Steel Cage Match!

For thousands of years, man has pondered questions of existence. Questions about himself, about the world around him, about his creator. Many different cultures have produced many different ideas about these issues, and the greatest among them have been remembered and studied in subsequent years. Few agreements are ever reached, and philosophers and theologians must spend much of their time writing arguments and counterarguments in order to prove that their ideas are, in fact, correct, and that their opponents are dumb.

Now they're done talking. They're going to fight for it.


The Grudge Match is a single-elimination, one-on-one tournament featuring sixteen competitors. Inside the ring, anything goes, the winner to be determined by knockout or concession.

We will reveal one competitor every day over the course of sixteen days. After all competitors have been revealed, the tournament will begin! Who will emerge victorious? Only time will tell!

The Competitors


The first competitor is Confucius. Hailing from China from the early fifth century B.C., Confucius (K'ung-fu-tzu) believed in the importance of ritual in all aspects of life, and in the ability of a true ruler to rule by moral force (tę) rather than by threats and punishment. Confucius' fighting style is very focused and orderly, but not very quick. He makes many concessions to honour and to rituals of combat, which could leave him at a disadvantage against some of the dirtier fighters. However, the other fighters will have to watch out; rumour has it that he may be able to win a match entirely through moral force, and without making any attacks at all.


Next up is Zoroaster, who gave his talents and his name to the doctrine of Zoroastrian Dualism that would figure so prominently into the development of the fledgling religion of the Isrealites. He lived and practiced in Persia and Babylon around the turn of the sixth century B.C., making him the oldest competitor who will be joining us for this tournament. But don't let his age fool you; a mere hundred years ago, Zoroaster - or "Zarathustra," as he is known in Persian - still had enough life in him to inspire a symphony by Strauss. He is expected to be something of a wild card in this tournament, as rumours persist of an "evil" Zoroaster - counterpart to the Zoroaster we are familiar with - who is locked in a struggle with his twin for the fate of the world, and, presumably, the fate of this competition.


Third in our lineup of stars is Plato. Plato lived in Athens in the late fifth century into the fourth century B.C., and was a disciple of Socrates. Most notable to us nowadays for the series of dialogues about Socrates that he wrote, Plato was also responsible for the foundation of the Academy in 387 B.C.; countless important people of ancient Europe received their educations at the Academy, until it was closed in A.D. 529 by Justinian. Plato believed that all things existed as shadows of the "forms;" that for everything that exists, there is a perfect form after which it is modeled. Plato's fighting style is somewhat lethargic; he seems to yield to his opponent for much of the battle, then suddenly springs his trap. He doesn't excel in any one area, instead relying on his overall aretę (loosely translated as "excellence") for overcoming his opponents.


Next on the list, from the ancient and mysical land of India, comes the mysterious warrior known as Buddha. Buddha (also known as Siddhartha) lived and practiced in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. Born a nobleman, he was enlightened spontaneously (according to tradition) to the idea that the common lot of man is to suffer, and forsook his wealth, power, and status to embark on a quest to find a way out of the cycle of suffering. Buddha can be a dangerous fighter, as he tends to be everywhere at once - his opponents often find it difficult to predict when and from where he is going to strike. His one weakness is that he tends to show mercy to his foes - something that our more ruthless fighters may well exploit.

St. Anselm

St. Anselm is next on the list. Anselm lived in England from A.D. 1033 - 1109, and was a major figure in the reformation of the Church and the reduction in ecclesiastical corruption. But what Anselm is most notable for to people in our day and age is his Ontological argument for the existence of God, which attempts to prove God by a logical process, starting from the human concept of a perfect being. Very classical in his methods, Anselm was one of the first to integrate concepts of Aristotelian logic into the Church. As a fighter, Anselm tends to move swiftly, and likes to wind in circles around his opponent. He has a disorienting fighting style that will leave his opponent with a sure knowledge that there is a hole in his defense somewhere, but casting around wildly trying to find it.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant lived from A.D. 1724 to A.D. 1804. Born in the city of Königsberg, Prussia (which is the modern-day Kaliningrad, Russia), Kant is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in modern philosophy. His Kritik der reinen Vernunft (usually translated as Critique of Pure Reason) was his first (and perhaps greatest) major work, and the impact of Kantian thought is perhaps unparalleled in philosophy today. As a fighter, Kant tends to be slow and calculating, but dreadfully effective at finding holes in his opponents' defenses. The best plan of action against Kant is a brutal attack; the more defensive fighters may well find themselves picked apart by Kant's analytical attack pattern.


