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.”
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.
Person X: Excuse you!
Person X: My my my! [person looks somewhat uncomfortable]
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.
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.