A Philosopher Walks Into A Coffee Shop

I have been really enjoying literarystarbucks.tumblr.com, which publishes complicated jokes about what famous authors and fictional characters order at Starbucks. I like it so much I wish I knew more great literature, so I could get more of the jokes.

Since the creators seem to be restricting themselves to the literary world, I hope they won’t mind if I fail to resist the temptation to steal their technique for my own field of interest. Disclaimer: two of these are widely-known philosophy jokes and not original to me.

* * *

Parmenides goes up to the counter. “Same as always?” asks the barista. Parmenides nods.

* * *

Pythagoras goes up to the counter and orders a caffe Americano. “Mmmmm,” he says, tasting it. “How do you guys make such good coffee?” “It’s made from the freshest beans,” the barista answers. Pythagoras screams and runs out of the store.

* * *

Thales goes up to the counter, says he’s trying to break his caffeine habit, and orders a decaf. The barista hands it to him. He takes a sip and spits it out. “Yuck!” he says. “What is this, water?”

* * *

Gottfried Leibniz goes up to the counter and orders a muffin. The barista says he’s lucky since there is only one muffin left. Isaac Newton shoves his way up to the counter, saying Leibniz cut in line and he was first. Leibniz insists that he was first. The two of them come to blows.

* * *

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel goes up to the counter and gives a tremendously long custom order in German, specifying exactly how much of each sort of syrup he wants, various espresso shots, cream in exactly the right pattern, and a bunch of toppings, all added in a specific order at a specific temperature. The barista can’t follow him, so just gives up and hands him a small plain coffee. He walks away. The people behind him in line are very impressed with his apparent expertise, and they all order the same thing Hegel got. The barista gives each of them a small plain coffee, and they all remark on how delicious it tastes and what a remarkable coffee connoisseur that Hegel is. “The Hegel” becomes a new Starbucks special and is wildly popular for the next seventy years.

* * *

Socrates goes up to the counter. “What would you like?” asks the barista. “What would you recommend?” asks Socrates. “I would go with the pumpkin spice latte,” says the barista. “Why?” asks Socrates. “It’s seasonal,” she answers. “But why exactly is a seasonal drink better than a non-seasonal drink?” “Well,” said the barista, “I guess it helps to connect you to the rhythm of the changing seasons.” “But do you do other things to connect yourself to that rhythm?” asked Socrates. “Like wear seasonal clothing? Or read seasonal books? If not, how come it’s only drinks that are seasonal?” “I’m not sure,” says the barista. “Think about it,” says Socrates, and leaves without getting anything.

* * *

Rene Descartes goes up to the counter. “I’ll have a scone,” he says. “Would you like juice with that?” asks the barista. “I think not,” says Descartes, and he ceases to exist.

* * *

Jean-Paul Sartre goes up to the counter. “What do you want?” asks the barista. Sartre thinks for a long while. “What do? I want?” he asks, and wanders off with a dazed look on his face.

* * *

William of Occam goes up to the counter. He orders a coffee.

* * *

Adam Smith goes up to the counter. “I’ll have a muffin,” he says. “Sorry,” says the barista, “but those two are fighting over the last muffin.” She points to Leibniz and Newton, who are still beating each other up. “I’ll pay $2 more than the sticker price, and you can keep the extra,” says Smith. The barista hands him the muffin.

* * *

John Buridan goes up to the counter and stares at the menu indecisively.

* * *

Ludwig Wittgenstein goes up to the counter. “I’ll have a small toffee mocha,” he says. “We don’t have small,” says the barista. “Then what sizes do you have?” “Just tall, grande, and venti.” “Then doesn’t that make ‘tall’ a ‘small’?” “We call it tall,” says the barista. Wittgenstein pounds his fist on the counter. “Tall has no meaning separate from the way it is used! You are just playing meaningless language games!” He storms out in a huff.

* * *

St. Anselm goes up to the counter and considers the greatest coffee of which it is possible to conceive. Since existence is more perfect than nonexistence, the coffee must exist. He brings it back to his table and drinks it.

* * *

Ayn Rand goes up to the counter. “What do you want?” asks the barista. “Exactly the relevant question. As a rational human being, it is my desires that are paramount. Since as a reasoning animal I have the power to choose, and since I am not bound by any demand to subordinate my desires to that of an outside party who wishes to use force or guilt to make me sacrifice my values to their values or to the values of some purely hypothetical collective, it is what I want that is imperative in this transaction. However, since I am dealing with you, and you are also a rational human being, under capitalism we have an opportunity to mutually satisfy our values in a way that leaves both of us richer and more fully human. You participate in the project of affirming my values by providing me with the coffee I want, and by paying you I am not only incentivizing you for the transaction, but giving you a chance to excel as a human being in the field of producing coffee. You do not produce the coffee because I am demanding it, or because I will use force against you if you do not, but because it most thoroughly represents your own values, particularly the value of creation. You would not make this coffee for me if it did not serve you in some way, and therefore by satisfying my desires you also reaffirm yourself. Insofar as you make inferior coffee, I will reject it and you will go bankrupt, but insofar as your coffee is truly excellent, a reflection of the excellence in your own soul and your achievement as a rationalist being, it will attract more people to your store, you will gain wealth, and you will be able to use that wealth further in pursuit of excellence as you, rather than some bureaucracy or collective, understand it. That is what it truly means to be a superior human.” “Okay, but what do you want?” asks the barista. “Really I just wanted to give that speech,” Rand says, and leaves.

* * *

Voltaire goes up to the counter and orders an espresso. He takes it and goes to his seat. The barista politely reminds him he has not yet paid. Voltaire stays seated, saying “I believe in freedom of espresso.”

* * *

Thomas Malthus goes up to the counter and orders a muffin. The barista tells him somebody just took the last one. Malthus grumbles that the Starbucks is getting too crowded and there’s never enough food for everybody.

* * *

Immanuel Kant goes up to the counter at exactly 8:14 AM. The barista has just finished making his iced cinnamon dolce latte, and hands it to him. He sips it for eight minutes and thirty seconds, then walks out the door.

* * *

Bertrand Russell goes up to the counter and orders the Hegel. He takes one sip, then exclaims “This just tastes like plain coffee! Why is everyone making such a big deal over it?”

* * *

Pierre Proudhon goes up to the counter and orders a Tazo Green Tea with toffee nut syrup, two espresso shots, and pumpkin spice mixed in. The barista warns him that this will taste terrible. “Pfah!” scoffs Proudhon. “Proper tea is theft!”

* * *

Sigmund Freud goes up to the counter. “I’ll have ass sex, presto,” he says. “What?!” asks the barista. “I said I’ll have iced espresso.” “Oh,” said the barista. “For a moment I misheard you.” “Yeah,” Freud tells her. “I fucked my mother. People say that.” “WHAT?!” asks the barista. “I said, all of the time other people say that.”

* * *

Jeremy Bentham goes up to the counter, holding a $50 bill. “What’s the cheapest drink you have?” he asks. “That would be our decaf roast, for only $1.99,” says the barista. “Good,” says Bentham and hands her the $50. “I’ll buy those for the next twenty-five people who show up.”

* * *

Patricia Churchland walks up to the counter and orders a latte. She sits down at a table and sips it. “Are you enjoying your beverage?” the barista asks. “No,” says Churchland.

* * *

Friedrich Nietzsche goes up to the counter. “I’ll have a scone,” he says. “Would you like juice with that?” asks the barista. “No, I hate juice,” says Nietzsche. The barista misinterprets him as saying “I hate Jews”, so she kills all the Jews in Europe.

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439 Responses to A Philosopher Walks Into A Coffee Shop

  1. stargirlprincess says:

    I laughed out loud at the Bertrand Russel One.

  2. DiscoveredJoys says:

    Epicurus swerves across to the counter and asks for a coffee. The barrister asks Epicurus if he would like an extra shot, or some foamed milk, or perhaps a biscotti? “No,” says Epicurus “just a small coffee and some companionship.”

  3. Steve Reilly says:

    Hume orders a coffee. “Ice or ‘ot?” asks the Cockney barrista.

    “Ah,” he says, “the old ‘Ice/’ot problem'”.

  4. thepenforests says:

    Loved the Ayn Rand speech. Pythagoras and Kant went over my head though, little help?

  5. drunkenrabbit says:

    Heraclitus walks up to the counter. “Same as last time, sir?” asks the barrista. “Don’t be silly,” Heraclitus replies, “no man can order the same coffee twice.”

  6. Descartes used the Starbucks WiFi to post “I link, therefore I am.”

  7. Steve Reilly says:

    Peter Unger goes into Starbucks. When asked what he wants he says, “Nothing”. He then accuses every customer in the place of murder.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      *looks up Peter Unger*

      Wow. That guy is harsh.

      I wonder how often he gets confused with Peter Singer. Probably pretty often.

  8. Susebron says:

    Martin Luther walks up to a Starbucks and nails his order to the door. The CEO sues him.

  9. Navin Kumar says:

    Econ Starbucks!


    Karl Marx goes up to the counter and tries to persuade the barista to revolt against the capitalists and seize the means of production. The barista replies that gets decent wages and benefits, and anyways she wouldn’t know how to run a coffee shop. Marx shrugs and buys a muffin with Engle’s credit card.


    John Maynard Keynes buys a grande and pours it into the trash. He orders another and pours it into the trash. His grandkids pay the bill.


    Milton Friedman orders an increase in the money supply.


    Gregory Mankiw goes to the counter. The barista asks him what he wants. He says “You find the answer to that in my favorite textbook.”


    Thomas Malthus orders a muffin. He is astonished they have any left.


    Adam Smith goes to the counter “It is not from the benevolence of the coffee-farmer, or the trucker, or the barista that we expect our daily cup. But honestly, $4 for a medium latte?”


    Thorstein Veblen goes to the counter. He buys a small plain coffee. “Everything else is a conspicuous signal of wealth” he explains. He leaves and has sex with the barista’s wife.

    • Anonymous says:

      Joseph Schumpeter creates a startup that competes with Starbucks. He offers a selection of unique menu items and gets raving reviews from customers. Some even say this new startup is likely to [destroy](https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/21/these-are-a-few-more-of-my-least-favorite-things/) Starbucks’ market share.

    • Steve Reilly says:

      Hayek notices a sign in the Starbucks bathroom that says “Employees must wash hands”. The next day the store is a totalitarian nightmare.

    • Noah Siegel says:

      Exhausted from spending all night contemplating the future, Robin Hanson stumbles up to the counter, not knowing what to order that will allow him to stay awake until the end of his three-hour lecture.
      “I recommend that you order the Hegel,” says the barista. “I’m a barista, I know all about caffeinated beverages, you should follow my advice.”
      “Bosh!”exclaims Betrand Russell. “You should order a black coffee. I’m a distinguished philosopher, and you should follow MY advice.”
      Instead of listening to either of these self-proclaimed experts, Robin Hanson has everybody in the coffee shop place bets on which beverage is the most likely to keep him awake for the next three hours.

      • Anonymous says:

        Robin Hanson walks into a starbucks, “the caramel macchiato proves no one really cares about coffee”

        • Felix Benner says:

          Robin Hanson walks into Starbucks. When the barista asks “What coffee do you want?” Hanson answers “Starbucks is not about coffee!”

    • Irenist says:

      Thomas Gresham opens up a cheaper coffee joint next door and drives out Starbucks.
      Barista: What size would you like?
      E.F. Schumacher: Something small would be beautiful.
      Barista: We’re out of coffee. The only way I could get you some coffee would be to take it from Vilfredo Pareto. Although, in theory, I guess I could take some from Kaldor and Hicks.
      J.K. Galbraith already has more than enough coffee, but the barista keeps trying to convince him to buy more.

  10. affenkopf says:

    Martin Heidegger goes up to the counter. “I’ll have a scone,” he says. “Would you like juice with that?” asks the barista. “No, I hate Jews,” says Heidegger. The barista misinterprets him as saying “I hate Juice”, because it would be awkward otherwise.

  11. Charlie says:

    Newton walks into a Starbucks, and orders a venti latte. Venti, of course, meaning twenty, which is a significant number related to the construction of Moses’ tabernacle. Latte means of milk, which represents the knowledge given to those who cannot yet understand the greater knowledge, as in 1 Corinthians.

  12. johnwbh says:

    Newcombe walks in. The Barista offers him a drink saying he knows already he will like it better than anything else. Newcombe stands paralysed thinking about whether to take it or not.

    Gettier comes in and orders a hot dark liquid labeled coffee which is entirely indistinguishable in flavour. But isnt coffee. The Barista says “I don’t Know if we have that.”

  13. Anonymous says:

    Zeno of Citium walks up to the counter.
    “I’ll have a simple black coffee.”
    “I’m sorry sir, but all the coffee machines are broken.”
    “Oh well,” says Zeno and walks out.

    • Anonymous says:


    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not sure I get this one.

      • From the Wikipedia article on Zeno of Citium (not to be confused with Zeno of Elea, a.k.a. the Zeno’s Paradoxes guy):

        Zeno is described as a haggard, tanned person, living a spare, ascetic life. This coincides with the influences of Cynic teaching, and was, at least in part, continued in his Stoic philosophy. From the day Zeno became Crates’s pupil, he showed a strong bent for philosophy, though with too much native modesty to assimilate Cynic shamelessness. Hence Crates, desirous of curing this defect in him, gave him a potful of lentil-soup to carry through the Ceramicus; and when he saw that Zeno was ashamed and tried to keep it out of sight, Crates broke the pot with a blow of his staff. As Zeno began to run off in embarrassment with the lentil-soup flowing down his legs, Crates chided “Why run away, my little Phoenician?”, “nothing terrible has befallen you.”

