all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Category: Inspiration

What to Do When the Dingbat You’re Talking With Says Something Illogical

 

Abstract:  In which a range of possible responses is considered, for those occasions when you’re talking with a complete oaf–and i’m talking about a real dingbat, here–you know, someone with the brains of a walnut that hasn’t even been removed from the shell–and that person says something so unbelievably illogical, it makes your toenails curl. These principles may also be applied to conversations that are NOT about sports.

 


 

Some possible responses when the person you’re attempting to reason with turns out to be a real yo-yo. Illogical discourse cannot be avoided completely, but there are strategies we can employ to take the sting out.

 

Smile and walk away (obviously not the right approach)

In such a situation, the response some people might make would be simply to ignore the infraction and leave peaceably. But please understand: THIS IS THE WRONG REACTION. To leave a person wallowing in his ignorance and metaphysical silliness would be to consign him to the dust heap of intellectual history. Only a cad, a bounder, a blackguard would commit such a crime against the tender thoughts of an ignorant neighbor! No, the correct response would be to bring correction to such an illogical person. Below, you will find a number of possible responses in this vein.

 

Correct him brusquely

“I say, my man, you’re talking like an idiot! And not just any idiot, but one who has had his brain removed and replaced with one of those little mini-microwave ovens! Or even… an Easy-Bake oven! Why, if you were any stupider, they’d have to come up with a new word for it! Like, “drupid,” or something. The assertion you just made will go down in the annals of dumb assertions, along with the grassy knoll hypothesis! Um, uuhhh.”

This is the sort of thing you might say to someone whose opinions on The Nature of Things do not appear to pass muster. Of course, if you’re feeling a bit more charitable, you might adopt the following strategy.

 

Ask some leading questions

Try prodding the person in the right direction with one or more of these:

“Have you thought this position through in a thorough manner?”

“What are your basic assumptions in this case?”

“Might there be an alternative hypothesis that you’ve not considered?”

“How many fingers am i holding up?”

“If there’s a truck heading out of town at 45 MPH, and another truck heading the opposite way at 60 MPH, how many midgets will it take to screw in a light bulb?”

“Tra-la, tra-la- tra-la, tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum.” (Not, technically, a question.)

 

Deliver a brief lecture on the principles of logic

This one might be an iffy bet if you’re unsure whether the person you’re talking to is firing on all cylinders. But as a general rule, something like this might do the trick:

“I say, my man! What say we hunker down for a spell and talk about some basic logical principles, eh? For instance, the Law of the Excluded Middle? In any situation where a strict yes-or-no answer is required, there is no possibility of a ‘maybe’ response; it would be the same as not having answered the question. And of course, we wish to answer questions, don’t we! That’s right. We do. And so, when the logical scenario with which we are presented demands a ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ response, it’s no good delivering a response of ‘your mom’ or something on that order. Ha ha. Am i getting through? Nice chat! I like your trousers.”

 

Seek out a safe space

There will be times, regrettably, where your well-meaning attempts to reason with your subject all come to naught, and you may have to beat a hasty retreat. You will want to seek out what we in the industry like to call a ‘safe space’. This is a place, preferably within a budding grove, where you will be insulated from the possibility of disagreement or pushback… where your presuppositions will remain untouched by the probing tentacles of an opposing viewpoint… where you will not be forced to re-examine any of your own guiding principles. Whew! That was a close one.

 

Begin jerking violently

Another possibility, if a budding grove turns out not to be available, is that you create your own ‘safe space’ by behaving in an astonishing manner. Zing! Whoosh! Bam!

“Dude, are you okay?”

Fop! Smash! Yow! Whoom!

“Um, i think i’m just sort of gonna back away, if you don’t mind.”

Mission accomplished.

 

Belch VERY loudly

This response has the virtue of being a vocal response, which seems in keeping with the fact that the illogical person’s statement was also vocal. Fight fire with fire, as the old-timers (and some firefighters) used to say. Such an exchange might go something like this:

Person X:  I think the Braves are gonna have a good season this year.

You:  [BRAAAAAAACKK]

Person X:  Excuse you!

You:  [Beeeeeeeeeeeeeelch]

Person X:  My my my!  [person looks somewhat uncomfortable]

You:  [r-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-p-p-p]

Person X:  Are you okay? I feel like your internal organs may be undergoing stress.

You:  [one lung pops out]

Person X:  Jeepers, man, i’m calling a doctor!

You:  [make it all the way through the alphabet down to ‘W’ before running out of steam]

 

Present the person with a ‘logical discourse’ tract

You may want to get in one last blow before the exchange comes to an end. This might take the shape of a tract dealing with the range of principles by which logical modes of communication are carried out. Similar, you see, to a gospel tract, but with a different purpose.

“Dude, it’s been a great talk. Can i leave you with this?”

“Sure. Um… ‘Basic Principles of Logical Discourse.’ Wow. I feel so very loved.”

“Dude. Here for ya.”

 

Call the police

This step should be considered a “last ditch” sort of option. But if the playground monkey you’re attempting to have a reasonable conversation with can’t be reasoned with, it may just be time to bring in the authorities.

Cop:  You have the right to remain silent.

Person X:  What? What’d i do? I was just trying to have a conversation with this bimbo.

Cop:  Anything you say can and will be used against you.

Person X:  Yeah, that sounds strangely familiar.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a variety of interpersonal tools available for use in situations where the shmoe with whom you’re talking just can’t be reasoned with. Use them at your discretion, and have a lovely day! Dingbat.

 

Important Announcement Regarding New Flockbinker Schedule. No! Seriously!

 

Abstract:  In which the Blogger puts on his ‘gosh, i really mean it’ hat and launches into a discussion of the… well, what has historically been a somewhat funky posting schedule for the “All Flockbinkers” blog… and the possible advantages to setting it on a regular, weekly footing.


