The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Cake and Philosophy

Question 10. How can we know that the cake exists?

a) Because the teacher tells us so
b) Because there is a FORM of CAKE that exists in an eternal realm to which the appearance of this object partakes
c) Because we can use our senses to detect it
d) If everyone else acts as though it exists, who am I to disagree?
e) We can never be sure it exists independently in-itself
f) Whether it exists independently is irrelevant – it exists as an experience for me
g) You cannot prove it exists but must make a leap of faith
h) Forget reason, just enjoy it to the full
i) We have already eaten part of the cake before we become aware of what we are doing.
In among the 40,000 other things that have been happening in my life, keeping me away from blogging and sleeping, and generally driving me to a zombie-like stupor where I having trouble remembering my own name, let alone pronouncing it, the philosophy course I’ve been running about The Great Philosophers has come to an end (as will this sentence, eventually, honest it will, here you go then).

As well as handing out certificates instructing students that they are now allowed to adopt a superior and patronising manner with anyone who begins to discuss the nature of the world, belief and/ or existence, we indulged in the tradition of the end of term cake.

This time Maggie created a superb chocolaty Malteser cake with added Horlicks in the sponge. It was, without doubt, the highlight of the entire course and the only reason some of them stuck it out so long. I knew this would be the case, which is why I made it clear on the first night that there would be one of Maggie’s cakes at the end. The Oracle at Delphi may well have said “Know Thyself” but as a teacher, the maxim “Know Thy Student’s Taste in Cake” has stood me in far better stead.

I also split the group into 3 teams and produced a quiz to see how much they remembered. This included dilemmas such as separating out the Empiricists from the Rationalists, trying to come up with a working definition of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, and a multiple choice on how to spell Nietzsche.

Of course the question at the beginning of this post doesn’t exactly have a right answer, but does give a sense of which of the philosophers each of the students was most drawn to. However, I did deduct points from the 2 who chose option a) for accepting authority over reason as a way to try and deduce truth.

I found it surprising that I was the only one who chose option i), but even scarier was the only person who chose option h) happened to be my son, Rogan. He’d come along to this last class of term to see what philosophy was like, observe his father’s teaching methods, and of course have a slice of his mother’s damn fine cake.

I have to admit, the idea that I have a 12 year old Nietzschean Übermensch* in the house is a bit of a daunting prospect.

*Übermensch – the super-man, or over-man who transcends the values and moralities of society and creates his own, embracing the Will to Power over the Herd Mentality etc – Pah! Go and do a philosophy course and find out...


Mary Witzl said...

Wow: I'm the first to comment here!

I would definitely have chosen 'h' myself. Though given my family, the reason I might not know whether cake exists is because it was only there for the seconds it took everyone else to consume it; all I can see is the crumbs.

Unknown said...

j) Because there is a definition of it in the dictionary.

I figure someone would have notified Webster if it didn't exist. I am not sure about the level of cakehood however. Like if Maggie makes it, I would assume it is actual true cake, but if Betty Crocker makes it, it is psuedo cake. If I make it, well...Okay, then it doesn't exist.

Foot Eater said...

I don't eat cake, never have really since reaching adulthood, and tonight I scoffed at my wife's pregnancy-induced lack of willpower as she tucked into a piece of chocolate gateau in front of the telly while I confined myself to a pork pie slathered with mustard and a block of Wensleydale and a mere couple of pints of Blandford Fly ale.

Apex Zombie said...

Ah, now there's a class I could get into. Cake and Philosophy :D

I guess I'd go with h), but I'd have put it "While you figure out if it exists, I just be eating it."


And wow, a Malteser cake?! I love Maltesers!

Pat said...

Oh dear I've forgotten what the question was. Me and philosophy are a bit like that but I salute your mentioning the cake at the beginning. It would have kept me there to the end.

Unknown said...

I'm afraid I forgot the question too. This sentence rather distacted me:

'This time Maggie created a superb chocolaty Malteser cake with added Horlicks in sponge.'

Kim, I believe Maggie has discovered the Holy Grail of cake, that sounds absolutely wonderful :-)

Kim Ayres said...

Mary - to be honest, I think one of the failings of virtually all ofthe Great Philosophers is that they utterly failed to take children and siblings into the equation

Carole - well if you're going to bring Betty Croker into it, I guess we have to bring in the supplemental question of "Is the cake worth eating?"