      • Steve Reilly says:

        I think it’s that his response is stoic. In which case, Seneca also says “Oh well.” But he walks to the Starbucks down the street, orders the biggest latte they have, gets the blueberry streusel muffin and 2 cheese danishes, then lectures everyone on temperate living.

        • Irenist says:

          Sextus Empiricus isn’t sure what to order, so he just has what everyone else is having.

          Cicero claims to want the same thing as Sextus, but when the time comes to order, he always copies Zeno instead.

  14. Shmi Nux says:

    Scott Alexander goes up to the counter… (may a better joker continue).

    • Anonymous says:

      …and strongly updates his level of confidence in both the simulation hypothesis and his own insanity after seeing so many dead philosophers ordering coffee.

    • … and the barista asks him what he would like to drink. “I see you’re concerned with the object-level issues,” Scott Alexander responded, “but what interests me is the meta-issues. By what game-theoretic methods should society decide which drinks should be served to which individuals?” “And your order, Sir?” the barista asks. Seeing that he has taken the role of Drink Czar, Scott Alexander recites the entirety of the Risurion-Silk in perfect Kadhamic.

    • Anthony says:

      … having heard the previous customer place a complicated order which included the word “delicious” several times while adding clashing ingredients, proclaims the previous order an instance of the “Worst Coffee Order in the World”, and proceeds to examine everyone else’s order to determine whether it, too, is an instance of The Worst Coffee Order in the World. Then he orders the same thing.

    • Joshua Ball says:

      … and orders a dirty chai with 1 shot decaf, 1 shot regular, vanilla syrup, whole milk only in the lower half, a gentle foam on the top sprinkled with green tea matcha, shaken, not stirred. The barista says, “Man, you really like it complex, don’t you?” Scott says, “I think you’re confusing me with the other Scott.”

      • Lambert says:

        Aaronson did once use a cup of coffee and milk as a model of how ‘interestingness’ of a system varies with time.

  15. Pasja says:

    Scott Alexander walks into starbucks. While in line, and in order to avoid social interaction, especially with Ayn Rand, he checks his phone for a meta-study of the effect of caffeine on cyto-kines and depression. Seemingly large sample of reasonably less biased than normal studies confirms the suspicion of caffeine depression link. He ordered two green teas, one for himself, one for a nearby depressed person. He smiles, having mildly annoyed Moloch with his acts.

  16. Steve Reilly says:

    Zeno of Elea walks halfway to Starbucks. Then three quarters of the way. “Screw this,” he says, and goes back home.

  17. ciil says:

    Søren Kierkegaard walks into a Starbucks. Right at the door he sees Hegel leaving and breaks down in a laughing fit.

    • Brienne says:

      Søren Kierkegaard walks into a Starbucks and up to the counter.

      He hops over the counter, dons an apron, and attaches a name badge reading “Hello, my name is: Victor”. “How can I help you?” he asks the invisible customer. He hops back over the counter.

      Customer: A black coffee, please. *hop*
      Barista: That’ll be $1.75. Can I have your name? *hop*
      Customer: Johannes. But I’m ordering for a friend. *hop*
      Barista: Who’s your friend? *hop*
      Customer: He’s also Johannes.

      Kierkegaard darts over to a chair by the fireplace, looks toward the counter, and waves.

  18. Seladore says:

    Incidentally, my favourite philosopher joke is already set in a coffee shop…

    Jean-Paul Sartre walks up to the counter, and asks for a coffee without cream. The barista replies “alas, we do not have any cream. Can I offer you a coffee without milk instead?”

    • RCF says:

      Kenneth Arrow goes to Starbucks, and the barista asks “Would you like skim milk or cream?” Arrow answers “cream”. The barista then says “Oh, I forgot. We also have soy milk.” Arrow then says “In that case, I’d like skim milk”.

  19. Fazathra says:

    Moldbug enters the coffeeshop. Then he, the Barista, and everyone else are instantly killed, because Fnargl had just perfected gold-mining grey goo and had no more need for those pesky humans and their inefficient economies.

    • too cool for names says:

      Mencius Moldbug enters a coffee shop, delivers a ten-thousand-word speech laden with metaphors and historical tidbits on why the Hegel is a symptom of the downfall of society, and then orders the Hegel.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Luke Muehlhauser doesn’t go anywhere near the coffeeshop, because he is too busy being productive.

  21. Izaak Weiss says:

    gwern walks into a coffee shop and orders everything on the menu, and creates a spreadsheet detailing how each tastes.

    • Raemon says:

      He drinks them blinded, of course.

    • gwern says:

      If you think about it, it’s much more cost-effective in the long run.

      • Ishaan says:

        Gwern walks up to the counter. He removes from his pocket two identical-looking folds of paper, selects one, and slips it to the barista.

        “Please just call out my name, not my drink” he tells her, as he takes the receipt and folds it up without looking at it.

    • thisspaceavailable says:

      Gwern walks into a coffee shop and says “I want scam milk in my coffee.” The barista asks “Do you mean ‘skim milk’?” Gwern says “No, I want scam milk.” The barista says “So just to be clear, you want stuff in your coffee that isn’t really milk?” Gwern says “No, of course not! How could you possibly think that? I can’t any explanation for your behavior other than you’re deliberately misinterpreting what I’m saying!”

    • too cool for names says:

      this bears a remarkable resemblance to what i actually do with new restaurants etc, although my version lacks the rigor

  22. Partisan says:

    Adnan Syed is working as a barista at Starbucks. Sarah Koenig goes up to the counter and says “I’ll have what you made me when I came on January 13th, 1999.” “I don’t remember what that was,” replies Syed. “Why can’t you remember?!” cries Koenig. Sayed shrugs, saying “It was just an ordinary day, you know?”

  23. Mary says:

    Zhuangzi dreams that he walks into a Starbucks and orders a coffee. It does not, however, wake him to discover he’s a butterfly.

  24. Mary says:

    Laozi walks into a Starbucks and orders a true coffee. The barista asks for an explanation. Laozi says the coffee order that can be explained is not the true coffee order.

  25. Scott says:

    Ruining things by introducing mathematicians

    Georg Cantor walks into Starbucks and orders the largest coffee. The barista hands him a Venti, but Cantor refuses, insisting there must be one larger than that.

    Bertrand Russell walks into Starbucks with some friends. He goes to order for the group, getting two cappuccinos, a pumpkin spiced latte and an order for Bertrand Russel’s group.

    Cauchy has been in Starbucks for some time. He keeps ordering slightly less caffeine in his drinks, but insists he hasn’t reached his limit.

    • Steve Reilly says:

      Kurt Goedel complains that the public menu is incomplete. The barista sheepishly apologizes and acknowledges the secret menu. Goedel points out the the combination of menus is still incomplete.

    • pneumatik says:

      These are great.

    • Susebron says:

      Riemann walks into Starbucks and orders a coffee. When the barista hands it to him, it’s not entirely full. He asks for her to fill it some more. She does so. He asks for just slightly more. This goes on forever until his cup is finally full.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bertrand Russell calls the coffee shop “Do you deliver?” “Yes sir, but only to places not serving coffee on the premises”

    • Anonymous says:

      Stefan Banach and Alfred Tarski walk into a coffeeshop. They order one coffee and two cups.

    • Paul Erdős walks into Starbucks and orders a coffee. The barista smiles and hands him some amphetamines from under the counter. Every other mathematician in the place thinks he’s got their number.

    • Liskantope says:

      Evariste Galois goes up to the counter and orders coffee grounds. He then asks what part of the coffee plant it’s made from. On hearing that it comes from beans, Galois says, “Forget it then. If the grounds isn’t obtained from roots, then I can’t expect it to be soluble.”

    • Liskantope says:

      Fibbonacci walks up to the counter and says, “I’ll have whatever the last person ordered. I’ll also have whatever the person before them ordered.”

    • Liz Lemma says:

      These are fantastic!

      Georg Cantor walks into Starbucks and orders a coffee made with uncountably many beans, but in a cup that holds zero volume.

      John Scott Russell orders a small coffee. He accidentally drops it, but notices the impact causes a wave to form in the liquid. He orders three more coffees, drops those on the floor, and spends the rest of the day jumping in the coffee so he can watch the waves.

      If crackpots are fair game, then…

      Marko Rodin walks into a Starbucks and orders a loquacious Jello.

    • Irenist says:

      Frege places an order for a cup of coffee, and another for a cup of hot water that’s been run through ground coffee beans. The barista hands him a single cup.

    • Stella says:

      This is an old, cheesy, joke, but:

      An infinite number of Zenos of Elea walk into a Starbucks. The first Zeno orders half a coffee. The second Zeno orders a fourth of a coffee. The third Zeno orders an eighth of a coffee. The barista, who is in a freshman calculus class at the local college, stops the Zenos and gives them one coffee.

      • Nornagest says:

        The punchline I always heard for that one is “You guys really need to know your limits.”

        • beleester says:

          That works better with a “walks into a bar” joke. Coffee shops usually don’t have limits.

          • William O. B'Livion says:

            A friend of mine spent some time working in Israel/Palestine where he was delighted to make the acquaintance of some Bedouin, who (to shorten the story) invited him in for some coffee.

            They kept refilling his cup and he didn’t know how to tell them to stop. Apparently shaking the cup from side to side does this, so at some point you cut yourself off whether you want to or not.

    • dtsund says:

      Pierre de Fermat orders a heavily customized coffee, and proceeds to spill it on himself. It was a truly marvelous beverage, which his cup was unfortunately too small to contain.

    • Brienne says:

      LEJ Brouwer: Are all of your coffee drinks made with Arabica beans?

      Barista: Not a single one of our drinks is brewed with anything but the best Arabica beans!

      Russell, next in line, mutters under his breath: Oh no. Not again.

      Brouwer, to the barista: Yes, but that’s not what I’m asking. Are they *all* Arabica?

      Russell: Oh for godsakes. Yes Brouwer. *All* the coffee drinks on the menu don’t lack Arabica–


      Barista: I don’t understand. No matter where you go, everything’s either brewed using Arabica, or it’s not, so…

      Russell: *sighs deeply, leaves*

  26. Alicorn says:

    David Lewis goes up to the counter and orders whatever his counterpart is having.

    Christine Korsgaard sits quietly in a chair, waiting to see what she will order.

    Judith Jarvis Thomson is tempted by a panini, but ultimately decides not to ask the panini press to make that kind of commitment.

    Aristotle goes up to the counter and orders a coffee that is neither too hot nor too cold, and contains neither too much milk and sugar nor too little. A cluster of Islamic philosophers forms in a corner to discuss this in fascinated detail, marveling at how Greek philosophy produces the finest coffee order despite its disconnection with the true religion. This continues until al-Ghazali yells at them. He also orders a coffee, which is fairly similar to Aristotle’s in some respects because rejecting one premise of the philosophers does not mean disagreeing with everything they have ever said. Averroes criticizes the departures of al-Ghazali’s coffee order from Aristotle’s.

    Kuhn orders a newly introduced beverage.

    Van Inwagen freely chooses to order a frappuccino.

    Kripke orders a cup of joe. He receives a cup of coffee.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Patricia Churchland walks up to the counter and orders a latte. She sits down at a table and sips it. “Are you enjoying your beverage?” the barista asks. “No,” says Churchland.

    • Hehe.

      Kuhn orders a beverage that was inconceivable, given the prior categorization of items on the menu, until he orders it.

    • haishan says:

      Elizabeth Anscombe walks up to the counter. The barista asks what she wants. Anscombe replies that questions about wanting should be banished until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology. Then she gets in a slap fight with Thomson.

    • Irenist says:

      Richard Rorty’s coffee preferences are entirely subjective, but at least he admits it.
      Barista: What would you like?
      WVO Quine: Gavagai.
      Barista: I don’t know what that means.
      Nelson Goodman: I’d like a cup of decaf, unless it’s after January 1, 2025, in which case regular.
      Barista: Is your coffee good and hot?
      HP Grice: Well, it is hot.
      Barista: There’s so much more to coffee than just beans and water!
      Jaegwon Kim: No there isn’t.
      Barista: Would you like to try some of our new artificial coffee?
      John Searle: Unless it’s made with coffee beans, there’s no way it could taste like coffee.
      Frank Jackson says Mary has an exact physical description of coffee, but still doesn’t know what it would taste like.

  27. Mary says:

    Confucius walks into a Starbucks and says, “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.” and insists that they use small, medium, and large for the sizes.

    • nydwracu says:

      Shang Yang walks into a coffee shop and orders a twelve-ounce coffee. When the barista gives it to him, he measures it carefully, and, upon finding it to be only eleven and three-quarters ounces, kills all the employees.

      Han Feizi walks into a coffee shop and orders a twelve-ounce coffee. When the barista gives it to him, he measures it carefully, and, upon finding it to be only eleven and three-quarters ounces, writes a hundred-page letter to the employees explaining the Daodejing, and then kills them.

      Xunzi walks into a coffee shop and orders a small coffee. When the barista gives it to him, he measures it carefully, and, upon finding it to be only eleven and three-quarters ounces, rebukes the employees for clearly having ignored the rites. And then Han Feizi kills them.

    • Irenist says:

      Laozi sits silently without ordering or paying. The barista brings him coffee.

      Zhuangzi once dreamt of being a barista who dreamt of being Zhuangzi.