 

The blog “All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious… And Other Salient Observations” has been online for several years now. However, as i look at my blog posting counter i see that we’ve only posted to it about 70 times. There’s a perfectly good reason for this: The Blogger’s inability to manage his life in a way that is reasonable or structured. No! Wait! That’s not what i was going to say! [The] Good Reader, are you messing around with my computer interface again?

 

The Good Reader:  Me? Naw. That’s not the sort of thing i would ever do. Heh heh heh.

The Blogger:  Well, let’s just hope so! Because i’m about to make an important announcement!

The Good Reader:  Blogger, if you have something important to say, i’ll just sit here as quiet as a mouse and respectfully listen to the gushing stream of nourishing wisdom that is doubtless about to come bursting forth from your honeyed lips.

The Blogger:  Well, i’ll be blowed.  [momentarily forgets what he was going to say, while turning seventeen shades of red]  Ahem. Well! Here’s the announcement. This blog is becoming just a wee bit more popular these days, which puts me in mind of the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but too many cooks spoil the broth.”

The Good Reader:  Sorry Blogger. That’s not actually a saying.

The Blogger:  It is!  [makes his worst pouty face]  You always want to ruin everything. You said you were going to stay quiet.

The Good Reader:  Oops. Sorry. It just sort of popped out. Anyway, i think what you were wanting to say is that some changes may be afoot, since you now have more than three-and-a-half people reading your blog.

The Blogger:  Um. That’s not the way i’d have wanted to put it, but yes. Something like that. Some changes may be afoot.

The Good Reader:  That sounds terrific! What kind of thing did you have in mind? Are you considering adopting a policy of only saying things that make sense?

The Blogger:  Well, that’s not it exactly… Hey! Waittasecond! You scoundrel! Stop it! You’re goofing up my important announcement!

The Good Reader:  Sorry. No, you’re right, i shouldn’t do that to you while you’re trying to communicate with your wee little handful of readers. I’ll just sit here while you talk.

The Blogger:  Well, okay then. Here’s the announcement: I’m thinking of moving this blog to a regular, once-a-week schedule, and posting at the same time every week, so my followers will have a better idea of when the new posts are going up.

The Good Reader:  That sounds terrific! Consistency is always a good thing. I bet your readers–all three and a half of them–will genuinely appreciate a more regular, predictable schedule of postings!

The Blogger:  That’s exactly what i’ve been thinking. (Most of it, grrr.) And the expert voices in the area of internet dynamics seem to think so, too.  From what i’ve read, a weekly schedule of blog posting would be a good rhythm for this Flockbinker journal to fall into.

The Good Reader:  I have to say, i completely agree. Up until the past few months or so, your posting schedule has tended to resemble the flight of the phoenix.

The Blogger:  But the phoenix is a fictional bird.

The Good Reader:  My point exactly.

The Blogger:  Oh. Right. Okay. So, anyway, beginning right around this month or so, i’m going to move these blog posts to a regular weekly schedule. I think i’ll still experiment with various times of day, just to see when the greatest number of readers seems to be available. But i’m going to try and keep the postings to the same day every week.

The Good Reader:  Well, you know what they say: A stitch in time, and then what the cat drags in.

The Blogger:  What? That didn’t make any sense at all!

The Good Reader:  Oops. Sorry. I can’t imagine what i was thinking.

 

Epilogue

So–seriously, guys–i’m gonna try to get this blog onto a regular, weekly posting schedule from now on. If you have any input for me about the ideal time to post new material during the week, please be in touch! And i love each of you as if you were my own fourth cousin, twice removed!

 

 

O for a Glubbamimp, a Glubbamimp, a Glubbamimp!

 

Abstract:  In which the Blogger opens up a bit, makes himself vulnerable… and actually reveals the text of a letter he recently sent to one of his favorite authors.


 

Here, o most excellent readers, for your reading pleasure, is a letter that i wrote recently to one of my favorite fiction writers. I have withheld his/her name for the sake of privacy, and also, y’know, to prevent a possible lawsuit:

“To the hon. [name withheld], author extraordinaire, generally cool gal… oops… dammit… etc. etc.

“I have followed your career and your growing body of work with considerable interest. In particular among my favorite books you’ve written is that one about the thing where this guy did some stuff, and then something else happened–I was roaring!–and then they all got together, and blows were exchanged, and then that other thing happened, and whatnot. That one was WAY cool.

“Allow me to encourage you, as one Veteran Writer to another, to keep on writing! Don’t ever let the howling disappropation and bitter recriminations of your stupid, utterly tasteless readers discourage you. At least, that’s the approach that *I* take in similar circumstances.

“As you become known around the world, and even throughout the far-flung starfields–even on some of those somewhat rough-around-the-edges worlds like Rhombus 14, where the residents pass the time during their banquets stuffing their tentacles up each other’s noses, making vulgar observations about one another’s sisters, and reciting passages from the works of Throm Nimbus Yourmom, the only real poet ever to have emerged from among their ranks, responsible for such classics as “I Vomit Upon Your Highest Aspirations” and “What? Oh, Shut Up” and “O For a Glubbamimp, a Glubbamimp, a Glubbamimp,” and “If You Don’t Back Away Right Now, So Help Me” and of course the classic for which their race is known, “Don’t Ya Hate Everything That Is of Any Value? ‘Cause I Do”–even, i say, on worlds such as this, as your fame spreads, i hope you will not forget the adulation of your early fans, somewhat weak in the tentacle department, ha ha, ha ha, but strong in spirit and enthusiasm.

“Very Truly Yours,

“The Blogger”

 

 

Confucius, the Buddha, Aristotle, and Mr. T Return to Chili’s

 

Abstract:  In which our four redoubtable philosophers–one of whom is none other than Mr. T (!) (oh my)–continue their sometimes witty… sometimes, um, er, not-witty… and sometimes inexplicable… and sometimes… anyway… conversation about the Higher and Deeper Things at Chili’s Restaurant.


 

Waiter:  Have we, like, at long last, decided what we want to order?

Confucius:  I believe we have, yes. I’ll have the Southwestern Eggrolls.  [he leans in confidentially, whispering]  It’s hard to beat those Southwestern Eggrolls.

