Abstract: Yawn. It’s nearly as seasonal as baseball, or 4th of July picnics–the Good Reader and The Blogger are about to get into it again. Yet another philosophical argument. [*sigh*] Not to worry, though: the only weapons at hand are the Good Reader’s sharp tongue, and the Blogger’s profound grasp of philosophical principles.
Early one afternoon, as the gladsome sun was beaming down upon the land….
The Good Reader: I think you should reverse those two attributes.
The Blogger: What? Ho! Why, hello there, The Good Reader!
The Good Reader: Hello. How’s it going?
The Blogger: Really well, thank you. Just gettin’ it done, y’know? Doin’ the stuff.
The Good Reader: That sounds great. As a person of deep philosophical sensitivities, i applaud your efforts.
The Blogger: Wow, thanks. Um. Uhhh. You just called yourself a person of deep philosophical sensitivities. Um. Uh. Wouldn’t that person be, well, uh, me? Among present company, i mean. You know, the very premise of this blog….
The Good Reader: I know. You’re the big philosopher, surrounded by your adoring acolytes. And the point i just made was that you have misattributed tongue-sharpness to me, and philosophical profundity to yourself. Isn’t that sort of backwards? It occurs to me that, of the two of us, i’m actually the more philosophically acute.
The Blogger: Oh, come come, Good Reader, this sort of thing really is unworthy of you.
The Good Reader: But seriously! I tend to be the one who makes the important distinctions, like a philosopher. And you’re the one who, um, has a tendency to say… unhelpful things.
The Blogger: I cannot believe what i’m hearing.
The Good Reader: Okay. As the voice of logic and reason here, i’ll lay out some ways in which i am a more logical thinker than you are.
The Blogger: I was just about to do that. Before you rudely interrupted me.
The Good Reader: State how i’m the more logical thinker?
The Blogger: Righto. Wait! No! You tricksy woman, you tricksed me.
The Good Reader: Mm-hmm. Good. So here goes. Number one: I only use terms that i know the meanings of, and can define with at least some reasonable degree of accuracy.
The Blogger: I’m afraid i’m not following you.
The Good Reader: Ha ha! That was funny.
The Blogger: No, i mean i’m actually not following you.
The Good Reader: Oh. Sorry. Well, for instance, if i were to use a word like “wamwam” or “treadknicious” in an argument, i would be able to explain what it meant. I don’t use words that i don’t know the meanings of.
The Blogger: Well, i don’t use words that i don’t know the meanings of!
The Good Reader: Excellent! So what’s a flockbinker?
The Blogger: [pouting] I don’t feel like talking about that right now.
The Good Reader: Mm-hmm. And that’s fine. I’m just saying, if i’m going to use a word, it’s because i know what it means. That’s all i’m saying.
The Blogger: Well, golly, The Good Reader, you’re taking me at a disadvantage! Just because i’m not constantly talking about the meanings of the specialized terms that i use, that doesn’t mean that i can’t explain them if i need to.
The Good Reader: Uh-huh. I’m sure that’s correct.
The Blogger: Why do i feel like you’re making fun of me?
The Good Reader: Here’s my Number Two. I don’t make statements that i wouldn’t be able to back up with some kind of a genuine argument.
The Blogger: Well, that’s tremendous! You’re growing as a young, impressionable philosopher. I’m very proud of you!
The Good Reader: [with a nearly inexhaustible fund of patience] My point is that you DO tend to make statements that you’re not able to back up.
The Blogger: Oh! Gee. I guess i wasn’t quite following you.
The Good Reader: No. You weren’t.
The Blogger: But… now, waittasecond. That’s not right! Are you accusing me of drawing unwarranted conclusions and articulating unfounded assumptions?
The Good Reader: That was so beautifully stated. You’re really good at that sort of thing.
The Blogger: [puffing up a bit] Articulating the basic principles of philosophy?
The Good Reader: No, talking about the holes in your skill set.
The Blogger: Hrrmmf. The holes in my skill set? Why, i’ll have you know that… wait a second. What were we talking about, again?
The Good Reader: Using real arguments to back up our conclusions.
The Blogger: Right, right. Well, here’s the thing. When i talk about flockbinkers, wamwams, and drizzpuddlers…
The Good Reader: That last one’s a new one on me. I don’t think i’ve heard you use that term before.
The Blogger: [proudly] That’s because i just now made it up.
The Good Reader: Ah! Ni-i-i-i-ice.
The Blogger: So, when i’m talking about wamwams and puzzknucklers and whatnot, i’m not always using these terms to indicate existent items in the real world. Sometimes they’re, oh, y’know, fun noises to make into the air with my mouth. No, wait. That’s not what i meant to say.
The Good Reader: It’s okay. You can duck and cover, and i’ll pretend i didn’t hear anything the first time.
The Blogger: Righto. So, when i’m talking about wamblinkers and poodlewatches and all that sort of thing, sometimes they’re just, oh, y’know, logical placeholders. They’re just empty terms that i’m using to stake out space in an argument.
The Good Reader: Right, and that’s okay. I get that. It’s just that you… so easily… fade from that position to the position of apparently taking them seriously as real things.
The Blogger: Don’t be dissing my flockbinkers, now. They have very sensitive feelings.
The Good Reader: Q.E.D.
The Blogger: So, anyway, was that your point #2?
The Good Reader: Yeah, sort of. Anyway, um, let’s see… i think i’ve got a point #3 as well.
The Blogger: I’m listening.
The Good Reader: I don’t say something one day that’s going to be flatly contradicted by something i say the day after.
The Blogger: That’s terrific! You’ll make a real philosopher, yet.
The Good Reader: [with, once again, nearly infinite patience] My point is that you DO that sort of thing. All. The. Time.
The Blogger: Make a statement one day that’s contradicted by something i said the day before?
The Good Reader: Mm-hmm.
The Blogger: Well, look here: when i use a term that i don’t know the meaning of….
The Good Reader: See, you did it just now. Just now. I mean, just now.
The Blogger: But i wasn’t contradicting something i said yesterday. I was contradicting something i said a few minutes ago.
The Good Reader: [makes a sound that can be best described as part groan, part sigh, part psychotic break, and part hiccup]
[At this point, the Blogger and The Good Reader stare at each other in exhausted silence for a bit, like two boxers temporarily leaning against the ropes.]
The Blogger: [recovering] So. Here’s a question for you, smart guy. Um: female. In what does a genuine argument consist?
The Good Reader: Oh, golly, let’s see. Hmmm. An argument consists in two (or more) opposing positions, each presenting arguments in favor of its conclusion and employing a definitive level of logical rigor.
The Blogger: [momentarily stunned] Wow, that wasn’t bad.
The Good Reader: For what it’s worth, i learned that from you. I think maybe you’re just better at talking about it, than actually doing it.
The Blogger: I’m not sure whether i should feel like you just complimented me… or not.
The Good Reader: Sure. Why not? Go for it.