      Mengzi: This coffee is naturally delicious.
      Xunzi: No, it’s terrible.
      Zhu Xi: I agree with Mengzi.
      Mozi: Coffee for everyone!

      • Avery says:

        Zhu Xi goes up to the counter and asks the meaning of everything on the menu. When everything has been explained to him, he suggests a way to rearrange the menu in order to make it easier to read. He tells the barista, “This is what Confucius did,” and leaves without ordering.

        Wang Yangming goes up to the counter and asks what the previous guy ordered. The barista says, “That was Zhu Xi. He didn’t order anything.” Wang Yangming says, “Did the guy before him have anything good? I have a good feeling about that guy, so I’ll have that too. This is what Confucius meant.”

        Sen no Rikyū goes to the counter and orders a small green tea, and nothing else.

        Fukuzawa Yukichi closely observes what the locals in front of him are ordering. Finally he goes to the counter and orders a colossal 64oz cup of pitch black coffee. He takes it to Sen no Rikyū’s table and explains that this is what everyone needs to order now. The entire table starts drinking enormous amounts of coffee and within minutes they have annexed Manchuria.

  28. Gian-Carlo Wick walks into a coffee shop: “I’ll have the normal order.”

    • Shmi Nux says:

      … And then the barrista spills his drink by rotating it 90 degrees.

      • Foster Boondoggle says:

        Ken Wilson arrives with a smaller cup, into which he pours the dregs, then declares the new size to be “venti”.

  29. Tarrou says:

    Camus walks into a coffee shop. Orders the most complicated drink on the menu, then dumps it out. “WTF was that for!” shouts the barista. “The struggle of creation was the only worthy part of your overpriced coffee drinks!” replied Camus, “Consider the absurdity of it all!”

  30. blacktrance says:

    John Rawls orders the coffee that a reasonable person would’ve chosen if they didn’t know anything about their tastes.

    Thomas Scanlon is offered a mediocre cup of free coffee, and can’t reasonably reject it.

    • fubarobfusco says:

      Daniel Dennett walks up to the counter. “What do you want?” asks the barista. “I’d like a cup of coffee, made by steeping a tea bag in a cup of boiling water.” “Sure, no problem,” says the barista, “but that’s not coffee, that’s tea.” Dennett gives an jolly laugh and says, “Ah, but it’s the kind of coffee worth wanting.”

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “John Rawls orders the coffee that a reasonable person would’ve chosen if they didn’t know anything about their tastes.”

      That’s pretty much how I buy coffee, clothes, and cars. In fact, that’s basically Costco’s business strategy: they let the customer stay comfortably behind the veil of ignorance, and just offer you a couple of reasonable choices at reasonable prices.

      • Anthony says:

        Steve Sailer orders a coffee-drink made entirely with Robusta beans because Arabicas don’t assimilate well.

        (Sorry, sort of.)

    • Irenist says:

      As an alternative to Rawls’ order, Amartya Sen has his coffee chosen by an impartial spectator.
      Robert Nozick and a million other people are each willing to pay 25 cents to watch Wilt Chamberlain make coffee.
      Derek Parfit orders coffee, and then steps into a teleportation machine. Due to a malfunction, two copies of him are produced; both remember paying for the coffee. Who gets it?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Peter Singer orders caffè sospeso.

    • Noah Siegel says:

      Peter Singer goes up to the counter, and then decides to start brewing his own coffee instead so that he can use the savings to distribute mosquito nets in Africa.

  32. Shmi Nux says:

    Thomas Schelling walks up to the counter and waits silently. After a little while he is given the most popular drink.

  33. fubarobfusco says:

    Thomas Schelling walks into the coffee shop one morning at 9:00. Robert Aumann is already there and has ordered them two identical drinks.

  34. Arius walks up to the barista and orders the first coffee, which was created by the bean before all worlds, through whom all other coffees were created. Athanasius is standing behind him, and breaks says that the true coffee is not created from the bean, but rather is brewed eternally from the bean, such that there is no time when the bean was and the coffee was not. They get into a fistfight. The manager kicks out Athanasius, but later there is a change in management and Athanasius is let back in. Arius drinks his coffee, but dies of worms.

    • Susebron says:

      Nestorius walks up to the barista and orders a coffee in which the beans are separate from the water.

      • Eutychus orders a coffee in which the essence of the water and the essence of the beans have become mixed into a new essence. Leo hits him over the head with a book.

  35. Luke G. says:

    Augustine ordered a venti quad-shot latte with four sugars. The barista looked nervous.

    “Sir, you, uh, asked us to stop serving you this drink.”

    “Yes! Cut me off!” said Augustine. He sipped his drink. “But not yet.”

    • Irenist says:

      Barista: Is your coffee okay?
      Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite: “It’s indescribable!”

      Aquinas: I’d like a coffee with cream and sugar.
      Barista: We’re out of sugar. Is Splenda okay? It tastes just as nice.
      Aquinas: No. You might enjoy it, but it’s unnatural.

      Barista: We’re also out of milk and cream. Would soy milk be okay?
      Aquinas: Sure. Anything analogous would be.

  36. In the last thread there were some people lamenting that this community made them feel dumb. I didn’t really directly empathize until I read this. I really wish I had the capacity to be this clever.

    On an unrelated note, the site is being very slow today and occasionally spewing 502 errors. Is anybody else experiencing this? If so, Scott, you might want to talk to your hosting provider about that.

    • Susebron says:

      I got a lot of these, but only as a result of reading Dead Philosophers In Heaven. It’s quite a good comic, although it seems to be dead.

      • I got almost all of the jokes, if not immediately then after briefly checking Wikipedia. I was lamenting my inability to write things that are this good. I tried coming up with some based on computer scientists (since that’s my field), but I couldn’t make them funny.

        • Daniel Speyer says:

          Turing walks into a Starbucks. He orders a large coffee. Then he orders the process of ordering a large coffee. He asks that they put it in the same size cup.

          Ronald Jeffries walks into a Starbucks, saying “I’ll have a large coffee. No wait, I’m not going to need that much caffeine to make it through the day. I’ll have a small coffee.”

          As Jeffries pulls out his Amex Platinum card to pay, Donald Knuth burns him at the stake.

          Knuth then decides to go to the counter to place his own order, but Dijkstra burns him at the stake.

          Dijkstra then orders a DZK. Some hours later, the staff puzzles out that this stands for Large Black Coffee in Dutch.

          Von Neuman orders a coffee which after six seconds will turn itself into two coffees, each identical to the one he was originally served (including the replicating property). Eliezer Yudkowsky burns him at the stake.

          Bjarne Stroustrup walks into a Starbucks and says, “I want your fanciest coffee, but I don’t want to pay for it.”

          Richard Stallman walks into a Starbucks and requests the recipe for their coffee.

          • I walk into the Starbucks behind RMS and try to talk the barista into open-sourcing all their recipes because obviously their actual value-add is in the service and support.

            RMS then tells me I’m unethical because I’m not willing to unconditionally denounce proprietary cocoa, and walks out in a huff.

          • Anonymous says:

            Okay, lacking the necessary context on some of these.

            Can you explain what you mean by “X burned him at the stake?” What does that signify? My assumption was something like, “X’s work debunks/critiques/overcomes the orderer’s work.”

            But, e.g., how does Eliezer Yudkowsky burn Von Neumann at the stake?

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            von Neumann ordered a von Neumann probe. Eliezer Yudkowsky burned him at the stake because that shit will kill you.

          • Daniel Speyer says:

            Jeffries prematurely optimized, which Knuth regards as the root of all evil.

            Knuth used goto, which Dijkstra regards as harmful.

            And Von Neuman seriously endangered all sentient life in his light cone.

          • Dennis Ritchie walks into a Starbucks, points to an item on the menu and says, “I’ll have two of those.” His cup overflows while the barista is adding the second one.

          • William O. B'Livion says:

            Meanwhile Linus Torvalds plants his own coffee tree and changes the world, and if you don’t like it f*k you.

          • annoying pedant says:

            How do you figure DZK stands for Large Black Coffee in Dutch? what’s the D stand for, Dikke? That’s ‘fat’, not ‘large’, ‘large’ in this context would be ‘Grote’ as in “Grote Zwarte Koffie”

          • grendelkhan says:

            And Eric Raymond is engaged in a long-term attempt to prove that no matter how admirable one’s accomplishments, one can always grow an ego too big for them. (Hence being the only non-anonymous person in the thread to write a coffee-bar joke about themselves.)

        • Setsize says:

          Alan Kay orders a coffee. He takes a sip, but then he spits it out, saying “This is not what I meant by coffee.”

          William Kahan orders a 14.625 ounce coffee. He receives 15 ounces of coffee in a 16 ounce cup. He complains that the error is greater than one gulp.

        • Felix Benner says:

          Haskell Curry orders a coffee, when the barista asks if he wants milk and sugar he says he’ll add those later. The barista then responds if this was true anything would be possible.

        • James Picone says:

          (\f.(\x.f (x x)) (\x.f (x x))) (\x.\y.\z.x y) Church Starbucks Barista Order

          I haven’t done lambda calculus in a while, though, so there’s probably some embarrassing mistake in there.

          • Lambert says:

            It never terminates.
            It gives /y. then a number of /z. terms then
            (\x.\y.\z.x y) ((\x.(\x.\y.\z.x y) (x x)) (\x.(\x.\y.\z.x y) (x x))) y

  37. BD Sixsmith says:

    Samuel Johnson finishes a drink and goes up the counter to ask for a second. “Sorry, mate,” says the barista, “No refills.” Johnson leans over the bar and pours one himself before saying, “I refill it thus.”

    GK Chesterton overhears another customer complaining that their drink is cold and tells them that it is too hot.

    Alan Sokal walks into a coffee bar and orders a Half-Filtered Green Chocolate Mocha Espresso with Chick Pea Milk. The barista pretends to know what he is talking about.

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh, I can’t do a better Chesterton one, so I’ll just quote the bit about Mooreeffoc from his biography of Charles Dickens:

      Herein is the whole secret of that eerie realism with which Dickens could always vitalize some dark or dull corner of London. There are details in the Dickens descriptions – a window, or a railing, or the keyhole of a door – which he endows with demoniac life. The things seem more actual than things really are. Indeed, that degree of realism does not exist in reality: it is the unbearable realism of a dream. And this kind of realism can only be gained by walking dreamily in a place; it cannot be gained by walking observantly. Dickens himself has given a perfect instance of how these nightmare minutiae grew upon him in his trance of abstraction. He mentions among the coffee-shops into which he crept in those wretched days one in St. Martin’s Lane, “of which I only recollect that it stood near the church, and that in the door there was an oval glass plate with ‘COFFEE ROOM’ painted on it, addressed towards the street. If I ever find myself in a very different kind of coffee-room now, but where there is such an inscription on glass, and read it backwards on the wrong side, MOOR EEFFOC (as I often used to do then in a dismal reverie), a shock goes through my blood.” That wild word, “Moor Eeffoc,” is the motto of all effective realism; it is the masterpiece of the good realistic principle – the principle that the most fantastic thing of all is often the precise fact. And that elvish kind of realism Dickens adopted everywhere. His world was alive with inanimate objects.

      • drunkenrabbit says:

        When I started reading that, I thought that you were quoting a literary critic named “Mooreeffoc” as a total non sequitur.

        Also, I loved the quote. For anyone else interested Chesterton’s biography of Dickens is only 99 cents on Kindle.

    • Anonymous says:

      The other philosophers notice somebody has been waiting outside the Starbucks all day. They ask the barista about it. “Oh, that’s G.K. Chesterton. He won’t open the door until he knows why it was closed in the first place.”

  38. Shmi Nux says:

    Baruch Spinosa walks up to the counter, the barrista asks what kind of coffee he would like. He shrugs and says that they are all manifestations of the one Drink of Nature. He then sits down and contentedly watches a spider catch a fly, until he is kicked out by the enraged manager for the abominable heresy of disparaging the Starbucks coffee selection.

  39. Dan says:

    Leibniz goes up to the counter and orders an espresso. This has no effect on the barista, but it just so happens that the barista then makes an espresso and hands it to him.

  40. Ialdabaoth says:

    Benoit Mandelbrot walks into the coffee shop and prepares to order, but is astounded to notice that the gingerbread house seasonal display is a nearly perfect replica of the coffee shop, right down to a miniature gingerbread Benoit Mandelbrot ordering from a miniature gingerbread barista, and a tiny gumdrop gingerbread house on the counter complete with a tiny gumdrop Benoit Mandelbrot odering from a tiny gumdrop barista, and a sugar-sprinkle gingerbread house on the counter…

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  43. Nassim Taleb orders coffee, drops the ceramic cup, and watches it shatter on the floor. He finds this deeply significant, although everyone around him says that they already knew this would happen.

    Popper comes into the shop, and remarks that so far his favorite has been the Pumpkin Spice Latte. “So you’ll have that?” says the barista. “No, of course not!” says Popper, and orders every other drink on the menu.

  44. Anonymous says:

    John Searl goes up to the counter, takes out a big book and reads “Pumpkin spice chai latte”. Then he turns to the guy behind him and says “I don’t actually know what that means.”

    Derek Parfit goes up to the counter with a guy covered in sand. They argue
    “You said you’re going to pay for the coffee if I give you a ride!”
    “I lied”

    Nick Bostrom goes up to the counter.The barista says “Congratulations, you’re our 10,000th customer!”
    Bostrom “Why not 100,000th? This coffee shop will surely soon go out of business”

    • No. Nick Bostrom walks in and orders coffee that has successfully passed through the Great Filter.

