Follow TV Tropes


Web Video / Philosophy Tube

Go To

Oliver "Olly" Thorn is a British philosopher, actor and leftist Youtuber. In 2013 he created the channel PhilosophyTube to, in his own words, "give away my MA in Philosophy free to people who don't have the opportunities for learning I've had".

During the channel's early history Olly operated using a standard "talking head" format using a simple webcamera and microphone to discuss topics of philosophy, often by tying the works of a famous philosopher to another topic (such as video games, certain shows and the nature of things like fanservice), gradually entering more into the domains of political philosophy and current events during 2015 and onwards. Beginning in 2018, Olly began experimenting with making more longform thinkpieces with sketch/comedy interludes from an actual studio akin to similar youtubers ContraPoints and H.Bomberguy. These longform videos come out monthly and represent most of his current output.


Philosophy Tube makes heavy use of Socratic exercises, often inviting the viewer to approach the subject of the video from the subject's standpoint and providing insights into the philosophical arguments for and against, as well as occasions where the logic of those arguments do not necessarily follow, as well as a recommended reading list and episode sources in the text box beneath the video. In his current incarnation Olly also makes heavy use of comedy through taking up roles and viewpoints through fictional characters: these characters tend to either be an Affectionate Parody of existing people, or outright roles instead of identities (such as "The Cosmonaut", "Yer Dad" or "The Travelling Salesman").


Some tropes you'll find in his videos include:

