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Intellectual Snobbery 101; How to be a University Wanker

Now that you’ve been in UCC for almost a month, people at home will start expecting you to sound more intelligent. This is incredibly unfortunate, as you’ve most likely spent the last month partying, shifting n’ drifting and scraping the bottom of the intellectual barrel by doing introductory courses that you’ll look down on in about 4 months. Don’t become despondent just yet, however. I have compiled a list of factoids and sound bites to make you sound like the intellectual wanker you’re a sports jacket and a corncob pipe away from becoming.



You can’t talk about philosophy without a nod to one of the most pivotal faces in its development. He wrote dialogues in the form of conversations to illustrate his philosophical standpoint, as opposed to just writing it down like a normal person. For Plato, true intelligence was the ability to grasp the existence of “Forms” with one’s mind, the theory of forms being that non-physical ideas represent the most accurate reality. Plato is unusual, in that his entire body of work (or œuvre, if you have notions) has largely remained unchanged. Some of his quotes are a tad cynical. E.g. “Love is a serious mental disease” but for the most part Plato is a quietly inspirational figure. One of his shiniest pearls of wisdom that everyone should take on board is; “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Rene Descartes

Famous for bar charts and one of the most widely disputed sentences in philosophy, Descartes coined the familiar phrase “I think therefore I am” (or in latin, for the ultimate intellectual snobbery, Cogito Ergo Sum). Descartes had a rather unsure worldview; genuinely, his philosophical outlook was to doubt literally everything, and anything left over can be used for a solid foundation of reality. Despite the flaws in Cartesian philosophy, he is one of the most popular philosophers in modern day, known for undergrads misquoting him to confuse the opposition in pub arguments.

Friedrich Nietzsche

King of the emos, if only for this delightful snippet “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering,” he is also gets a bad rap for being linked to the political philosophy of the Nazis, although that wasn’t his fault (his sister gained ownership of his writing upon his death, and changed it to appeal to the Nazis). For Nietzsche, philosophy should reflect the personal beliefs of an individual, though to him this also meant a rejection of traditional values and religion. Also, if you’re wondering where Fox news coverage of the election gets off deciding that facts are optional, blame this guy; “there are no facts, only interpretations”.


Confucius was an all-around good guy, championing a philosophy based on study and ethics. Some people follow it like a religion, although it is technically a secular philosophy. It’s a complex system based on loyalty to one’s family, kinship within a community, righteousness and self-improvement. You know all of those nature photos with the inspirational quotes on them that attention-seeking people post on Facebook when their lives have hit a tiny bump, and they need everyone to know without them having to say it? Those quotes can usually attributed to Confucius, e.g; “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop” and “Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it”.

Adam Savage

Not necessarily a philosopher, not on purpose anyway, I just really love Mythbusters. Also the author of one of my favourite quotes “I reject your reality and substitute my own”.


Jack Kerouac

Kerouac is of the most well-known authors of the last 100 years, and author of “On the Road.” Although he hated such labels, he was a pioneer of the Beat Generation, rejecting convention in favour of free expression & jazz music. He said: “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion,” so if Freshers could branch out and wear different outfits, that would really help us tell you apart.

J.D. Salinger

Not only famous for his cameo in the second season of Bojack Horseman, Salinger also wrote the initially controversial ‘The Catcher in the Rye.’ If you thought your teenage angst was bad, try this cutting social commentary: “I am always saying ‘Glad to have met you’ to somebody I’m not at all glad I have met. If you want to stay alive you have to say that stuff though.” In his book he also cautions against telling people stories about yourself, as it will cause you to miss the other people in the story. How cheerful!


Karl Marx

Often cited as one of the pioneers of modern sociology, he is one of the most recognisable names in philosophy and politics. Marx argued that everything in society, from cultural norms down to human behaviour, could all be derived from economic structures. Even society was brought about by the conflict between the ruling classes (bourgeoisie) and the working class (proletariat). Basically, ‘the man’ is keeping us poor, working classes down for capitalist, material gains and “the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains” so we should rebel, though we need women for that: “everyone who knows anything of history also knows that great social revolutions are impossible without the feminine ferment. Social progress may be measured precisely by the social position of the fair sex (plain ones included).” Hear that, ladies? You are instrumental in instituting social change, even if you look like the back of a bus.

