all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Category: Inspiration

Why It ABSOLUTELY Matters That You Pronounce ‘Treadknicious’ Correctly

 

Abstract:  There are hundreds of thousands of words in the English vocabulary. Treadknicious is just one of them. And yet–quite apart from its fascinating and important meaning–it has a claim to fame that sets it apart. But not a good one. It is almost invariably… incorrectly… pronounced.


 

Honestly, this may perhaps not seem the most important post ever made to the “All Flockbinkers” blog. Yet it involves a topic close to my heart, and perhaps yours as well.

It concerns the pronunciation of the term “treadknicious.”

I’m going to spell out the sound of how you have probably always pronounced the word. I’m going to be trembling almost uncontrollably as i do so. But…and i’m sure your own philosophical adventures have taught you the same…one does what one must.

Here goes:

[Tred – nish – us].

[An almost uncontrollable shiver passes through the entire length of my body]

No, no, no, no, no.

NO!

Hmm-Mmmm.

No no.

Just: No.

The word is most decidedly NOT pronounced to rhyme with, oh, for instance, “splednicious.”

Sure, it’s spelled as if the two words rhyme. “Treadknicious.” “Spledknicious.” A perfectly honest mistake.

But they don’t rhyme. Oh no. No, sirree.

The well-known word “splednicious” is, of course, pronounced [spled – nish – us].

We’ve all known that since kindergarten. “Teacher, what a spledknicious lesson you have taught us!” Or, if you weren’t an insufferable kiss-up, “Baxter! I say, you’ve got the most splednicious black eye!” Spledknicious. Three syllables.

The word “treadknicious” is, by contrast, pronounced… and i need to know that you’re sitting down and paying full attention…

It is pronounced:  [tred – ka – nish – us].

Did you catch that? I’ll repeat it for the slower ones among you:  [tred – ka – nish – us]

Just like that.

You mustn’t slip and leave out the [ – ka – ].

Please.

Now, i can hear some of you saying, “Looka here, now, buddy, why’nt ya just calm yerself? Now how does it really matter how we pronounce one o’ them big fancy words? Ain’t it really the thought that counts in matters o’ this here type?”

Bless you, child, but my answer to your well-meaning query is an unambiguous…

[…and here the Blogger goes into an uncontrolled coughing fit, holds up one finger as if to say, “a minute, gimme a minute here,” and eventually assumes command of himself…]

…”No.”

You see, certain things matter much more than they might appear to on the surface. And the correct pronunciation of words is among those things.

Imagine, with me, a world in which people are going about their business, pronouncing words however they like, making the most awful sounds with their mouths, horrid successions of noise trailing out from between their lips on a regular basis. Can you imagine anything more like what will doubtless be going on when the world is brought to its end and we are all subjected to the Final Judgment?

The dissolution of all things! The blackness of the very last night! Chaos and abaddon, with darkness upon the face of the deep and spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places!

We can, in our own little way, fight back these cosmic influences–at least for a while–by pronouncing our words correctly. And we can start with the correct pronunciation of the word, “treadknicious.”

I leave this very important matter in your capable hands, o my dearest reader.

 

A Very Particular Set of Skills: or, What if Liam Neeson Were a Philosopher

 

Abstract:  In the film “Taken”, Liam Neeson plays a father whose “very particular set of skills” comes into play as he tracks down his daughter’s captors and rescues her. Which leads to the obvious question: how would this set of skills come into play if the same character were–say–a philosopher?


 

Imagine with me, if you will, a world in which philosophers were making movies. Ahhh!

Among the current batch of film actors, Liam Neeson is probably–more than most, anyway–associated with a single picture: “Taken.” In this film, Neeson plays a father whose “very particular set of skills” comes into play as he tracks down his daughter’s captors–a ring of sex traffickers–and rescues her.

All of which, quite naturally, leads to the question: how would this set of skills come into play if the same character were, say, a philosopher?

So blissful a thought! Of course, the films would probably be awful, but oh, the ideas! The logical inferences! The conceptual recommendations!

Ahem.

For the benefit of Those Who Do Not Remember, here is the iconic telephone speech that Liam Neeson gives near the beginning of the film Taken:

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Of course, a more philosophically-inclined version of the same character, in the same film, might have said something similar… yet different… perhaps along these lines:

“The set of possibilities, of which i am currently cognizant, contained in the sets of (1) ‘who you are’ and (2) ‘what you want’ and (3) ‘how much money i’ve got’ is circumscribed to such a degree as to be essentially irrelevant. I am, however, possessed of [Set A], which for our current purposes may be defined as ‘a very particular set of skills,’ such a set having been acquired across [Set B]: ‘over a very long career,’ the sum of which will inevitably result in the maximal state of unhappiness for you. The possibilities from this point include the following: (A) You let my daughter go now, which will result in [the consequences for you = the Null Set], or (B) Your inevitable and very painful….”