      • Dojan says:

        The barista responds: “I’m afraid we don’t serve sentient coffee for consumption: We’re strictly against dragons here! If you would like something with a developed culture though, you might consider a yoghurt.”

    • Sandro says:

      Nick Bostrom walks up to the counter and orders a coffee saying, “Clearly there is great economic value in simulating what makes a good coffee. Unless the fraction of coffee shops surviving long enough to run coffee simulations is close to zero, this is almost certainly a simulated coffee.”

  45. Dan says:

    Jean-Baptiste Lamarck goes up to the counter and orders a coffee. “Cream or sugar?” asks the barista. “Yesterday I had to add a bunch of cream and sugar,” Lamarck explains, “so today it should be good as is.”

  46. Chris Thomas says:

    Scott Alexander walks into a Starbucks and asks the barista for a recommendation. The Barista suggests the popular new Blood Coffee, and explains how it is made from beans purchased from Congolese warlords to help them fund child armies. Also there is blood in it. Scott is a bit taken aback, but is reluctant to condemn as stupid or evil a drink that so many people find appealing. In an effort to expand his understanding of coffee tastes, and ultimately to more effectively explain why drinking Blood Coffee is a mistake, Scott spends the next 15 minutes making the strongest possible case he can think of for drinking blood coffee. When he is done, the barista asks if he knows what he will have. “Well”, says Scott, “I think I’ll take an espresso, but tomorrow I’ll be back to make the case against Blood Coffee.” Scott leaves, and everyone in line who heard his argument orders a Blood Coffee.

  47. nydwracu says:

    Thomas Carlyle walks into a coffee shop and justices a coffee.

    John Locke walks into a coffee shop and orders at random, for it says in the Bible that all coffees are equal. He takes one sip and then, shouting that he could make better coffee, throws out the manager and takes over the shop.

    Jacques Derrida walks into a coffee shop, notices the binary distinction between coffee and tea that is inherent in the menu, and orders a yuanyang.

    • stillnotking says:

      Jacques Derrida walks into a coffee shop and orders a tall cappuccino. The barista makes him an espresso instead. Derrida realizes he has no grounds to object.

    • Hadlowe says:

      Derrida orders a muffin. The barista tells him that there is only one left. Derrida frowns and leaves knowing that there are no muffins.

      Derrida returns the next day. The barista asks him what he would like. Derrida responds, “I can’t tell you what I want. I can tell you everything that I don’t want.”

  48. Anonymous says:

    Everything here is hilarious. Especially the Ayn Rand speech.

  49. charred-triumph says:

    Douglas Hofstadter goes up to the counter, and the barista asks what he would like. Hofstadter hands them the following note:
    Douglas Hofstadter, the author of this note, has gone into a pleasant little cafe on his way home from work.
    Hofstadter: A large black coffee, please.
    Barista: That will be $4.50.
    Hofstadter: There you go.
    And he hands the barista a five-dollar bill.
    Hofstadter: Ah, there’s nothing like the smell of fresh hot coffee after a long day at work.
    There is a loud popping noise, and the cafe darkens for a moment. When the light returns, it reveals Hofstadter’s ersatz colleague, Egbert B. Gebstadter.
    Gebstadter: Indeed there is, my dear Hofstadter. Why, there’s the smell of molten minute-old mocha after a very long day at work, the smell of lukewarm milk and coffee beans after a short day at work, the smell of cold cappuccino after pulling a night shift, and countless other stirring scents and wafting whiffs.
    Hofstadter: Surely you mean only countable other odors, my friend?
    Gebstadter: Indeed not! For any possible aroma-enumeration you’d care to consider, I can construct an altogether unanticipated smell by taking the heat of the first scent, the freshness of the second scent, and so on, and altering each one. So you see the amount of scents I sense is not only infinite, but COUNTLESS.
    Hofstadter: I think you’ve made a minor muddle, ol’ chum. Doesn’t that sort of Cantoresque chop-and-swappery requires an infinite number of tabs to twiddle?
    Gebstadter: Bah! Banished to turgidity and muddlement once more. And to think I was so close to fresh new truth this time. I could almost taste it…
    And he vanishes in a puff of smoke.
    Hofstadter: Poor fellow. A gent more inclined to scent-sorting than sense-sensing if I ever met one.”

    The barista, befuddled, tries to give him his fifty cents of change.

    • jpt4 says:

      Douglas Hofstadter hasn’t had coffee from Starbucks in twenty years – the menu items are always nothing but abstruse, reductionist descriptions of what is actually “warm sunlight on a chill day, made liquid”. Instead, he goes salsa dancing.

  50. Rauwyn says:

    Wolfgang Pauli walks into a coffee shop. All of the coffee machines immediately stop functioning.

    Robert Wood walks into a coffee shop and orders the new N-coffee from Prosper-René Blondlot. After receiving his drink, he reveals that when Blondlot wasn’t looking he swapped the filter for a piece of wood.

    Paul Erdős walks into a coffee shop and orders an espresso. “Haven’t you been drinking decaf for the past month?” the barista asks. Erdős replies “Yes, and in that time, the progress of mathematics has been set back by a month.”

    • The Pauli one made me laugh out loud…

    • Irenist says:

      Murray Gell-Mann orders a lattee with eight ingredients. The barista seems stressed, so Richard Feynman, to make it easier, has six.

      Linus Pauling orders an orange juice.

      Freeman Dyson just sits at his table rolling up his napkins into a really, really humongous sphere.

    • Daniel H says:

      Erwin Schrödinger walks into the coffee shop. He simultaneously orders and fails to order a bowl of milk, until the barista observes this order and Schrödinger collapses.

  51. Dave Pinsen says:

    The “tall” is the smallest size listed on the menu board at Starbucks, but their actual smallest size is the “short” (the paper cup they serve espressos in).

  52. Anonymous says:

    Eliezer Yudkowsky walks into a starbucks.

    He discovers that he doesn’t have enough money to buy a latte so he turns to the guy behind him in line and tells him that his important research into how to stop an artificial intelligence from killing all humans depends on his getting a cup of coffee and working out a crucial part of the problem. The guy is initially skeptical but is persuaded when Eliezer explains Bayesian probability and that even if there is a small chance of stopping an unfriendly AI it is worth the cost of a cup of coffee. The man is reluctantly persuaded.

    Eliezer takes his coffee, sits down next the guy treated him to it and alternates spending his time in the cafe writing Harry Potter fan fic and trying to sleep with the guy’s girlfriend.

    • Anonymous says:

      Eliezer does not Pascal-mug. You’ll never hear him go: “but if there’s even a tiny chance…” He maintains that there is a considerable chance of an UFAI and a considerable chance of his work preventing it. Want to make fun of Eliezer? Fine. But be fair.

      • Nita says:

        Eliezer Yudkowsky does not Pascal-mug. He merely proves the existence of a sufficiently large number of lives saved (N) for any non-zero probability (epsilon).

      • Anonymous says:

        Eliezer Yudkowsky walks into a starbucks doing a philosopher cup promotion and is asked which one he would like.

        “Any but the Pascal mug.”

    • MK says:

      Eliezer Yudkowsky walks into a coffe shop. He orders a coffee that humanity as a whole would order if people knew more, thought faster, were more the people they wished we were and had grown up farther together.

      • Nornagest says:

        The barista, jumping to conclusions, gives him a seasonal latte full of exotic spices. He happens to be allergic to one, and dies of anaphylactic shock.

      • Irenist says:

        Eliezer always programs his own coffeemaker. If he let someone else do it, the coffeemaker might turn us all into coffee!

      • Avery says:

        MK’s is the only good Yudkowsky joke in this thread, so don’t bother continuing to Ctrl+F.

    • Irenist says:

      Leah Libresco: I’m halfway through making my Halloween costume, I’m running late to a musical, and I need a quick cup of coffee.
      Barista: Your usual?
      Leah Libresco: No. I’ve been talking with some Catholic friends, and from now on I’m going to order something completely different.

  53. LTP says:

    Patricia Churchland walks into a coffee shop. The barista asks her what drink she would like. Churchland replies: “I can’t answer that. You see, the concept of ‘liking’ something is merely a folk psychological concept that has no correlation in neuroscience. Any attempt to argue that the concept of ‘liking’ something is a valid concept is silly armchair reasoning we should get beyond. Your question was meaningless. I’ve moved beyond such useless ideas. Try asking questions that only use concepts based in reductive neuroscience next time so you don’t embarrass yourself.”

    She leaves without coffee.

  54. DrBeat says:

    I wonder if we might get some more by reversing the situation? I could only think of one, but it’s late.

    A guy walks into Karl Marx’s coffee shop and says, “Why do your workers keep telling me I have to try your new blend? Every single time I do, it tastes exactly the same — awful!”

    “That’s because none of us know how to make it right!” the barista cheerfully replies.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Plato’s Coffee Shop has the ideal cup of coffee, but it’s outside somewhere and you can only see a dim reflection on the wall.

    • Anonymous says:

      I walk into Scottbucks and check out the menu. The barista starts telling me more than I ever wanted to know about coffee, and because I haven’t yet had my coffee my eyes glaze over and I just nod my head, ordering whatever he suggests. I go to the corner and sit in an armchair where I talk about race and gender while the other patrons glare at me.

  55. NonsignificantName says:

    Noam Chomsky walks up to the counter and orders a Columbian coffee. To decide whether it’s well-formed, he offers a native Columbian a sip.

    • Anonymous says:

      William Labov goes into a Starbucks. He asks the barista, “What’s the best cup of coffee you’ve ever made here?” They converse for an hour and a half.

    • Irenist says:

      Benjamin Whorf is convinced that he likes different kinds of coffee based on what language he’s ordering it in.

      • Drea says:

        Whorf goes into a Starbucks, but can’t understand the idea of running nearly boiling water through fine ground beans and mixing with steamed milk and flavored syrups, because he only knows the words “coffee”, “black”, “cream”, and “sugar”. So he asks a native speaker of Starbucks to order for him.

        • Nornagest says:

          In Whorf’s defense, I’ve gotten blank stares for ordering a medium coffee at Starbucks before.

    • AJD says:

      John McCarthy and Alan Prince order a large coffee that costs under $3. On being told that no such drink is on the menu, they decide which of size vs. low price is more important to them and order accordingly, disregarding the other criterion entirely.

    • llamathatducks says:

      yesssss linguists

      Noam Chomsky goes to Starbucks daily and orders increasingly complicated beverages in an attempt to discover the true nature of his coffee preferences. One day he realizes that his preferences could not possibly be that complicated and orders a minimalist black coffee.

      Ferdinand de Saussure orders a dog. “Do you mean a coffee?” asks the confused barista. “Arbitrariness of the sign!” replies de Saussure.

      or perhaps

      Ferdinand de Saussure orders hot chocolate. “We’re out of cocoa,” says the barista, gesturing at a sign that says “OUT OF COCOA”. “Oh,” says de Saussure, “I thought the sign was arbitrary.”

      Leonard Bloomfield orders an expresso. “Do you mean an espresso?” asks the barista. Bloomfield rejects prescriptivism.

      David Bellos orders a shot in the dark. The barista is not a native English speaker and doesn’t know that term, so she turns the lights off and shoots him.

      • Daniel H says:

        A panda walks into a coffee shop and orders a muffin. When he is done eating his muffin, he grabs a gun, shoots the barista, and leaves the shop.

        • Andrew G. says:

          The Australian version of that joke is better (featuring a koala), since “root” is a slang term for intercourse: “eats roots shoots and leaves” therefore implies a much more logical sequence of events.

          I have long been curious whether the standard-english version popularized by that book is a deliberate bowdlerization of an Australian original, or whether the clean version is original and the Australians improved on it. I would currently bet on the former position at >90%.

  56. othercriteria says:

    Ronald A. Fisher goes up to the counter and orders eight cups of tea for a lady friend who is yet to arrive.

  57. Sylocat says:

    George Bernard Shaw walks into a coffee shop. While waiting in line, he regales everyone nearby with a 10,000-word spoken essay about everything wrong with society plus everything that is currently annoying him this week, as well as the historical origins of coffee and coffee-making techniques. But fortunately, once he actually gets to the counter and starts ordering, he becomes fast-paced and snappy, ordering a fairly standard coffee with a cocktail array of spices, flavorings and expensive organic sweeteners.

  58. Don P says:

    I’m pleasantly surprised with how many of these I understood. I’ve retained a lot more than I thought I did

  59. Blubberquark says:

    Julian Jaynes walks into a starbucks. He orders a cappuchino.

    The voices of babylonian gods compell the barista to brew the drink.

  60. David Moss says:

    I have an unreasonably strong objection to the Wittgenstein joke. I’m sure he would be entirely comfortable with the idea that in a particular language game ‘tall’ was used to ask for the smallest coffee. The idea of “meaningless language games” also seems like a clear anti-Witttgensteinianism.

  61. Shenpen says:

    A WW2 French Resistance member walks up to the counter in Sternkohle. “Kaffee, oder lieber Tee?”, asks the barista. “Liberté!”, he yells enthusiastically.

  62. DiscoveredJoys says:

    Li Bai walks up to the counter and asks for a Blue Mountain coffee with a fruit syrup. The barrista asks Li Bai to confirm his strange choice. Li Bai replies:

    You ask why I have chosen Blue mountain;
    I smile without replying, my heart serene.
    Peach syrup swirls and is blended in;
    A heavenly drink in a human world.

  63. Anonymous says:

    Starbucks brews forth innumerable drinks to nurture man.
    Man has nothing good with which to recompense Starbucks.
    Mispell name. Mispell name. Mispell name. Mispell name. Mispell name. Mispell name. Mispell name.

  64. Chris says:

    The barista hands Zeno of Elea his coffee. He stares at the drink in his hand, not knowing how to start.

  65. Anonymous says:

    Gettier walks up to the counter. Before he can order, the Barrista confuses him for a regular and chirps “I know what you want.” By coincidence, Gettier ends up with exactly the drink he desired.

  66. BD Sixsmith says:

    Max Stirner goes into Starbucks, orders an espresso and leaves without paying.

    The Marquis de Sade is asked whether he wants whipped cream with his frappuccino. He is disappointed by what this entails.

  67. Muga_Sofer says:

    Robin Hanson walks into a Starbucks and says “give me your cheapest, least impressive coffee; you see, I want to signal that I don’t care about what people think of my coffee choices, so everyone will think I’m just too high-status to care about what they think.”

    The barista asks him if he doesn’t care about the taste, but Hanson points out that Starbucks is not about the coffee; people go to a Starbucks and make incomprehensible, overpriced orders in order to show off their sophistication and wealth.

    He does all this in order to signal his intelligence and sophistication.


    Eliezer Yudkowsky walks into a coffee shop and persuades the barista that she should give him the coffee for free, because he needs the energy to fight unFriendly AI. The next five people in line start arguing over whether this was wrong, and never actually get around to ordering coffee.


    Scott Alexander walks into a coffee shop, loudly tells the barista his name is Yvain, and then orders the same thing he usually has.


    Gwern walks into a coffee shop and orders a glass of water, which he has determined is the healthiest drink in the place. He uses this to help him swallow three caffeine pills.


    “… Alicorn walked into a coffee shop, and began talking with the barista, who described the many drinks they served there. You see, “coffee” was a drink that allowed you to think faster and more accurately, while removing your need to sleep. She quickly ordered as much coffee as possible, so she could use it’s powers to help improve the world.” said Alicorn to the confused barista, who couldn’t quite remember which universe this vignette was supposed to be set in or what the moral was.


    Scott Alexander walks into a coffee shop and orders five different coffees, but all the barista remembers is the one he was only trying out because other people insisted it was delicious. It isn’t.


    “I’ll have a small, very strong cup of black coffee,” Tom expressed.


    Moldbug walks into a coffee shop drunk, and orders a coffee. He spends the next hour explaining to anyone who will listen that the best coffee is actually a remnant of medieval English tea-making practices, and “real coffee” is slowly being wiped out by modern, soulless coffee machines.

    He proposes an elaborate scheme to turn the United States into a military junta, to preserve this sacred value. Fortunately, he’s slurring so much that afterward everyone agrees he was probably complaining about that new barista, who everyone knows can’t make a decent cup of coffee.

  68. stillnotking says:

    Michel Foucault walks into a coffee shop and orders a pumpkin spice latte. “How did you know we have that?” the barista asks. “It’s not on the menu.” Foucault smiles. “It was implicit!”

    Joseph Campbell boldly ventures into a coffee shop. The barista is a dragon, but Campbell manages to trick him into a free round for the house.

  69. onyomi says:

    Mencius and Xunzi order a coffee and they both find it tastes terrible.

    “This coffee may taste bad, but it is fundamentally good, since it came from good beans. I could make good coffee from these beans.”

    “Beans that require special preparation to taste good are bad beans,” said Xunzi.

  70. Robin says:

    Archimedes goes up to the counter and says “May I have a large container of coffee, cream and sugar?”

  71. Anonymous says:

    Thomas Nagel flies into Starbucks, startles everybody inside with his ultrasonic screeching, for a moment gets tangled in some panicked lady’s hair and then flies out.

  72. Ali Scott says:

    Islamic Philosophers version:

    Ibn Taymiyyah walks into a coffee shop and orders an espresso. He then goes on to admonish anybody else not drinking espresso as having adulterated the pure nature of coffee with innovations like milk and water. He spends the rest of his life in jail.

    Al-Ghazali walks into a coffee shop and orders a latte. He walks out without paying, denying any causal link between the barista’s actions and receiving the coffee.

    Omar Khayaam walks into a coffee shop and orders an Irish coffee. He insists it is purely metaphorical when challenged.

    Rumi and Shamsuddin share a coffee. It is totally not a date.

    • Irenist says:

      You should try this Starbucks. Al-Ghazali and Malebranche both say their coffee tastes like it was made directly by God.

      Ibn Tufail hired a barista named Hayy ibn Yaqdhan. Even thought Hayy had never even heard of coffee before, he somehow figured out how to brew it all on his own.

      Avicenna: We should all share one cup of coffee; its heat would be common to us all.
      Ibn-Farabi: It could flow from the cup to each of us.
      Al-Kindi: You say it would be one cup Avicenna, but if we share it, then it is in a sense many.
      Al-Ghazali: You guys are incoherent!
      Averroes: You’re incoherent!

  73. Edsger Dijkstra walks into the Starbucks again and orders coffee. This time he proclaims that he won’t drink it until he can see a formal proof of the correctness of the recipe.

    When the barista fails to produce one, Dijkstra writes a letter to Communications of the ACM which is published as “Go To Starbucks considered harmful.”

    • James says:

      Dijkstra walks into Starbucks and orders a coffee to take out. As he sips it on his way to work, he spills the coffee all over his shirt, which makes him angry enough to write a letter to Communications of the ACM: “Starbucks To Go Considered Harmful”.

  74. Brad says:

    G.K. Chesterton goes to starbucks and looks at the menu. Finding it too expensive, he then goes home, makes some tea, and then dictates a long rambling essay about how starbucks represents everything wrong with the industrialization of society.

    • Mary says:

      Eh, more likely complaining that it doesn’t serve beer.

    • Anonymous says:

      G.K. Chesterton goes into a Starbucks and notices a sign for fair trade coffee. He orders tea and sits down to write an essay about how fair trade, precisely because it’s fair, is unfair.

      • Benquo says:

        It seems more likely that Chesterton would argue for fair trade, “not because it is fair, but precisely because it is unfair.” I can even see how the argument would go.

  75. Scott H. says:

    This is grossly unfair to Nietzsche! The guy speaks fondly of Jews and Judaism, and he gets inferences that he was only “misinterpreted” as an instigator on the way to the Holocaust?

    • Mary says:

      Fondly? where?

      I mean I’ve read him being severe on anti-Semites, but that means nothing; a racist can deeply disapprove of the KKK.

      • Protagoras says:

        Nietzsche claimed that the two greatest masters of German prose were himself and Heine. He may have been baiting the anti-semites by making a Jew his other example, but he definitely had a genuine admiration for Heine, and it’s hardly the only case where he said something favorable about a particular Jew. He also had some favorable things to say about Jews in general, which given how sparing he usually was with praise seems suggestive. Of course, he also says critical things about Judaism, but he says critical things about everyone; when he’s being negative, he’s nowhere near as nasty to Jews as he is to, say, the English, or Germans, or Christians.

        • Jadagul says:

          I think my favorite part of Genealogy of Morals is the way that every time Nietzsche says something potentially negative about Jews, he follows it up with a parenthetical that basically says “but at least they’re not Aryans, who really suck.”

      • Scott H. says:

        If you read Nietzsche you will see his admiration for Jews and Judaism throughout his works. If you read *about* Nietzsche probably not so much. The only thing I remember Nietzsche really taking the Jews to task for was, ironically, their role in creating Christianity. Even then, for Nietzsche, Christianity was such a colossal and masterful error that it took a truly great people and culture to come up with it. That’s kind of the way he thought about things.

        A racist disapproving of the KKK couldn’t be further from the truth.

        I did dig up this Nietzsche tidbit:


        How do you misinterpret that?

      • Irenist says:

        Didn’t Nietzsche once complain that the Christian Bible tacked the petty tale of the Gospels onto the grand historical epic of the Hebrew Bible?

    • Markus Ramikin says:

      Yeah, that one made me wince.

    • MugaSofer says:

      >This is grossly unfair to Nietzsche! The guy speaks fondly of Jews and Judaism, and he gets inferences that he was only “misinterpreted” as an instigator on the way to the Holocaust?

      “Only”? Isn’t it accurate to say he was misinterpreted?

      • Scott H. says:

        Well, misinterpreted has a connotation that he was in some way an anti-semite and racist against the Jews, but things got out of hand when it came to mass murder. You can see this logical thought process manifest itself in Mary’s post attempting characterize Nietzsche– “a racist can still deeply disapprove of the KKK.”

        I’m not knocking Mary here either. I think that’s a natural place to go when it’s claimed that Nietzsche was misinterpreted on the way to one of the most heinous crimes in human history.

  76. Curry and Howard walk into a Starbucks and order coffee. Then they find a quiet booth and begin work on a proof that every coffee recipe translates to an assertion in a typed lambda calculus.

    Alfred Korzybski walks in, asks Curry and Howard why they’re arguing about the map when they came for the territory, and drinks their coffee.

  77. TheAncientGeek says:

    Chalmers shambles into a cofeeshop, and eats the Baristas brain.

    • Protagoras says:

      Hah! I was trying to think of a Chalmers one. I like it much better than the Dennett.

      • Irenist says:

        Do you like this joke? I’m neutral about this one.

      • s3 says:

        maybe something like..
        Chalmers complains that his coffee tastes funny. The barista swears they made it the same way as always and offers to make another one.
        “No, no,” says Chalmers “it is physically identical to the other coffee but I directly perceive that it tastes different”

  78. Mary says:

    Epictetus goes into a Starbucks and orders a coffee in a cup with two handles — one for carrying it, and the other not.

  79. Doug S. says:

    TV Tropes Wiki editors walk into a Starbucks. They talk with each other about common elements of the different menu items but never quite get around to actually ordering anything.

    • Nornagest says:

      At 9:00, one of them reveals a sexual fetish for unground coffee beans. Before noon, they’ve developed a sophisticated erotic taxonomy of coffee sorting by color, oiliness, and caffeine content, and their arguments over its details are threatening to drown out genuine customers’ orders.

      By closing time the instigator and a coterie of their closest followers have been kicked out of the place for being creepy, and are attempting to start a competing coffee shop across the way but haven’t gotten further than buying bags of raw beans from a Trader Joe’s and staring at them lasciviously. Back in Starbucks, the arguments are as heated as ever but are now conducted in nudges and winks.

      • Anonymous says:

        WHAT TV SHOWS ARE YOU WATCHING (and where can I view free episodes online)

        • Nornagest says:

          It honestly doesn’t matter. The TV Tropes people would still have gone through this process if all they had in the way of source material was a thousand hours of audio feed from a Seventies-era KGB bug placed over the sink in the US Senate men’s room.

    • DrBeat says:

      Something Awful forum posters walk into a coffee shop and hang out by the counter. Every time someone orders a coffee, the forum posters laugh about how that order proves how stupid, creepy, and depraved that person is. The manager only lets them hang out because they used to make great orders, even though now they never order anything.

  80. Doug S. says:

    A person with a graduate degree in philosophy walks into a Starbucks. He spends the day behind the counter making coffees for people.

    (Too harsh?)

    • Anonymous says:

      I laughed.

    • onyomi says:

      Very nice.

    • Irenist says:

      A person with a graduate degree in computer science walks into a Starbucks in Silicon Valley. He tries to have them make him a bulletproof coffee, because even though he has a 190 IQ, he and all his friends are on the Bulletproof Diet for some reason.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, that thing is ridiculous and gross. People really need to develop a higher immunity to “just-so” stories about nutrition and fitness, such as “by eating a big cup of fat first thing in the morning, you are priming your body to burn fat.” Of course, I can come up with an equally logical reason to do the opposite.

        • drunkenrabbit says:

          Ridiculous, sure. But gross? Butter is amazing in coffee if you blend it right. Butter is the platonic form of fatty mixer, and cream is only its shadow.

  81. othercriteria says:

    Paul Grice goes up to the counter and says “A small, please,” knowing that the implications will be sufficiently clear.

  82. Fermi walks into Starbucks and notices there’s nobody else there. He says to the barista, “Based on reasonable assumptions for the price of coffee, the number of residents in this neighborhood, average income for people within walking distance, and number of coffee drinkers per household, this place should be full! Where is everybody hiding?”

    The barista says, “Sir, it’s 5 am. Everyone else is still asleep.”

  83. B. F. Skinner walked into a coffee shop, ordered a latte and drank it. He then said to his barista: “You clearly enjoyed making it, did I enjoy drinking it?”

  84. CzerniLabut says:

    Franz Kafka walks into a Starbucks and approaches the barrista behind the counter. “What can I get for you?” she asks. Kafka wags his finger and tisk tisks her before responding, “No Ma’am, what can I get for you?” The barrista closes her eyes and shakes her head confusedly, as though she misheard him. When she opens them, she now sees herself in the mirror that was behind the register, with Kafka behind the counter wearing her apron.

  85. Hadlowe says:

    Edward Said walks into a coffee shop and orders a cup of authentic Arabica bean, black. “I will accept no Other.”

    • Irenist says:

      Frantz Fanon says, “I’ll have a black coffee, too. And if you don’t give us black coffee, things could get violent.”

  86. Heisenberg orders and pays a coffee, and the barrista attempts to slide it over, but as Heisenberg can’t tell its speed or location, he never gets it.

    • Decius says:

      Heisenberg tries to pay for his coffee, but he accidentally learns the exact velocity of his wallet.

