Philosophy School of Phish – The Class

My parents have often accused me of being fanatical about Phish. My mom has even asked me, “Why do you have to go to all those concerts? Can’t you just listen to a CD?” It’s very hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced a Phish concert what the big deal is. Sure I can download the best quality soundboards and play them on my high end, HD sound system and it does provide a nice listening experience. In fact, I’m doing that right now. But there’s so much more that goes on at a life show that you can’t experience from the comfort of your living room. At a minimum, a Phish concert is an experience. A beautiful, welcomed assault on your scenes. The sounds, the lights, the atmosphere, the costumes, the colors, the people. It’s all very exciting. But for many phans, it’s even more than that. It’s a lifestyle. And once you “get it”, it carves out its own piece of prime real estate in your soul that can never be inhabited by anything else.

When Phish is not touring, I continue to go to live concerts all year long. While many of the shows are good, some even excellent, it’s always glaring reminder of how truly special Phish is. And how unquestioningly superior they are, even to the next best thing. I’m constantly searching for something that will fill the empty space in my life where Phish resides while on tour. I am continually disappointed. Sure, I have a good time, I rock out and get funky with the best of them. I marvel at what an amazing guitar legend John Bell is. Or how electronic musicians like Pretty Lights, Bassnecter and Amon Tobin are redefining a whole new genre. I get goosebumps listening to legends like Tom Petty, Eric Clapton or Rodger Waters and appreciate that they basically created rock ‘n roll as we know it. You can’t keep me from a Galactic or Trombone Shorty show and I’m grateful they’re working their butts off to bring the funk out of New Orleans and across the States. But as good as these guys are, no other show has been able to fill that gap. They’re place holders, at best. That’s because a live Phish show is about so much more than the music. It might just look like a bunch of dirty hippies using Phish as an excuse to turn on, tune in, drop out. And in truth, we are tuning into something. But it’s much deeper than you might think. The band, the songs, the lyrics, the history, the lights, the phans, the lot, and yes even the drugs – they’re all parts to a greater whole. They combined to create not just a culture, but a whole new school of philosophy, the Phish school of Philosophy.

“Ba-humbug!” You may say. “Your just one of those dirty hippies!” Well, you might be right. But thankfully, you no longer have to take my

word for it. For the first time this summer, Oregon State University is offering, class PHL 360 Philosophy & the Arts (CRN 74843), Philosophy School of Phish. According to the class description, students will study Phish’s mythology (and as any Helping Friendly Books nut will tell you, there is quite a lot), live performances and social media presence as a means to introduce key ideas in the history of philosophy. And the best part? It’s offered through their e-campus center, so you don’t even have to be a OSU student to take it!

Phish School of Philosophy - Course Description
Phish School of Philosophy – Course Description

If you’re just getting into Phish and want a crash course on the band, or if you are a long time veteran with over 200 shows, this class will no doubt provide plenty of thought-provoking Phish dialogue. Hopefully the class will equip phans with the ideas and principles to adequately defend their way of life and supposed fanaticism to those who deem our way of life philistine, fit only for those incapable of assimilating into proper society. It’s unfortunately that there are no West Coast summer tour dates this year. An actually Phish concert would have made for a wonderful field trip. Because after all, no matter how comprehensive the class is, no amount of book-learning will be able to replicate the energy you feel at a live show.

For more information on the class and for registration information, visit it Philosophy School of Phish website,

If you want to prepare yourself for the class ahead of time, you can dive into the recommended reading material, listed below:

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra 
Deleuze & Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus

Supposedly there’s going to be a movie as well! I can’t find any information on it at the moment, but as soon as I know anything, I’ll be sure to share the deetz!

Check out the video announcement for PHL 360!

Peace, Love & Rock ‘n Roll!

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