“Hello? Hello?” [shaking telephone] “Hello? Anyone there? Hello?”

Anyway, if we were to imagine such a world, that delightful world in which the action heroes were philosophers, and the philosophers were action heroes,* we might be able to envision a scenario like the following:

“Immanuel Aquinas is having a bad day. To begin with, the guy at the laundry not only messed up his best suit, but he had the nerve to follow that with an absurd line of argumentation, rife with fallacious inferences, in his own defense. Then, Aquinas got stuck in traffic for an hour, and had to endure the pathetic socio-cultural diatribes of the guy in the car next to his. But the worst thing of all? Tom Kant, his nemesis, is about to walk away red-handed with a satchel containing $10,000,000 of the government’s money. The solution? Looks like it’s time for Aquinas to kick some serious conceptual ass.”

–from a film that Liam Neeson has not starred in

[YET]

…but almost certainly will if the universe is the sort of place i suspect it to be.

I thought that, in this post, it might be worthwhile to imagine some things that Liam Neeson would or would not do, if cast in a philosophical action film. To wit:

Some things Liam Neeson would NEVER do:

  • He would never give you up
  • He would never let you down
  • He would never run around and desert you
  • He would never make you cry
  • He would never say goodbye
  • He would never tell a lie and hurt you

Um. Just a moment. We need to check on something.

Um. Hmmm.

Oh, dear. We’re sorry: that wasn’t Liam Neeson, it was Rick Astley. Similar fellows, understandable mistake.

Well, now that we’ve publicly embarrassed ourselves, oops, ha ha, why don’t we move on to the list of things that Liam Neeson would do, ha ha, or skills that he would reveal, as a philosopher? I feel we’re on somewhat firmer ground here.

Here are some things Liam Neeson would do:

He would summarily drop anyone who tried to make a pun on Kant and can’t. I mean, seriously…wouldn’t you?

Logical fallacies would be punished swiftly… dialectically… and permanently.

Wittgenstein’s Language Games… hah! You won’t be playing any with him. Not, that is, if you value your respiratory tractatus. Er, tract.

All flockbinkers may or may not be treadknicious, but you’re about to be.

(Wait. What? Umm.)

Don’t even try coming at him with obtuse, verbally bloated explanations: he will cut you with Occam’s Razor.

The Law of the Excluded Middle…after he’s finished excluding YOUR middle, you won’t have anything left to digest your food with.

He’ll crush your monads (get it? your monads, heh heh), Leibniz to the contrary notwithstanding.

And speaking of notwithstanding… Pythagoras notwithstanding, when Neeson’s through with you the squares of your legs will NOT be equal to the square of your hypotenuse.

Please don’t go on and on about some “Prisoner’s Dilemma”… The only way to act in your own self-interest when dealing with Liam Neeson is to hand over the total and pray that he doesn’t feel like investigating the boundaries of game theory.

Oh dear. Once again, we’re not even sure what this last one meant.

He’ll separate your yin from your yang.

(We thought that last one was pretty funny, and we’re going to repeat it.)

He’ll separate your yin from your yang.

Heh heh.

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis, schmynthesis… The Hegelian Dialectic notwithstanding… among the various other things that are notwithstanding… you’ll find yourself in a world of contradiction if Liam Neeson isn’t pleased with the status of your triads.

He kicked Buridan’s Ass, and he’ll kick yours.

When he’s done with you, you’ll be reduced to a cardboard caricature useful only as a mouthpiece for certain widely dismissed philosophical positions… oh… waittasecond… oops… sorry, there… we kinda got Liam Neeson crossed up with Ayn Rand.

She’ll have to wait for another post to the blog.

 

* Heh heh. A bit of a nod to Plato, there.

 

Another Philosophy Joke: Bertie and Jeeves, Confucius and Aristotle Have Dinner at Chili’s

 

Abstract:  Bertie Wooster has recently spent an evening at Chili’s restaurant, in the company of the great philosophers Buddha and Confucius, and the result was not quite that entry into higher thought that one might have wished. Fortunately, the next time Bertie happens into a Chili’s he’s got his brainy old standby Jeeves with him. And it’s a good thing… Confucius is there again, and this time he’s got Aristotle with him!

___________________________________________________________________________________________

There are a handful of defining experiences that tend to make a man what he is–what i mean by that is that growth is often attached to seismic experiences that serve to shake us out of our complacency–and what he is going to be, at various points in the as-yet indeterminate future–as distinguished from what he was, prior to the aforementioned encounters, that is.

Oh dear, let’s try that one again.

Sometimes important things happen to you.

[Ahem]  Much better.

