The Series Philosopher

Philosophising about the 'S'-word: Watch… and learn

S01E01: Can renouncing the truth be an attitude of wisdom?

Derek (Ricky Gervais) and the councillor (Simon Wright)

DEREK: 1×01 Episode 1 – Derek (Ricky Gervais) and the councillor (Simon Wright)

“You don’t wanna know”

Philosophy is about seeking truth, science and wisdom. It is not about finding them, having or nurturing them, it is about loving and longing for them. But sometimes it may seem wise to renounce truth, to remain ignorant or blind. We could have been able to see microparticles with our bare eyes, but we cannot. And we are glad not to see them. So many billions of germs that would have refrained us from opening a door, touching a hand or the keyboard of a computer, kissing the forehead of a child! We don’t want to see that! Those microbs are there, we know that, but we do not want to live with the consciousness of their presence.

In the pilot episode of Derek (Channel 4), Derek, a 49-year-old perhaps retarded care worker, has to confront a council official, who is visiting the geriatric home where Derek works, in other to lay off the lame ducks. Hannah (Kerry Godliman, Rush Hour, Spoons), who struggles to keep the place afloat despite budget cuts, tries to convince the councillor that every employee is needed.

THE COUNCILLOR (to Hannah): Derek… Hum… What exactly is his situation, he’s hum… He’s different.

HANNAH: Yeah, he’s different, yeah. I mean, he’s… he’s the most popular, kind and best worker anyone here has ever met, so… he’s different, yes.

THE COUNCILLOR: That’s not what I meant. I mean… Is he uh… Is he handicaped?

HANNAH: Yeah! He is too nice for his own good!

THE COUNCILLOR: I meant… Could he be… autistic?

(Derek comes in)

DEREK: What if the chimp had a gun? Then the bear…

THE COUNCILLOR: Derek, can I have a word?

DEREK: Yeah.

THE COUNCILLOR: Hum… Have you ever been tested for autism?

DEREK: I’m not good at tests.

THE COUNCILLOR (amused): Hum… Would you mind seeing someone?

DEREK: Who?

THE COUNCILLOR: Well, an expert and a doctor.

HANNAH: You don’t have to.

DEREK: If I am… tistic. Was it?

THE COUNCILLOR: Autistic.

DEREK: Au…?

THE COUNCILLOR: Tistic.

DEREK: That’s what I said. Tistic. If I am tistic, will I… will I die?

HANNAH: No!

THE COUNCILLOR: No, but at least we’d know.

DEREK: Will I have to go to hospitals and do experiments of me in…?

HANNAH: No!

DEREK: So… Will that change me in any way or will I be the same person?

HANNAH: Yes.

Derek nods and says to the councellor:

DEREK: Don’t worry about that.

Let’s not worry about the truth. Maybe we will find out ourselves, watching the following episodes. But is knowing going to make us fell better, stronger, wiser? We do not know what is wrong with Derek. We assume it, unconsciously trying to put a label on everything and everyone, in order to facilitate our cognitive digestion. Sometimes, truth is just not worth it. May the veil of ignorance remain. Here is a famous tale called “The Three Sieves” or “The Triple-Filter Test” about what is worthy to be known:

A man runs up to Socrates with information he thought the philosopher would like to hear:

– Let me tell you something about one of your friends!

– Wait a minute – said Socrates – Before you tell me, have you sifted this information through the three sieves?

– The three sieves? What do you mean?

– Let’s sift through what you want to tell me. We should always use the three sieves. If you do not know them, then pay close attention. The first is the sieve of TRUTH. Are you sure that what you want to tell me is true?

– Well, it’s what I overheard. I’m not exactly sure if it’s true.

– The second is the sieve of GOODNESS. Surely, you must have sifted this information through the sieve of goodness. Right?

Embarrassed, the man replied:

– I must confess that I did not.

– The third is the sieve of USEFULNESS. Did you really consider whether or not this information about my friend is useful?

– Useful? Actually, no, I did not.

So the wise man said – If what you want to tell me is not true, good or useful, then it’s better that you keep it to yourself.

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The Series Philosopher is a blog by P:S • Arts & Entertainment

The Series Philosopher is a woman in her late 20s. Not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

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