The acclaimed comedy writer and co–executive producer of The Big Bang Theory presents a unique and peculiar philosophical inquiry into the belief in Santa Claus.
When Kaplan was approached by the mother of his son’s friend about canceling a trip to the zoo because she was afraid Kaplan’s boy would reveal to her still-believing son that Santa Claus does not exist, he began to think about why this woman would prevent her son from learning the truth. As the author unpacks the woman’s desire to preserve her child’s innocent belief, he became ensnared in the paradox of “trying to come up with a way to engage actively with two opposing realities”: belief in what she wished her son to believe but disbelief because she herself is Santa. Thus the problem of Santa becomes one of self-contradiction, and this type of paradox is a common plague to logicians. However, the attempts of other philosophers to escape this paradox are unsatisfactory to Kaplan, and he explores the mystic tradition as an alternative. In mysticism, paradox is a fundamental tool for understanding how we exist; therefore, it does not rely on practical rationality. Using Buddhism as his primary source, Kaplan explains how self-contradiction could be embraced to justify both the existence of Santa and his nonexistence. But the ever diligent author encounters a similar paradox in mysticism, seemingly justifying a dangerous relativism in which all that is correct is equally incorrect and vice versa. To bridge the paradoxes of logic and mysticism, Kaplan suggests comedy, at least “good” comedy, as a way to “approach the unavoidable contradictions in our life.” (After all, Santa is a jolly fellow.) As he teases out this synthesis, the author’s argument is both thought-provoking and, at times, less than convincing, but he proves to be an engaging thinker whose musings are always provocative.
Kaplan’s investigation into the ontology of Santa Claus is erudite, readable and exceedingly funny.