Foot Eater - welcome back! I might jst ask Maggie if it's possible to make a pork pie and mustard cake, with an ale icing

FLG - do you get Horlicks in NZ? If so, that's the secret added ingredient which lifts the whole thing

Pat - On my birthday Maggie made some incredibly scrummy biscuits to take into class with me. That helped remind everyone that it was worth hanging about until the end of the course.

Kate - it's one of the cruelties of fate that:
a) I love food
b) I love to comfort eat
c) Maggie is a superb cook
d) I'm trying to keep the weight off

Kanani said...

Yes, I'd of chosen option H.

By the way, do you have a photo of that cake?

That way I know what I missed!
I remember when I was an art student, there was this other student who got very serious as to thought and philosophy and all sorts of stuff. She was excruciatingly annoying. The other thing I remember about her is that she could never finish an art project, and that later, she got into performance art, hopped onto a stage nude and sprinkled herself with rice powder.

I'm sure others would have preferred she just served cake.

Kim Ayres said...

Oddly enough, when I was studying philosophy, the option of pprancing about nude and sprinkling myself with rice powder wasn't covered in the syllabus.

I think we missed out.

Dr Maroon said...

The answers are not discreet. They overlap and are not mutually exclusive. One could quite easily say "all or none of the above."

Cake: have it, eat it. THAT is the dilemma.

Oh, you pronounce "Kim" as KIM

Tom said...

Someone said there was cake over here, but it seems that all that's left is a philosophical discussion. Serves me right, I suppose, for showing up late.

Congrats on finishing your course.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Malteser Horlicks Chocolate Cake. Whatever the question is, that's the answer.

Jeff said...


Congrats on finishing up the course....and I guess if I would have actually attended I would have at least the slightest idea what the hell you are talking


Kim Ayres said...

Dr Maroon - but it's the one you're MOST drawn to that's telling.

And thanks for clearing up the pronunciation thing. From now on, I'll no longer be known as Keem

Tom - showing up late probably saved your waistline. i put on 2 and a half pounds this week...

Sam - Q: "Who is the president of Albania?"
A: "Malteser Horlicks Chocolate Cake"

Mein Gott, you're right!!!

Jeff - I remember when I was at university studying philosophy, thinking, "this would be a hell of a lot easier if I already had a degree in philosophy". And it turns out I was right. Now I have the degree I'd be able to do it much more easily.

Jupiter's Girl said...

This post is wonderful, Kim.

I fancy myself a good cake baker too, yet I have never heard of that kind of cake, nor that ingredient.

From where I stand, that cake that Maggie supposedly baked doesn't exist.

Footeater, with a baby on the way? Congratulations and nice to see you. You, and those freakin' pies... Man, eat some cake. Usually the dads-to-be put on some sympathy weight. My husband did. He still looks like he's about 5 months along.

Kim Ayres said...

Well, it doesn't exist now...

Meanwhile, here's a link about Maltesers and another for Horlicks

Jupiter's Girl said...

We call those malted milk balls.

Those were great links. That Horlicks one was especially interesting to me. That lineage leads directly to a very popular drug company in the states.

That imaginary cake sounds delectable.

Onlinefocus Team said...

I would go for c

But Horlicks in a cake?

I hope it's not a euphemism for something illegal!

Kim Ayres said...

JG - it was, it was :)

Chris - no, it wasn't a euphamism, but it was suprisingly tasty :)

Caro said...

I chose f - what does that make me other than greedy?

Any chance of posting the recipe (double greedy)?

Jupiter's Girl said...

I'm with Caro. I might try to bake such an exotic cake.

I never told you, Kim, but my Bramble Crumble came out good this past summer. I called it blackberry cobbler so my people would eat it.

Kim Ayres said...

Caro - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment :)

The cake my wife made was based on Nigella Lawson's recipe, which I've found online here

Jupiter's Girl - I'm pleased it worked out - I'll let Maggie know :)

ArleneWKW said...

I was just about to comment that at least you didn't describe the cake in greater depth (and therefore cause me undue temptation), when I saw that you answered someone else's comment with a link to the recipe!! Of course, I'll have to look.

A very humorous post. Now why couldn't I have had someone like you as a prof when I minored in phil. in college? Was your initial multiple choice question on the exam?

Kim Ayres said...

Arlene - it's a dangerous temptation - don't go! DON'T GO!!!

too late...

Caro said...

Thanks for the recipe and the comment on my blog! I've been a lurker here for a while now, tis a great wee blog you've got yourself sir.

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you :)

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