Society of Fellows Big Thinkers — Semi-Finals

And then there were two. On Saturday night, our final four thinkers met to determine who would participate in the 2013 championship debate.

Our first match was between top seed Plato and the gritty challenger, Durkheim. Going in, the Athenian avenger was the overwhelming favorite, well ahead in most of the online philosophy prediction markets. But Durkheim came out strong, taking a lead at the half. For the first time in this tournament, Plato found himself well behind and in danger of elimination. But the Demiurge of dialectic would not give up so easily! Returning from half time with his soul parts properly re-aligned, he slowly began to claw back the lead. His ascent was momentarily interrupted by a spectator who rushed the stage before being seized by security. Refusing to be distracted by this third man problem, Plato continued his withering critique of the empirical foundations of Durkheim’s theories. In a close finish, Plato survived Durkheim’s final, furious challenge, winning 72-68.

Our second match of the night, between four-seeds Nietzsche and Newton, was equally thrilling. Newton had several advantages going into this match. His opponent, the syphilitic sage, does not look particularly impressive on the debate floor, and Newton was quick to capitalize on the optics of the situation. Moreover, Isaac’s sheer breadth of knowledge — from physics and mathematics to alchemy and biblical prophecy — made it almost impossible to anticipate his argumentative assaults. Nonetheless, Nietzsche put up an impressive defense, employing the tools of philology to undermine each new salvo. But the sheer force of Newton’s challenge could not entirely be resisted. Gradually, almost infinitesimally, Newton pulled ahead. Nietzsche still had a chance in the last minutes of the match, but his final, speculative appeal to the eternal recurrence of the same was quickly brushed aside by the master of space and time. Nietzsche was unable to recover from this ill-advised and untimely meditation. The final score: 61-56 for Newton. Poor Nietzsche could not love this fate. Defeated, he stumbled off the debate stage, muttering darkly about a horse.

After two wonderful contests, we have every reason to expect a thrilling championship match between Plato and Newton on Monday night. See you then!

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