Waiter:  They sure do tend to be a favorite with our customers. And you, sir?

Mr. T:  Yeah, well when i was growing up, my family was so poor we couldn’t afford to pay attention.

Waiter:  Hey! This guy’s kinda witty, sort of.

Confucius:  Might want to be careful about encouraging him.

Waiter:  Aww, i think he’s harmless.

Mr. T:  [screws his face up into a horribly threatening scowl]  My prediction: Pain.

Confucius:  Tell you what, he’ll have the Caesar Salad and a Coke.

Waiter:  [visibly nervous, turning quickly toward Aristotle]  A…and you, sir?

Aristotle:  I’ll have the braised goat with milk curds and olives.

Confucius:  Hoo boy! Um, waiter, this gentleman will have the Carnitas Fajitas.

Aristotle:  Are you sure?

Confucius:  You’ll love it.

Waiter:  Um… okay… and you, sir?

The Buddha:  I’ll have what they’re having.

Waiter:  All of it?

The Buddha:  The man of understanding takes in the entirety of his world, and in the end finds it to be: emptiness.

Confucius:  I am so sorry. We’re rather a group of oddballs, aren’t we. He’ll have the cheese quesadillas.

[waiter scurries off, trembling just a little bit]

Aristotle:  So, shall we resume our discussion of the Higher Things?

Mr. T:  I believe in the Golden Rule. The man with the gold, rules.

Aristotle:  [taking a deep breath]  That’s a commonly held belief. So, do you think it’s best that those with the wealth should also be the ones with the power?

Confucius:  [stage whisper]  Are you really wanting to encourage him?

Aristotle:  [stage whisper]  I’m directing his random outbursts into patterned discussion.

Confucius:  [stage whisper]  I don’t feel like that’s going to yield much fruit.

Aristotle:  [stage whisper]  I dunno. We’ll see. Worth a try.

Confucius:  [stage whisper]  Okay, man. Go for it. You do you.

Mr. T:  I, uh, pity the fool.

Confucius:  [to Aristotle]  Here’s the problem, i think. If you ask our redoubtable Mr. T a question for which he doesn’t have one of his pre-prepared answers, you put him off his game and he doesn’t know what to say.

Aristotle:  Is that so!  [gets a devilish look in his eye, like that of someone who has just learned that you’re carrying gold nuggets in your pocket and is trying to figure out how to lift them without your noticing]

Aristotle:  [returning his attention to Mr. T]  So, which fool, exactly, is it that you pity?

Mr. T:  Um… uh… all of ’em?

Aristotle:  Ah! But you cannot pity all of them. For one fool may be at odds with another, and you must choose sides. Which fool are you betting on?

Mr. T:  I… I…  [he begins to tremble]

The Buddha:  Pain.

Aristotle:  Not now, Bud. I’m on a roll with this other guy.

Confucius:  How many kinds of fools are there?

Aristotle:  Dude! Don’t ruin my setup. I think i’ve got him against the ropes.

Mr. T:  Um… uh… uh….

Aristotle:  Imagine a poker table, and four fools sitting around it playing poker. One of those fools will have to win the game. How can a fool win the game?

Mr. T:  [recovering, seeing his opportunity]  There’s two kinds of people: the winners, and the losers. Which one are you?

Aristotle:  Dammit.

Confucius:  Oohh, and it seemed as if you were doing so well, for a while there.

The Buddha:  Pain. Huh huh huh.

Aristotle:  Oh my word, is the little Buddha fellow turning into Mr. T now? I have to deal with a whole table of Mr. T’s?

Mr. T:  Are the Mr. T’s at the table, or is the table full of Mr. T’s?

Confucius:  Dude, that was sort of a tautology.

Aristotle:  [losing patience]  Okay. Fine! You win, i lose! I still fail to understand what this man is doing at our table!

Confucius:  [leaning in toward Aristotle in a confidential manner]  Okay, i suppose i need to come clean with you. I told his mom i’d take him for the afternoon–she’s showing their house to a prospective buyer, and she thought it might be a good idea to show it without him inside.

Aristotle:  Ah. (Grrr.) It is all becoming clear to me now.

Confucius:  The man of genuine strength maintain his place even in rapidly flowing river.

Aristotle:  Please, not just now, bud. There’s a time and a place.

Confucius:  I get it, man. Just trying to be useful.

Mr. T:  My Prediction?

The Buddha:  Pain. Heh heh.

Aristotle:  Okay, look, i don’t think we can have a serious discussion with that man present.

Mr. T:  Yeah, fool.

Aristotle:  I was referring to YOU.

Mr. T:  Oh. Okay. Got it.

The Buddha:  My prediction: Pain.

Aristotle:  And i don’t even want to know what his deal is. It’s like he’s absorbing the ‘T’ person’s personality just by sitting next to him.

The Buddha:  I pity the fool.

Aristotle:  [throwing up his hands]  I cannot EVEN.

Confucius:  I’ll admit, he doesn’t seem to be in rare form tonight. His material is usually MUCH better.

Aristotle:  Which one?

Aristotle:  Mmmm, wow. Good point.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Fourth Pop Quiz. Let’s Hope You Studied. Oh, Wait.

 

Abstract:  We’re scaling the Pop Quizzes down from ten questions to six questions, so as to accommodate the declining intellectual powers of the internet-dwelling audience. No! Wait. What i meant to say was, it’s just easier to manage a pop quiz when there’s not a sprawling mess of nonsense stretched out in every direction. Wait! No! Doggone it, i’m having a bit of trouble getting my thoughts onto paper here. Anyway, here’s your most recent pop quiz. Enjoy!


