopia
Utopia monitored by surveillance camera

A cartoon illustrating the idea that utopian societies can only exist if they are repressive to some degree (probably a necessary degree to be honest, judging by the nature of human nature).

Cartoon reference number: a499

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
Cartoon reference number: a498

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).

Cartoon reference number: a497
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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
Cartoon reference number: a495
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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

Cartoon reference number: a479

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
Cartoon reference number: a433

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
Ref: a632

Seeing the face of God in a flower – cartoon

Face of God in flower - cartoon

See the face of God in a flower – cartoon

A cartoon showing a Sunday school teacher telling her pupils that you can see the face of God when you look at a flower.

One of the children is imagining the face of a pansy as the face of God.
Pansies do have faces after all.
Seeing faces in things is known as pareidolia.
Cartoon reference number: a396

See my book of gardening cartoons 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.

Cartoon reference number: a388

The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing

the fox knows many things - cartoon

The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
Cartoon or book illustration

The saying is attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus
The phrase was adapted by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin for his essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox”.
An image about ways of thinking, personality types, thought processes, fables, psychology.

Cartoon reference number: a366

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.

Cartoon reference number: a346

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.

Cartoon reference number: a344

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.

Cartoon reference number: a340

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?”.

Cartoon reference number: a339
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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.

Cartoon reference number: a333
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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.

Cartoon reference number: a332

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.

Cartoon reference number: a325

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.

Ref: a657

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.
Cartoon reference number: a131

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.
Cartoon reference number: a130
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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.
Cartoon reference number: a129
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