Now, the kind of important things that can happen to a fellow–the ones, anyway, that we’re thinking of at the moment–might involve meeting famous dead philosophers in busy restaurants. This sort of thing does not happen to most people on a regular basis, but it appears to be happening to young Bertie Wooster with distressing regularity. Why don’t we sneak a little closer so that we can listen in on the ensuing conversation?

 

Confucius:  Hmmm. What’ll it be this time, the Southwestern Eggrolls or the Cobb Salad. Decisions, decisions.

Aristotle:  You ought to delineate the virtues of each in a parallel comparison chart. On the one side, you can rank the advantages and disadvantages to ordering a Cobb Salad, and on the other side you can arrange the data on a Southwestern Eggroll. Then you simply determine which of the two seems less unpleasant, and more enjoyable.

Confucius:  My word. Are you really like this all the time?

Aristotle:  All. The. Time. It’s a living hell.

Confucius:  Man. Wouldn’t want to be you. I just sort of talk about how i think people ought to behave, and stuff.

Aristotle:  I would die for a gig like that.

Confucius:  It’s certainly got its benefits. But hey, we were starting to talk about the nature of human decision-making, and you were saying….

Bertie:  I say!

Confucius:  Goodness gracious! If it isn’t Master Wu Stehr! Come, join us! And do introduce your friend.

Bertie:  This is my thrice-worthy man, Jeeves. The sort of cove who’s reading 18th century philosophy one minute, and bringing to a swift termination the household problems in the next.

Jeeves:  An exaggeration i must contradict, sir, with the deepest respect and gratitude. But am i correct in concluding that you, sir [turning oh-so-slightly] are the philosopher Aristotle?

Aristotle:  [obviously flattered]  I am, sir! What an astonishing conclusion!

Jeeves:  [Bows ever so slightly]

Confucius:  You and your friend must by all means sit with us!  [scootching over]

Aristotle:  Indeed. By all means!  [scootching in a somewhat more Aristotelian manner]

Bertie:  Well, don’t mind if we do, eh Jeeves?

Jeeves:  To be sure, sir.

Confucius:  Now, if memory serves, the last time you–Mr. Wu Stehr–sat here with us we talked a bit about a few of your friends and family. And at that time, you mentioned Jeeves here. What a pleasure to be able to meet him at last!

Aristotle:  Indeed! He is reputed to be the sort of “middle man” whose choices always adhere to that noble region located between the extremes and excesses of human folly.

Bertie:  Well, i say! Some pretty tough remarks they’re biffing at you, eh Jeeves?

Jeeves:  Almost entirely exaggerated. One does attempt to do what one can, sir.

Confucius:  So, perhaps you can help us resolve a small difficulty. I’m having trouble choosing between the Cobb Salad, and the Southwestern Eggrolls.

Jeeves:  If i may offer an opinion, sir, you should order the Cobb Salad on this occasion. Desmond Sneed, with whom i take dinner from time to time on my days off, is in a relationship with Bessie Tellmann, who works in transportation. To shorten the story, i am reliably informed that this week’s shipment of Southwestern Eggrolls has been blighted with cockroaches.

Bertie:  There! You see? That was an absolute biffer, Jeeves!

Jeeves:  Terribly good of you to say, sir.

Aristotle:  Astonishing and gratifying! There’s nothing like the combination of firsthand experience and logical deduction in the improvement of one’s dining habits!

Confucius:  I must agree. That was impressive.

Aristotle:  So, Jeeves, may i put a question to you?

Jeeves:  I shall attempt to render good service.

Aristotle:  Okay. So there’s this terribly cute redhead who’s been spending a lot of time over at the Cognitive Diss Disco. I’ve chatted briefly with her a couple of times, she seems nice. Do you think i should pursue a relationship with her?

Jeeves:  A question, sir. Does she have a mole on her upper lip?

Aristotle:  Astonishing! Indeed she has!

Jeeves:  Ah, i feared as much. That would be Mlle. Connie Desmouches. She is a charming girl, to be sure, but i am reliably informed that she has of late been seen much in the company of Lord Habersham.

Aristotle:  Blast it all! I was afraid something like that might be the case.

Bertie:  Plus, she’s a redhead, what? QED.

Jeeves:  Indeed, sir.

Bertie:  Many’s been the time Jeeves has rescued me from the clutches of one redhead after another. Lovely girls, and quite stiff enough about the brains, but all in all not a good relational proposition.

Jeeves:  The redhead temperament tends not to agree with yours, sir.

Bertie:  Right ho! You’ve said a mouthful, Jeeves.

Confucius:  This exploration of the dynamics of relationship is indeed stimulating, but i wonder if i might steer the conversation in the direction of the larger issues of statecraft and public policy?

Aristotle:  Ah! A direction much to my liking, as well.

Bertie:  Biffing idea!