 

1. Nonsense and its vicissitudes. Which of the following statements is true of sense and non-sense?

a. Sense is the sort of thing that makes sense, and nonsense doesn’t.

b. Sense is sensible. And nonsense is…non-sensible.

c. Well, jeepers, thus far we don’t really seem to have established anything.

d. Hey, dude, tautological statements are better than no statements at all.

e. The difference between sense and nonsense is kind of similar to the difference between peanut butter and almond butter.

f. Okay, now THAT did not make any sense.

g. Sure, well, maybe it’s YOUR MOM that doesn’t make any sense.

h. Sense is that which can be sensed, whereas nonsense is that which can non be sensed.

i. Sense and nonsense is the name of a popular novel by Jane Austen.

j. I am surrounded by insane people.

 

2. Absurdity is to nonsense as reason is to ___________________ .

a. Nonreason

b. Reasonlessness

c. Treason

d. Rationality

e. Good sense

f. Someone else’s Mom

g. A fork and a knife

h. Six heaping teaspoons of castor oil

i. Dude, you can’t have a heaping teaspoon of castor oil

j. Six heaping teaspoons of castor oil that has been dried into a powder

 

3. The four levels of nonsense delineated in the post “Nonsense and Its Vicissitudes” are:

a. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

b. Maggie and Milly and Molly and May

c. Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo and Chico

d. Height, width, depth, and time

e. What in the WORLD are these people talking about.

f. Pigs are the coolest animals, when you really stop to think about it.

g. Chaos and abaddon, with darkness upon the face of the deep

h. That wasn’t four things, it was three.

i. Your Mom is four things, how about that?

j. [sinks head into hands and heaves a sigh that evokes levels of despair previously undreamed of except in villages that have been saturation-bombed with old issues of Mad magazine for weeks and weeks on end]

 

4. When it comes right down to it, do flockbinkers really have any place in a discussion of philosophy?

a. Yes, indeed.

b. No sirree.

c. Well, yes and no.

d. Neither yes nor no.

e. “Neither yes nor no” isn’t a valid answer to this question.

f. Look here, bozo, how about i set down my answers, and you set down yours, okay?

g. Yes, but without the “indeed” following it.

h. Maybe. You show me what’s in your hand, and i’ll show you what’s in mine, heh heh.

i. These people are disgusting and filthy, and that’s just the site administrators.

j. To err is human, and on top of that, if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with, love the one you’re with, love the one you’re with.

 

5. Which of the following statements may be accurately made regarding nonsense?

a. ‘Nonsense’ may be understood as the opposite of ‘sense’.

b. ‘Nonsense’ may be defined as “that which is contrary to the laws of logic.”

c. Nonsense don’t make much sense, now, do it. Heh heh, heh heh.

d. ‘Nonsense’ my be defined as, “that which… is… Your Mom.”

e. Pee-Wee Herman attempted to have a meaningful conversation with Mr. Bean. What resulted was utter nonsense.

f. Nonsense can be delightful and lovely, tra la la, tra la la, tra la la.

g. Nonsense is what you get when you enroll in Mrs. Vickers’ Gender Studies class.

h. Hey, don’t be trashing Mrs. Vickers now, she puts together a mean zucchini casserole.

i. Do you realize you just complimented a feminist academic on the strength of her cooking.

j. Nonsense is what you’ve got when you ain’t got nothin’ else.

 

6. If you were to line up five Bertrand Russells along the top of a fence, which of the following would obtain?

a. The possibility of five Bertrand Russells existing elsewhere at the same time would be eliminated.

b. The statement “There are not five Bertrand Russells on the fence” would be rendered nonsensical.

c. There couldn’t be five Bertrand Russells, ‘Bertrand Russell’ being an entity of an essentially unitary status.

d. Please tell me i’m having a nightmare.

e. Five Bertrand Russells, each of them immersed in nightmare, cannot at one and the same time be awake or immersed in pleasant dreams.

f. When you’ve got five Bertrand Russells on the top of a fence, now, and here’s the part i’m needing you to pay attention to–it’s the important aspect of the discussion–um—

g. Wut.

h. Okay, now these questions are really getting kind of ridiculous.

i. Maybe it’s Your Mom that’s getting kind of ridiculous.

j. Q.E.D.

 

 

Elvis Wu and Jennifer Smith Further Explore the Impossible Relationship between ‘Philosophy’ and ‘Social Skills’

 

Abstract:  This is part two of a dialogue that began several posts ago, between two of our thrice-worthy protagonists–Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major, and Jennifer Smith, budding philosopher-at-large. In the first part, the two of them talked about the nature of everyday conversation, and why it is that people approach it in the ways that they do. This time, the conversation moves to the even more interesting topic of whether philosophers are capable of having a normal conversation.


 

The scene:  Elvis Wu and Jennifer Smith have been talking for a while on the patio out in front of Panera Bread in downtown Chattanooga. The topic? Philosophy, philosophers, and whether these people know how to talk about the same normal things that everyone else talks about. They started out talking about typical conversational patterns, and now they’re moving on into darker territory: What DO the philosophers talk about, when you catch them in an unguarded moment?

 

Elvis Wu:  So here’s the interesting thing. Are conversations between philosophers substantially different from conversations between regular people?

Jennifer Smith:  Um. I guess? Because they’re full of lofty thoughts.

Elvis Wu:  Oohh! I like it.

Jennifer Smith:  So, do philosophers skip the small talk? What in the world DO they talk about?

Elvis Wu:  Well, you know, the usual: departmental politics, tenure tracks, the syllabus. That sort of thing.

Jennifer Smith:  Hardy har-har.

Elvis Wu:  Really, most philosophy professors talk about the usual kinds of things. That’s why i’d rather not use them as my examples of what philosophers are like. A real philosopher…you know, someone who actually lives it…would be more like your friend Little Biffy.

Jennifer Smith:  Dang it! Somehow i knew–i just knew!–he was going to come up in this conversation. I just knew it.

Elvis Wu:  Well.

Jennifer Smith:  I just knew it.

Elvis Wu:  The dude thinks things through, and he chooses his words carefully.

Jennifer Smith:  That he does.

Elvis Wu:  And he’s never afraid to call anything into question.

Jennifer Smith:  You’re right. That he isn’t.

Elvis Wu:  He’s a philosopher.

Jennifer Smith:  I guess he is.

