New Book Project – Philosophies from the Disc

The wisdom of these books and more, distilled.

I’ve been busy working on several projects over the past few months, and one I’m now happy to announce is a new book. (well, if you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll note I announced it there a few weeks back). This book will NOT be about politics, but will instead focus on another love of mine, the Discworld.

The deep philosophy of these books and more, distilled for you.Of course, as you know, I can’t leave politics alone, so this is a book that’s about Discworld, but also politics, facts, and philosophy. In short, it’s basically “Everything to learn about life can be learnt from Discworld” (got a better title idea, let me know!)

That’s because there are so many passages there that are examples of good philosophy, astute lessons to learn about life or deep insights into the human condition. Sir Terry Pratchett was an amazing writer and observer of civilisation. As fellow Pratchett fan Roxanne Henkle once noted at a Pratchett panel I did with her a few years back, “He’s the Jonathon Swift of our time”.

While there are books that focus in on the ‘wit and wisdom’ (such as the [obviously named] “Wit and wisdom of Discworld”), there are none that focus in on the key life lessons in the text. I aim to change that.

So why would I embark on this? Well, I tend to use a number of Discworld quotes and references when explaining things. So, why not have a book of them?

Here’s an example from Making Money, where Mr Bent is lecturing moist van Lipwig on the difference between politics and finance.

‘You use words, and I’m told you do it well, but words are soft and can be pummelled into different meanings by a skilled tongue. Numbers are hard. Oh, you can cheat with them but you cannot change their nature. Three is three. You cannot persuade it to be four, even if you give it a great big kiss.’

The difference between words and the fungibility of their meaning is one of the key underpinnings of both politics and salesmanship. Will Durant said “To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.” which is all about using different meanings and setting parts of the phrases against each other. For the last 80 years, the US has debated over the actual meaning of its second amendment, which is quite clearly worded, but in the current political landscape, has managed to completely ignore the first half. And indeed, the splitting of hairs and arguing over precise meaning is commonplace in legal practice. This is one reason why legislation is usually so long-winded, and no written in what’s called ‘legalese’, in order to prevent this pummeling.

Numbers, on the other hand, don’t change. If there are 4 of something, say lights, then there will continue to be 4. there’s not 3, there’s not 7, and there’s certainly not 5, right Captain Picard?

In the past year, the ultimate expression of the mutability and immutability – respectively – of words and numbers has come from President Trump. While he won the Electoral College (and thus became President) he did so by a slim margin, and despite getting 3 Million votes less.
He can’t claim he got more votes, as the numbers do not change, so instead, he changes the meaning of words around the vote totals, claiming not that he got more votes, but that certain numbers of votes (3-5 million) are fraudulent. So he attempts to change the numbers not by changing the numbers, but by pummeling the meaning – the words – attached to that number.

This is an early draft example of what one entry would look like (although I’m sure the Picard image won’t pass copyright review).

Thoughts, feedback, comments, you can leave them here, or contact me in the usual ways.

  • =Tamar

    It sounds interesting. I’ll probably disagree with much of what you say in it (opinionated pedant that I am) but I would read it.

  • =Tamar

    The first try seemed to vanish so:
    Your book concept sounds interesting. Assuming the estate gives permission for the extensive quotations that would be required, I would probably disagree with some of what you say (opinionated person that I am), but I would read it.

    • ktetch

      Oh it’s there.

      My day job is dealing with copyright law (includes being an expert witness in copyright lawsuits, and working as a copyright enforcer for a UK record company)

      As I’d be commenting and critiquing on the text, only select portions of the texts, and applying it outside its story framework, it’s pretty much the classic case of fair use under 17 USC § 107.

      While such permission might be nice, it’s by no means required.