  • Affectionate Parody: The character Ian Drivel, a parody of Australian Youtuber Marcus Dibble, who ends up making an internet callout to Immanuel Kant for being a huge racist. Olly's first act once he exits the character is to apologize both to Marcus and to the entire nation of Australia for his atrocious accent.
  • Answer Cut: In the Steve Bannon video, although it easy to miss the first time round. After Olly asks if anyone smells gasoline, we get a shot to the arsonist reading a paper.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: According to his Marxism and Witchcraft video, Olly doesn't believe in God. Or magic. Or astrology. Cue GASP! and booing.
    "Do not '@' me, astrology twitter; this is the pettiest hill I will die on!"
  • Blue Blood: Zig-Zagged. He's apparently descended from one of Charles II of England's (many) illegitimate daughters, but part of the point in his discussion of the British monarchy is that Blue Blood does not, in fact, make him any more or less special than anyone else.
  • Brain Uploading: Discussed Trope in "Can you upload your mind into a computer?"
  • Brains and Bondage: Has made jokes about the handcuffs used in "Youtube: Art or Reality?" having been used for sex, which he later confirmed in a livestream, and he holds up BDSM gear as a joke in "Steve Bannon or: Why Do We Build the Wall?"
  • Call-Back: in the video "Brexit: What is Democracy?", Olly is wearing what appears to be the same suit and tie he wore in "Why Does Britain Still Have A Queen?", only burn, torn and disheveled.
  • The Cameo: Frequently makes use of fellow Youtubers as voiceovers or walk-on cameos, or references their work (and is used by them in return). Natalie Wynn and H.Bomberguy are the two most common ones (the latter frequently showing up to co-host his mail streams), but other guests include Mike Rugnetta, Maria Watanbe, Mexie and Peter Coffin.
  • Carpet of Virility: He has one, as seen in his shirtless scenes.
  • Cerebus Call Back: The cosmonaut outfit Olly wears in Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth comes across as a fun costume added for theatrical purposes, until Olly reveals that he imagines himself as a cosmonaut whenever he is considering self-harm or suicide.
  • Corpsing: Olly is usually quite the stoic, but occasionally corny lines makes him break down (and he leaves it in when he does).
  • Damned by Faint Praise: When discussing Jordan Peterson, he describes "12 Rules for Life" as "a popular self-help book", and "Maps of Meaning" as..."also a book".
  • Democracy Is Flawed: "Brexit: What is Democracy" is devoted to deconstructing the philosophy behind democracy and its flaws before ending on a note of reconstruction, adding that knowing the flaws of the system can be important in order to understand what it gets right.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Inverted with The Travelling Salesman. The entire point of the character is to gradually show the viewer how fascist talking points can be hidden in plain sight while slowly gaining the trust of its target audience.
    "So, fire is a metaphor for fascism, obvs — the point of the Travelling Salesman is to show that villains like him aren't always obvious. All the techniques I talk about in the video, he then uses — he's very charming, he makes you feel special, (...) he appeals to traditional values like trust and freedom — and all the while he is the arsonist."
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Discussed Trope on a few occasions, most notably in the "Solitary Confinement" video which includes a number of eye-watering accounts (some of them first-hand) of what months of total social deprivation can do to people.
  • Feather Boa Constrictor: Used by The Devil in the "Jordan Peterson & The Meaning of Life". Crosses over with Snakes Are Sexy.
  • Femme Fatalons: The Devil also wears vicious stiletto nails.
  • Guyliner: Used in "Witchcraft, Gender and Marxism" and "Jordan Peterson & The Meaning of Life". Olly is also pretty open about wearing basic foundation for his videos and has made a livestream of him trying on makeup.
  • Kill It with Fire: The villainous Arsonist in the "Steve Bannon" episode, the 'fire' here being a metaphor for fascism.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: According to Word of God the entire "Steve Bannon" episode originally sprung forth from the fireman being "anti-fire", which in Received Pronounciation sounds exactly like "antifa".
  • The Mentor: Olly claims Mike Rugnetta was this to him. Not only was Olly inspired to get into Youtube by Mike, but Mike was also the one that introduced Olly to the works of Karl Marx.
  • Motivational Lie: Discussed as part of his "Is it Ever Okay to Lie?" video on Kantian ethics.
  • Mr. Fanservice: A very, very handsome man who occasionally gets his shirt off.
  • No Fourth Wall: His YouTube: Art or Reality? video, which features two cops questioning Olly, fully aware they are in a video made by Olly.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: In Elon Musk, Pontius Pilate is re-imagined as a Steve Jobs/Elon Musk-type 'comprehensive designer' who has a breakdown trying to get the blood off his hands for killing Jesus Christ (a metaphor for the inadvertent harm brought by consumer capitalism, even when used by liberal personalities).
  • Perverse Sexual Lust: Invoked by Olly as an explanation for some people's fascination with the British monarchy in Why Does Britain Still Have A Queen? It's more this than a Celeb Crush because while the royal family are comprised of actual people, the desire for them is more about the constructed idea of the royal family than anything else, and the only thing special about them is attributable to that construction.
    Olly: I hate to say it, but your waifu is trash.
  • Running Gag: During his "Witchcraft, Gender, & Marxism" video, Olly will preface a statement with the opinion that "[people from left-wing associated subculture here] aren't 100% right about everything", only to immediately find himself called and embraced by a famous person from the right known for criticizing said subculture.
  • Self-Deprecation: Much like ContraPoints, whenever Olly brings up himself or his previous work it tends to be in a jokingly unflattering light. During the "Brexit: What Is Democracy?" video he describes his last video on the subject as being made by "a spotty twink with a terrible haircut".
    • Olly also makes frequent digs at his own personal identity of a Marxist, at one point having a fake breakdown over feeling nationalistic when people say "God Save the Queen" during his video on the subject.
    • When he brings up Plato's philosopher-kings in the "Brexit: What Is Democracy?" video, he snarkily observes that Plato seems to think that all the problems in the world will be solved if everyone just listened to him...
      Olly: You'll be starting a Youtube channel next!
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Occasionally wears suits in his videos.
  • Ship Tease: Fans often ship him with Natalie. Out of all of Natalie's ships, he is easily the most popular.
  • Shirtless Scene: He has done a couple videos with his shirt open or off, but the best sighting to date comes from Witchcraft, Gender & Marxism, in which he gradually takes off his shirt and rubs fake blood all over himself and grabs a sword to look like a barbarian while warning his viewers to not use what he is saying to justify transphobia, as discussion on the socioeconomic aspects of womanhood "can get pretty barbaric pretty fast."
    • In the Jorden Peterson video, he played the Devil while wearing only a crown, some horns and a pair of large black wings.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During his early videos, Olly would consistently refer to the text box under the video as "the doobly-do".
    • The star at the end of the Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth title is a reference to David Bowie's Blackstar, an album that Olly listened to a lot during the making of the video, which had echoes in the cosmonaut and conversations on death.
    • The detectives in his YouTube: Art or Reality? video are named Ellis and Strucci, after Lindsay Ellis and Shannon Strucci, two YouTubers who had both earlier done videos on parasocial relationships (seen here and here, respectively ) .
    • During his "Steve Bannon" episode Olly explains how Julius Evola referred to himself as "not a fascist, but a super-fascist" during a court case in 1951, before suddenly adding that "YOU'RE NOT DEALING WITH AN AVERAGE FASCIST ANYMORE, KAKAROT! I HAVE REALIZED THE LEGEND!", both lines originating in Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
    • Jordan Peterson & The Meaning of Life opens with a quotation from Mephistopheles in Marlowe's Faust.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Given that Olly is a professional actor (and also British) he tends to pepper his videos with Shakespeare references, even entire videos. "Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth" opens with a reference to Hamlet, and one of Prospero's speeches in The Tempest is used at the end of "Marxism and Witchcraft".
  • Smart People Speak the Queen's English: Olly is actually Geordie, but speaks in RP in all his videos (though mostly because it's just plain easier to understand if you're not British).
  • Stiff Upper Lip: In contrast to Hbomberguy, Olly prefers delivering his material in a calm, dispassionate newsreader tone. He even lampshades and partially deconstructs this trope in in Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth, pointing out that a certain disaffect is part of the British national character and may not entirely be a good thing when talking about attitudes towards getting help for mental illness.
  • Sudden Musical Ending: Beginning with the Elon Musk episode, Olly began occasionally ending episodes with musical numbers, usually covers produced by himself.
    • While it was announced, the credits of the video on Steve Bannon feature a stunning cover of Anais Mitchell's "Why We Build the Wall". Combined with the imagery, it is breathtaking.
    • The Jordan Peterson video ends with a cover of the Hoosiers "Goodbye Mister A".
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: A common narrative device, with Olly often using two or more characters to deliver different perspectives or storylines before weaving them together in the finale.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: "Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth", often just referred to as the Cosmonaut video. It's widely considered to be one of the best Philosophy Tube videos.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: The Devil in the "Jordan Peterson & The Meaning of Life".
    • Let's be fair, Olly has begun to embody the trope.
  • Wham Line:
    • From Olly's interview with himself in Suic!de and Ment@l He@lth.
      You have to tell them about somebody who tried to kill themselves, and who isn't insane and who is still alive. You have to tell them what that's like.
    • Another, from earlier in the video:
      Dr. Rosencrantz: Why are we talking about the Jews of Masada?
      The Cosmonaut/Olly: Because, Dr. Rosencrantz, I don't wanna talk about myself.
    • The post-credit line of the Steve Bannon video: the Antifa symbol, along with the tagline "DO NOT PLAY WITH MATCHES".
  • Whole Plot Reference: The "Steve Bannon" video is one to the German play Biedermann und die Brandstifter/The Fire Raisers (and lampshaded as such in the video's intro). Both video and play uses arsonists as a metaphor for something else, and how normal people can get suckered in by rhetoric into aiding and abetting.


Example of: