all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

Forays into Logic, Whimsy, Meaning, Hilarity, and Nonsense.

Category: Definitions

The Blogger Lays His Metaphorical Cards on the Table

 

Abstract:  In which The Blogger candidly discusses whether or not this blog is actually about philosophy, or whether it’s just an excuse for some obscure horsing around.

________________________________________________________________________

The question has been put, and the battle has been joined: Is this blog really a substantial exploration of philosophical issues? Or is it a floppy monstrosity consisting largely of mostly aimless conversations in which The Good Reader scolds The Blogger for being a conspicuous ass?

As it turns out, quite a catalog of reasons can be assembled in support of either position.

Persons making the accusation against the blog: Sandra, from Kansas City, for instance.

“I’ve been following this blog for a couple of years now… well, i don’t know if ‘following’ is the right way of putting it… i mean, i’ve read the posts, you know… and i have to say it, i just don’t think it’s about anything. I think it’s a bunch of random thoughts that this blogger guy comes up with, and then he tries to make them funny, and he adds in some odd characters, and he writes about them.”

Oh boy. There are some people you just can’t reach.

Persons defending the blog, on the other hand, like… um… uuh… well… aw, gee….

Well, okay, here’s one. Christopher, who lives in the British Virgin Islands. He has this to say in defense of this website:

“Dude, i’m totally all about it. I mean, like Jack! this is some pretty funny material.” He pauses to snicker for a few seconds. “It’s like, how many Scotsmen can you put on a fence? Oh my gosh! This stuff is hilarious! So yeah, i’m totally about this website, as a, you know, way of communicating what–um–philosophy is, and, you know, that kind of thing.”

Well, okay. I reckon we’ll accept our defenses wherever we can find them.

So the sides are defined, and the field is marked. What IS this blog about? Is it, as Sandra avers, a random body of material? Or is Christopher right in averring that it is… well, whatever he seems to have been saying? And in keeping with the philosophical character of the blog (you see what i did there?) we’re going to structure our material as a series of logical arguments.

Let the games begin! Uhm, or something.

 

This Blog is a Substantial Exploration of Philosophy

The thesis here is that The Blogger is performing a significant public service by serving up generous portions of substantial argumentation in support of important ideas.

Argument #1:  Flockbinkers

Oh my word! Do we really need to include anything else in our defense? This blog is all about flockbinkers, and it’s hard to get any more philosophical than that. Flockbinkers are practically the definition of philosophy! They’re what philosophy is all about! Now, in response to the nay-sayers who might claim that flockbinkers don’t exist, our reply is: …well, give us a minute on that one. Scratching our heads here. This one turns out to be a bit of a toughie.

Argument #3:  Logical syllogisms

You can’t…and may i emphasize this?… you simply CAN’T chuck a rock around here without hitting a logical syllogism! The joint is veritably stupid with logical syllogisms! Um, if that’s the sort of statement that makes sense. Anyway. It’s just one logical syllogism after another. It’s almost as if they’re following each other to the seaside cliffs in order to hurl themselves off the edge! No, that wasn’t part of the argument. Just a nice image that i suddenly came up with.

Argument #2:  Definitions of words

Our final, knockout argument consists in the fact that…Dude. We are constantly defining words around here. This blog is practically about nothing but the definition of words. Spin around blindfolded, and you’ll find yourself pointing at somebody who’s in the process of defining a term. Hey! You there! Little Biffy! Whatcha doin’ over there? What? Defining terms? Ho! I figured as much! Carry on!

The defense rests.

 

This Blog is a Sad Excuse for a Bunch of Horsing Around

Since this is a position with which i am entirely out of sympathy, i have asked our friend Sandra (from Kansas City) to supply a few insights. Do your best, Sandra!  [snicker]

Argument #1:  Even an idiot can identify what’s wrong with each post

Oh my word. What a sad assemblage of nonsense, nonsense and more nonsense! Pretty much every single post to this blog is saddled with at least one, if not several, if not a seemingly unending stream of fallacious reasoning and just plain silliness! Sometimes the Blogger sticks something into the post that you’re supposed to find, and that’s not hard at all. On top of that, though, are the myriads of mistakes in reasoning, etc. that tend to clog the place up, apparently through no knowledge of his own. It’s exhausting, really.

Argument #2:  At no point are terms like ‘flockbinker’ or ‘wamwam’ ever defined

This blog is built around nonsense words that the blogger never takes it upon himself to define. What do these silly words mean? Does it matter? Do i care? No, in fact, i do not. Neither am i able to take seriously a blog where much of what’s going on is in the form of “cromblasters” and “wigwams” and “Your Mom” and other unintelligible things. If the Blogger wants to talk himself to sleep at night muttering random syllables, why he’s welcome to that, i just wish he wouldn’t call it a website.

Argument #3:  The so-called ‘logical syllogisms’ are awful, just awful

In his well-meaning but doomed-to-failure attempts to explore philosophy, The Blogger often sets up logical syllogisms in order to illustrate his points. Oh. My. Word. This guy is trying to teach ME logic? Every time i read this blog, i feel like i know less and less about logic. If i keep it up, i’m afraid that soon i’ll no longer remember how to eat and use the bathroom by myself, and i’ll need to hire a full-time nurse. THAT is how bad this blog is on logic.

The prosecution rests.

 

Epilogue

The Good Reader:  Yawn.

The Blogger:  I heard that. You yawned.

The Good Reader:  I did! I’m a little tired. And, plus, i don’t think i get the purpose of this post. Sure, you’ve finally admitted that your writing is somewhat pointless and silly, but apart from that, what…?

The Blogger:  I’m not sure i understand you. I was clearly the winner of our little debate.

The Good Reader:  You’re making a joke.

The Blogger:  I flattened her! My arguments made sense, and hers didn’t!

The Good Reader:  Hmmm.

The Blogger:  I laid forth a coherent body of evidence in favor of the blog, and she had nothing but a handful of sad personal impressions with no logical support whatsoever!

The Good Reader:  Ah.

The Blogger:  I won! I ran over her like a grocery store shopping cart running over a dried banana peel!

The Good Reader:  This is an experience you’ve had before?

The Blogger:  Just last week.

The Good Reader:  Which grocery store?

The Blogger:  Kroger. They’re normally really clean. I’m not sure what that banana peel was doing on the floor.

The Good Reader:  Cool. So, to summarize, you’re under the impression that you kicked some serious butt in that little discussion up there?

The Blogger:  Absolutely! She was rendered a smoking carcass by the time i finished my remarks. There was nothing left of her. Some smoke and a bit of ash, that’s about it.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm.

The Blogger:  So you agree?

The Good Reader:  [smiling]  Absolutely. Is there anything to eat around here? I’m suddenly famished.

 

Baby, It’s Treadknicious Outside

Abstract:  Oh my, but it’s been a long time. Should it be any surprise, then, that in this episode–basically–everything happens, everybody (basically) says everything, and Elvis Wu is (um, basically) revealed to be pregnant?

(Okay, not really that last bit. Just kiddin’ around wid ya.)

 


 

Okay, fellers. Let’s just come out and say it. This has tended to be a terrible blog in the matter of posting instability: what i mean is, we’ll jump in vigorously for a few weeks, then drop out for a few months. Lather, rinse, repeat. As of today, it has been…umm… [counting on fingers]… oh dear, it’s been precisely one year–to the very day!–since our last post. Ouch! Sorry there, old fellows.

Today’s post, then, will have to involve a bit of catching up.

The Good Reader:  Oh dear. What might “catching up” happen to mean?

The Blogger:  The Good Reader! Well, howdy there. I’ve not seen you in a while.

The Good Reader:  Well, duh–you’ve not seen me since the last of those blog posts that you wrote, i being apparently (according to YOU) a figment of your creative impulse. [makes grumbling sounds]

The Blogger:  Jeepers, Reader, i’m not sure i’d want to put it exactly like that… um… umm… uhh… well… oh golly… as a matter of fact, that was an excellent way of putting it. Let’s not dance around the issue. You have delineated the art of war. You have nailed the head on the donkey. You have committed the perfect storm.

The Good Reader:  [Goes somewhat cross-eyed for a moment, then decides not to pursue the material about donkeys and perfect storms. You have to choose your battles.]  Anyway, what might “catching up” happen to mean? It’s basically a random blog. You blog about whatever philosophical or quasi-philosophical or pseudo-philosophical topics you happen to have on your brain at the moment.

The Blogger:  Unfair, unfair! And also unanswerable, unless we’re prepared to devote a whole blog post to that obvious untruth, which we at present are not. So here’s what i mean by “catching up.” The last few posts to the blog involved…

…an oddball Christmas event in which The Good Reader, Little Biffy, Jennifer Smith, Elvis Wu, and i enjoyed the benefits of a Christmas fireside while analyzing terms associated with the holiday season,

…a scintillating introduction to The Photographer, who turned out to be quite the astonishing gal,

…a horrific invasion of Tribbles, accompanied by an equally horrific invasion by Mister Spock, Mister Sulu, and Captain Kirk,

…a delightful–simply delightful!–analysis of the concept of extreme sports,

…a delightful–simply–um–well–never mind–in-depth discussion of marketing strategies,

…a whole freaking bunch of people going into a freaking bar, a species of behavior which we at All Flockbinkers can hardly condone–and it’s a shame, really, that this sort of thing is even finding its way into the blog,

…an in-depth and strangely satisfying analysis of the concept of extreme sports,

…some further analysis–and there can never be too much, really–of that classic jape about the three Scotsmen sitting on a fence…

…yet another attempt, fruitless as usual, to figure out what flockbinkers are,

…and, of course, yet another fascinating look at our Reader Mail.

So what we need to do with this one, is figure out how to pick up where we left off.

The Good Reader:  There’s no need for that. I’ve hardly ever read something so random as this blog. Just write about something. It’s not like your four readers will notice. Personally, i think you should write about what a flockbinker is. You’ve been promising to do that for, what, several years now? Or maybe the treadkniciousness of tribbles. You completely failed to address that topic in the post that was supposed to be devoted to it. Or you could talk about whether tribbles would make good Christmas tree ornaments.

The Blogger:  Four readers? You must mean, of course, the four readers who have engaged the most substantially with the content of this blog…?

The Good Reader:  How did i KNOW that would be the only part of my statement that you’d pay attention to.

The Blogger:  …Because, seriously, i have WAY more than four readers.

The Good Reader:  Okay.

The Blogger:  Anyway, here’s my plan. Having briefly reviewed the material we covered in our last few posts, i think we’ll turn this one into a big Christmas party. You know, like the one we had last year?

The Good Reader:  Christmas is long over, dude. It’s May. May comes after Christmas.

The Blogger:  Well, i mean, it depends on what you mean by ‘Christmas.’ They’re apparently getting snow in the upper midwest. Can you believe that?

The Good Reader:  Oh, bother.

The Blogger:  ANYWAY, You can’t know if Christmas is going to be treadknicious, unless you first know what treadknicious means.

The Good Reader:  If you’re not just yanking me around–i mean, if you’re really about to deliver–then, wow, go for it! What DOES treadknicious mean?

The Blogger:  Well, that is to say, i… didn’t actually say i was gonna define it.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmmm.

The Blogger:  I just said you can’t know if Christmas is going to be treadknicious.

The Good Reader:  Ah.

The Blogger:  But it may well be.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm.

The Blogger:  That’s all i’m saying.

The Good Reader:  Righto.

The Blogger:  So, um, anyway.

[They sit in contented silence for a moment.]

[And, just when you were tempted to think that we’d gotten to the end of this blog post…]

[Ah! Ho, ho!]

[Elvis Wu suddenly and quite unexpectedly joins in, having appeared as from the aether, from the vastness of cold space, from the undifferentiated void]

Elvis Wu:  A terribly treadknicious holiday to the both of you!

The Blogger:  Well, my stars and garters! If it isn’t Mister Elvis Wu!

Elvis Wu:  [bows humbly]  At your service.

The Blogger:  It’s really good of you to come. I imagine you have a grillion things on your schedule.

Elvis Wu:  Oh, i’m always down for an All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious reunion.

The Good Reader:  But, no, just waittasecond. Where, Elvis, did you just come from?

Elvis Wu.:  Ah! From the Undifferentiated Void.

The Blogger:  Seriously?

The Good Reader:  No, goofball, he’s not being serious. Seriously! Where DID you just come from?

The Blogger:  Well, if it’s not Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith!

[The two of them enter as from a gathering haze, from the towering cloud of nothingness, from the blooming manifestation of the Outer Dark]

The Good Reader:  No.

The Blogger:  It’s good to see the two of you!

The Good Reader:  No. Just no. What in the world.

Jennifer Smith:  What? OMG! Where am i? What is this? Are we… what? I am so confused. Please. I cannot EVEN.

Little Biffy:  Mister Blogger!

The Blogger:  What up, Biffy! How’s it going, Jennifer.

Jennifer Smith:  I do not EVEN. What in… WHAT in the world.

The Blogger:  It’s our little reunion party! Since it’s been about a year since the blog has seen the light of day… if, um, that’s the sort of thing that blogs do… see the light of day, i mean… we’re having a bit of a soiree to celebrate!

[Jenn finds a convenient chair to sit in, contemplate the Deeper Things, and nurse her wounded sense of How Reality Works]

The Good Reader:  So i’m still confused. Are these people real, or fictional?

The Blogger:  Are you?

The Good Reader:  Am i what?

The Blogger:  Are you real, or fictional?

The Good Reader:  I’m real! Well, i mean, i’m as real as you are… whatever THAT means.

Biffy and Elvis:  Wassail!

Bertie Wooster:  I say!

Jennifer Smith:  Waittasecond. Who’s that?

Bertie Wooster:  Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, at your service, what?

Jennifer Smith:  Oh. My. Word.

…and wouldn’t you know it, we find ourselves in the continuation of last year’s Christmas party–with the somewhat inexplicable addition of Mr. Bertie Wooster–as if nothing has happened in the interim!

Elvis Wu:  [singing joyously]  Baby, it’s treadknicious outside!

Little Biffy:  I think it’s pretty darn treadknicious inside!

Jennifer Smith:  Wooh, talking about ‘treadknicious’-ness, i feel a pretty treadknicious headache coming on.

Bertie Wooster:  You know, Jeeves used to have the perfect potion for that sort of ailment. I wish i could tell you what the ingredients were.

The Good Reader3:  Reality, as we know it–or as we think we know it–is nought but the breath of a passing moment, the exhalation of the lonely hours.

The Good Reader:  Okay, that was not even me. I have no idea who that was.

And, as if in answer: “Wassail!” cry the assembled throng.

 

Epilogue:

The group disappears, as into a gauzy haze–or perhaps a hazy gauze–or maybe even a hazy, gauzy mist–and we are once again left with just The Blogger and The Good Reader.

The Good Reader:  I thought a throng was supposed to be a much larger group of people.

The Blogger:  What?

The Good Reader:  Well, if that was an assembled ‘throng,’ i’d have expected there to be, oh, i dunno, at least 20 people.

The Blogger:  Well, Good Reader, we could explore at some length what the term “throng” can be used to mean in a variety of contexts….

The Good Reader:  Let’s not, never mind.

The Blogger:  As you wish.

The Good Reader:  So, wait, i have an even more pressing question. Was all of that a dream sequence? And if so, whose dream? Yours or mine?

The Blogger:  Perhaps the good reader’s dream?

The Good Reader:  But i AM the Good Reader!

The Blogger:  Well, i didn’t capitalize it now, did i?

The Good Reader:  How should i know? I can’t tell what you’re capitalizing and what you’re not. This is conversation.

The Blogger:  Okay. I was referring to the meta-good reader.

The Good Reader:  The meta-good-reader?

The Blogger:  Sure. The embodiment of the blog’s readership, in general.

The Good Reader:  BUT THAT’S ME!

The Blogger:  Hmmm. Yes. Good point. Well, i can see that, once again, we need to distinguish between “The Good Reader” #1, #2, and #3.

The Good Reader:  Oh, bother.

 

 

The Trouble with Tribbles, Is That They’re Not Treadknicious

Abstract:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and George Takei are brought in as expert witnesses to talk about the ontological status of tribbles; Shatner and Takei get into a tiff over who did or did not attend whose wedding; and Leonard Nimoy admits that the “Bilbo Baggins” song was not his finest moment.


 

One of the recurring themes addressed on this blog is ontology: it’s one of the major branches of philosophy, and involves the discussion of reality, identity, what things are, what kinds of things there are, how things are to be named, understood, categorized. We’ve talked about the ontological status of flockbinkers, unicorns, disgruntled postal workers. We’ve talked about the ontological status of wamwams, Your Mom, and a shopping spree at Whole Foods where you get away without spending more than $187.00. We’ve talked about the ontological status of Republicrats, Democricans, this blog’s readership, and Conan O’Brien’s haircut.

But you know one entity that has not been on the receiving end of our trenchant philosophical analysis?

Tribbles.

You know: tribbles. The little furry puffball things from Star Trek. Isn’t it high time we took the bull by the horns (as it were) and investigated the ontological status of tribbles? Of course it is. You know it is.

Indeed, it might be argued — with some degree of force — that “the trouble with tribbles” is that we don’t yet know whether they are treadknicious. In such a situation, it is often recommended that one appeal to established expertise. And who, i ask you, would know more about tribbles than the cast of the original Star Trek television series?

The Good Reader:  Their moms would.

The Blogger:  What?

The Good Reader:  If you want to know all about tribbles, you should ask their moms.

The Blogger:  You know what? You said something very similar when we were talking about flockbinkers a few years ago.

[Editor’s Note: Here is a transcript of that conversation.]

The Good Reader:  Well, good on me! I consistently say the thing that makes the most sense. If you want to know all about something, whether it’s a tribble, a flockbinker, a philosopher, or a unicorn, you just go ahead and ask its mom.

The Blogger:  But of course, the mother of a tribble would be a tribble as well, so all we’re doing is creating a hall of mirrors. A cute, furry, purring, ravenous hall of mirrors. Here’s the problem: both a tribble and its mother are representative types of a larger category, the very category that is under….

The Good Reader:  [placing her hands over her ears]  I can’t hear you, i can’t hear you, i can’t hear you.

The Blogger:  Well, i guess that puts that particular discussion to bed.

The Good Reader:  And by the way, don’t think i didn’t catch that bit about taking the bull by the horns. I did. I saw that. You might as well have said flockbinker. Take the flockbinker by the horns.

The Blogger:  [sigh]  I don’t believe you’re ever going to let go of that obsession you have, with whether flockbinkers have horns. We’ve been over this.

[Editor’s Note: And here is a transcript of THAT conversation… although, be warned, the question of whether The Good Reader is the same person as The Timid Reader is a somewhat complicated one.]

The Good Reader:  Yes, we have. And — as usual — you sidestepped and danced around the issue and refused to give a straight answer to the question. So i still don’t know whether flockbinkers have horns.

The Blogger:  Well, i fear the issue of the hornlessness or hornfulness of flockbinkers will have to wait until another day. Today, we have other fish to fry. Or, more accurately, tribbles.

The Good Reader:  We’re having fried tribbles?

The Blogger:  Hah! It might be more exact to say that we’re roasting tribbles. I’ve invited a panel of experts to come on the blog to discuss the ontology of tribbles, including the burning question of whether or not they are treadknicious. It’ll be like we’re having a celebrity tribble roast.

 

While waiting for the panel of experts to assemble, why don’t we assemble a summary statement on what tribbles are… you know, for the uninitiated… and of why someone might understandably wonder whether they are treadknicious?

Origin

Tribbles were first introduced in Season Two of Star Trek, at the very end of December, 1967, between Christmas and the New Year. That now-iconic episode was called The Trouble with Tribbles. The show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, who was not excited about the episode — he thought it was too comical and it violated the sense of gravitas that he was wanting to foster in the series — figured that it would do less damage if buried in the middle of the holiday season when people would be likely to be watching other things. Hah!

Tribbles appeared subsequently in various episodes of other series that were part of the Star Trek canon, including Deep Space Nine (Episode: “Trials and Tribble-ations”) and Star Trek: Discovery (Episode: “Context Is for Kings”).

Physical description

Tribbles are small and round — spherical or slightly oblong. (A tribble can be held comfortably in the palm of one hand, or in two hands together.) They are covered in thick fur all around. Tribbles are basically headless guinea pigs with no legs and no teeth.

Feeding and Reproductive habits

Tribbles are omnivorous, although they prefer a vegetarian diet. Their ideal diet consists of whole grains, though under duress they will eat Rice Krispies treats, any breakfast cereals with the word “Cap’n” in the name, Ding Dong snack cakes, trail mix if it doesn’t have those yellow raisins in it, and, interestingly, the cheezy sausage balls that are such a hit at Christmas parties.

Okay, only the first part of that explanation was true.

Tribbles are hermaphroditic and are born pregnant. They reproduce at an alarming rate. A typical well-fed tribble will bear a litter of ten every twelve hours. If their exponential population growth is left unchecked, they can overwhelm an entire ecosystem. This, indeed, is The Trouble with Tribbles referenced in the Star Trek episode bearing the same name.

Suitability as pets

Tribbles are adorable, furry and cuddly, and they emit a soft cooing sound that is soothing to the human nervous system. They also multiply faster than Twitter accounts with the word ‘Stormy’ in the name. For this reason, it is recommended that only trained biologists keep them, and only under strict laboratory conditions.

Tribbles vs. Klingons

Klingons don’t like tribbles. Tribbles don’t like Klingons.

Whether tribbles are treadknicious

This really is the question, isn’t it? This is what it all comes down to. Hopefully, our panel of experts will be able to shed some light on this perplexing topic. And — what excellent timing! — here they come.

 

William Shatner:  Well, the talent has arrived. Where is the script, and when do i get paid?

George Takei:  [rolls his eyes]

The Blogger:  Actually, i’ve invited the three of you here to draw upon your years of experience with tribbles.

Leonard Nimoy:  If i have understood you correctly, the question on the table is: Whether, and in what sense, tribbles are treadknicious.