Elvis Wu:  And he’s a really good philosopher. He’ll not let go of a question until he’s fully satisfied that he’s gotten an answer that makes complete sense.

Jennifer Smith:  [sighs]  Yes, you’re right about that.

Elvis Wu:  Yet you seem not to appreciate these exalted qualities of his.

Jennifer Smith:  Well… they can make conversation difficult.

Elvis Wu:  Hah! Conversation isn’t always supposed to be easy.

Jennifer Smith:  [muttering things under her breath that do not sound very nice]

Elvis Wu:  There there, Jennifer. You’re a philosopher too, you know. It’s just that your philosopher side is not your favorite side of yourself.  [smiles]

Jennifer Smith:  [mutters a few more things]

Elvis Wu:  And that places you in the weeny minority, and in highly exalted company!

Jennifer Smith:  [mutters a couple more things, but at least she’s smiling now]

Elvis Wu:  He’s a pretty sharp kid. You’re fortunate that he’s picked you out to be his friend. He doesn’t connect with most people. He obviously thinks you’re pretty smart.

Jennifer Smith:  [stops muttering things, but doesn’t stop smiling]

Elvis Wu:  [smiles back]

Jennifer and Elvis:  [just a couple o’ grinnin’ fools]

Jennifer Smith:  Okay. I surrender. So, can we get back to a point you were making a minute ago? About the differences between philosophers’ conversations, and the way regular people talk to each other.

Elvis Wu:  Sure. It’s an interesting theme to explore.

Jennifer Smith:  Um. Do philosophers talk about…the weather? Do they talk about professional team sports? Do they talk about men’s fashion? How about movies and books? I suppose yes, on the books. Do they talk about nerdy books, or the regular ones?

Elvis Wu:  Whoah! That’s a lot of questions.

Jennifer Smith:  And music! Do they care about music? Or art? Do they attend the ballet? Do they go to rock concerts? I have so many questions about what philosophers are interested in!

Elvis Wu:  Apparently.

Jennifer Smith:  I mean: if your life is all about digging into things and asking the tough questions, then is it possible to be interested in the normal things that everyone else is interested in?

Elvis Wu:  Well, you’ve piled up a bunch of stuff for us to examine. Why don’t we start on in, and let’s use our little friend Biffy as the archetype of a philosopher.

Jennifer Smith:  Um, okay. The little nerdo.

Elvis Wu:  He’s a perfect live model to make use of here, because we both know him and we’ve got some idea of what sorts of things he would talk about, think about, take an interest in.

Jennifer Smith:  Okay. I surrender. Little Biffy it is.

Elvis Wu:  You mentioned art, music, and dance. Let’s start there.

Jennifer Smith:  Sure.

Elvis Wu:  So, if Biffy were to express an opinion about the arts, what sort of opinion would it be, and what sort of basis would he have for it?

Jennifer Smith:  You’re asking ME?

Elvis Wu:  Sure. You’ve dialogued with him enough to know what kinds of approaches he’s likely to take in the analysis of an idea.

Jennifer Smith:  [sigh]  I guess so. Well, let’s see. Biffy might say something like, “What is the purpose of art, and does this particular sculpture serve that purpose?”

Elvis Wu:  Marvelous! I think you may be on to something.

Jennifer Smith:  And then he might say, “This sculpture, for instance, looks like a lobster whose innards were blown out by a hand grenade and then swept into a little pile. In what way does this serve the purpose of sculpture as an artistic medium?”

Elvis Wu:  You’re nailing it. I almost feel like he’s speaking through you.

Jennifer Smith:  [smiles]  And then he would say, “If a sculpture is supposed to represent some aspect of the concrete world, then this one has failed. But might there be other aspects of reality that the sculptor was attempting to capture?”

Elvis Wu:  Wow. Go on.

Jennifer Smith:  And then he might say, “Why don’t we start by laying down some definitions. What do we mean by the term ‘art,’ and what are we saying when we claim that a given work of art is ‘good’?”

Elvis Wu:  I’m in awe. It’s almost as if you ARE Little Biffy.

Jennifer Smith:  I’ve had enough conversations with him by now, to guess where he might go in our little scenario.

Elvis Wu:  You’re doing great. So, let’s stop there, and examine what he’s said so far.

Jennifer Smith:  The little dude’s barely getting started.

Elvis Wu:  [laughing]  I realize that, but you’ve already given us some good material to start with.

Jennifer Smith:  Good-o.

Elvis Wu:  So, one of the things he’s wanting us to do is to start out with definitions. How very Socratic! Our man Socrates would have done exactly the same thing. What is art? And what does it mean for something to be good? If we’re not clear on these two things, then the whole discussion turns out to be pointless.

Jennifer Smith:  But doesn’t everyone just sort of intuitively know what art is? I’m not Biffy right now, i’m me. Forgive me if it’s a stupid question.

Elvis Wu:  [laughing]  Not at all! The majority of people would probably say something similar. So, here’s my response. My little nephew recently created an art installation that involved some play-doh, a pile of weeds from the back yard, and one of his own bowel movements.

Jennifer Smith:  Eewww!

Elvis Wu:  Right, right! So, how should we approach this body of material… as an art object? As a pile of nonsense? Or something else?

Jennifer Smith:  You’re not being fair. Most art isn’t like that.

Elvis Wu:  It’s astonishing, the range of material that’s being offered to the public these days, under the title of ‘art’.

Jennifer Smith:  Um, okay. I guess that’s true. So how WOULD we define art?

Elvis Wu:  Well, i suspect our young friend Biffy would say something like, “Let us define ‘art’ as that which has been created not primarily for its usefulness, but in order to satisfy our ideas of what constitutes ‘beauty,’ or, at any rate, ‘the visually interesting’.”

Jennifer Smith:  Okay, i give up. You’re way better at channeling the Biff-ster than i am.

Elvis Wu:  Ah, i have learned from a master! So do you like the definition?

Jennifer Smith:  Sure, i guess. I’d have to think about it for years to really decide whether i agree fully with it or not. So let’s just say: yeah. It’s a good definition.

Elvis Wu:  Honestly, it’s as good a definition as we’re likely to come across anywhere in the literature on art, or philosophy–or, for that matter, philosophy of art.

Jennifer Smith:  [smiles]  I’m not even going to ask you if there’s really such a thing as “philosophy of art.”

Elvis Wu:  Oh, there are branches of philosophy for everything. Philosophy of science, philosophy of language, philosophy of knowledge, philosophy of education, religion, history. Every academic field has a corresponding body of philosophers who’ve taken an interest in that particular area of study… but they approach it as philosophers, not as scientists or religious leaders.

Jennifer Smith:  I mean, wow. I had no idea that the field of philosophy was so diverse!

Elvis Wu:  That’s a whole conversation by itself, and we probably want to get back to the one we were having–about art, examined philosophically.

Jennifer Smith:  Wow. But okay.

Elvis Wu:  So, Biffy–that is, you playing Biffy–also wanted to know what would be a good definition for a ‘good’ work of art. Even if we can establish what art is, in general, how do we decide whether a particular work of art is a ‘good’ one?

Jennifer Smith:  Yeah, wow. That *is* a good question.

Elvis Wu:  Everyone’s heard of the Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo’s David, and maybe a painting or two by Picasso. What sets these monumental works of art off as examples of what art can be, at its best?

Jennifer Smith:  Wouldn’t you have to have a degree in art, or something, to even begin to be able to talk about that? I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

Elvis Wu:  Certainly, it’s a complex topic. And maybe we don’t need to get into it for now. What we were trying to do, if you recall, was to figure out what a properly ‘philosophical’ approach to things would look like, and i think we’ve at least made a start at finding out.

Jennifer Smith:  You’re letting me off easy.

Elvis Wu:  Well, to be honest, i’ve got a class coming up in a bit, and i need to get over to the university. Which means you’re off the hook for now.  [smiles]

Jennifer Smith:  Um, do you think we might be able to pick this conversation back up at some point? It was starting to get interesting.

Elvis Wu:  Well, you really ARE a philosopher, aren’t you!

Jennifer Smith:  Um. Maybe. I think the jury may still be out on that one.

Elvis Wu:  Well, when the jury convenes again, we shall discuss the philosophy of art in more detail! For now, mademoiselle: adieu, adieu, adieu.

Jennifer Smith:  Um, adieu right back at you, dude.

 

 

 

 

A Poem: “Yer Dern Tootin’, I’m a Logician”

 

Abstract:  In which The Blogger once again tries his hand at poetry–taking up, on this occasion, an extended lyric poem on a decidedly philosophical theme–with not entirely unsatisfactory results.

[Editors’ Note:  Oh my word. No. Please. No. Just no. The results are, in fact, entirely unsatisfactory.]

[A Different Set of Editors:  Well, it’s actually not so bad. It isn’t really a poem, though… it’s more like, um, the diseased ravings of Jim Carrey shortly after he’s been run over by an oxcart carrying fourteen sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica and a fifth of Scotch]


 

Canto One

Here’s to the lovers, the fighters, the pastry-cooks, the readers of books, the silverware crooks, the Brandybucks and Tooks, the hiders in cute little nooks, the buffalo hunters, the baseball bunters, the responsibility shunters, the manic-depressives in their tawdry, dimly-lit, centerfold-bedecked missions….

The butchers, the bakers, the candlestick makers, the French accent fakers, the cop movie Brubakers, the mass-murdering Quakers, the doggone-it-i’m-a-gonna-take-what’s-mine takers, the “Dang it, my lower back hurts!” achers, whatever (i’m not judging!) may be y’all’s traditions….

Whatever it is you’re doing, whether or not it involves the academic life, or, like, maybe something else, like maybe washing windows, or picking up trash in the city park, or, y’know, collecting people’s household garbage, or, um, cleaning toilet stalls or whatever, i dunno, ANYWAY, my point IS, all i urge is that you do it with precision!

That you drink life to the lees–whatever that means, i’ve never been 100% sure–what a strange expression, when you think about it!–“drinking life to the lees”–i bet it doesn’t actually mean anything–but it’s too late, i guess i’ve already used it–dammit, this sort of thing happens to me with distressing regularity–and, you know, do the stuff, accomplish all the things, take advantage of every opportunity afforded by your position!

And what can be my reason for wishing you all these things, you ask? Ah. Aha! Yes. I totally get your curiosity. In fact, i admire it. That’s gonna get you places. The tendency to question and search out that which is mysterious and hidden is the mark of a wise sort of person. Well, look here, my answer has got a lot to do with philosophy. Yup. Yer dern tootin’… you see, i’m a logician.

 

Canto Two

I salute you, seekers, peekers, wearers of sneakers, freakers, geekers, just a little bit of pee leakers, i-like-to-carve-little-hippo-figurines-out-of-teak-ers, bongo players, small town mayors, hippo figurine displayers, jewel arrayers, county fayers, other people’s bill-payers, when-you’ve-got-a-headache-you-take-Bayer’s, stuffed nose blowers, broken lawn mowers, people who like fives better than fowers, folks who feel, deep inside, like you’ve been assigned to discharge some sort of creepy secret mission….

[“Um, that’s probably enough with the lists of various sorts of people. Might want to move on to other topics.” –The Editors]

Ah, yes. Of course. Very good! So, let’s cut to the heart of the matter. Philosophy is at the center of a life well-lived. There’s nothing wrong, of course, in being a butcher, a baker, a candlestick-maker, a doctor, a lawyer, an indian chief, a rich man, a poor man, a beggar man, or a thief… [The Editors: “Grrrrrrrr.”] …well, actually, it could be cogently argued that there’s something wrong with this last item, but i expect you get the point… [The Editors: “Okay, okay…”] …but what i’m saying is, it’s way better to be a philosopher! Because being a philosopher is like driving a luxury car that emits zero emissions!

