Pyrrhus and Cineas – The True Story Behind The Origin Of The ‘Fisherman’s Parable’

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Ferdinand Bol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ferdinand Bol, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you search “Fisherman’s Parable,” you’ll find dozens of sites repeating what is commonly labeled in terms of the parable of the “Mexican” fisherman. In truth, most of these sites merely repeat a variation on a theme akin to the “Sicilian” variation told to me by my grandfather.

These sites tend to declare the original author of this story is “anonymous.” A few of the more honest ones cite a specific source, namely Heinrich Theodor Böll, a German writer who received the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Böll wrote a short story in 1963 titled “Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral” (“Anecdote Concerning the Lowering of Productivity”). Rather than a Harvard MBA, the interlocutor is a “smartly-dressed enterprising” tourist. Instead of being Sicilian (or Mexican, for that matter), the “shabbily dressed local” fisherman was found resting at an unnamed harbor on the west coast of Europe. The rest of the story, including its ironic conclusion, remains very similar.

Still, we can’t credit Böll with an original philosophical insight. In fact, the original source Continue Reading “Pyrrhus and Cineas – The True Story Behind The Origin Of The ‘Fisherman’s Parable’”