Jeeves:  I shall be glad to render forth my opinion, sir, for what it may be worth.

Confucius:  Back in my native China, the Emperor has been considering the implementation of a policy whereby the wealthier estates are broken up and distributed among the poorer classes. There are some who say he has been influenced by foreign elements; others claim his mental state has begun to deteriorate. And yet others hail this as a sound policy. What would you say?

Jeeves:  I am tempted, sir, to conclude that you are testing me on the soundness of my grasp of–ahem–current events.

Confucius:  [laughing]  I am afraid that what seems current to me may perhaps be ancient history to you. The time scale of the blog appears to be a bit out of order. Perhaps another question.

Aristotle:  I rather like the one you just asked.

Bertie:  [examining menu]  If i may make a brief o,* this “Molten Chocolate Cake” appears to rate a magna-cum-biff! I say, waiter!

Aristotle:  [smiling]  It’s not bad. Not bad at all.

Confucius:  Okay. Here’s a replacement question. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck COULD chuck wood?

Jeeves:  I fear you’ve selected a rather easy one this time, sir. If the current Prime Minister does not wish his extramarital activities to be politicized, then he ought rather to disguise them more effectively, or give them up entirely.

Confucius:  Brilliant! Precisely the correct answer!

Aristotle:  Wmmff?

Bertie:  I say! Weren’t we talking about woodchucks and wood and that sort of thing?

Jeeves:  Quite so, sir.  [bows slightly]

Aristotle:  My impression precisely. I fear these gentlemen may be playing a game to which we are unfamiliar with the rules.

Bertie:  Well, now, that IS a bit thick, isn’t it.

Jeeves:  One speaks in the argot peculiarly suited to the situation, sir.

[He and Confucius snicker demurely for a moment.]

Confucius:  So, i have another question, this one for the whole assembled company. If the Southwestern Eggrolls have been tainted, what might be said about the Molten Chocolate Cake of which we all appear to be lusting uncontrollably?

Aristotle:  We would need to assemble a certain body of information at the outset. Were the eggrolls and the chocolate cake on the same shipping truck? Did they at any point share a storage facility? Might we perhaps have access to someone on staff here who is able to discuss with us the manner in which the two respective foods have been stored?

Bertie:  Oh, hang it all! Waiter! Waiter! I say, one Molten Chocolate Cake here, with or without the complementary insect life.

Jeeves:  My employer is a man of decisive temperament where food is involved.

Confucius:  Ah! A decisive temperament is not a bad thing, when combined with a desire for the social good and the observation of correct forms. Another Molten Chocolate cake for me, please, waiter!

Aristotle:  Well, doggone it. Another here, good waiter!

Jeeves:  I shall perhaps opt for the vanilla ice cream instead, if you please.

Bertie:  As you wish, Jeeves. You may be missing the most exciting part of the meal–the part that crawls out to greet you.

Jeeves:  Indeed, sir. Such was not far from the trend of my own thought.

Confucius:  One last challenge, and then we shall all tuck into our desserts. Mr. Jeeves, what is your insight into the ontological status of the common flockbinker?

Jeeves:  [smiling sadly]  I fear the ontological status of the flockbinker is a bit outside the bounds of my reading, sir.

Confucius:  Yet you are familiar with them?

Jeeves:  Indeed, sir. I am aware of the concept of the flockbinker.

Confucius:  And yet you’ve not formed an idea of their existence or nonexistence?

Jeeves:  I… did not exactly say that, sir.

Confucius:  Aha!

Bertie:  What, ho.

Aristotle:  It’s a bit of an arcane discussion, Mr. Wooster. There are those–perhaps none present–who hold the flockbinker to be an actually existent entity. There are others who break into paroxysms of laughter at the very idea of flockbinkers. It’s an interesting debate.

Bertie:  I say! It’s always been my impression that flockbinkers are fictional, but then, my reading has been somewhat more focused than yours.

Aristotle:  [leaning toward Bertie]  Your man is a bit of a keen player. He hasn’t actually taken a side on that particular issue, you see.

Bertie:  Ah! That Jeeves, you can’t often know what he’s actually thinking.

Jeeves:  I hope never to have given offense on that score, sir.

Bertie:  Oh, no, far from it. Keeps things interesting.

[The waiter returns with their desserts]

Confucius:  I bid you all good health and blessing appropriate to your social station.

Aristotle:  Wassail!

The Assembled Company:  Wassail!

 


 

* For the uninitiated: Bertie sometimes likes to abbreviate his longer words down to a single letter: perhaps for ease of pronunciation, perhaps because it seems somewhat clever, in a somewhat un-clever sort of way.

 

The Three Scotsmen…Sittin’ on a Fence…Sing “My Flockbinker Lies over the Ocean”

 

Abstract:  In which we are regaled by a highly unusual musical performance. “My Flockbinker Lies over the Ocean” is apparently a real song–depending what you mean by the term “real”–and passionately loved by certain among us of a Scottish heritage.