The Blogger:  That’s exactly right! Mr. Spock has once again applied his rational intellect and identified the crux of the matter.

Leonard Nimoy:  [rolls his eyes]

George Takei:  The question really seems to hinge, doesn’t it, on what we mean by the word ‘treadknicious’?

William Shatner:  Ooooohh. Mister Takei here appears to be quite the expert.

Leonard Nimoy:  Ah, but George does know a thing or two about tribbles. If memory serves, George, didn’t you have a centerpiece at your wedding reception made up of several hundred tribbles bundled together with baling wire?

William Shatner:  What? Is this true? A tribble centerpiece?

George Takei:  I did! It was all the talk. Of course, you’d know that if you had bothered to come to my wedding.

William Shatner:  Again with the wedding!  [Shatner turns and directs his attention to the reading audience]  This is his favorite theme. He never tires of harping on it. I have explained this at least seven hundred times, in numerous interviews: I never received an invitation to this man’s wedding.

George Takei:  Ah, the old “my invitation appears to have been lost in the mail” ploy.

William Shatner:  I barely even know this man. He was a supporting actor in a television show of which i was the star, a long time ago.

George Takei:  And several films.

William Shatner:  Right, the films, those too. And he can’t stop harping on whether or not i was at his wedding. Frankly, i don’t even remember. Maybe i was there. Who can remember such teency little details?

George Takei:  Believe me, you weren’t there. Your ego would have taken up all the available space in the reception hall.

Leonard Nimoy:  Gentlemen, as riveting as this discussion of George’s wedding guest list undeniably is, i think we’re losing sight of the main point of the discussion.

George Takei:  Tribbles.

William Shatner:  And whether there were any in attendance at George’s wedding.

George Takei:  All the tribbles that were invited to the wedding, actually showed up.

William Shatner:  Okay. That was clever. I’ll give you that.

Leonard Nimoy:  The point at issue, if i may refresh the screen for a moment, is this: Whether or not tribbles are treadknicious.

Confucius:  And, if they are, whether they are ‘treadknicious’ in the same sense in which flockbinkers are ‘treadknicious’.

Aristotle:  You took the words right out of my mouth.

The Buddha:  The way of silence leads toward clarity.

The Blogger:  Enough already! Too many extraneous characters crowding up this blog post. Confucius, Aristotle, Buddha, shoo! Off with you! You’ll all have other chances in future posts.

A Mysterious, Masked Bystander:  Woww.

The Blogger:  That includes you too, Owen. Sorry bud; we’ll feature you again soon. I think i hear Wes Anderson calling for you.

The Good Reader:  Golly! I’ve never seen you take control of your own blog like that before. That was pretty decisive, there. I must confess — i’m developing a new respect for whether you even know what you’re doing with this ‘blogging’ thing.

The Blogger:  [turning beet-red with pleasure]  Why, that may have been the closest thing to a compliment you’ve yet paid me! I can’t even think straight!

Leonard Nimoy:   [murmuring]  You’re worse than Shatner.

William Shatner:  I heard that. And you want to know who’s “worse than Shatner”? I’ll tell you who’s “worse than Shatner.”  [begins singing]  “Bilbo, Bilbo Baggins, the bravest little hobbit of them all!”

Leonard Nimoy:  I will freely confess that the “Bilbo Baggins” song was not my finest moment. Perhaps, though, under the present circumstances, i might be excused for bringing up a certain performance of “Rocket Man” that has become notorious throughout the internet?

The Blogger:  Okay, fellas, fun’s over, back to the point. Tribbles. The trouble with tribbles. What reasons have we for thinking that they might be treadknicious?

George Takei:  What does ‘treadknicious’ even mean?

Leonard Nimoy:  If i am not mistaken, The Blogger has left it as an intentionally undefined term, to be used as a placeholder in the construction of logical syllogisms.

William Shatner:  The trouble with tribbles is… perhaps that they’re topsy-turvy? Or that they twist and turn? Do they terrify toddlers? Maybe they’re terrifically telescopic. Maybe they’re tremendous and twisted.

George Takei:  Nimoy, what’s he doing?

Leonard Nimoy:  He appears to be listing off all the words he knows beginning with ‘t’.

William Shatner:  For your information, it might help us to explain whether tribbles are treycarnivorous. Or not.

[Nimoy and Takei roll their eyes in unison]

The Good Reader:  If i may pipe up in Mr. Shatner’s defense…? Putting together a list of things that begin with ‘t’ is probably as good a way to figure out what’s treadknicious as anything else. And Mr. Nimoy is right, too: The Blogger has NEVER defined the word ‘treadknicious’ on this blog. Not to my satisfaction.

William Shatner:  [glances appreciatively at The Good Reader]  The loyalty of my fans has always been deeply gratifying to me.

The Good Reader:  Well, i mean, i wouldn’t necessarily call myself a — um — one of your — well, as i come to think about it, i suppose i must have seen Star Wars at some point.

[All present — with the exception of The Good Reader — engage in one massive rollicking communal eye roll]

Leonard Nimoy:  It is undoubtedly amusing to make lists of words beginning with ‘t’ in the hope of gaining insight into what it means for a thing to be ‘treadknicious’. But…

[Nimoy hesitates, as if bracing himself for what he knows is coming next]

Everybody:  Say it, say it, say it, say it, say it, say it, say it.

Leonard Nimoy:  [sigh] …it is not logical.

The Blogger:  I was SO hoping you would say that at some point.

Leonard Nimoy:  Happy to oblige. It is every actor’s dream to be permanently ossified as a character he played on TV 50 years ago.

William Shatner:  Especially dead ones.

The Blogger:  What?

William Shatner:  Dead actors. Didn’t you know? Leonard Nimoy has gone on to his eternal reward. Frankly, i don’t know how you got him to participate in this little panel discussion. He’s deader than a doornail.

George Takei:  Yet he hasn’t lost his mojo. There are many among us who should do as well.

William Shatner:  Hey, i resemble that remark! Look, at least i have the virtue of being very much alive.

George Takei:  Expert opinion is divided on that point.

The Blogger:  [indicating “time out” with his hands]  So, fellas, fellas, are we any closer to determining whether tribbles are treadknicious?

William Shatner:  It’s a terribly tantalizing train of inTerrogation.

George Takei:  Please, just stop. I promise i’ll never bring up the wedding issue again.

 

Epilogue:  A word on the relationship between Takei and Shatner

A simple Google or YouTube search will unearth a gold mine of material dealing with the ongoing feud between William Shatner and George Takei, including the burning issue of whether Shatner was invited to, and subsequently chose not to attend, a certain public event in which Takei was one of the, er, main participants. Some of the language i have here placed in their mouths comes pretty close to being a literal transcript of statements the two of them have made in interviews.

Second Epilogue:  Leonard Nimoy’s immortal “Bilbo Baggins” song

You haven’t fully experienced the range of Leonard Nimoy’s talent if you’ve not heard, or seen the video for, his song The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins (1967). It will turn your world inside-out. For what it’s worth, Nimoy has also authored a number of books over the years, including several volumes of sentimental poetry with titles like Will I Think of You? and We Are All Children Searching for Love. I guess when your public reputation has been built on the character of an emotionless Vulcan, you may want to go out of your way to establish your street cred as a man of deep feeling.

Third Epilogue:  Shatner’s out-of-this-world rendition of “Rocket Man”

Nimoy had his “Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”… and Shatner had his “Rocket Man.” This performance of the classic Elton John / Bernie Taupin song Rocket Man is equal parts hilarious, cringe-worthy, and in a strange way, insanely cool. And i think it’s gonna be a long, long time ’til i can hear Elton John’s original version without thinking of William Shatner’s sendup of it.

 

 

Honestly, ARE All Flockbinkers Really Treadknicious?

From time to time on this blog, we find it necessary to go back and reinforce the basics.

This blog, “All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious,” is ultimately about logic.

(Um, uhh, huh huh, well… sort of.)

And, in order to talk about logic, we find it helpful to introduce certain off-the-beaten-track terms like ‘flockbinker’ and ‘wamwam’ so as to illustrate various principles of logical inference. However, there will always be those readers who have trouble getting past the unusual sounding vocabulary. In fact, one such reader — let’s call her “The Timid Reader” (*) — appeared on the blog a couple of years ago and argued with us at some length about how she didn’t think we ought to be using unconventional terms. She thought it was needlessly confusing.

Here, if you’d like to read it, is a record of the exchange we had on that occasion.

At any rate, we’re about to offer another primer-level presentation on flockbinkers, so don’t be surprised if The Timid Reader once again shows up to criticize our use of terms.

 

The Blogger:  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

The Timid Reader:  Oh boy. Really? You’re still on about all the silly words?

The Blogger:  Well, if it’s not The Timid Reader! I had a strong suspicion that you might be showing up.

The Timid Reader:  You were baiting me. Of course i showed up. How could i not.

The Blogger:  Well, gosh, The Timid Reader, i hope you won’t find that your efforts have been wasted. What you insist on terming ‘silly words’ are simply placekeepers in a logical syllogism. Remember that word? Syllogism?

The Timid Reader:  Maybe.  [furrows brow]  Okay, go on. Pretend i’m not here.

The Blogger:  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

The Timid Reader:  What’s “flockbinkers”?

The Blogger:  [groans]  Never mind. It doesn’t matter. We’re doing a logic puzzle.

The Timid Reader:  Okay. All frockbingers are tardinorious.

The Blogger:  No. No. All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

The Timid Reader:  Dude, they’re nonsense words. How does it matter how i pronounce them.

The Blogger:  They’re not nonsense words. They’re, oh, hmmm, semiotic placekeepers.

The Timid Reader:  Um: okay.

The Blogger:  So, all flockbinkers are treadknicious.

The Timid Reader:  Fine. Okay. Make whatever peculiar sounds with your mouth that you want to.

The Blogger:  And some wamwams are flockbinkers.

The Timid Reader:  Obviously. Even my two-year-old nephew could have told us that. In fact, i think he said something like that just this past week.

The Blogger:  So, if all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and some wamwams are flockbinkers… then it follows logically that….

The Timid Reader:  I’m sorry, man, i don’t think you should be using the word ‘logic’ in the same sentence with the word ‘stockdreamer.’  Or whatever.

The Blogger:  The word is ‘flockbinker’. Just stay with me. All flockbinkers are treadknicious. Right? And some wamwams are flockbinkers.

The Timid Reader:  Even my baby nephew knows that.

The Blogger:  So what can we conclude, based on everything that we’ve just set forth?

The Timid Reader:  That somebody’s meds need to be adjusted.

The Blogger:  No. What we can conclude is that some wamwams are treadknicious.

The Timid Reader:  You know what, we need to bring my little nephew in here. He’d be better at this sort of thing than i am.

 

Epilogue…

 

Little Biffy:  Wow. This sounds suspiciously like a conversation Jennifer Smith and i had a while back.

Jennifer Smith:  It does! The Blogger is getting desperate and recycling his material.