From China in the mid-sixth century B.C., we have the enigmatic Lao-Tzu. Traditionally regarded as the author of the work Tao te Ching (frequently translated as The Way of Lao-Tzu, though a more literal translation yields Classic of the Way and its Virtue), Lao-Tzu is the father - at least insofar as written tradition is concerned - of the doctrine known as Taoism. The classical Taoists were bitterly opposed to the students of Confucius, and we may see some of that ancient rivalry carrying over into our tournament. Lao-Tzu, true to his Taoist roots, believes in victory through inaction; he moves little and fights less, remaining always just out of reach.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, born in Stuttgart in 1770, is likely second only to Kant when one speaks of influential modern philosophers. Hegel's system of philosophy was directed toward creating a complete rational system for all of being - determining the true nature of the Absolute Spirit (as he called it), the effect it has on human life, and the end toward which it works. A true master of the dialectic worthy of Socrates, Hegel may well prove to be a tenacious opponent. As a fighter, he tends to be very versitile, while pressing a strong attack; he frequently favours a swift, relentless offense. The combination of his strong offensive strategy with his devastating and unstoppable Bubble Lead attack will likely make Hegel a force to reckon with in this tournament.

Update! We've uncovered a scandal concerning this contestant. It has the potential to change the face of modern philosophy!

St. Thomas Aquinas

Father of the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God, St. Thomas Aquinas is the next to join us in this tournament. Hailing from Roccasecca (in what is now Italy) from the years A.D. 1225 - 1274, Aquinas is frequently thought of as the most prominent figure in Catholic philosophical theology. His cosmological argument (Not cosmetological argument, mind you - ed.), established fully in his famous, unfinished Summa Theologica, centres around the principle of first cause; he establishes that (to be very brief), since there is motion in the universe, and motion must be caused by something, there must be something that started all of that motion. That something, therefore, would be God. Aquinas' stocky, solid frame gives him a good amount of staying power in the ring, but he doesn't move very quickly. His solidity is the key to his strategy: Given time, he can work out a counter to anything his opponents do. His only major weakness is that, should his opponent take control of the battle early on, he can be beaten before he has a chance to set up his victory.


So important that for hundreds of years he was known to Europeans simply as "The Philosopher," Aristotle (384 - 322 B.C.) began his career as a student of Plato, at the famous Academy. Unlike his mentor, however, Aristotle chose to write discourse rather than dialogue, for he lacked Plato's literary gifts; his works, such as the Nicomachean Ethics and the Metaphysics, would form the basis of western thought for hundreds of years to come. Aristotle's influence has been felt in fields other than the philosophical, as well; his work lies at the root of fields as far removed as genetics. In the ring, Aristotle tends to be somewhat contemplative, waiting for what appears to be a good chance to strike rather than just pressing his attack recklessly. His cardinal weakness, however, is his lack of spontaneity and imagination; he tends to stick to the tried-and-true rather than improvising anything, and this can make him rather predictable.

René Descartes

René Descartes (A.D. 1596 - 1650), born in Touraine (France), is commonly regarded as the father of modern philosophy. He was also a brilliant mathematician, and creator of what would come to be called Cartesian geometry, and the Cartesian coordinate system. Among other things, Descartes contributed to philosophy what is probably the single most recognizable phrase in its history: Cogito, ergo sum; translated, of course, as I think, therefore I am. Descartes elaborated from this postulate to prove his own existence, and then built on top of it a whole system of the universe. In the process, he drew several erroneous conclusions about the physical world, but they were important in that they represented the first time someone had described physical laws through mathematics and reason, rather than through spirituality and mysticism. In the ring, Descartes is very versitile, not excelling in any one area, and not demonstrating any particular weaknesses.