  87. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    Peter Singer walks into a coffee shop. “What can I get for you?” asks the cashier. Peter Singer shakes his head “where have we come as a society when we would rather spend $4.00 on our own selfish short term gratification, when we could be purchasing malaria nets for the same price and saving lives in the regions of the world where help is needed the most?”. The cashier hangs his head in shame and dedicates his life to eradicating malaria.

  88. Halfwitz says:

    Nick Bostrom walks into a Starbucks. His coffee is free as he is the first customer in that location. Moments after he leaves, the Starbucks is destroyed by a comet.

  89. keyofw says:

    C.S. Lewis walks up to the counter. “What would you like?” asks the barista. Lewis replies there is a drink that only he can enjoy to its fullest. He is also the only one who knows it. The barista, confused, makes a plain coffee. Lewis takes a sip and says “I don’t like it, but for some other chap this may be just the thing to make him like coffee, so I have no judgment.” Then he leaves.

    • Irenist says:

      C.S. Lewis is miraculously resurrected in our time by Jesus Christ. However, having spent his prior life studying Medieval and Renaissance literature back when tenured humanities professors actually existed, Lewis of course ends up working as a barista at Starbucks.

      Customer: I’d like a small coffee.
      Lewis: No. There can be no such coffee. Don’t talk to me of such milk and water–this is a coffee shop! There can only be Tall, Grande, and Venti. Your life has confronted you with exactly these three choices.
      Customer: That seems rather arbitrary. Besides, I’ve heard a rumor that Starbucks will serve you a “short” coffee if you just know to order it.
      Lewis: I refuse to consider this legend of “short” coffee. There are only three choices.

  90. Not THAT anonymous commenter says:

    Jim Donald walks into a Starbucks with some friends. He begins haranguing everyone within earshot that Starbucks’s coffee is terrible – furthermore, since Starbucks is the poster child of American coffee, all American coffee is terrible.

    As he repeats this argument ad nauseam, growing ever more belligerent and ignoring any counterexamples of non-terrible American coffee presented by other customers, someone elbows one of his friends and whispers, “Why do you hang out with this guy?” The friend mumbles something about Jim’s being a useful corrective to people who haven’t realized that Starbucks makes terrible coffee.

    • drunkenrabbit says:

      Jim Donald walks into a coffee shop. Seeing the Women’s Studies professor in front of him buying a black coffee, Jim walks up to the counter and loudly proclaims, “I’LL HAVE THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT HE HAD!” The bemused barrista pours him a cup full of cream, and Jim proudly marches away, proclaiming that he has the one, true, reactionary coffee.

      • Anonymous says:

        (To bring things back down to real life: when I started out in the coffee biz, circa 1999, there was the occasional customer that would order a “breve steamer with no syrup” – a cup/glass of steamed half-and-half. I think it was an Atkins diet thing.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Jim Donald walks into a Starbucks and fires the manager.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      James Donald walks into a Starbucks. Every time a woman is about to make an order, he shoots up from his seat and shouts over her, telling the barista to get her what he is having. When questioned, he explains that female coffee choice has to be prevented in order to preserve civilization, and must be guided towards the coffee choices of well-behaved men.

  91. Halfwitz says:

    Hugh Everett walked into every Starbucks that ever was or will be.

  92. Jeremy Bentham walks into a Starbucks with a utility monster dogging his heels. The rest of this joke is left as a trivial exercise for the reader.

  93. Anonymous says:

    Why does everyone uses “Starbucks” brand name in their jokes? Why not use generic words “café”, “cafe”, or “coffee shop”? Why put a product placement for them in a joke?

    • Anonymous says:

      So Naomi Klein walks into a Starbucks…

    • Auroch says:

      Because you were picturing a Starbucks anyway.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      Because if we all substitute “Starbucks” for Cafe’ or Coffee shop *ALL THE TIME* eventually it will become the common term for that sort of shop, Starbucks will lose it’s trademark[1] and then *every* coffee shop will call themselves either ____ Starbucks or Starbucks ___. This will have an incredibly debilitating effect on the world economy which will reduce spending in AI research, giving Yudkowsky a few extra years to prevent the AIpocalypse.

      [1] Possibly Urban Legend, see Xerox and Kleenex. Can’t be arsed to look it up.

  94. anon says:

    Wildbow walks into a Jacob’s Bell coffee shop and offers to pay with an unscheduled 10,000-word update to his latest web serial, instead of cash. He writes and posts the chapter while waiting for the order, then spends the rest of the day fixing WordPress-induced formatting issues.

    • Roxolan says:

      Taylor enters a coffee shop and walks towards the counter. On her third step, the building collapses.

  95. Anonymous says:

    Robin Hanson walks into a Starbucks, and sees people doing things other than drinking coffee, like talking to friends or reading books or working on their laptops. He sits down, opens his laptop, and starts writing a post for Overcoming Bias titled “Starbucks Is Not About Coffee”.

  96. JTHM says:

    George Orwell walks into a Starbucks to order a pint of coffee, but the dystopian government has mandated that all drink sizes be measured in metric units.

    • Irenist says:

      Aldous Huxley wanted to join Orwell’s protest about the metric sizes, but the coffee is so delicious that Huxley can’t be bothered.

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      Orwell walks into oneof the 97% of coffee shops that call things by stupid names, and asks what the difference is between Large, Tall and Grande. The barista says they are all equal, but…

    • Dog-sized Spider says:

      Orwell walks into a Starbucks and orders a veinte coffee with a double plus ungood shot of espresso. The barista hands him two smalls.

      “Excuse me, I believe I ordered a veinte.”

      “You ordered two smalls. You had always ordered two smalls.”

      Sighs. “Fine, how much?”


      “But they’re $2.00 each!”

      “The Party says 2 + 2 = 5.”

      • Anonymous says:

        Captain Jean-Luc Picard walks into a Starbucks and orders five caramel light frappuccinos. The barista hands him four frappuccinos.
        Captain Picard yells:
        “There are four lights!”

  97. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Robin Hanson walks into a Starbucks. He speaks his order into a microphone, which an em transcribes into a text document, which a second em translates into machine instructions, which are fed to a machine which makes the coffee, which a third em delivers to him by steering a tracked robot from the machine to the table. A week later, all three ems are deleted from the cafe’s computers because competing ems at other Starbucks have proven more efficient at their respective jobs, and are now being copied to this location to replace the inferior ems.

  98. Dan says:

    Malcolm Gladwell walks into Starbucks to order a coffee. “How long have you been working here?” he asks the barista. “Four years,” the barista answers. “And how many hours a week?” Gladwell asks. “About twenty hours a week.” Gladwell stares. “I’ll come back in 5 and a half years,” he says, and walks off.

  99. Belobog says:

    Aquinas walks into a Starbucks, and the barista gives him a free coffee in appreciation for his writings on coffee theory. Afterwards, Aquinas can no longer bring himself to continue writing, and says his works are ‘like straw’ compared to the real thing.

    Later, Ed Feser explains that all problems of modern coffee theory stem from a failure to realize that the flavor and aroma exist in the coffee itself rather than the mind of the drinker, and a return to Aquina’s writings would instantly solve all the confusion.

    • Irenist says:

      Although Feser is the first to admit that if you really want to understand the essence of coffee, you should talk to David Oderberg instead.

  100. Anonymous says:

    I recently learned the etymologies of espresso and express. I recommend them.

  101. I heard it told this way about Zeno:

    Zeno walks into a coffee bar and orders an espresso. Every so often he asks if it’s ready, and the barrista always replies “Not yet, but soon – I’m halfway finished.”

    Eventually Zeno gets the coffee, though, and he’s not there to drink it because he left halfway.

    • Irenist says:

      Everyone in our little Southern town knows old Zeno. “Everything is better now,” he says. “Back when this coffee shop was segregated, they’d always find some reason why they couldn’t finish my order. But the problem disappeared once they integrated.”

  102. Plato walks into a cafe to order an espresso, but the counterperson never appears — only his shadow on the wall. “Perfect!” he cries.

  103. Diogenes walks into yet another cafe.

    “Why the lamp, sir?” asks the barrista.

    “To recognize the perfect cup of joe.”

    He leaves, unfulfilled.

    • Pealtast says:

      Diogenes walks into the coffee shop and sits down. The barista asks, “Would you like anything?” “Yes,” he responds, “get out of my light.”

      He is later arrested for indecent exposure. The police recorded him as saying in his defense, “If only I could banish hunger as easily by rubbing my belly.”

  104. Felix Klein orders a full cup of coffee but when he goes to drink it all the coffee is spilled out onto the counter. When he protests, the barrista tells him to look again, and the coffee is all back inside the cup.

  105. August Ferdinand Möbius orders an espresso to go, and tries to drink it later, but when he pulls off the lid the bottom comes off, too.

  106. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Chateau Heartiste walks into a Starbucks. He casually mentions his girlfriend, compliments the barista on her looks before asking if she is wearing makeup, and takes several minutes to go to the counter after she calls out his name and drink. He leaves with the barista’s phone number.

    Michael Anissimov walks into a Starbucks. Dissatisfied with the quality of service, he completely ignores the suggestion box and instead quickly exits the premises. He decides to start his own Starbucks in Idaho.

  107. Lee Wang says:

    Terry Tao walks into a coffee bar and orders a black coffee. The barrista tells him that they don’t serve caffeine to children his age without their parents consent. After convincing the barrista that since his intellectual age is seven grade levels above his biological age he’s old enough to drink coffee he sits down at a table. He then proceeds to build a computer out of the coffee fluid. A finite time later the coffee cup blows up, taking the entire Starbucks with it.

  108. Nick Land walks into a Starbucks and orders coffee. He sips it, looks astonished, and goes home to write a screed about the Dark Roast Enlightenment.

    • Nornagest says:

      I think you owe someone a dollar for that pun. I just can’t think of who.

    • Susebron says:

      Eliezer Yudkowsky walks into a Starbucks and explains to the customers that Starbucks coffee will destroy the world. Nick Land buys everyone in the Starbucks a coffee.

    • Hanfeizi says:

      Nick Land goes into Starbucks every morning, and orders a more ridiculous permutation each time. Every time, the Barista gives him the same black coffee, pretending to take his order seriously. Eventually he gets so frustrated that he gives up coffee and drinks green tea for the rest of his life.

  109. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Justine Tunney walks into a Starbucks. She sets up a tent and lives inside, claiming to be occupying Starbucks, which is an obvious instrument of the 1%, in the name of the 99%. The barista calls the cops and they throw her out. A few weeks later, Justine comes back and applies for a managerial position. She gets the job.

  110. David Hilbert walks into a Starbucks, does a double-take, and says “Sorry, I was looking for the Grand Hotel.”

    A countably infinite number of David Hilberts walk in behind him.

  111. BD Sixsmith says:

    David Benatar walks into Starbucks, reflects on the plight of coffee and begins work on his controversial book Better Never to Have Bean.

  112. Anonymous says:

    Nick Land walks into a coffee shop and orders two venti black coffees. He finishes them quickly, uncaps them, and covers his ears with the cups. He repeatedly covers and uncovers his ears in a breakbeat rhythm (the left cup the bass and the right the snare) and smiles knowingly at each and every person in the establishment. One by one, they begin mimicking him with their cups and tapping complementary rhythms with their hands and feet. The rhythms grow louder and more complex. After an hour, the barista strips naked and starts screaming at Land in unintelligible Russian. The ritual continues and after two days the place smells of shit, piss, and blood. Eventually, everyone but Land dies from exhaustion. Land still smiles. Everything is bees.

    • OK, here’s where I go “Huh?”

      If this is parodying something a pointer to the original would be nice.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t know if I get the joke. So maybe I do. Land is incredibly difficult to understand.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m not sure I get it either but… Lands was previously a lecturer in Continental Philosophy at the University of Warwick and quite deeply plugged in to counter cultural/music/drugs/art circles. He didn’t treat them as separate magisteria either but wrote on very much the same style and on the same themes whatever the ostensible subject. This eventually culminated in a psychotic break and a stay in a mental hospital and a Nick Land with at best fragmentary recall of one or two years of his life.

        The writings of this former, disavowed Nick Land are collected on “Fanged Noumena”. I believe but will not swear that basically everything I wrote above comes from that book’s foreword.

    • Mitotic says:

      I’m not sure, but do you happen to be referencing the SCP Foundation? Specifically Bees?

  113. wruscle says:

    B. F. Skinner walked into a Starbucks and found that when he gave the barista money, the barista gave him coffee. When he gave the barista more money, the barista gave him a larger coffee. Soon, he was broke and his kidneys failed.


    Jung dreamed he was in a coffee shop. The walls were painted like the night sky. The barista had the head of a male deer. Jung thought, “I know where I am.”

  114. Dan says:

    Julius Wilhelm Richard Dedekind walks up to the counter and orders a cortado. The barista isn’t sure if they serve that, but Dedekind points on the one hand to the various types of cappuccino that they serve, and on the other hand to the various types of macchiato, and the barista sees how he can make Dedekind’s cortado.

    Derek Parfit walks into an ice cream parlor and asks if he can just have a taste of the chocolate ice cream, as well as one for each of the other 99 people in the shop. The other 99 customers do the same, and they each enjoy their scoop of ice cream.

    Cass Sunstein walks up to the counter and orders a coffee. While he’s waiting for his drink, he idly fiddles with the take-a-penny, leave-a-penny tray. At the end of the day, the counter is overflowing with pennies.