 

* “The Timid Reader” is not the same person as “The Good Reader,” who is a regular on the blog. Well, that is, she’s probably not the same person — although, in certain other posts, there emerged evidence to the effect that they might be the same person, after all, perhaps operating under two different avatars. (If you’d like to explore the nuanced relationship between “The Good Reader” and “The Timid Reader,” you can check out this post, and also this one right here.) Then again, since “The Good Reader” is actually a personification of this blog’s readership in general, the issue becomes pretty darn ontologically confusing the deeper you delve into it.

 

There Are Two Kinds of People in the World. (It’s Not What You Think!)

No, it’s true. There are. There are two kinds of people in the world.

(You know it’s true. Come on. Seriously. Don’t even.)

And actually, while we’re talking about this, we must go on to observe that there are even more than that. There are at least seven billion kinds of people in the world, if you stop to think about it: one category for each individual human person.

But seven billion categories might be just a bit much for most of us to manage. Who can think about that many categories of people? Who’s got the time? Who’s that good at math? Seven billion? I have trouble remembering which cabinet i keep the Vienna Sausages in.

So it’s convenient to reduce all of those people down to just two categories.

And the two categories are:

1. The people with massive, grotesque tufts of fur poking out of their nostrils, and
2. The people who have at least one Led Zeppelin poster on their bedroom wall.

Those are the two categories of people in the world.

If those two categories don’t sound familiar to you, it may be because you aren’t very observant, or you’ve not done much heavy thinking about The Human Condition.

Or (and this is a possibility that, as philosophers, we must always be prepared to consider) it may be that something is wrong with the system of categories we’ve set forth.

Not that this last one is very likely — The Blogger wouldn’t have put something on his blog if it weren’t true — but we ought to explore it, y’know, just so as to be sure we’ve covered all the bases.

So: If there should happen to be something wrong with our two categories, what might that something be?


 

The Good Reader:  Where to start. I literally do not know where to start.

The Blogger:  An inauspicious beginning, The Good Reader! You’re going to have to do better than that.

The Good Reader:  [mumbles something that sounds as if it might be awfully un-ladylike, but we can’t tell for sure]

The Blogger:  What was that?

The Good Reader:  Wienerschnitzel.

The Blogger:  Excuse me?

The Good Reader:  I said “wienerschnitzel.” It’s an innocent enough word, but i find it convenient for blowing off steam.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  If i may step in at this moment, i think The Good Reader should be commended for her display of self-control.

The Good Reader:  THANK YOU.

The Blogger:  What in the world are YOU doing here, Wu? I wasn’t expecting you to show up on this post!

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Well, the topic was so interesting, i could hardly stay away!

The Good Reader:  And who is this courteous gentleman?

The Blogger:  What, you two haven’t met before?*  The Good Reader, this is Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major. Elvis, this is The Good Reader. She reads my blog and then dials in to deliver her (often tart) opinions.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The pleasure is entirely mine.

The Good Reader:  [blushing]

The Blogger:  So, Elvis, what makes you think this topic is so interesting?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Well, for one thing, it’s an area in which false dilemmas tend to thrive. And hunting down false dilemmas is one of my chief recreations.

The Good Reader:  What’s a false dilemma? The Blogger has probably tried to explain it to me at some point, but his explanations are murky and confusing.

The Blogger:  [reddening]  Well, now, i say, that’s just not —

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  A false dilemma is a situation where the person you’re talking to sets up two options as if they were the only two possibilities, and expects you to pick between them. Very often, they will make one of the options sound stupid or wrong, so that you will feel that you have to choose the other one. In reality, though, there may be other possibilities that have not been mentioned.

The Good Reader:  That makes sense! What’s an example?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Well, a great example would be the one that the Blogger led off with. He said that there are two categories of people in the world:

1. The people with massive, grotesque tufts of fur poking out of their nostrils, and
2. The people who have at least one led Zeppelin poster on their bedroom wall.

Now, it is entirely possible that those two categories do not cover the territory. There may be other kinds of people — many other kinds — and large numbers of people who do not fit into either of those groups. It’s a false dilemma.

The Good Reader:  Take me, for instance. I don’t particularly care about Led Zeppelin, and i don’t think i could even name one of their songs —

The Blogger:  [still bruised from The Good Reader’s comment a minute ago]  “Stairway to Heaven.” Everyone’s heard of that.

The Good Reader:  Okay, fine, but i certainly don’t have any Led Zeppelin posters on my walls. What are we, still in college?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Very good. And what about the other category?

The Good Reader:  Grotesque tufts of fur sticking out of my nostrils? I don’t THINK so. But you would be a better judge of that, from where you’re standing.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Not a bushy thicket of nose-hair anywhere to be seen.

The Blogger:  [sulking]  You two are interpreting my categories extremely literally.

The Good Reader:  Mister Wu, would you say that i have any figurative or metaphorical tufts of nose-hair?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Even in the realm of metaphor, i would say that you are blissfully nostril-hair-free. The fact is, those two categories are not even remotely parallel; they aren’t about the same kinds of things, and so they don’t divide the field of possibilities in any kind of sensible way. A person could, for instance, have a nose-hair problem and walls papered with Led Zeppelin posters. Or they could be in just one or the other of those categories, or, like most people, they could be in neither one.

The Blogger:  [rapidly losing patience]  We should maybe get back to the point, which is that there are numerous ways of dividing the human race up into two groups.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Absolutely! Perhaps an inexhaustible variety of ways. For instance, at a pretty basic level, there are (1) men and (2) women. There we have a set of two categories that divide the field pretty cleanly. Another scheme would be (1) people who are 5’6″ or taller, and (2) those who are shorter than that. Or (1) people who have traveled outside of their home country, and (2) those who have not. Or (1) people who are named “Taylor” and (2) those who are named something else.

The Blogger:  Or (1) the people who eat Corn Flakes at least three mornings a week, and (2) those who only eat them a couple of times per week.

The Good Reader:  What? That doesn’t sound right.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  I suspect, although i cannot be sure, that the Blogger is messing with us. He is challenging our powers of logical analysis.

The Blogger:  [slightly disoriented]  Um, exactly. That’s just what i was doing.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  What would you say, Good Reader, about the Blogger’s ‘Corn Flakes’ breakdown of people into two groups?

The Good Reader:  Well, i mean, it sounds like one of those false dilemmas you were talking about. I don’t think those two categories exhaust all the possibilities. What if someone never eats Corn Flakes at all? Or only a few times a year?

The Blogger:  Unthinkable!

The Good Reader:  How do those people fit into his categories? According to the Blogger’s setup, those people don’t even exist. But i have to say, i’ve only eaten Corn Flakes a few times in my life, and i don’t remember finding it a thrilling experience.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  They taste kind of like little chips of soggy cardboard, don’t they.

The Good Reader:  That’s exactly what they remind me of!

The Blogger:  What.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  In order to work properly, a categorization scheme needs to be complete; it can’t have gaps in it. We could say this, for instance: everyone on earth either (1) has tried Corn Flakes at some point, or (2) has not.

The Good Reader:  That seems to work. It doesn’t have any holes. It covers the territory, like you said earlier. Everyone in the world would have to fit into one of those two groups. No one would be left out.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  If we imagine all the human beings inside a vast circle, and we want to structure them into two groups, it would be like drawing a line from one side of the circle to the other. Everyone in the circle would be on one side of the line or the other —  they would be in one category of the other.

The Good Reader:  Why don’t you guys come up with a bunch more examples. Just for yuks. I think i’m getting the hang of this.

The Blogger:  Okay. Everyone on earth is either (1) a Patriots fan, or…

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Don’t say it.

The Good Reader:  What?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  [to The Good Reader]  He was going to say, “An Eagles fan.” But lots of people didn’t have a dog in that fight, as it were. Not everyone watches the Super Bowl, and not everyone cares who wins, and even of those who did watch this past Super Bowl, not everyone who was pulling for either the Patriots or the Eagles would have said that that was their favorite team. Maybe their favorite team didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, and they had to settle for a team they weren’t completely thrilled about.

The Good Reader:  So it would not be accurate to say that everyone is either a Patriots fan or an Eagles fan, but maybe you could say that everyone either (1) cares about football, or (2) doesn’t?

The Blogger:  Hrmmff. That would work.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  It would indeed. You can always get away with saying that everyone either has a certain attribute, or they do not. That’s a clean, perfect division. For instance, everyone is either an accountant, or something else. Everyone either has smoked a cigar at some point, or they have not. To put it in somewhat Aristotelian terms, everyone is either ‘A’ or ‘not-A.’ They either have a certain characteristic, or they do not.

The Blogger:  Either they fit into a certain category, or they do not, in which case they fit into the category of people who do not fit into the first category.

The Good Reader:  Um.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  [laughing]  That was actually a pretty good way of putting it. Take Fred, for instance.

The Good Reader:  Fred? Who’s Fred?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  He’s some hypothetical guy that we just made up. Now, Fred is either a barber, or he is not. Right? He can’t be both a barber and not a barber. That’s a logical impossibility. You can’t be something and, at the same time, not be that thing. And he can’t be neither a barber nor not a barber. There are only two possibilities: either he’s a barber, or he ain’t.

The Good Reader:  He could be a part-time barber.

The Blogger:  Then he’s a barber.

The Good Reader:  He… could be a guy who was once a barber, but now he works for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Then he’s not a barber.

The Good Reader:  He could be a barber sometimes, and not a barber sometimes.

The Blogger:  Then he’s a barber. Unless you’re saying that he fades in and out of existence. He’s a barber sometimes, and at other times he gets sucked into the insubstantial ether of the vast cosmic void.

The Good Reader:  Um, no.

The Blogger:  Good. Because that would complicate things somewhat. He’s a barber.

The Good Reader:  Hmmm. Okay. what are some other examples?

The Blogger:  Everyone either makes $40,000 or more dollars, or they make less than that.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Everyone either thinks that Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here was the greatest album of the 1970s, or they do not.

The Blogger:  Everyone either has an authentic Wish You Were Here concert tour shirt, or they do not.

The Good Reader:  Wait. That first category has got to be a tiny one. Is that fair? What if one category is WAAAAYYY bigger than the other? Is that a good way of dividing the human race up into groups?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  There’s no rule that says the two groups have to be equal in size. We could say, for instance, “There are two groups of people in the world: (1) those who are currently the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and (2) those who are not.”

The Good Reader:  But there would only be one person in that first group. And like seven billion in the other group!

The Blogger:  Mmm-hmm.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  That’s the point. It’s still a perfectly valid way of divvying up the human race.

The Good Reader:  Okay. Whew! A few more examples, and then i’m out.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The people who have read David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, and those who have not.

The Blogger:  The people who live in a certain remote village in Botswana, Africa, and the people who live somewhere else.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The people who have ever, at some time, even once, been picked first for a team in gym class… and those who never have.

[All three look kind of sad, and the conversation continues.]

The Blogger:  The people who have tried that broccoli slaw they’ve got at the deli counter at The Fresh Market, and those who haven’t.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The people who own a pet that can talk and weighs less than ten pounds, and those who do not.

The Blogger:  The people who have ever gone trick-or-treating dressed as Conan O’Brien’s haircut, and those who never have.

The Good Reader:  You mean, dressed as Conan O’Brien, complete with the haircut?