 

Odd things happen.

Of course, you already knew that.

But i’d be willing to put money down that you’ve never experienced anything quite on the level of hearing three metaphorical Scotsmen–sittin’ on a fence, of course–singing a quasi-existent folk song (or is it a “flok” song? tee hee…get it? “Flok” song. Oh my word, i kill myself.). Here, for your listening pleasure, is a rousing version of the traditional (meaning, “it didn’t exist until a few minutes ago”) Scottish ballad, “My Flockbinker Lies over the Ocean.”

 

The First Scotsman:

My flockbinker lies over the ocean
My flockbinker lies over the sea;
My flockbinker lies over the ocean,
Oh bring back my flockbinker to me!

The Three Scotsmen, Together:

Bring back, bring back,
O bring my flockbinker to me, to me,
Bring back, bring back,
O bring my flockbinker to me!

The Second Scotsman:

O blow ye wamwams o’er the ocean,
O blow ye wamwams o’er the sea,
There once was a chap who had migraines,
Who said, “To pee, or not to pee!”

The Three Scotsmen, Together:

To be, tee-hee,
O what if flockbinkers could hold their pee;
Wee wee, tee tee,
A silly song it’s turned to be!

The Third Scotsman:

Last night as i lay on my pillow,
A goblin leaped out from way all the way under my durned bed,
This song’s getting harder to sing in accordance with
the established expectations associated with metrical scansion,
Goblin! Uh, and…um… another goblin!

The Three Scotsmen, Together:

Scansion, schmansion,
Don’t plague us with silly concepts that have little application in the experienced world!
Mansion, Tansion,
Why, what a fun way to adventitiously recalibrate the pronunciation of the word
“tension”…!

The Three Scotsmen, Together Again:

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! All your base are belong to us,
And the dish ran away with the spoon, the spoon, the dish ran away with the spoon,
If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the stinkin’ kitchen, ya scurvy bastard,
On account o’ the bears that are in some ambiguously defined relationship
wi’ Goldilocks.

The Three Scotsmen, Together Yet a Third Time:

Don’t ye trie to get us to stop singin’ one o’ oor favrit songs, ye vile stinkin’ stench!
Ye’ll accomplish nothin’ but the effectin’ o’ your own grisly death by fire or water!
Um, uh… huh huh huh… uuhhh… bring back, bring back,
O bring my flockbinker to me!

 

Epilogue:

Um.

Okay.

At least, you can’t say i didn’t warn you. I did. Right? Hmmm? Did i not? Let the record read that i did, in fact, try to warn you.

 

Marketing and the False Dilemma: or, “I don’t know which one to click on!”

Here, o most excellent reader, is a quickie lesson in critical thinking. You’re about to learn about false dilemmas, and then you’re going to learn to recognize them when you encounter them in sales scenarios.

If the expression “false dilemma” sounds familiar, it may be that you’ve read one of the recent posts to this blog (“There Are Two Kinds of People in the World“) in which The Good Reader, The Blogger, and Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major, discussed the idea of false dilemmas at some length. If you read that post, then you’re already ahead of the game. If you didn’t, then fear not: here’s a bit of a primer to get you started.

 

When i was in the 6th grade, the following joke was popular among certain of the fellows:

Dude #1:  Are you a [something unpleasant] tied to a tree?

Dude #2:  Um, no. Of course not.

Dude #1:  Aaaugh! Aaaagh! [unpleasant thing] on the loose! [unpleasant thing] on the loose!

Nicely done, Dude #1! Do you see what he did there? He craftily set up the scenario such that only two possible answers were provided: either you were a [something unpleasant] tied to a tree, or you were [same unpleasant thing] at large. And that, my friends, is a classic example of a false dilemma.

A false dilemma is any situation where only two options are presented as the possible answer to a question, and you are expected to select one of the two… despite the fact that there are actually other possibilities that have not been mentioned. Here, let’s look at another one.

Is a grilled cheese sandwich an example of (1) a meat casserole, or (2) a sports utility vehicle?

You see the problem. I have provided you with two answers, but regrettably, the correct answer was not one of them. Yet i seem to be expecting you to choose one of the wrong answers that i gave you.

Let’s look at the issue of the “false dilemma” from another angle. If i were to ask you the following question, you would be correct in choosing precisely one of the two options i set you up with:

“Pardon me. Are you a postal delivery worker, or something else?”

If you are, in fact, a mail carrier, you could select the first option. And if you’re not, you could select the second one. There’s no problem. I have given you a logically satisfying range of options. It is possible for you to give the correct answer, based on the options i’ve presented you with.

But what if i were to ask you the following:

“Hello. Are you a postal delivery worker, or an aquatic crustacean?”

