In the 1st century, Plutarch coined the ‘Ship of Theseus’ paradox.

A ship sails away from Greece for 30 years, when it returns every plank, every sail, every rope, has been replaced, so is it still the ship that sailed away?

Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke all asked the same question in different forms.

It’s a question about the nature of reality: is it matter or is it just concept?

This is too deep a philosophical question for ordinary people. Or is it?

One of the most popular episode of Only Fools and Horses was called ‘Trigger’s Broom’.

Trigger is a road sweeper and meets DelBoy in a café, he’s wearing a medal.

DelBoy: “So what did you get that medal for, Trigger?”

Trigger: “Saving the council money. I happened to mention that I’ve had the same broom for the last 20 years. They were very impressed and gave me a medal.”

DelBoy: “How can the same broom have lasted you 20 years?”

Trigger: “I’ve looked after it well. I’ve maintained it carefully. This old broom has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles in that time.”

DelBoy: “Then how the hell can it be the same bloody broom?”

It’s one of the most popular episodes because everyone gets the joke.

The people who wouldn’t understand The Ship of Theseus can understand Trigger’s Broom.

Because the writers have made it accessible using their audience’s language.

That’s a great lesson for us.

The writers of The Simpsons understood that, too.

Occam’s Razor is formally explained as: “Do not multiply possibilities beyond necessity.”

Now see how the Simpsons handle that concept.

Adults have discovered an aphrodisiac and are coming home early and drawing the curtains.

Bart, Milhouse, and Lisa debate what’s going on.

Bart: “Okay, it’s now painfully clear. The adults are definitely paving the way for an invasion by the flying-saucer people.”

Milhouse: “You fool, can’t you see it’s a massive government conspiracy, or have they gottento you too?”

Lisa: “Stop it, why do you dummies jump to such ridiculous conclusions? Haven’t you ever heard of Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is probably the correct one?”

Bart: “Okay, so what’s the simplest explanation?”

Lisa: (rolls eyes sarcastically): “I don’t know, maybe they’re all reverse vampires and they have to get home before dark.”

Bart and Milhouse: “Aaargh, reverse vampires!”

The Simpsons also explain ‘specious reasoning’ so that ordinary people can get it.

Homer is bragging about his Bear Patrol.

Homer: “Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm”

Lisa: “That’s specious reasoning Dad, by your logic I can claim this rock keeps tigers away.”

Homer: “Oh, how does it work?”

Lisa: “It doesn’t work, it’s a stupid rock. But I don’t see any tigers around here, do you?”

Homer: “… Lisa, I want to buy your rock.”

‘Only Fools and Horses’ and ‘The Simpsons’ don’t talk down to people.

They explain complicated concepts in simple language anyone can understand.


We in advertising could learn a lot from that.

As Orson Welles said: “I can think of nothing an audience won’t understand.

The only problem is to interest them; once they are interested they understand anything in the world”.