The Blogger:  No, i mean they are going as Conan O’Brien’s haircut. The haircut, specifically. “And what’s your costume?” someone might ask them, and they would reply, “I’m Conan O’Brien’s haircut.”

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The people who have watched that episode of House, M.D. in which Dr. House has himself admitted to a psychiatric hospital, and those who somehow missed that one.

The Blogger:  Man, that was a hard-hitting episode.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Yeah, it really caught me right here.  [He indicates the middle of his chest.]

The Blogger:  The people who have something hanging from their rear-view mirror, and those who do not.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Ah, but that’s assuming that everyone has a car.

The Blogger:  No, the people who don’t have a car go in the category of people who don’t have something hanging from their rear-view mirror.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  Touche! Nice one. Good game.

 

* Actually, if you’ve been following the blog, you’re aware that Elvis Wu and The Good Reader have met before, once, at a Christmas party the Blogger threw for some of the people he populates his blog with. But you know how these fictional online characters can be: selective amnesia, not very good with faces and names, that sort of thing.

 

In Which the Blogger Learns that a Photographer Is Not the Same Thing as “Being Stupid.”

Let’s just be honest. Odd things happen, from time to time, on this blog.

The Good Reader:  Odd things happen routinely on this blog. In fact, i think it’s safe to say that if something is found on this blog, it is by definition an odd thing.

The Blogger:  [being all sly and stuff]  Ah! But, The Good Reader, YOU are a regular on this blog.

The Good Reader:  Hrrmmmff.  [disappears in a puff of virtual smoke]

As we were observing a moment ago, it is not unusual for unusual things to happen on this blog. Usually. This means that, as a reader of this blog, you must not be surprised no matter WHAT happens. Indeed, the good reader will quickly discern…

Waittasecond, who are you? YOU’RE not The Good Reader!

The Photographer:  I don’t know what you mean. I’m an excellent reader!

The Blogger:  That’s not what i meant. You see —

The Photographer:  I read all the time. I’ve even been reading your blog lately.

The Blogger:  That’s terrific! But what i —

The Photographer:  I don’t have any trouble reading, and i’m mildly insulted that you would imply that i can’t read.

The Blogger:  That’s not what i meant at all! I simply —

The Photographer:  I’ve been doing all of my own reading since i was 26.

The Blogger:  There’s no doubt of that.

The Photographer:  I intended that as a joke. Of course i could read when i was 26. Geez.

The Blogger:  Right. Um. So, okay, here’s what i’m trying to say. The expression ‘The Good Reader’ as used on this blog is how i characterize my readership in general, and sometimes, ahem, one of my regulars in particular.

The Photographer:  Ah! I get it. And i’m not him.

The Blogger:  Her. At least, i think it’s a her. When it comes to the readers of this blog, you can never be 100% sure what you’re dealing with.

The Photographer:  If it helps, i’m a her as well.

The Blogger:  Excellent! And i can see from the script we’re both embedded in, that you’re a photographer.

The Photographer:  What?

The Blogger:  A photographer. Someone who takes pictures.

The Photographer:  I know what a photographer is. I meant, what script are you talking about?

The Blogger:  The script that we’re both embedded in.

The Photographer:  The script that we’re both embedded in…

The Blogger:  The very one.

The Photographer:  Either you’re attempting to be poetic, or your doctor probably needs to change the dosage.

The Blogger:  Heh heh. That was clever. Tell you what: this little discussion of the script is throwing us off the point. Maybe we should leave that to one side for now.

The Photographer:  No argument from me.

The Blogger:  So, Photographer, what brings you to my little blog?

The Photographer:  I thought it looked really interesting. Philosophy and flockbinkers and unicorns and strange conversations and funny quizzes: it’s my kind of entertainment.

The Blogger:  Wow, that’s great! And you’ve been able to keep up?

The Photographer:  Able… huh? Able to keep up?

The Blogger:  You know. You’ve been able to track with us. You’ve understood everything. You haven’t felt left behind.

The Photographer:  I’m a photographer. That’s not the same thing as being stupid.

The Blogger:  Oops. Right. Heh heh. Of course.

The Photographer:  And i’m also an artist. I create abstract images using photographs as raw material.

The Blogger:  That sounds impressive! I imagine that sort of thing must require a certain kind of intelligence.

The Photographer:  Oh my gosh, did you just patronize me in the most appalling way imaginable?

The Good Reader:  Don’t feel too bad. He does that kind of thing to me all the time. All. The. Time.

The Photographer:  Really? And you put up with it?

The Good Reader:  Not exactly. He’s got some battle-wounds. Ask him about it.

The Photographer:  You go, girl! Well, anyway, here’s what my work requires of me, and you, Blogger, can decide whether you think it involves ‘intelligence.’

The Blogger:  Fair enough. Lay it on me.

The Photographer:  I select one or more photographs, not just for content but for texture, line and color, and i create a geometric matrix within which the visual field is structured using the elements of the photo as source material, analyzing the raw content in terms of not just line, color, texture and subject-matter, but also positive and negative spaces, patterns of energy and movement, reconstructed form, and i shape all of that into re-visioned aesthetic structures while trying to, at some level, respect the integrity of the source material.

The Blogger:  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Photographer:  Which, i suppose, makes me a kind of visual philosopher. Maybe.

The Blogger:  [recovering composure]  Jeepers.

The Photographer:  Well, you did want to hear about what i do.

The Blogger:  Yes. Yes, i did, and i am impressed.

The Photographer:  Why thank you.

The Blogger:  I must say, these are uncharted waters, Photographer.

The Good Reader:  I like this one. I hope she sticks around.

The Blogger:  Me too!

The Photographer:  Me too! Oh, wait.

The Long-Awaited Flockbinker Pop Quiz #2!

From time to time… well, let’s just be brutally honest, about once every couple of years… the Blogger undertakes to test how closely attentive his readers have been. The first time we offered a pop quiz on this blog (“Your Very First ‘Flockbinkers’ Pop Quiz“) the thing really was a roaring success, and….

The Good Reader:  That’s not how i remember it. I seem to recall that lots of people were seriously bothered by it. Many of your readers found it confusing and pointless. People accused you of mocking the very idea of philosophy. You got hate mail. You even had to devote a whole post to MY objections. And i’m your most devoted fan.

The Blogger:  Oh, golly, The Good Reader, this really isn’t the time or the place….

The Good Reader:  That first Pop Quiz was a bizarre mishmash of random silliness and even more random silliness; and the one thing it was NOT, was an informative test of anybody’s knowledge of philosophy, or of anything else.

The Blogger:  It seems to me that we’ve covered all of this ground before, haven’t we? Anyway, Good Reader, i’ve turned over a new leaf. I’m a changed man. I no longer include strange, sad attempts at humor or oddball bursts of surreal self-referentiality in my quizzes. You’ll see.

The Good Reader:  Hrmmff. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and at least have a look.

The Blogger:  Although, be warned, you know i can’t control what the readers are gonna do once they start taking the quiz and getting into discussions with each other about what the right answers are.

The Good Reader:  No. Just no. Do not do that again. Don’t even think about it. See, that’s just the sort of nonsense that i’m talking about!

The Blogger:  Hey, what? It’s not me doing it, it’s the people taking the quiz! I can’t control people who have free will and internet access.

The Good Reader:  You are so full of baloney! You and i both know that it’s you inventing those “readers” who are “taking the quiz” so that you can get a few cheap laughs.

The Blogger:  Oops, ahem… will you look at the time! Sorry, The Good Reader, i’m afraid we’re gonna have to wrap up this introduction. Onward ho, to the long-awaited follow-up to that first, epic quiz. It’s been a couple of years, and we’ve covered a lot of territory since then!

Your answers, o my faithful readers, to the following ten questions (each with ten possible answers, numbered ‘a’ through ‘j’) should give a fair indication of whether you’ve been paying attention of not.

 

1.  According to this post that went up during the last week of October — later supplemented by this follow-up post (“A Philosopher Hands out Candy — and Philosophy Classics — to Trick-or-Treaters“), which of the following are terrific ideas for something to identify as, for Hallowe’en?

a.  A character that Jane Austen would have included in her novel Persuasion, if only she’d known what she was doing as an author.

b.  An accident over on Aisle Five involving a small child, a rogue shopping cart, and several dozen boxes of breakfast cereal.

c.  A family of five aliens whose civilization has been destroyed by other, even meaner aliens from a neighboring planet.

d.  Your Mom.

e.  A mathematical impossibility.

f.  The vicissitudes of Justin Bieber’s career.

g.  A duck.

h.  The entire inventory of a Dollar Tree.

i.  Conan O’Brien’s haircut.

j.  Conan O’Brien’s bank account, including whatever he’s got hidden away offshore.

 

2.  As represented in a recent post to this blog, which of the following might accurately be said of Confucius and the Buddha when they are dining together in a public restaurant?

a.  Confucius has a rough time getting Buddha to stay on task, i.e. look at the menu and decide what he wants to order.

b.  Buddha has a distressing tendency to say mysterious, metaphysically odd things to the server, who — bless his heart — is just trying to find out what they want to eat.

c.  Confucius and the Buddha are frequently joined by Lao Tzu, Mo Tzu, Mao Tse-Tung, The Wu Tang Clan, Amy Tan, Bruce Lee, Chuck D, and Fred Ho — the proprietor of a little Chinese short order place on Market St.

d.  Buddha has an appalling habit of chewing with his mouth open, a habit which sends Confucius around the bend.

e.  Confucius tends to talk in phrases that sound like they came out of a fortune cookie: i.e. “You will come into an unexpected sum of money.”

f.  Both Confucius and the Buddha tend to order off-menu; for instance, “No, i want you to bring the goat in here and kill it right next to our table so we can see if you’ve done it properly.”

g.  Buddha’s tendency to fade in and out of nirvana is not only problematic for their interactions with the waitstaff, but infuriating to Confucius, who considers such antics to be out of keeping with proper social decorum.

h.  Their favorite restaurant is Panda Express, followed by Logan’s Roadhouse, Taco Bell, and CiCi’s Pizza.

i.  Buddha never tires of pulling out his favorite joke, “Make me one with everything.”

j.  Confucius tends to have a way with the ladies, which may have been all cool and stuff in the 500s BC, but can get you into seriously hot water in the year 2017.

 

3.  Which of these statements is the Buddha unlikely to have said?

a.  The self is an illusion.

b.  The self is an elf on a shelf.

c.  The self is in a state of constant evolution, and is in fact living under an assumed name in a duplex in Des Plaines, Illinois.

d.  Make me One with Everything.

e.  Make me one with two patties — medium-well — double-cheese, hold the lettuce, and could i have some of those little hot peppers?

f.  To achieve enlightenment, you must follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

g.  To achieve enlightenment, you must follow the Yellow Brick Road.

h.  Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

i.  I have heard the sound of one hand clapping… geez, is this an audience, or an oil painting?

j.  To transcend the limitations of the physical form, you must gaze into the yawning emptiness of the infinite abyss… naw, i’m kidding, i’m kidding. Calm down! I didn’t mean it! Jeepers! You people.