You would be quite within your rights to say, “Excuse me, i’m not either one… perhaps you’re confusing me with YOUR MOM?”

This would be a philosophically sound approach to the situation.

The person setting up a false dilemma will usually be either (1) a sloppy thinker who doesn’t realize that the scenario he’s setting forth is flawed, or (2) a canny manipulator who is very much aware of what he’s doing, and wants to shepherd you into choosing one of the two options: the one that he agrees with.

Which leads us to today’s topic.

 


 

Is it just me, or have online vendors been making increasing use of troubling false dilemmas? They’ll present you with an advertisement of some kind, and then offer you two options to click through, like this:

  • Yes, i want to learn more about this exciting offer!
  • No, i am a moron and should not be allowed to breed!

I have been noticing these kinds of dilemmas with increasing frequency. The other day as i was making a purchase using one of those vast, behemoth-scale online retailers… i won’t identify the company, but its name rhymed with “diazepamazon”…i was met at one point in the checkout process by what i thought was an odd choice (and here i indulge in the liberty of paraphrase):

  • Yes, i would like to be charged an additional fee to enroll in a program that will result in superior customer service, substantial eventual savings (if, that is, i end up spending at least nine grillion dollars a year through this website), and a streamlined checkout experience!
  • No, i am content with the irritating, substandard shopping experience to which i have grown stoically accustomed!

Something just didn’t feel completely right about the choice i was being offered. What i wanted was superior customer service and substantial savings, without being charged an additional fee! But [sigh] they did not offer that as one of the options. So i selected the second one, even though it wasn’t really what i wanted.

Once you train yourself to recognize them, you begin to see false dilemmas everywhere throughout the world of marketing. For instance, you’ve probably seen this sort of thing. A certain whiskey is being advertised, and, although the ad doesn’t come out and say it directly, it is strongly implied that you have two options before you:

Either (1) you are a drinker of Whiskey X, and a favorite among the ladies, or (2) women look at you with pity in their eyes, similar to the way they would look at a fellow who has a yellow discharge draining out of one ear, and they whisper to each other in phrases that sound as if they include the words “welfare recipient” and “venereal disease.”

Never mind that you have never touched their whiskey and, nevertheless, seem to get along perfectly fine with women. The advertisement does not appear to take this possibility into account.

Here’s another one. An advertisement in which two women are pictured, one decked in the athletic gear that is being advertised, and the other wearing some other perfectly reasonable athletic wear. And, just through the photograph and the brilliantly worded text, an implied false dilemma is set forth:

Either (1) you wear our athletic gear, you’re fit, gorgeous, self-possessed, and the cool slogan “Just Go For It” applies to you, or (2) you are 23, already going through menopause, and look as if you are no stranger to snack cakes filled with trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.

Never mind that you wouldn’t be caught dead in the athletic gear being advertised… you tried it on once and found it hot and uncomfortable… yet you just got finished running your third half-marathon and finishing in the top ten percent.

Here are some more examples.

Imagine a laxative company with an advertisement that says, “…so the next time you’re feeling a bit irregular, try StoolExpress… unless, of course, you enjoy feeling bloated and having a painful bowel movement once every five weeks.”

It’s entirely possible… hear me out… that those are not the only two options.

Or this:

“So join the multitudes of homemakers who have discovered that they don’t have to live with perpetually sticky countertops, accompanied by a faint but apparently ineradicable whiff of cat urine. Switch to ultra-absorbent WipeOut paper towels!”

Could it be that there are other solutions to the problem of soiled countertops? Just thinking out loud here.

Or imagine being presented with an online poll set up in the following way:

  • Yes, i support Congressman McDrennahanahan in his fight against the forces of wickedness and injustice!
  • No, i hate my country and feel that the sooner the Bill of Rights can be forcibly ripped out of the Constitution (which, by the way, i also hate), the better.

Maybe… just maybe… it’s possible to love and be committed to one’s country, even if Congressman McDrennahanahan’s agenda does not entirely represent your civic ideal.

 

I hope this little tutorial has been helpful to you, o gentle reader, in your struggle to sift through the messages that we are all bombarded with on a daily basis.

If not, then i’m afraid you’ll just continue to be a witless, gullible weenie who is utterly at the mercy of ad agencies, politicos, and snake oil salesmen.

 

Okay, that’s it. I’m ditching philosophy and taking up extreme sports.

Look. I’ve had it. The philosophical life has just gotten too dang hard.

Given the times we’re living in, and the direction the world seems to be taking, there just doesn’t seem to be much demand for philosophical thought anymore. Contemporary discourse is being taken over by darkness and unreason; the irrational has gained ascendancy over logic and clear sense; there is a breathtaking lack of interest in truth; it is increasingly popular to ignore obvious aspects of reality in favor of bizarre flavor-of-the-month ideologies.

