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Top 40 Philosophy: The Beatles, “She Loves You”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

Yesterday, we discussed the Beatles first #1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” held the #1 spot for seven weeks in 1964, till “She Loves You” dethroned it. So, for your viewing pleasure, I offer you a bunch of Justin Bieber haircuts playing to a bunch of Justin Bieber fans. (Yes kids, your grandparents

[or, for my generation, your parents], were exactly the same as you, when they were kids.)

Isn’t that a fantastic video? (It’s from the Hard Day’s Night movie, which shot and released in 1964.) Whodathunk a band who only appeals to sobbing tween girls would turn out to be the greatest rock band of all time? (Answer: Anyone who was actually listening to their songwriting skills, that’s who.)

The thing that’s always especially attracted me to “She Loves You” is that it’s a love song written from the wrong point of view. And evidently I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. (I thought I was so insightful. Alas.)

This point-of-view shift leads to our theme for today.

Our Theme for Today

The Beatles are telling a guy who’s wronged a woman that, despite what he thinks, she still loves him. But how can he be sure? For the moment, at least, he has to take their word for it.

“You promised you weren’t going to do the Problem of Other Minds again!” you say, feeling something between betrayal and outrage.

“I’m not!” I respond. “Today, I want to talk about whether we should take things ‘on authority’.”

You think this is the greatest idea you have literally ever heard, and indicate that I should proceed.

Knowledge from Authority?

You know something is real if you’ve experienced it for yourself, right? Or, as we’ve discussed before, you know it’s real if you have experienced it for yourself with other people.

But what if you haven’t experienced it at all, even though someone else claims to know? Should you take her/his word for it?

“It depends if they’re trustworthy,” you reasonably respond (for once). “And clearly the Beatles are talking to a friend in this song, who would know whether they’re trustworthy or not.”

“That sounds right to me,” I say. But here’s a further question: Can the guy they’re singing to actually know that she loves him, given that all he has is the testimony of trustworthy witnesses?

Oh Snap!

This question is at the heart of the tensions between science and religion in our society.

God doesn’t talk directly to most of us (or, if God does, most of us haven’t figured out how to listen). And most of us don’t do science ourselves.

Let’s call the people to whom God actually talks — and the people who actually have the government funding, laboratory space, equipment, and grad students required to do science — “the 1%.” And let’s call the rest of us who aren’t so privileged “the 99%.”

Given our situation, can we — the 99% — actually know anything about either God or science? Or, is the best we can do to “take it on authority”?


The Hidden Track

Q: What kind of philosophy were we doing today?

A: Epistemology

Continue your investigation at:


  1. Micah:

    This is as very interesting way to teach. I wish my philosophy prof at TCU was even half that creative.

    I like the point that experience is important but it must be cooroborated by another person who sees or experiences it at the same time. Am I right about that?

    I always have to ask myself when I am working in a paranormal world, speaking with Spirits. . .how much of this is my inner projections and what has come from the Spirits. Fortunately, there have been times when my experiences have been corroborated.

    Good questions. Excuse me for intruding myself into your class discussion. I will behave in the future. :))

    December 3, 2014
  2. Grandfather:
    You’re exactly right! All spiritual traditions have face the same issue. (It’s one of the things the people in Exodus argue with Moses about, for example.) And it also is a challenge for non-spiritual — but still “abstract” or “intellectual” — issues like whether numbers exist, or whether there is a Universal Moral Law. If everyone “can see it,” we have greater confidence that it really exists (whatever it is).

    December 3, 2014

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