 

4.  In a recent post to this blog (The Blogger Encounters the Security Guard), an interesting discussion occurs between two philosophers representing very different walks of life. Which of the following took place during that discussion?

a.  The Blogger is surprised to find a philosopher working security at a medical center.

b.  The Blogger is even more surprised to find a medical center located in the middle of the seventh hole at Bud’s Putt Putt Golf Paradise.

c.  The blogger and the security guard agree that philosophy is no longer popular or well understood among the masses.

d.  The blogger and the security guard agree, furthermore, that the KFC on Highway 2 needs to bring back their all-you-can-scarf-down buffet.

e.  The Security Guard takes out a criminal by sheer force of logical argument.

f.  The Security Guard takes out a criminal by quoting to him the first 357 lines of Beowulf, in the original Anglo-Saxon.

g.  The security guard takes out a criminal and pays for dinner and drinks, but not the movie… who can afford 12 bucks for a movie on a security guard’s wages?

h.  The security guard is frustrated over constantly being mistaken for a moron.

i.  The security guard is frustrated over constantly being mistaken for Kevin James.

j.  The blogger and the security guard discuss the fact that security guards, in general, tend to be viewed as intellectual giants with a vast breadth of knowledge of history, philosophy, the sciences, literature and the fine arts.

 

5.  Logical syllogisms, as represented in the recent post “Now, Boys and Girls, Let’s Look at Some Syllogisms“….

a.  are typically made up of two premises and a conclusion.

b.  are often regarded as the basic building blocks of a logical argument.

c.  are examples of deductive reasoning.

d.  are generally regarded as superior to ‘illogical syllogisms,’ because hey, honestly, what would even be the point?

e.  sometimes get into frustrating conflicts with emotional syllogisms.

f.  are kind of like recipes, and kind of like instruction manuals, and kind of like graphic novels, and kind of like Shakespeare’s play “A Comedy of Errors.”

g.  very often have technical terms in them like ‘flockbinker’ and ‘wamwam’ and ‘throckwhistle’ and ‘ooga-booga.’

h.  were pioneered by classical philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle, Peter Abelard, John Duns Scotus, and Christopher Walken.

i.  form the basis for several popular party games.

j.  can be found in the darnedest places, like, oh, for instance, the third stall from the end in the men’s room at the Carmike 18 Theater over on South Terrace Road.

 

6.  Flockbinkers and unicorns…

a.  are probably not the same thing, and certainly don’t hang out at the same nightclubs.

b.  are both (probably) varieties of small slippery fishes with eight legs and a stinger.

c.  have this in common: that they both refuse to eat cheese sandwiches that have had the crust trimmed off.

d.  are rarely seen together in public, but can occasionally be found together on medieval tapestries.

e.  have this in common: that they are both awfully fun to say out loud. I mean, seriously: “Flockbinker.” “Unicorn.”  Dude, i’m in stitches!

f.  are both nonexistent, but in different ways.

g.  Wait, how can two nonexistent things be nonexistent “in different ways?” Either something exists, or it doesn’t.

h.  Well that just shows how much you know about philosophy. Blogger, may i make a suggestion? Perhaps the younger ones should be given a simpler quiz.

i.  “The younger ones”…? Why, you slimeball, i oughta….

j.  Hey guys, sorry to arrive late to the party. May i toss my two cents’ worth in? About nonexistent things being nonexistent in different ways? Like, maybe, Moby-Dick is one kind of nonexistent, and a square circle is a different kind of nonexistent, and an efficiently run government bureau is even a different kind of nonexistent. I’m just spitballin’ here.

j2.  Oh, my gosh, i’m surrounded. These people are everywhere. Beam me up, Scotty.

 

7.  Which of the following statements can accurately be made of ‘Horse People’…? You may refer to this post from a couple of years ago if you need a refresher on what ‘horse people’ are.

a.  Horse People are essentially indistinguishable from unicorn people.

b.  Horse people and unicorn people are two completely different categories. A unicorn person would not be caught dead owning a regular horse, and many horse people don’t even believe in the existence of unicorns.

c.  Horse People are not at all the same people as the people who travel to neighboring planets in a space vehicle made by strapping 40 toaster-ovens together.

d.  Horse People tend often (but not always) to also be into centaurs, though not usually those winged horses, which honestly are not even a real thing.

e.  Horse People constitute one major category of humanity, the other category being ‘guinea pig people.’

f.  Expert opinion is divided on the issue of whether people who would be into horses, if they were ever exposed to one, ought to be considered ‘horse people’ or merely ‘people.’

g.  Horse People generally, and for reasons not yet fully understood, have difficulty distinguishing between flockbinkers and wamwams.

h.  Horse People are not necessarily all that good at navigating taxonomical frameworks.

i.  Horse People can be mighty touchy when you try to apply philosophical analysis to their putative truth-claims.

j.  There is a tiny subset of horse people called “horse with no name people.” These people are often found in deserts and have selective memory issues.

 

8. Which of the following statements would be true in reference to ontology and categories?

a.  Ontology is that branch of philosophy that deals with being: what existence is, what it means for something to exist, what kinds of things there are, and how they are related to each other.

b.  “Ontology, shmontology” is a statement often heard around philosophy conferences.

c.  One of the more interesting debates in ancient and medieval philosophy concerned the question of how ‘real’ categories are. Do categories actually exist, or only the things in them? Are categories mere conveniences that we develop in order to make sense of our world? All of that, by the way, was one answer to the question.

d.  Scattergories is a great game for training kids in the basics of philosophy.

e.  A few more good philosophy games would include “Go Fish,” “Twister,” and “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.” Cow tipping is also a favorite.

f.  There are two kinds of people in the world: those who enjoy setting up categories, and those who do not.

g.  Heh heh, i saw what you did there.

h.  Dude, this is a quiz. You can’t just randomly make comments in the section that’s supposed to be for the answers to the questions.

i.  Well, i can, and i just did. Maybe you’d like to try doing something about it.

j.  I have never been more terrified in my life. I am literally trembling in my boots.

j-point-5.  Come over here and say that. Come on. Come on. Let’s see what you got.

j-point-7.  Fellas, fellas, geez, can you take it outside? We’re trying to run a quiz here.

 

9. Which of the following can accurately be said of philosophy?

a.  Philosophy is a fool’s game.

b.  Philosophy is something your mom would probably really get into.

c.  Philosophy is a rapidly disappearing intellectual discipline.

d.  Philosophy is for people who lack the people-skills to go into business, and aren’t coordinated enough to operate heavy machinery.

e.  You’ll very likely be better at Philosophy if you have a Greek or German name, than if your name is, oh, for instance, Donnie McDonald.

f.  Philosophy concerns mainly a bunch of fancy terms and arguments about obscure things like the ontological status of your mom.

g.  Dude, the  references to someone’s mom stopped being funny a long time ago.

h.  Hey, big fella, why don’t you do you. Hmmm? I’ll do me, and you do you.

i.  Please. “You do you” is one of the most incoherent suggestions you can make to somebody, right up there with “be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.”

j.  Watch it, son, now you’re getting personal. I’ve got that one about “be yourself” as wallpaper on my computer screen.

j-and-one-third.  Fellas! Please! Seriously, we’re trying to conduct a quiz here. Take the argument outside.

 

10. Which of the following are characters that have, at some point or another, made an appearance on this blog?

a.  Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major

b.  Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith

c.  Confucius and the Buddha

d.  Smokey and the Bandit

e.  The Captain and Tennille

f.  Three Scotsmen sitting on a fence

g.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

h.  The Lone Rider of the Apocalypse

i.  The Blogger

j.  The Good Reader

j.1.  The Decent Reader, So Long as the Book Isn’t Too Long

j.2.  The Reader Who Struggles with Words of More than Two Syllables

j.25.  Chuck Norris

j.5.  Your Mom

j.75.  The kid with the wonky nose and a haircut that looks like an abstract sculpture gone terribly wrong, who works at the McDonald’s on E. 3rd Street

j.9.  A mob of crazed orangutans, pelting good boys named ‘James’ with frozen waffles

j.92715.  A mob of boys named ‘James,’ pelting crazed orangutans with frozen waffles

 

Epilogue

The Good Reader:  I knew it. I knew he was going to do it again. I just knew it.

 

 

Now, Boys and Girls, Let’s Look at Some Syllogisms

Is it just me, or has it been entirely too long since we’ve explored the exciting world of how to construct a sound logical syllogism?

A Voice from Near the Back of the Auditorium:  Pretty sure it’s just you.

Heh heh. Terrific. Thanks. Ahem. So, why don’t we refresh our memories regarding what a ‘logical syllogism’ is and how they function as components in an argument.

A Voice from Near the Back of the Auditorium:  Let’s not, and say we did.

Mmmmm. Pardon me one moment.

“Ushers? We appear to have a situ — very good. Yes. Thank you.”

Glad that’s taken care of. You can’t always control who ends up in your audience.

So, anyway, for those of us who could use a reminder, or are perhaps new to the blog, a syllogism is like the basic building block of a logical argument. Each syllogism is made up of three statements: the first two are the ‘premises,’ and the third statement is the ‘conclusion.’ The two premises introduce a set of ideas which, if understood correctly, lead necessarily to the conclusion.

Here, let me show you.

1. All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

2. Some wamwams are flockbinkers.

3. Therefore, some wamwams are treadknicious.

As you can clearly see, if the first two statements — the premises — are true, then the conclusion is bang-on. This is how a syllogism is supposed to work. The premises give you all the information you need to start out with, and if everything is set up right, the conclusion should naturally follow.

Here’s another example.

1. All Republicrats are freemish.

2. Some Democricans are Republicrats.

3. Therefore, some Democricans are freemish.

“But wait a second!” you say.  “This is the same exact thing as that ‘All flockbinkers are treadknicious’ syllogism, but with a different set of silly words inserted into it.”

Ah, excellent reader, how good of you to pick up on that!  And, indeed, the two syllogisms might be, sort of, the same thing — if all of the ‘silly words’ (as you have so uncharitably labeled them) are not only functionally but semantically equivalent. But that’s assuming an awful lot, isn’t it! (And you know what happens when we assume.) What makes you so sure, good reader, that a ‘flockbinker’ and a ‘Republicrat’ are the same thing?

The Good Reader:  All meaningless words are the same thing. They all mean, and i quote, ‘diddly-squat.’

The Blogger:  But i disagree. Perhaps different nonsense terms indicate different categories of nonsense?

The Good Reader:  Nonsense is nonsense! How can there be different ‘categories’ of nonsense? It’s all nonsense! Nonsense nonsense nonsense.

The Blogger:  Well, what if the term ‘wamwam’ occupies a certain semantic territory, albeit one that does not correspond to any actual existent thing or category of things, while the term ‘republicrat’ occupies a different semantic territory?

The Good Reader:  That did not EVEN mean anything. You’re stalling.

The Blogger:  Of course it did! Perhaps if i were to use more simple language… in deference to your elementary grasp of philosophy….

The Good Reader:  [mutters something under her breath that does not sound nice]

The Blogger:  Allright. Try this. What if there are modalities of meaning, some of which are attached to existent entities and some of which are attached merely to mental images, or even to nodules of possibility that correspond to no intelligible image or idea?