And that’s just in my morning carpool.

So i’m considering a pretty radical move.

I’m gonna give up on being a philosopher, and take up extreme sports instead.

Well… maybe….

Because, you see, being a philosopher (i haven’t taken up extreme sports just yet) i can’t just jump into a life-changing decision like this. I need to carefully, analytically and systematically examine all of the ramifications. What follows is my painstaking analysis of the pros and cons of giving up the leisured, cerebral life of philosophy, in order to climb up sheer rock faces with my fingernails.

The Advantages to Giving up on Philosophy
in Favor of Extreme Sports:

  • Among rugged outdoors types, you don’t ever catch someone making a stupid pun on “Kant” and “can’t.”
  • No one in your ice climbing group will be examining your epistemological premises for consistency or fidelity to the available evidence.
  • You get to experience terror of things other than the meaninglessness of existence.
  • Getting tangled up in webs of reasoning is ten times more exhausting than getting tangled up in a mess of ropes and carabiners.
  • When you see a reference to ‘Academy’ you will immediately think of a sporting goods store, not Plato’s archetypal think-tank.
  • The name “St. Augustine” does not conjure up images of morbid self-reflection; on the contrary, it calls up images of parasailing off of sunny Florida beaches.
  • The name “Schopenhauer” is more likely to remind you of an imported beer, than the raw, brute will at the center of the universe.
  • Parkour may look kind of ridiculous to a jaded onlooker, but it’s not nearly as ridiculous as a dorm room full of sophomores discussing critical theory at 2:15 in the morning.
  • Your nightmares will be haunted by visions of hurtling off of icy ledges three thousand feet up, rather than an image of Jeremy Bentham’s stuffed cadaver on display at University College, London…which, honestly, is much more terrifying.
  • No more dealing with asinine conundrums, like the parable of “Buridan’s Ass” or the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”… instead, you get to face dilemmas like, “Do we continue on toward the top, risking starvation and sub-zero temperatures, or do we turn back, thus risking starvation and sub-zero temperatures?”
  • Reading Thomas Jefferson’s political philosophy is a bit of a yawn compared with the cool merch available at Mountain Outfitters (West Jefferson, North Carolina)

Possible Disadvantages to Taking up Extreme Sports
and Giving up on Philosophy:

  • Sitting in an armchair contemplating the mysteries of the universe turns out to be a lot less dangerous than a near-vertical-grade slab climb.
  • When doing philosophy in my own home, i get to eat my own “trail mix” that is, in fact, made up of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and cornbread, all arranged nicely on a big plate.
  • Whatever the disadvantages to being stranded in Plato’s Cave, it’s unlikely that they’ll have to send a rescue team in after you.
  • Hume’s “problem of induction” remains purely theoretical until you get out there and field test it: in reality, it turns out that every time i step on a loose rock, i will sprain my ankle.
  • Cracking your cranium open on a river boulder can seriously curtail your capacity for rational thought — a faculty that turns out to come in handy in a variety of life’s situations, not just philosophy.
  • Being a Socratic gadfly in the marketplace is not nearly so annoying to innocent bystanders as parkour.
  • The most violent thing that may happen to you is that you will be threatened with Wittgenstein’s Poker… and that only happens about once in a generation.
  • Heraclitus, schmeraclitus: You can step into the same river twice, and if the current is swift enough, suddenly the question of whether the Real World is in a constant state of flux will seem kind of silly and academic.
  • Sure, jumping to conclusions is a Really Bad Thing and all, but as it turns out, BASE jumping is far more dangerous.
  • The law of the excluded middle is a big deal in logic, but it’s an even bigger deal when you’ve inexplicably lost the middle section of your parachute
  • “Being and Nothingness” has such a vibey sound to it when you’re looking at a book by Sartre, but it loses its appeal when you’re hanging off the side of a cliff

 

The Conclusion

Having carefully weighed the pros and cons, i think i may hold off for a bit on taking up extreme sports. My cranium has become very dear to me over the years…

…and i Kant bear the thought of fracturing it.

 

In Praise of Silly Inspirational Sayings.

If you’re new to the ‘All Flockbinkers’ scene, it will be helpful to you to know that this is a blog about philosophy.

Well, not really.

It’s actually an opportunity to horse around shamefully, using putative discussions of logic, metaphysics, epistemology, etc. as convenient excuses to commit random absurdity and senseless acts of whimsy.

However, this particular post actually is going to be about philosophy!

Well, not really. It is in fact going to be about the kind of pop philosophy that makes its rounds on the internet, often featured in a meme backed with a sunset and/or a mountain.

Perhaps you can tell that i’ve been spending a good bit of time on Twitter recently.