  115. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Alicorn walks into a Starbucks. She looks at the menu selection and quickly self-modifies into enjoying the cheapest coffee, which she then buys.

  116. Pymander says:

    H.P. Lovecraft and a friend are looking for a place to get a cup of coffee. “How about this Starbucks right here?” asks the friend.

    No,” says Lovecraft, “let’s keep going.”

    “Jesus,” says his friend, “that’s like the fourth Starbucks you’ve said no to.”

    “look,” says Lovecraft, “we’ll get coffee when the Starbucks is right.”

  117. dtsund says:

    Charles Darwin goes up to the counter and buys one of each possible coffee. He studies them, and declares that the common ancestor of these coffees must have been caffienated.

    Gregor Mendel goes up to the counter and buys one of every drink. He takes them to a table and starts sipping them two at a time, making careful notes as he does so.

    Rosalind Franklin goes up to the counter with a new coffee recipe. It is agreed to be quite good, and the coffee is named after the next customer in line behind her.

    Kary Mullis orders a hot coffee, then an iced coffee, then a hot coffee, then an iced coffee…

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess Darwin forgot about the decaf outgroup.

      I wonder what Darwin would consider the most parsimonious explanation? That decaf evolved from caffeinated coffee, or that both caffeinated and decaf have a common ancester?

      • Anonymous says:

        They most likely evolved from a caffeinated ancestor, which does not necessarily resemble modern coffee.

  118. The being of Alexius Meinong is walking into a Starbucks as you read this, although not his existence.

  119. Graham says:

    I demonstrated Russell’s Paradox for a customer at a cafe I used to work at.

    Customer: Can I have an iced coffee, with nothing in it?
    Me: Including coffee?

  120. Sonata Green says:

    Gene Ray walks into a coffee shop and orders four coffees in a single square cup.

  121. anonymous says:

    Michael Walzer walks into a coffee shop and tells everyone that coffee is forbidden. The next day he returns and orders a cup of coffee. The barista starts to question him: “But I thought you said…?” Walzer assures him: “It’s okay. This is an emergency.”

  122. Alan White says:

    D. Lewis: Stephen Hawking walks into a coffee shop. . .

    Whitehead walks into a coffee shop and prehends a cappuccino, which in turn prehends him. Both are satisfied ontologically, but panpsychically only one is Chalmerslicious.

    Quine walks into a coffee shop and first-orders a Mocha Dessert Landscape and second-orders a double Cafe a Lait. The shop’s policy is first-orders only and so he just gets the Landscape, but he’s good with it.

    Ted Sider and Nathan Oaklander always truly walk into a coffee shop and always truly order different things at different times that they thus truly always enjoy.

    Jonathan Tallant and Ned Markosian now walk into a coffee shop and order lattes that never before existed and will not subsequently exist though they erzatz have and will enjoy them in other times than their present enjoyment.

    Peter van Inwagen walks into a coffee shop and mysteriously orders decaf nothingness, though he nevertheless really and fully enjoys it.

    Neil Levy walks randomly into a coffee shop, orders an espresso for reasons he cannot fully fathom, yet still enjoys it because it turned out to suit his tastes.

  123. s3 says:

    Moloch walks into a Starbucks..and removes the baristas sense of self-respect to make them more efficient at serving customers

    • Abram Demski says:

      Moloch walks into a coffee shop, and all I got was this lousy disneyland with no children.

      Moloch walks into a coffee shop with a pile of coupons. Each coupon takes $1 off your order price, but adds 5 cents to the price of all subsequent orders by anyone. Moloch auctions these off dollar-auction style.

      Moloch stands out front of coffee shop selling pills that help you work much more efficiently than coffee would, and makes it all sound much higher-status than coffee. The coffee shop goes out of business.

      Moloch walks into a coffee shop and sets the wages and benefits to market-competitive levels, sets drink prices with marginal-cost pricing, phases out drinks designed to be healthy in favor of drinks designed to sound healthy, replaces ethical business practices with feel-good ones, and merges coffee culture with workaholic culture.

      Moloch walks into a coffee shop and smiles.

  124. s3 says:

    Cthulu swims slowly but he always swims towards a pumpkin spice latte

  125. Ronak says:

    [Physics, mostly. Till film crit Hulk turns up. Should I explain them?]

    Riemann walks into a coffee shop with an infinite retinue. He asks for one coffee for himself, two for the next guy, three for the third, and so on. The barista asks him for a twelfth of a coffee.

    Paul A M Dirac walks into a coffee shop and says that he wants one coffee in the next five minutes. In a flash, he’s drowning in an infinite amount of coffee.

    C V Raman walks into a coffee shop and asks for the blackest of coffees. He throws it at the barista’s face after ten million photons have passed through it.

    Juan Maldacena walks into a coffee shop and the coffee slides to him across the counter from the boundary of spacetime.

    Paul W Anderson walks into a coffee shop and asks for a coffee in a dirty cup, after which he proceeds to insult the barista’s mother. The barista throws the cup at him and he just catches the cup and starts drinking.

    Juan Maldacena walks into a coffee shop and asks for a coffee and a tea. The barista starts advertising.

    Bardeen, Cooper and Schreiffer walk into a coffee shop and make the waiting time esentially zero by telling the baristas to pair up.

    Film crit Hulk walks into a coffee shop and is told the coffee tastes really god there. He tastes it and says, HULK THINKS THE TASTE NOT THAT GOOD; YOU ENJOYED IT AND ARE POINTING TO TANGIBLE DETAILS FOR JUSTIFICATION.

    Film crit Hulk walks into a coffee shop everyone hates, because he believes that it’s immoral to hate any coffee.

    Claude Shannon walks into a coffee shop and starts asking the barista a series of yes-no questions. After a while, he just makes his own coffee which is identical to the one everyone else got.

    A couple of engineers try the same feat, and find out that Shannon’s method actually costs more.

    Ludwig Boltzmann walks into a coffee shop and says he wants a coffee as hot as they can make it. The barista, a former science journalist, promptly starts cooling the coffee.

    • Ronak says:

      *Space not spacetime for first Maldacena joke.

    • Arpan Saha says:

      Adding to your list:

      Gerard ‘t Hooft walks into a coffee bar and asks for white coffee, black coffee, and coffee of a hundred other shades in between. Then he mixes them and gets a doughnut.

      Marston Morse, Stephen Smale and Edward Witten walk into a coffee bar and ask for a single doughnut. They cut it up by tilting it slightly and pouring coffee on one end.

      Karl Weierstrass walks into a coffee bar and finds the doughnuts to be a tad too expensive. So, he asks for a chequered napkin and turns it into a doughnut.

      Philip Candelas, Xenia de la Ossa, Paul Green, and Linda Parks walk into a coffee bar and order a doughnut. They ask the barrista whether he will let them have it for free if they can show him a cool trick. The barrista agrees, so Candelas et al bring out a mirror, hold the doughnut next to it and cry out with a flourish, ‘Voilà!’ The barrista is not impressed.

      Ruth Britto, Freddy Cachazo, Bo Feng and Edward Witten walk into a coffee bar. They ask the barrista to brew their coffee on a bed of oysters and mussels, because they all agree that it’s fastest to do things on shell.

      Stephen Hawking, Gary Gibbons and Don Page walk into a coffee bar and ask the barrista for a large coffee, the blackest they have. They then take a sip and complain that it’s too hot. The barrista then exclaims, ‘Oh! You meant venti!’

      William Unruh orders a coffee at a drive-through. He finds it too cold, and so puts his foot down on the accelerator to warm it up.

      Nima Arkani-Hamed, Jacob Bourjaily, Freddy Cachazo, Alexander Goncharov, Alexander Postnikov and Jaroslav Trnka walk into a coffee bar. Bourjaily wants an espresso, Cachazo a café au lait, Goncharov a mocha, Postnikov a Gaelic coffee and Trnka a frappé. So, Nima orders a coffeehedron and cuts them different slices from it. (H/t Scott Aaronson for this one.)

      Sir Roger Penrose walks into a teahouse and brings out two cups, one of them nice and proper, and the other all grotesque and twisted. He hands the latter to the maître d’ and asks him to fill it up with dishwater. The maître d’ obliges and the nice and proper cup automatically fills up with Earl Grey with a dash of lemon, which Sir Roger then proceeds to sip.

      Paul Erdos, Noga Alon and Bela Bollobas walk into a coffee bar pondering whether the bar stocks Kopi Luwak. So they ask the barrista for a random beverage, take a sip and conclude that it does.

      Alexander Grothendieck walks into a coffee bar and asks the barrista for a large bag of coffee beans. He then proceeds to caress the little beans until they spontaneously coalesce into a pool of coffee that fills up the bar and eventually reaches the level of his lips.

      And finally, let’s conclude with a spectacularly tedious one:

      After Juan Maldacena had acquired a formidable reputation as a tasseomancer he decided to take it to the next level by incorporating marriage counselling into his act. As he and his apprentice Aitor Lewkowycz figured out, the most effective way to forecast whether a marriage would pan out or not would be to get the couple in question to drink n cups of tea and then take the limit of n going to 1 before reading the dregs. Fellow tasseomancer extraordinaire Leonard Susskind meanwhile relied on gluing a tube to the bottom of two teacups before having the couple drink the tea.

      • Arpan Saha says:

        Misspelt barista above. Here’s another one I came up with though:

        Nicolas Bourbaki walks into a coffee shop and asks for a coffee with a double-articulated straw.

  126. benluke says:

    John Calvin walks into Starbucks and begins painting the walls white.

  127. Sonny DE says:

    There are too many comments, and they should not all be read by people who have something worthwhile to do with their time.

    (However as a thank you to the author, I’ll include the similar “jokes” I came up with, to add to the bulk of the response.)

    Arthur Schopenhauer orders a different combination of coffee flavorings every time he walks into the shop, so far as possible, but he always orders it to go, to think away from the randomly timed popping noise of the espresso machine.

    Hugh Everett only went to the coffee shop once, chose his order using a hardware random number generator, and sat down in the shop to drink it and think.

    Douglas Adams improved on Everett’s method by on a random whim ordering something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

    Ray Kurzweil once made some of the most advanced caffeinated orders of his time, but now for coffee ordering he merely writes notes about the parameters of what to order in a future greatly improved coffee shop.

    Hippocrates rushed to the coffee shop, to have time to spend carefully ordering a multilayered painted latte that tested the limits of the expert barista’s craft, while that barista was still around, and the caffeine, or possibly an allergy, gave him a heat attack.

    (Explanation for the last one: It would seem that Hippocrates would have considered that he had spent his day fairly well, as he had written, “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience perilous, and decision difficult.”)

  128. Not That Scott says:

    Eliezer Yudkowsky walks into a Starbucks. As he stands in line, he notices that what the customer orders and what the barista produces only appear to be causally linked, by virtue of the menu of coffee being restricted to a tiny subset of all possible coffee. Coffee-space is enormously varied and highly dimensional, encompassing not only variations in milk, sugar, volume, caffeination, grind and bean source, but also consistency, cup construction, and other properties we haven’t though of yet. If a customer attempted to order from a section of coffee-space outside the limits of the menu, there is no guarantee the barista would prepare it correctly, nor even be able to prepare it at all. He becomes concerned that Starbucks might build an Automatic Barista before developing a General Theory of Brewing. Addressing everyone in the cafe, he warns that without more precise coffee ordering theories, a hypothetical Automatic Barista might fail in all kinds of unexpected ways.

    “If a customer orders a seasonal drink outside of the season, a sufficiently powerful Automatic Barista might attempt to move the Earth to a position where it IS the season for that drink!” Eliezer is halfway through explaining how, without a comprehensive description of what constitutes inclusion in the category of coffee bean, an Automatic Barista might attempt to grind and brew kitchen utensils, the cups coffee should be served in, the money customers hand to it, or even the customers themselves (at this point, Marcus Hutter sprints from the room, realising his ABXB concept will attempt to brew pieces of its own espresso machine before it gets around to beans), when he notices the barista getting a customer’s order wrong. He realises he can’t communicate the dangers of coffee-space when there aren’t even any baristas who can get mundane orders right, and resolutely sets off to reinvent the field of barista training.

    (Less Burnt becomes a thriving community that spends lots of time discussing coffee in coffee shops, but is regularly accused of not actually consuming very much coffee at all. Harry Hipster and the Perfect Espresso reliably becomes the most popular coffee table book on the internet. Luke Muelhauser stops debating the relative merits of tea on his Common Sense Darjeeling blog and begins consuming multiple Grandes to work 36 hour days producing a manual on coffee brewing. Within a month he has overhauled Starbucks’ training procedures. Roko stands outside the Starbucks with a sign proclaiming a certain coffee recipe will doom us all, but nobody can figure out if he means the recipe will cause everyone to do nothing but drink coffee all day, or will cause nobody to ever drink coffee again. Prett soon the Federation of Really Excellent Starbucks-Havers [FRESH] is formed to codify and teach people how best to prepare and order coffee.)

    (Your Eliezer jokes were bad, and you should feel bad.)

    Other coffee stories of various levels of in-joke:

    Anna Salamon walks into a Starbucks. She gives herself just 30 seconds to choose something from the overly-complicated menu.

    Jesse Galef walks into a Starbucks. Halfway through his order, the barista interrupts him. “Hey, that’s the same order as the lady over there! You guys look alike, are you related?” Jesse curses goodnaturedly as Julia Galef grins and marks down another point to her.

    Nobody is quite sure precisely what Michael Vassar ordered, including the barista, but nobody is prepared to dispute the claim that it’s the greatest coffee yet brewed by humanity.