[“Wut.” –The Editors]

If you’ve ever been in trouble with the law of diminishing returns… [The Editors: “Wut.”] …and you can’t wait till the next hamburger burns… [The Editors: “Look, now, you’re just sticking words together randomly to get them to rhyme!”] …and you don’t understand the ways in which your heart yearns… [The Editors: “Well. Much better. Carry on.”] …and you’ve stopped purchasing poppies and have begun purchasing ferns… [The Editors: “Wut.”] …and you can’t comprehend why the seagulls and the terns break forth in song every time they’re threatened with extradition….

[“Wut. Okay. Fine. We totally give up. He can spew forth whatever nonsense he wants to. We are officially pulling out of the process.” –The Editors]

And, well, back to philosophers and whatnot, the point is, a life well-lived is a joy forever, and a game of Risk is better than a roll in the heather, and a stitch in good time can save any endeavor, and too many cooks will tend to spoil the freaking broth, and Your Mom may be a lobster, but i think she’s a sloth–heh heh–and, y’know, all that sort of thing–but what my point is, um, uh… [hesitates for a moment as he looks back over the stanza thus far] …oh yeah, a life well-lived is the philosopher’s stone, and, um, something about i’ll take the flesh but i’d rather have the bone, and, um, uh, um. Uh. Okay. I need a word that rhymes. Rendition!

[The Editors: “We said we’d stay out of it, and we’re staying out. It’s sort of lovely, in a macabre way, watching this fellow drown himself repeatedly.”]

And, um, that’s about it for this section of the poem. Yer dern tootin’, i’m a logician.

 

Canto Three

All hail the monolithic maestros in their flame-webbed cabin barbecue bashers! Let us rise in acclamation of the buggy-riding barristers in their thuggy robes, riding into the city smelling of gummy bears and atom smashers! Let us sally forth to grasp the tyrannical teetotaling toddlers as they toddle into the town like a bunch of windshield washers! I don’t know about Your Mom, but mine’s riding the rails and getting besotted on the left-over fragments of someone else’s 40-yard-dashers! And, um, uh, now it’s time for a, uh, uh, transition.

[The Editors: “This tidal wave of horrific tripe is both ear-splittingly appalling and inexplicably pleasing at the same time. We don’t know how the man does it.”]

We freak out, totally, and i mean TOTALLY, in response to the crowds’ acclamations, the surging forth of the wonderless wuns, er, “ones,” who close their hearts and open their bladders upon the transphyxiation of the bludinous cartiscopathy–um, i just made those words up, heh heh heh–but anyway, we’re working our way toward “fission”–a bit of a spoiler for ya, there–um–and the flockbinkers march in deadly formation as the progenitors of the Flockbinker Nation, and i catch a whiff of Chanel #5 in the air… still tryin’ to get to “fission”… um… and, y’know, sometimes it can be hard to give a care, um, uh, as the, um, i think this may be it, um, melting-down nuclear reactors engage in fits and splurts of, uh, hazardous fission… yay!….

[The Editors: “Two of us died while that section was in progress, and Zachary over here seems to have slipped into a coma.”]

And then, um–gosh, this poem is getting kind of long–uh, how about something like, er, uh, the heart’s deteriorating condition…

[The Editors: “That section was mercifully short! Zachary may be able to hold out until the end of the poem!”]

And then maybe a point about how, er, stuff tends to blow up when it is subjected to, uh, oh crap, uh, uh, y’know …demolition.

[The Editors: “Mmmmm. Yes.”]

And, um, sorta need to wrap this baby up, um, uh: Yer dern tootin’, i’m a logician.

 

Canto Four: The Conclusion

Well, doggone it! Would you check it out! We sure didn’t anticipate THIS one, did we? (You never can tell just what’s going to happen next, can ya.) Apparently all this discussion of philosophy has constituted some sort of crime against the state! (Who knew?) And so the court has ordered me to appear on charges of–i assume–philosophical ambition.

They (i assume) think i’ve been taking it upon myself to delve into the Deeper Questions… like, you know, “Where did everything come from?” and “What is the purpose of a human life” and “How ought one–if, that is, one were a donkey–to choose between two or more equally tasty-looking bales of hay?” and “What is the source of meaning?” and “What is the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?” …and my internet posts, they (almost certainly) say, do not in any way place me above suspicion.

This is apparently a serious crime. (Who knew?) In this technocratic day and age, you’re not supposed to be a thinker. I guess you’re just supposed to piddle around with dumb-ass areas of study–like computer programming or ancient Baltic historiography or nuclear physics, or the translation of medieval Anglo-Saxon texts into modern Slovenian, or the development of arcane economic models as applied to populations of planetary colonists–nonsense that requires no intellectual rigor. If found guilty, i fear i may have to do 10 to 20 years in prision–

Oops! They’ve called me–wish me luck!–i’m supposed to go with this uniformed gentleman here. I reckon this means that i have to go defend my passionate yearning to know and live the truth (although, according to this uniformed gentleman, the charges have more to do with “creating a public nuisance” and “publishing statements that are the functional equivalent of pink drool” and “being an idiot on government property” and “saying things that are so dumb, even a cage full of intoxicated hamsters would know better”) or, in other words, y’know, i shall give my deposition.

And here we are in the courtroom. What was that, your Honor? My profession, you ask? Well, that’s easy, your Honor. Philosophy! What? I can’t possibly be serious, you say? Well, sorry to burst your bubble and whatnot, but it’s true. Hmm? Do i expect this court to take such a claim seriously? Well, golly, i’m afraid so. Do people actually still do philosophy in this postmodern day and age, you want to know? Particularly cud-chewing morons with IQs in the negative numbers, who struggle even to figure out how to put on their undies? Well, doggone it, i’m not entirely sure i understood the question, but, well, anyway: Yer dern tootin’, your Honor… i mean, hey, look at me: i’m a logician.

 

Epilogue: Or, The Editors Have the Last Word

The final tally: two dead, Zachary doesn’t look like he’s going to pull through, and three of us have developed a sudden malady that involves uncontrollable shaking. Apart from that, we seem to have made it to the end of the poem unscathed. The disquieting thought lurks in the backs of our minds: does this guy ever plan to write ANOTHER poem?