Ayn Rand

On the opposite of the politico-philosophical spectrum, we have Ayn Rand. One for the rebels among you, her work has largely been criticised or ignored by academia. Another fountain of inspirational quotes, the most well-known being: “the question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”  She was also a proponent of ethical egoism, which is when you only look out for ‘number one’. Her philosophy was the rejection of charity and groups (or altruism and collectivism, if you’re feeling fancy), and she was a significant influence on American conservatives. Of course, following someone that thinks “there are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil” probably explains why people think your party isn’t great at democracy…


Richard Feynmann

One of the most famous physicists in the 20th century, Feynmann is also widely regarded as one of the most prolific philosophers of recent times. He worked on the Manhattan Project, sat on the panel of experts investigating why the Challenger Space Shuttle imploded, and won a joint Nobel prize for his work in quantum electrodynamics. With such gems as “physics is to maths what sex is to masturbation,” it’s easy to see why having someone like this in your field makes you feel superior to those of us in lesser disciplines. If that wasn’t enough, this quote might swell your head to epic proportions: “Philosophers say a great deal about what is absolutely necessary for science, and it is always, so far as one can see, rather naïve and probably wrong.”

Nicola Tesla

Tesla is probably best known for his work on alternating current (AC), which is used today wherever homes/buildings are hooked up to electrical supplies, as well as in plugs, wall sockets and several other things you use on an everyday basis. He remained single all his life, presumably because he was too busy getting screwed by Thomas Edison. He said: “I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.”  He supposedly walked 8-10 miles a day, and squished his toes over a hundred times each night, to stimulate his brain cells. He also fed pigeons religiously, even building a contraption to support one special pigeon while her broken wing healed. He did say something I think we can all agree with though: “The last 29 days of the month are the toughest.”

Santiago Ramón y Cajal

The father of modern neuroscience, he contributed hundreds of drawings showing the arborisation of neurons in the brain that are still used by lecturers today. His major contribution was discovering the foundation of “neuron doctrine” that the nervous system is made up of discrete individual cells (basic anatomy now, but ground breaking then). He was well known for being argumentative in youth, but with age his disdain was saved for delightful statements like: “ I would be the last to deny that the greatest scientific pioneers belonged to an aristocracy of the spirit and were exceptionally intelligent, something that we as modest investigators will never attain, no matter how much we exert ourselves. Nevertheless … I continue to believe that there is always room for anyone with average intelligence.” …Gee, thanks. Jerk.

Rosalind Franklin

Supposedly one of the most famous victims of the rampant sexism prevalent in science at the time, Franklin is known for her involvement in the discovery of the structure of DNA. She has been used as a figurehead for feminism, although her colleagues have stressed time and again that she herself was no feminist. She is probably best known these days for her X-ray diffraction images of DNA, which were later used by Watson and Crick to derive the double helix structure of DNA (not that they cited her, or gave her any credit whatsoever). All of that research was conducted in King’s College London, and had to stay there, so when Franklin left as a result of clashes with her supervisor, it was up for grabs, and the rest is history. Her quotes are few and far between, probably the most prevalent being: “science and everyday life cannot, and should not, be separated.”


Warren Buffet

Considered to be one of the most successful investors of our time, he is consistently ranked as one of the richest men in the world. He’s known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” and is quite frugal in his personal life, despite having more money than several countries combined. He famously claimed “I always knew I was going to be rich. I don’t think I ever doubted it for a minute,” but that’s a lot easier to say that when you’re worth over 50 BILLION dollars (yes, with a B). He does however offer some sage advice: “there seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult.” So relax, stop making life so hard for yourself!


Hippocrates of Kos

Best known for the Hippocratic Oath, the promise that any doctor you see won’t deliberately harm you, no matter how tiresome you are. He was one of the first people to believe that illnesses and disease are caused naturally, not by vengeful gods and superstition. Not bad for a guy who believed that the body was controlled by 4 liquids, or humours, right? He advised people to be their own advocates: “if you are not your own doctor, you are a fool.” However, don’t go overboard; no doctor will take kindly to you whipping out WebMD to explain why the numbness in your hand is caused by stroke, when in fact you fell asleep on your arm again.


The rest of it is fairly self-explanatory; you’re going to be a rich overworked wanker in about 5 years anyway. God speed.