The Good Reader:  You’re boring me.

Okay, okay, enough. We probably need to cut our losses on that one. Jeepers. Our first examples seem not to have gone over very well.

So here’s a syllogism in which all of the terms are ordinary, recognizable words.

1. If James is a good boy, he will be pelted with frozen waffles by a mob of crazed orangutans.

2. James is not a good boy.

3. Therefore, James need not worry about being pelted with frozen waffles by a mob of crazed orangutans.

Random Reader of the Blog, Who Is Not Specifically ‘The Good Reader’, But Who Is Nevertheless a Good Reader, and Who Raises His hand, Indicating That He Wishes to Volunteer to Analyze This Syllogism:

I’ve got this.

Um, right off the top of my head, i can see three problems with your… oh, what was the word you used? Syllogism? I think that was the word. And here they are.

Problem #1:  Being pelted with frozen waffles by a mob of crazed orangutans is not a real thing. This does not ever happen. It just doesn’t. Literally no one has experienced this. The Blogger is scraping the bottom of a nonexistent barrel.

Problem #2: Even if it were a thing, it is highly unlikely that being pelted with frozen waffles by a mob of crazed orangutans would be the consequence of being a good boy. When you’re a good boy, the teacher gives you an ‘S’ for ‘satisfactory’ in the behavior section of your report card. Orangutans, crazed or sober, are not involved.

Problem #3: Even if crazed orangutans throwing frozen waffles were a real thing, and even if this were the sort of thing a good boy might expect to happen to him, there’s no reason to assume that one could not be pelted with frozen waffles (by a mob of crazed orangutans) even if one were not a good boy. Maybe there just happens to be a mob of crazed orangutans roaming the neighborhood, pelting people indiscriminately with frozen waffles. They don’t care whether you’ve been a good boy or not. They don’t know. They can’t even tell the difference. Dude. They are crazed orangutans.

So for those three reasons, and probably some more that i haven’t noticed, this syllogism is a disaster.

Back to you, Blogger.

Darn it. I hate to admit it, but Random Reader of the Blog has scored some decent points there. Hey, fella, toss me an email later on… i may have a job for you on this blog.

So. That syllogism turns out to have been a wash; let’s try one last one.

1. No flockbinkers are unicorns.

2. A unicorn is a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger.

3. Therefore, a flockbinker is not a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger.

And i’ll just go ahead and start you out with a hint: The syllogism is invalid.

The Good Reader:  Invalid! Duh. Of course it’s not valid. There are so many things wrong with that one, i don’t EVEN know where to begin!”

The Blogger:  I see that The Good Reader has once again made an appearance. Well, Good Reader, lay it on us. What’s the problem here?

The Good Reader:  There are skoozoos of problems. To begin with…

The Blogger:  One moment, please. Did you actually say, “skoozoos of problems”…?

The Good Reader:  I did.

The Blogger:  I’ve never heard that one before. Hmmm. Interesting. Well, okay, carry on.

The Good Reader:  Right. First off, how can we know that no flockbinkers are unicorns?

The Blogger:  Well, i mean, golly, they just aren’t!

The Good Reader:  That’s the best you’ve got…?

The Blogger:  Let’s just say this: say we are positing, for the sake of argument, that ‘flockbinker’ and ‘unicorn’ are mutually exclusive categories.

The Good Reader:  Fine. That’s pretty arbitrary, but whatever. So then let’s go on to the next thing, which is your totally false definition of ‘unicorn’.

The Blogger:  False definition? What? Where?

The Good Reader:  You claim in this syllogism that a unicorn is “a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger.”

The Blogger:  Okay. So?

The Good Reader:  That’s not even a good definition of a fish, much less a unicorn! A fish can’t have eight legs. It wouldn’t be a fish. It would be… an arachnid? Or something.

The Blogger:  But unicorns don’t exist, so how can there be a true or a false definition of one? Hah! I’ve got you there.

The Good Reader:  So… Okay. Here’s this. Dumbo the Elephant has a six-cylinder engine, seventeen heads, ginger ale for blood, and he eats postal delivery workers for breakfast.

The Blogger:  What? That’s not right! Dumbo isn’t anything like that!

The Good Reader:  Ah, but he’s a fictional character, he doesn’t exist, so, according to you, i can define him any way i want to.  [makes a highly unattractive ‘neener, neener’ face that her mother would find most frightfully disappointing]

The Blogger:  Well, um, we could discuss at some length the issue of what it means to say that Dumbo ‘does not exist’….

The Good Reader:  …and we could apply the exact same criteria to whether unicorns exist or not. Surely you’re not saying that Dumbo the Ohmigosh Stupid Fictional Elephant is somehow more real than a unicorn…?

The Blogger:  Well…no.

The Good Reader:  I didn’t think so.

The Blogger:  So, for the sake of the argument, a unicorn could STILL be a “small, slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger.” We just define him that way, by fiat. In this syllogism, that’s what a unicorn is.

The Good Reader:  So syllogisms don’t have to have even a remote connection to reality. Logic is for dreamers and drug users and Tim Burton and people in psychiatric hospitals.

The Blogger:  Um, no.

The Good Reader:  And anyway, you yourself said that this particular syllogism is invalid. Right?

The Blogger:  I did. You just haven’t discovered the reason why it’s invalid yet.

The Good Reader:  I’ve pointed out that it’s made up of bizarre garbled incoherent hash. You want more than that?

The Blogger:  Well, to be exact, you haven’t really….

The Good Reader:  So, Mister Blogger, why would you say that it’s invalid, if not for the fact that you haven’t defined a single thing correctly in it?

The Blogger:  Well, a flockbinker could still be a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger, even if it’s not a unicorn. Maybe there’s more than one kind of animal that’s a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger. A unicorn is one kind, and a flockbinker is a different kind.

The Good Reader:  I hereby accuse you of the excessive use of alcohol.

The Blogger:  No, really, it works. Think it through. Draw a diagram if you have to.

The Good Reader:  If you want to represent logic to your readers as being a truckload of absurdity that’s completely useless for actually figuring anything out in the real world, go right ahead.  [*sigh*]

The Blogger:  See, here’s the circle that includes all of the unicorns, and here’s the circle that includes all of the flockbinkers —

The Good Reader:  Someone kill me now.

The Blogger:  And notice that, even though the two circles don’t overlap, they could still both contain different kinds of small slippery fish with —

The Good Reader:  Make it painless, if possible, but i’m ready to go.

 

Here’s Another Philosophy Joke: Confucius, Aristotle, and a Flockbinker Go into a Bar

“So, Okay: Confucius, Aristotle, and a flockbinker go into a bar, see….”

And the bartender says, “We don’t serve your kind here.”

Confucius say,[*] “I take offense at that completely inappropriate racial slur!”

And the bartender says, “No, look, I wasn’t talking about you.  I was referring to…that.”  And he points at the flockbinker.

“Oh,” say Confucius.  “Well, alrighty then.”

All eyes in the room turn toward the flockbinker.

Aristotle says, “Let us be clear. You are saying that it is the policy of your restaurant not to serve flockbinkers?”

“What?” says the bartender.

“This,” explains Aristotle, indicating the flockbinker, “is a flockbinker.”

“I don’t care what fancy name you wanna call it,” rejoins the barkeeper. “We don’t serve it, that’s what i’m saying.”

Aristotle says, “You introduce an interesting question.  Since we are uncertain of the ontological status of flockbinkers, it’s difficult to know what you mean by its ‘kind.’  You said that you don’t serve its ‘kind’ here. In your judgment, what ‘kind’ is he?”

The bartender replies, “Everybody’s gotta be a smart aleck.  Look, all i’m saying, we don’t serve those”—and here he again indicates the flockbinker—“in this here respectable establishment.”

“And why would that be,” demands Aristotle, “if you can’t even categorize him?  How do you know whether he belongs in the category ‘things we don’t serve here’?  Does your policy apply to all entities that are treadknicious?”

“Tred—what?”

“Treadknicious.  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.  Surely everyone knows that.”

The bartender squints at Aristotle, as if looking at a particularly appalling insect that has landed in his bowl of cereal.

“Flockbinkers are treadknicious,” continues Aristotle. “All of them. It is less clear, however, whether there might be other things (besides flockbinkers) that are also treadknicious. So does your policy extend to all members of the class ‘things that are treadknicious,’ whether flockbinkers or something else…?”

The bartender stares at Aristotle, as if studying a worm that has been opened up for dissection in a high school biology class.

Confucius add, “What my distinguished colleague is getting at is this: what is it about our little friend here” — and he indicates the flockbinker — “that makes you want to ban it from the premises?”

“Frockbinger,” says the flockbinker, breaking its silence.

Confucius and Aristotle turn to stare at it. Who knew flockbinkers could talk?

The bartender is losing patience.  “Whatever it is, we don’t serve it!” he spurts.

In the meantime, the patrons of the bar have been taking a keen interest in this little exchange. One of them steps forward and, in a voice that reverberates with passion and antique Roman heroism, proclaims:  “I am a flockbinker!”

Then another customer steps forth, this one obviously an accountant, and says, in a tremulous voice, “I am a flockbinker!

One by one, just like in the famous scene from Spartacus, each of the bar’s patrons steps forth and states, “I am a flockbinker!”

Understandably, the bartender finds this turn of events perplexing. What’s he supposed to do, kick out all of his customers?

“The problem with basing policy decisions on poorly-conceived taxonomical frameworks,” explains Aristotle to the hapless bartender, “is that your categories can shift on you and ruin your plans.”

“Frockbinger,” explains the flockbinker, helpfully.

The bartender is just standing there, his hands hanging helplessly at his sides.

“You are going to meet an interesting stranger,” Confucius say.

“I beg your pardon?” says the bartender.

“I said, ‘You are going to meet an interesting stranger’,” repeat Confucius. “You know, it’s the sort of thing you might find in a fortune cookie. I suppose i ought to introduce myself. My name is Kung Fu Tzu, better known to the English-speaking world as Confucius.”

“Name’s Fred,” replies the dazed bartender, extending a hand.

“Well gee, THAT was somewhat irrelevant,” says Aristotle.

“Sorry,” say Confucius.  “I never go off duty.”

 

[Editor’s Note:  If you’ve not yet heard the one about Confucius and the Buddha meeting for dinner at Chili’s, you can find it right around here somewhere.]

[Another Editor’s Note:  If you were troubled by the grammar in the sections where Confucius is quoted as saying something, perhaps it just means you’re unfamiliar with the “Confucius say” corny joke convention.]

[Yet a Third Editor’s Note:  If, on the other hand, you were troubled by the fact that this blog has made use of the “Confucius say” corny joke convention — because you feel that it represents an inappropriate stereotyping of the speech patterns of ancient Chinese philosophers — then do by all means feel free to leave a scorching comment articulating your concerns. We love to hear from our readers.]

 

A Philosopher Hands out Candy (and Philosophy Classics) to Trick-or-Treaters

This year, for the first time in several decades — indeed, the first time in the entirety of my adult incarnation — i decided to do Hallowe’en.