Karl Marx

Karl Marx (A.D. 1818 - 1883) was born in Germany and educated in several leading European universities, studying philosophy, history, and political science. His unorthodox political views got him into a great deal of trouble during his college years, as he was forced to resign from editorship of a newspaper, and, eventually, to leave Paris altogether. His ideas began to come to fruition when he met Friedrich Engels, who had come to the same conclusions about contemporary issues that Marx had. The two of them wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1847, in which Marx first formulates the concept of "historical materialism" that he would develop more fully in his 1859 Critique of Political Economy. Marx tends to be a very sneaky fighter, often breaking the rules. His feelings are that if the rules give one fighter an unfair advantage, it is up to the other fighter to overthrow them.


Our youngest competitor (A.D. 1987 - ) is Liface, the child-sage whose wisdom (as we are fortunate enough to have collected here as The Dord of Liface) has recently taken the world by storm. Liface has never participated in this sort of activity before, so it's anybody's guess how he'll perform. Philosophically, Liface advocates a system of salvation through incomprehensibility not entirely different from that of the Zen (Chi'en) Buddhist sect. His unique blend of wisdom and silliness forces us to look within for answers, and to reconsider our very lives in the face of his irrational rationality. The judges speculate that Liface will attempt to confuse and frustrate his opponent, dancing around madly and taunting his opponent to "kick him." Anybody's guess is as good, however, with this most unpredictable of fighters.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Next on our list is Friedrich Nietzsche (A.D. 1844 - 1900). Born in Röcken, Prussia, Nietzsche was an odd, angry man who found his inspiration in the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer and in the music of his friend Richard Wagner, whom he later denounced. His first major work - The Birth of Tragedy - was more literary than philosophical, as it was written during Nietzsche's period of employment as a professor of literature. But even then, he showed a marked philosophical bent, and his later works (such as Beyond Good and Evil, On the Genealogy of Morals, and Thus Spake Zarathustra) are much less a study of literary methods and much more a study of human thought. In the ring, Nietzsche is impatient and violent, attacking constantly and frequently neglecting his defense. This is a decent weakness on his part, but opponents frequently don't get a chance to exploit it; his blinding offense stops most of them in their tracks.

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662) was born in Clermont-Ferrant (in France), and, like René Descartes, was a brilliant mathematician as well as a philosopher, responsible for formulating basic concepts of analytical geometry such as the aptly named Pascal's Theorem, and also for the development of the first mechanical adding machine. Pascal's most famous philosophical work is known as Pascal's Wager, and, briefly stated, says that salvation is of immesurable value, and proposes the following: if one does not believe in God, and God is real, then one loses salvation. But if one does believe in God, and God is *not* real, then one loses nothing. Therefore, it is better in any case to believe in God than not. Pascal's fighting style is characterized by its analytical nature: he is always careful, and never takes a bigger risk than is necessary.

Arthur Schopenhauer wearing a propeller beanie

Rounding out our lineup of fighters is Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860), our dark horse. Born in Danzig (in what is now Poland), Schopenhauer was renowned for his angry, pessimistic philosophy. His major work, The World as Will and Idea, was heavily influenced by his studies of Hindu and Buddhist thought. In it, he follows the basic principles of Kant (and of Bishop Berkeley, to some extent) in saying that nothing exists seperately from how it is perceived. To Schopenhauer, the will was the centre of being - it defined itself, and all of reality is defined by a "collective will." Reality is, therefore, constantly changing as the collective will changes. In the ring, we can expect to see some enmity between Schopenhauer and Hegel, as they are longstanding rivals. Schopenhauer fights very brutally, but might give up unexpectedly and leave the tournament.

On to the tournament draw and rules!

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