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Top 40 Philosophy: Dr. Seuss & Sixpence, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

The third classic Christmas Special on TIME’s list of the “10 Greatest” is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” This means, of course, that we have to analyze, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” But let’s use Sixpence None the Richer’s cover, which is pretty great. (Though, the original can’t be beat.)

Dr. Seuss wrote the words, Albert Hague wrote the music, and Thurl Ravenscroft sang the original.

The lyrics are really clever, if you’ve never seen them written out. They’ve got a strange, but appropriately Seussian structure and rhyme pattern.

The lyrics are also very mean to the Grinch, however. (It would seem Dr. Seuss would have done well in rap battles.) But how are you supposed to convince a bad person to change, other than by insulting him?

A virtuous person, on Aristotle’s account, actually enjoys doing what is right, while a vicious person actually enjoys doing what is wrong. So, could a vicious person ever change? Nicomachean Ethics II.3 suggests that punishment might work as a cure. (And that is how Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was finally cured.)

But what is it that finally cures the Grinch?

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The Hidden Track

Q: What kind of philosophy were we doing today?

A: Ethics.

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