I’ve never gotten really excited about Hallowe’en. As a philosopher, i feel a need to know what i’m celebrating when i observe a holiday, and Hallowe’en seems to be just a confusing hash of ancient pagan imagery, modern horror, Disney, magical unicorns, and contemporary kiddie-fied commercialization.

However, this year i decided to get with the program; you know, find out what everyone else has been experiencing all this time. And it seemed fitting that, as a philosopher, i should provide the kiddoes with a uniquely philosophical experience that they’d be unlikely to get at the other houses.

Upon discovering that some people like to dress up the front of their home to reflect the spirit of the holiday, i decided to make an attempt. I chose as my theme the decay of Western Civilization… the tragic, inexorable unraveling of more than two thousand years of achievement and tradition… the entropic deterioration of centuries’ worth of cultural advancement and rational thought… leaving a (metaphorically speaking) dilapidated, moss-grown, disintegrating ruin. The advantage here is that i didn’t really have to do anything to decorate. My front porch already looks like that.

Then i hauled a big cauldron onto my porch and loaded it up with goodies for the little trick-or-treaters. Finally, i put on my bow-tie and wire-rimmed spectacles (my ‘philosopher’ costume) and i was ready to go.

The evening, i must say, went very well.

By way of illustration, why don’t i narrate for you my encounters with three different batches of trick-or-treaters, each group interesting in its own way. Let’s start with a group of five children that came by pretty early on, while it was still light out.

 

Group One

“Greetings,” i said to the group at large. “Welcome to the Philosopher’s Haunted Den of the Breakdown of Western Civilization.”

They eyed the front of my house apprehensively, as if searching for a notice of condemnation by the building inspector.

“And what are you?” i asked the first kid who bravely stepped up to my porch.

“I’m Conan O’Brien’s haircut,” he explained.

“Ah!” i said. “Not bad. I can see it. An extremely accurate likeness. And you?” i asked the next kid.

“I’m an ocelot that identifies as a manatee that is actually a bottle of Dr. Pepper.”

“That’s exactly what i would have guessed. Very clever. Layers of ontological complexity. I like it.”

“And i,” said the next kid, an absolutely whacking redhead, “am a mathematical impossibility.”

“No kidding!” i said. “That’s amazing! Can you be more specific?”

“Sure,” she said. “I’m the square root of peace and love for all humankind.”

Dig,” i said. “Oh yeah. Wow. Can you dig it.”

We all sort of dug it for a few seconds.

“Yeah,” said Conan O’Brien’s haircut, quietly. “Crazy.”

“And what about you?” i asked the next kid.

In the most earnest, heartfelt voice i have ever heard emerge from the body of a human being, he said, “I am a single tear from the eye of a magical unicorn.”

“Well, of course you are,” i acknowledged. “Even a fool can see that. Good work.”

The fifth and last kid stepped forth boldly. “And what are you?” i asked.

“Your Mom,” he said, simply.

“Roger that,” i said, and reached into my cauldron to fish out goodies for each of the kids.

Now, i’m afraid we need to pause a moment before going on.

Most regular people, when preparing to receive trick-or-treaters, will stock up on Mounds mini-bars, Kit Kats, Jolly Ranchers, and those awful candy corn things. But do not forget that we are here dealing with a philosopher, not a normal person. My cauldron was stocked with something much better than candy: pocket paperback editions of some of the shorter philosophy classics. To wit: John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Rene Descartes’ Discourse on Method. Immanuel Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. And Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. By way of concession to the tastes of children, i also had a pile of 100 Grillion Dollar Bars in there. To sweeten the deal, as it were.

“For you,” i said to the one who’d identified as my Mom, “a copy of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, and a 100 Grillion Dollar Bar.”

“But it’s not real!” he demurred.

“What?” i said. “It is absolutely real! This is an authorized edition of the Tractatus!”

“I meant the 100 Grillion dollars.”

“Oh,” i said. “Hmmm. Define real.”

“Cool, a philosopher who’s also a smart-aleck. I can’t wait to tell my friends.”

I was not going to take this from a pipsqueak whose idea of a Hallowe’en costume was a lackluster impersonation of my Maternal Ancestor. “You were trick-or-treating in the hope of amassing a fortune?” i demanded. “No. You were trick-or-treating in the hope of getting lots of candy. This is candy. ‘Grillion’ isn’t even a number.”

Annoyed, i distributed philosophy books and 100 Grillion Dollar Bars to the remaining kids with no further complaint, although the fellow identifying as the tear from the eye of a magical unicorn did tremble slightly. No harm done, the kids were off, and i was left to contemplate the complexities involved in the naming of candy bars.

 

Group Two

This next interesting group came along a while later, after a few rather disappointing cohorts of fairies and zombies. “Hello, hello!” i said to them. “Welcome to the Philosopher’s Haunted Den of the Utter Decay of the Western Cultural Tradition.”

“SWEET,” said one of the kids, obviously genuinely impressed. “It even looks like a deteriorating architectural corpse, a rude, broken-down relic of past greatness.”

“Um, yes, thank you,” i said. “Moving on. Let’s start with you. What are you identifying as this evening?”

“I’m a naughty, naughty fellow,” he said in the most perfect deadpan you’ve ever seen.

“Well, yes, i’ve no doubt of that,” i said. “I meant, what are you dressed up as?”

His companion, with an almost-matching costume, spoke up. “He means that literally. He is identifying as a naughty, naughty fellow for Hallowe’en. He’s usually the perfect kid. He never does anything wrong. The grown-ups all love him. It’s disgusting.”

“Ah!” i said. “How silly of me. Got it. And you?” i asked his cohort.

“Well,” he began, “I’m a fellow who’s not quite mischievous enough to be called ‘naughty’ but who is, nevertheless, not an entirely reputable citizen.”

“And i see you two are a package deal,” i observed.

“We are,” said the first one, a naughty, naughty expression on his face.

“And you!” i said, directing my attention to a young man dressed in what appeared to me to be the garb of a well-to-do dandy from the early 1800s.

“I’m a character from the novel Persuasion, by Jane Austen,” he explained.

“That’s tremendous!” i said. “As it happens, i just re-read Persuasion a few months ago. Which character are you?”

“Well,” he said, somewhat tentatively, “I’m not actually in the book.”

“I see,” said i, although i didn’t.

He continued. “I’m a character that Austen would have included in the novel if she had actually known what she was doing.”

“Ah,” i said. “That’s more like it. Most treadknicious of you.”

The fourth child stepped forward, a little squirt of a dude who appeared to be dressed, as nearly as i could tell, as a shapeless blue amoeba.

“I’m an as-yet-undiscovered chemical element,” he said.

“Ah, but here you are,” i said cleverly. “You’ve been discovered.”

“Discovered by you,” he said. “The scientific community still hasn’t got a clue.”

“Niiiiiiiice,” i said. “Does this element have a name?”

“Nunnayurbidnium,” he said.

“Oh, sorry,” i said. “Didn’t mean to offend.”

“No,” he offered, “I mean the element is called ‘Nunnayurbidnium’.”

“Ah,” i said. “Yes. Of course. Very good. I shall append it to the periodic table in my old college chemistry book. The scientific community will never have to know.” He and i shared a mutual scholarly wink, and then i cauldron-dove to fetch the kiddies their goodies.

 

Group Three

The third interesting group arrived shortly after dusk, at around that time when the little kids and their parents are starting to thin out and the teenagers elaborately made up as zombies or wearing lame skeleton t-shirts are becoming the dominant demographic. Happily, the group of which i now speak was not made of such stuff.

There were eight people in this group: one set of three, and another set of five. The two sets of trick-or-treaters weren’t actually together, but they all arrived at my front porch at more-or-less the same time.

“And who are YOU people?” I was talking to what appeared to be the leader of the group of five, which i took, furthermore, to be a family of aliens. Not the illegal kind; the interplanetary kind.

“We’re a family of aliens,” he explained helpfully.

“I gathered as much,” i said. “And what brings you ’round these here parts?”

“Well,” he began, hooking a tentacle into each of the two straps of his overalls, “It’s like this. We are the last of our race. Our civilization was wiped out by a race of even meaner aliens from a neighboring planet.”

“Grrrrrr,” chorused the wife and kids, their tentacles waving menacingly in the air.

“That’s awful!” i said. “So you’re refugees here on earth, seeking asylum?”

“Well, it’s more like, we’re hopin’ to set up a GoFundMe account so that we can afford thermonuclear weapons and wipe them other aliens off the face of their stupid planet.”

“Well, gosh, y’know, okey-dokey,” i said, concluding that these varmints were serious customers and not to be trifled with. Casting about for a change of topic, i said, “Well, sir, your young’un here looks just like you.”

The lad waved his tentacles about in evident pleasure.

“Don’t he now?” said the proud papa, huffing a cloud of pinkish gas from the top of what i believe to have been his head. “He sure do favor his old dad, that’s what i’ve always said.”

I nodded. “I gotta say, the apple don’t fall far from the tree. So, remind me again… i don’t think i caught it the first time… what’s the name of the planet y’all are from?”

The father replied with the most horrifying sound i have ever seen produced by an object that was less than six feet away from me: a sort of screeching moan, mostly made up of harsh vowels and painful dreams. “So,” i squirmed. “Um. So that’s the name of your planet, is it?” By this time the conviction was finally borne in upon me that these were probably not kids wearing costumes.

“Wow, okay,” i said, turning my attention to the remaining group of three, who had sat patiently on their fence during the preceding proceedings. Did i mention that these three fellows had a portable fence, mounted on wheels, and that they were sitting on it?

“And you fellows,” i said. “What’s the story?”

“We’re Scotsmen,” said the first one.

“Aye, that we are,” said the second. “Three of us.”

“Sittin’ on a fence,” added the third.

That certainly cleared things up for me. “Golly,” i said, “you fellows seem oddly familiar. Might i have encountered you in a joke somewhere?”

“It’s not unlikely,” said the first one.

“You’ve probably haird the one about the three Scotsmen,” said the second one.

“Sittin’ on a fence,” added the third.

“Aye, that i have,” said i, involuntarily falling into their mode of speech. “So that’s why you fellas seem so familiar.” Then, seizing an opportunity that was not likely to come round again, i asked, “So what’s the punchline? I’ve never heard the finished version of the joke.”

The three Scotsmen looked at each other, then back at me, smiled mysteriously, and said nothing.

[Editor’s Note: For a discussion of the original joke about the Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence, you might want to check out this post… (“So There Were These Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence, See”) from about four years ago. You might, additionally, enjoy checking out this later post: “An Attempt to Get to the Bottom of This ‘Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence’ Thing.”]

Unsure of how to continue the conversation, i dug out some Hundred Grillion Dollar Bars and pocket philosophical classics from my cauldron, distributed them among the strange company, and saw them off.

 

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. My first participation in Hallowe’en in about 40 years. I feel you must agree with me that it was a smashing success.

And you will be gratified to note, as i was, that after having checked all up and down the block the next morning, i saw no sign of philosophy books that had been tossed aside into people’s yards or chucked into conveniently located garbage cans.

[Editor’s Note: For some clues as to where some of these kiddies might have gotten the ideas for their inventive costumes, have a look at the post prior to this one.]

 

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