Now, i don’t know what your experience has been on Twitter, but i’ve learned that there are several things that i can depend on running into as i scroll through the tweets. Allow me to enumerate some:

  • Opinionated election-year political rhetoric
  • Verses of Scripture or quotations from classic philosophy
  • Sound bites featuring apparently sensible business advice (like *I* would know)
  • Highly condensed and sometimes very funny jokes
  • Surrealistic art
  • Pictures of kittens and rhinoceroses
  • Photographs of skanky women
  • Photographs of paperback books posted by writers promoting their latest novel
  • [Note: there is considerable overlap between these last two categories]
  • Offers from people who want to handle all my marketing needs
  • A category that i like to refer to affectionately as “Twitter Poetry.” At its best, Twitter poetry can be quite interesting. The much more common experience, though, is some of the most abysmally horrific nonsense that has ever been violently stuffed into 140 characters.

But you know, of all the sorts of things that come cascading through my Twitter feed, i have a real soft spot for the category that i like to call “Silly Inspirational Sayings.”

I think you probably know what i’m talking about. It’s impossible that you have not encountered this sort of thing before. They’re everywhere on the internet: those encouraging statements that you often see featured in memes, along with a picture of a beach, a palm tree, and a beach chair and side table with a margarita on it. The statement says something like, “Every possibility is yours if you believe,” or “There is no greater you than the you that you are,” or something equally unintelligible and/or obviously untrue.

A famous example of the genre is one that has often been attributed (almost certainly inaccurately) to Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”  Groan.

Please understand: Not every encouraging or inspirational statement qualifies as a “Silly Inspirational Saying.” Some encouraging platitudes are actually helpful and accurate. In order to qualify as a Silly Inspirational Saying, a statement must be (1) a puff piece emphasizing how great i am, and (2) disconnected from reality.

Let me see if i can find an example of the sort of thing we’re talking about. Okay, here’s one:

CfyMtT7XEAEiM5B

Uh…no, they can’t.

The secret to these Silly Inspirational Sayings, i feel, is the picture. A patently ridiculous assertion, fortified with a picture of colorful balloons, suddenly becomes a nugget of elemental life wisdom. As a general rule, Silly Inspirational Sayings apparently seem more convincing when backed with suitable artistic reinforcement: an ocean sunset, a mountain summit or a cute animal.

The popularity of silly inspirational sayings leads to some interesting questions. Do people really find these statements convincing? Who are these people? Do they live next door to me? Is there someone out there in internet-land who, upon seeing a picture of a beach with the statement “every possibility is yours if you believe” superimposed over it, will hurl himself off a cliff and attempt to fly, or embark on a program of eating one box of Krispy Kremes per day, secure in the confidence that no harm will result? I wonder.

However, the ubiquity of silly inspirational sayings on Twitter has emboldened me to try and create some of my own. What follow are some examples based on a few recent attempts that i tweeted — several of which met with a reasonably warm reception, even though they were not backed with pictures of sunsets, horses, or the Grand Canyon. (If i am to pursue this idea more seriously, it’s clear that i really need to hone my skills in meme generating.)

 

“Be who you are, not who you’re not. But, wait a second, if you’re being who you aren’t, that would then become who you are. So you would STILL be being who you are. Wow. That’s awesome.”

“Be the you that you are. Because…trying to be the you that someone else is, is, well, it’s just metaphysically impossible.”

“Be the you that you are. Don’t try to be the you that you aren’t. Because, well, really, when it comes down to it, that’s just a confusing abuse of the pronoun ‘you’.”

“Be yourself; ignore the objective, informed input of other people. Because listening to what other people have to say might result in self-improvement. Oh, wait.”

“Don’t let other people tell you who you are. Have they cut you open to look at your brain and other organs? No. They have not.”

“Be the you that you have envisioned in your wildest dreams. No, not THOSE dreams. The other ones. Idiot.”

“Be true to yourself. Being false to yourself is a really bad idea. But now, as we come to think of it, we’re not entirely sure what either one of those would entail. Okay. Forget we said anything.”

“Be who you are. You are already the best version of you. There is nothing about you that needs to change. Sober self-examination is only for people who…um, we forgot where we were going with that.”

“The ‘you’ that you are is better than the ‘you’ that you would be if you invested effort into a program of self-improvement. You’ll just have to take our word on this.”

“You do you. Other people are going to do whatever, but you do you. People have attempted to point out to us that this is a meaningless statement, but we don’t care. We’re doing us.”

“You be you. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. You be you. You b u. UBU. Sit, UBU, sit. Good dog.”

“Be who you are. You’re beautiful and special. Don’t ever change. And certainly don’t take into account the helpful, objective input of other people. Narcissism is the new black.”

“Be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else. Definitely not cool. Identity theft is taken very seriously these days.”

 

 

 

 

 

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