[Two more of the Editors lapse into fits of uncontrollable shaking]

 

Confucius, the Buddha, Aristotle, and Mr. T Order Their Dinner at Chili’s

 

Abstract:  In which four of the world’s greatest philosophers discuss the nature of pleasure and pain, over a meal at Chili’s restaurant. (Er, just to give you a bit of advance notice, one of those philosophers is Mr. T.  We’re sorry. It just worked out that way.)


 

Waiter: Good evening! My name is Miles, and i’ll be your server today.

Mr. T:  You wanna know my name? Huh? Do ya? First name: Mister. Middle name: period. Last name: T.

Waiter:  Um–excellent!  [hesitates long enough to absorb this edifying information]

So, can i bring you fellows something to drink?

Mr. T:  Maybe you can shut your mouth. Maybe you can do that?

Waiter:  I… uh… [trembling]… beg your pardon?

Aristotle:  [sighs so very deeply]

Confucius:  How about four waters, please. And thank you for your patience.

[Waiter scuttles off, already apprehensive about the evening’s shift]

Mr. T:  I pity the fool.

Aristotle:  I can’t help noticing that you say that in places where it makes absolutely no sense.

Mr. T:  Yeah, well here’s what i have to say to you: pain.

The Buddha:  Pain is gateway to vision, even as gate is gateway to place on other side of gate.

Aristotle:  Uh: right. Ahem. Okay. So here’s an interesting question. What role do pleasure and pain play in the development of a healthy human person? Can a human truly grow, without experiencing the opposing forces which are not of his choosing?

Mr. T:  My prediction: Pain.

Aristotle:  Indeed.

The Buddha:  Bird in tree sing beautifully. Bird standing on rock also sing beautifully.

Confucius:  Thank you, Sid. Good stuff. So here’s how i would approach that question. It is through standing against the wind that the strong man prevails. The weak man has spent his days sheltered under a bush; he has not allowed the forces of nature to train him. Opposition is our course of training.

Mr. T:  I’ll show you a course of training.

Aristotle:  Someone remind me, how did this ‘T’ person end up at our table?

Confucius:  [sighs]  It’s a long story.

Mr. T:  I pity the fool.

Confucius:  Thank you, Mr. T. Keep it coming.

The Buddha:  Pain is the path that we take, which leads us to the other path.

Aristotle:  Mmm?

The Buddha:  You know, the other path. That other one. The one that isn’t the first one.

Confucius:  Let’s just move on.

Aristotle:  Okay. Um? I think that you and i were agreeing that pain is an important component in the process of maturing.

Confucius:  Right. Furthermore, if we lean into the unfortunate circumstances that beset us, rather than trying to avoid or deny them, then we gain tenfold the wisdom and maturity that we would have gained, had we successfully evaded them.

Mr. T:  Pain. It’s what’s for dinner.

Aristotle:  Look, that did not EVEN.

Confucius:  [sigh]  Let it go. Anyway, strength is gained through having to confront pain when it comes to us. The weak man, you will find, has led an easy life.

Aristotle:  That makes sense. I like it.

[Miles the waiter returns with four waters]

Waiter:  So, have you fellas made up your minds yet?

Mr. T:  I don’t believe in magic; but i have been known to make guys disappear.

Waiter:  I’m…sorry??

Mr. T:  You heard me. Get along now.

The Buddha:  Pain. Heh heh heh.

Aristotle:  [groans]  Could we have another minute, please?

Waiter:  You bet.  [makes a quick getaway before Mr. T is able to comment]

Confucius:  Perhaps we can all take a moment to look at our menus.

Aristotle:  What is this ‘Southwestern Eggroll’…? Isn’t that sort of a contradiction in terms? I thought eggrolls were from [and here he bows slightly to Confucius] the Orient.

Confucius:  I believe these Southwestern Eggrolls may be from the Southwestern part of China. You know, a regional cuisine.

Aristotle:  [somewhat doubtful]  Ah. Of course. Well, i guess i’ll try a batch of ’em.

Mr. T:  I remember one time i tried to pity this fool. It didn’t work out.

Confucius:  Pity the waiter, T, and make your selection from the menu.

Mr. T:  Where’s the bear? I wanna order the bear.

Aristotle:  [disintegrating visibly]  The…bear?

Mr. T:  Yeah, some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.

The Buddha:  I, too, wish to eat bear. It is the bear that brings us to the edge of what we are not, so that we may perhaps then discover what we are.

Aristotle:  [sweating, wilting]  That… i mean, it didn’t… what are we even… i need a drink.

Confucius:  Let’s make that two drinks.


 

Epilogue:  We’re sorry. There was really no predicting that this would be the result… oh dear. We’re just sorry, that’s all.  -The Editors

 

The Blogger Makes an Offhand Observation

 

Abstract:  In which The Blogger waxes eloquent–for a few seconds, anyway–and really puts his finger on the pulse of something important–and the crowds stand amazed.


 

The Blogger:  [after emerging from a protracted reverie, in which he has been pondering things of  a Genuinely Profound Significance for a Very Long Time]

Um, okay, here it is.

[he sucks in a deep breath]

It seems to me that–maybe–

[he glances furtively from one side to the other]

–if all flockbinkers are treadknicious–

[he pauses significantly]

–and if–let’s say–some wamwams are flockbinkers–

[a note of hesitation enters his usually manly features]

–then we are kind of forced to the conclusion that… well…

[he closes his eyes, and balls his hands up into tight little fists]

…some wamwams are treadknicious!

 

The Assembled Throng:  [bursts into wave upon wave of excited applause]

The Blogger:  [visibly moved]  Well, shucks, y’all. Thank you. You’re way too kind.

 


 

Epilogue

Y’know, it’s always good to be reminded of the truly classic stuff.

 

 

The Blogger and The Good Reader Have Yet Another Argument

 

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.

 

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