    Steve Omohundro walks into a Starbucks board meeting and convinces the CEO that all coffee shops’ needs for various products can be reduced to a need for beans. The CEO annexes Arabica before anyone can tell him that’s not a real place.


    Less in-jokey, expanding to cultural figures:

    The staff of Buzzfeed walk into a Starbucks. Their attempts to order degenerate into an argument over how many Things there are About Ordering Coffee At Starbucks That Will Definitely Scare Your Pants Off, and whether Number Six or Number Eleven is more likely to Melt The Reader’s Brain. They resolve to send an unpaid intern next time.

    Julian Assange can’t walk out of the Starbucks – he’s holed up in a toilet stall, with security threatening to arrest him if he tries to leave. Starbucks senior management contends that when he leaked the recipes of every drink on the menu, he harmed customers by revealing to them what they’re actually consuming.

    Someone creates /r/Starbucks on Reddit to aggregate the best coffee orders, but people only ever post pumpkin spice lattes. /r/trueStarbucks is created, but it is also just pumpkin spice lattes.

    Russell Brand performs a populist critique of Starbucks’ business model by purchasing an extremely expensive coffee and loudly slurping it whenever anyone else tries to order.

    A suspiciously large number of people on Twitter suddenly become concerned with the ethics of fair-trade coffee roasting. Accusations of urinating in coffee are levied against both sides of the debate.

  129. Ben Thompson says:

    Roger Bacon walks into a Starbucks and asks for a cup of hot extract of Coffea Arabica.

    “You mean coffee?” asks the barista. Bacon glares, and the barista gives him a cup of hot coffee. Bacon tries to drink it, and burneth himself badly.

  130. Brienne says:

    Nagarjuna walks up to the counter.

    “I’ll have a latte with vanilla,
    Without vanilla,
    Both with vanilla and without vanilla,
    Neither with vanilla nor without vanilla.”

  131. Eliezer Yudkowsky says:

    I went to Starbucks and then I went to Peet’s and nobody was doing their coffee correctly and that’s why I had no choice but to start my own coffeeshop.

    • Anonymous says:

      Eliezer Yudkowsky went to a “philisopher walks into a coffee shop” joke thread and read Daniel Speyer’s joke and jaimeastorga2000’s joke and Nita’s joke and MK’s joke and Muga_Sofer’s joke and Not That Scott’s joke and some anonymous jokes and nobody was telling an Eliezer Yudkowsky joke correctly and that’s why he had no choice but to write his own Eliezer Yudkowsky joke.

    • Irenist says:

      You must be some kind of charlatan, Eliezer, thinking you’re smart enough to sell hydrated ground coffee beans to people in public without doing a PhD in Ethnobotany first. The hubris, man!

  132. Brienne says:

    Graham Priest orders a black coffee with cream and sugar.

  133. Jesse says:

    Brian Leiter walks into Starbucks holding a cup of coffee from an independent coffee shop down the block. He asks the barista, “Would you agree that this is vastly inferior to your product?” The barista nods. Leiter disposes of the coffee without tasting it and returns to the independent coffee shop. He loudly informs customers that there is a consensus among coffee connoisseurs that they ought not buy coffee there.

  134. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Antonin Scalia goes up to the counter and orders a tall coffee. When it’s ready, he protests that it’s too small and demands a coffee of large stature in accordance with the ordinary meaning of ‘tall’.

    • Irenist says:

      Clarence Thomas just sits in the coffee shop, but refuses to say anything.

      John Roberts refuses to pay for his coffee, saying it would be tyrannical to force him to do so. Then the barista asks if he’d be okay paying sales tax that just happens to equal the price of his coffee. Roberts is totally fine with this.

      Stephen Breyer sits looking at his menu, dissatisfied. Then he clips a bunch of really, really long studies about the social effects of coffee to it. “Much better,” he says.

      Samuel Alito scowled at the barista once and got in trouble for it. Now he doesn’t appear at this coffee shop anymore.

      Elena Kagan goes out of her way to buy her espresso with cash so this coffee shop doesn’t get stuck with credit card fees.

      The richness of her experience allows Sonia Sotomayor to appreciate what it must be like to be an underpaid barista.

      Ruth Bader Ginsburg enjoys hanging out at the coffee shop. But if it looks like new management might take over, I bet she’ll leave immediately.

      Nobody ever knows what Anthony Kennedy will order. But everyone will have to drink it.

  135. Hardworlder says:

    Sam Harris walks into a Starbucks and orders a coffee, then loudly claims he has scientific proof that his coffee is objectively best.

    Everyone laughs at him.

    (Although secretly most of the other customers realize that they ordered the same thing, and that it actually does taste pretty good.)

  136. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    John Cage walks into a Starbucks and orders four minutes and thirty-three seconds of the deliberate absence of coffee in which to appreciate the taste of the air over his tongue.

    • llamathatducks says:

      J.S. Bach goes to a coffee shop and writes a cantata.

      or perhaps

      J.S. Bach asks the barista to make him anything she wants, and she gives him a plain Arabica coffee. A while later, he comes back and presents her with a whole menu of coffee drinks based on her Arabica coffee.

      Haydn tiptoes around the coffee shop and periodically throws hot coffee into drowsy customers’ faces to make sure they don’t fall asleep.

      • Anthony says:

        J. S. Bach lives near a Starbucks, and orders a variety of different drinks from their menu over time. After a while, he prepares a new menu for them, which, while not mathematically complete, contains the best possible variation of each possible set of ingredients while still remaining recognizably a coffee drink.

        (Inspired by this album which I bought on the strength of this review.)

  137. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    John McCarthy walks into a Starbucks on a busy day and orders a latte. While making it, the barista can’t find a place to put a stirrer down. McCarthy insists they stop all brewing and clean the work area thoroughly before resuming.

    While this is happening, he pulls out a bit of paper and starts jotting things down on it. The person behind him asks what he’s doing.
    McCarthy replies, “Just some pre-fix notation.”

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Later he tells the barista that the little LCD text screen on the espresso machine is superfluous. “You don’t need statements, just expression.”

  138. Rand says:

    (Assorted – not all philosophers)

    Spinoza orders the idea of a coffee.

    Maimonides orders not tea.

    John Donne grabs the coffee the moment the barista starts to call out a name. “It’s always for me,” he says, taking a sip.

    Grigori Perelman order a Mocha Grande. When the barista calls out his name he screams at him for not giving it to Richard Hamilton and storms out of the shop.

    Hilbert says he’ll have coffee or tea.
    Brouwer says he’ll also have coffee or tea, “but make mine out of coffee”.

    Girard pays $3.50, takes his coffee and crosses “coffee” off the menu.

  139. Kees says:

    Randall Munroe draws a comic about being offered coffee by random strangers. Random strangers start offering him coffee.

    A busy beaver walks into a coffee shop. It takes the longest time for him to order coffee.

    A coffee shop moves to contain Albert Einstein within it.

  140. Carlos says:

    Wilfrid Sellars is deeply impressed by the fact that the sentence “the coffee is black” attributes a proper sensible to a physical object existing in Space and Time, even though coffee is comprised of a swarm of colorless particles. He is so deeply impressed by this fact that he forgets to order anything.

  141. Plato orders a latte because he thinks thats what socrates would drink

    Aristotle orders a Cappucino,

    Several thousand medieval scholars in the queue behind them argue about the exact amounts of milk and foam necessary for each

  142. Hanfeizi says:

    Ken Wilber walks into a Starbucks. He proceeds to order everything on the menu and partially consume it. He then buys some stuff from a restaurant next door and partially consumes it as well, and then brings it into the Starbucks. He then sits down to arrange everything he’s purchased into what appears to be a coherent whole, and claims to have a complete system of everything Starbucks. When the manager criticizes him for including items from another restaurant and only partially consuming it all, he loudly tells the manager to shut up and walks out of the store.

  143. Hanfeizi says:

    Schopenhauer walks in to Starbucks and asks for the Hegel. He gives it a taste, spits it out, declares coffee to be undrinkable and goes to walk his poodle.

  144. Bennelong Bicyclist says:

    Georg Cantor walks up to the counter.

  145. timujin says:

    I didn’t read the Ayn Rand one, because it was so long. That makes the joke spot on.

  146. Sam D says:

    Michael Dummett is at the front of the queue in Starbucks. He stares at the menu for a while. The barista asks “Are you going to order coffee or not?”. Dummett says “False”

  147. Gary Bartlett says:

    Locke and Berkeley go into a Starbucks. Locke asks for a general coffee. The barista asks what he means. “You know”, says Locke, “a coffee without any of the ingredients that make all the particular blends different.” The barista looks puzzled. Berkeley turns to Locke and says, “I TOLD you they wouldn’t have that.”

    While Locke tries to decide on his order, the barista asks Berkeley what he wants. “Oh”, says Berkeley, “I’ll just have a tar water.”

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  149. Joshua Ball says:

    Edmund Burke walks up to the counter and orders an espresso. He takes a sip, chokes violently, and spews all over the ground. The barista asks, “Is that not what you wanted?”, and Burke replies, “No, it’s perfect.”

  150. Eli says:

    Peter Railton walks into Starbucks. Knowing he’s going to need to sleep later and it’s already 6PM, he orders tea, and declares it to be Coffee+.

  151. cipa says:

    this is hilarious and excellent!

  152. casanoah says:

    Sam Harris walks into a Starbucks and orders a tall black coffee. A man seated nearby while drinking a venti, non-fat frappuccino with extra whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and caramel drizzle clutches at his chest and dies of a massive heart attack. Harris, watching this, has an epiphany and declares loudly to the establishment “we and our very civilization are threatened by the specter of absurd sugary caffeinated beverages and we are allowing – if not inviting – this to happen.” He expounds on this theme repeatedly and at length, reiterating the point that: “flavorings have consequences” and “not all flavors are the same” and “some flavors can be judged as better or worse than others as measured by those consequences” and “we must differentiate between judging coffee itself – the common medium – and the unnecessary and excessive sugary accoutrement we have become accustomed to adorn it with”. He is quickly chased out into the street by an angry mob accusing him of anti-dark-colored-beverage bigotry and white-male-1st world-privilege. He continues to repeat this exercise on a near daily basis for the rest of his life.

  153. Jow Schmoe says:

    Godel walks into the Starbucks and says, “My order is a cup of coffee that I don’t order.”

  154. Troy says:

    Scott Alexander visits a coffee shop 10 times each month. He really wants tea, but he knows that all the other coffer shop denizens hate tea and judge tea-drinkers sharply. He decides to order coffee 9 out of 10 times and tea the other time.

  155. Rowan Santry says:

    Tim Ferris pays someone in India to walk into a coffee shop there for him, thus freeing up time for him to, er, drink more coffee.

  156. elijahlarmstrong says:

    Raymond Cattell walks into a coffee shop, orders a coffee, and is horrified to see that the coffee cup is filled to the brim with granulated sugar, with only a sprinkling of liquid. He resolves to go home and design a type of coffee which will be entirely liquid and contain no granulated sugar whatsoever.

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  158. William Dalebout says:

    Confucius orders a coffee to go. He notices the lid is slightly askew and throws it away.

  159. Occam is the best. The economics ones are weak. That could have been Friedman, but not Smith really. And by the way, Malthus went by his middle name, Robert.

  160. Anthony says:

    Related: http://existentialcomics.com/comic/64

    There’s no date on that comic, so I don’t know if it’s before or after this post.

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  162. edwardamo says:

    Lawrence Krauss orders a coffee, takes out his wallet, and realizes he doesn’t have any money. So he orders an anti-coffee as well.

  163. Bruno says:

    I’m very much late to the party, but:

    Theodor W. Adorno walks into a coffee shop. He is accompanied by a pretty young student whom he takes out for coffee. After lamenting for 15 minutes how Starbucks in the typical fashion of the culture industry has levelled the distinction between gourmet coffee and standard dripping coffee and therefore lead to a general impoverization of aesthetic experience, he then swiftly declares: “But, alas, there is no right life in the wrong one” and orders a flamboyant large pumpkin spice frappucino with mint chocolate chips which he visibly enjoys.

  164. Not That Scott says:

    Scott Alexander walks into a very small coffee shop. They hand him a cup of the only coffee they brew, in the only size they offer. It’s exactly what he wants, because over time, Scott has ended up frequenting just the Starchipelago-bucks he deserves.

  165. sviga lae says:

    Derek Parfit walks up to the counter and orders a single espresso. The barista notes “There’s a special on today, you can get a double for the same price, though I can’t guarantee it will be quite as good.”

    Parfit is found later, drowned in a tepid slurry of stale coffee grounds.

  166. too cool for names says:

    Epictetus approaches the counter. The barista asks him what he wants. “Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of men’s desires, but by the removal of desire,” he answers.

  167. too cool for names says:

    Nietzsche stares at the barista. The barista stares back at him.

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  169. also too cool for names says:

    Hegel goes up to the counter asks the barista to take out an empty coffee cup within which his order is to be placed. When the barista does so, he asks for it to be filled with a Hegel then sits down at a table to enjoy his hot cuppa Hegel. Finally after a enjoying his delicious cup of Hegel he stands up points at his now empty cup of Hegel and declaims.

    “Here is the truth of Hegel.”

  170. davidly says:

    SSC’s readers line up at a Starbucks and take turns trying to dazzle the others with the most cleverly amusing way to order. Barista turnover skyrockets until they have to close shop. No matter. There are plenty of Starbucks in the neighborhood.

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