all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Category: Logic

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.

 

‘Flockbinker’ Sort of Rhymes with ‘Spock Finger.’ I Feel This Must Be Significant.

 

Abstract:  *Yawn*  Yet another exploration of the ontology of flockbinkers. But! This time we examine the issue through the eyes (or finger) of a Vulcan, which i suppose DOES make things a bit more interesting. What do Vulcans know, or believe, about flockbinkers? A topic well worth considering!

A Random Vulcan:  Please note that a Vulcan does not ‘believe’ anything for which he does not have sufficient logical warrant.

Abstract, continued:  Uh, well, there ya go! Okay! On with the show!


 

Mister Spock, of Star Trek fame, enters from stage left, in a contemplative mood. He is joined by his father, Sarek, and his Mom, Amanda, entering from stage right.

 

Spock:  [muttering to himself]  The nature of flockbinkers. Hmm. It is, indeed, an interesting question.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am gratified, Spock, to hear that your mind is engaged in substantial pursuits.

Spock:  Indeed. Ontology has always seemed an engaging area for exploration.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  My mind is not entirely clear, my son, regarding the issue we are to discuss.

Spock:  It is the question of the existence and nature of flockbinkers. Are they real entities, and if so, what are their attributes?

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I must confess to being no less in the dark now, than i was 15 seconds ago.

Spock’s Mom, Amanda:  Sweetie, Spock’s friends are wanting to play an interesting game with him. I’m not sure that you need to take it so very seriously.

Spock:  It is perhaps a more important issue than you are assuming, mother. There are those who believe that a correct understanding of flockbinkers is directly connected to the mastery of the self, the eradication of evil, and the fostering of world peace.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am astonished to hear that so abstruse a discussion is believed to have such concrete implications!

Spock:  [whispering]  Just play along, Dad. I suspect it’s actually kind of a stupid topic.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Aaahh. I see. This conversation is at last making a modicum of sense to me.

Spock:  Indeed.

Spock’s Mom, Amanda:  At least it’s an interesting subject to occupy a delightful Spring afternoon!

Sarek and Spock:  Indeed.

[enter random girl-dude vulcan and miscellaneous vulcan feller]

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Do you mind if i chime in?

Spock:  By all means.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Well, it seems to me that if we had an actual specimen of a flockbinker here with us, we might study it and answer at least some our questions.

Spock:  There would seem to be much truth in what you say.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Well, so where do we find one? Is it a swamp-dwelling creature? There’s a nasty marshy area just a little ways from here.

Spock:  I am very much afraid that the issue may be more difficult than you have anticipated.

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  Difficult? What do you mean ‘difficult’? We bag a flockbinker and we study it! You people are so dang philosophical.

Spock:  It is, i fear, a much more complicated discussion that you have anticipated. For, you see, flockbinkers (according to those experts who view themselves as qualified to address the topic) are not… er, physical… in the same way that you and i are.

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  Flockbinkers are not… physical. Riiiiight. I get it. There’s a hidden camera, isn’t there.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Are you saying that a flockbinker is not a physical being, but is more like an energy field or a point of pure consciousness?

Spock:  Um: No.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  A flockbinker, then, is a kind of crystalline structure embodying certain living characteristics?

Spock:  Uh: Nah. Nice try.

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  [whispering]  You’re just encouraging him. Dude has obviously been smoking the ol’ Andromedan parsley.

Spock’s Mom, Amanda:  Oh, Spockie would never touch that stuff. We raised him better than that, i can tell you!

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  So, Mister Spock, the curiosity is killing me! What IS a flockbinker?

Spock:  Well, that–um–is where it gets a bit complicated.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Oohh, i love a logical conundrum!

Spock:  Erf. Oh boy.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am as curious as these young people are, my son! Can you not characterize this ‘flockbinker’ in a manner consistent with logic?

Spock:  Well, that’s the problem, Dad: the available documents seem to present a profile of the flockbinker that is anything but consistent with logical rigor.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  But… but… how can this be?

Spock:  Regrettably, the only materials we have relative to the nature of flockbinkers are to be found on a weblog run by a 20th century human whose grasp of even the basics of logic seems highly suspect.

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  What is it with you guys! Come on, let’s have a look at the evidence. Surely we can come up with SOMETHING.  

Spock:  Your enthusiasm, though commendable, is perhaps not well founded.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Well, it can’t hurt to simply examine the evidence.

Spock: [sigh]  Alrighty then. Here goes.  [he pulls out a manila folder and removes a sheet of paper]  First piece of evidence. This one’s from a couple of years ago. It says, “Whoah! Dude! So it appears that flockbinkers are not quite so gnarly as expert opinion has asserted! Them stuffed shirts can stuff it right HERE!!”  

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am afraid i don’t understand. Gnarly?

Spock:  Dad, it only gets worse. Here’s another snippet, from a few months later: “So, as nearly as we can tell, an entity can be classed as a ‘flockbinker’ if it… wait! What was that? Was that the opening chorus from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio?”

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Wait. What did he say a flockbinker is?

Spock:  He didn’t. He appears to have gotten distracted by music playing in the next apartment.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I… I don’t even.

Spock:  Oh, we haven’t even scratched the bottom yet. Here’s document number three: “Oh my stars and garters, i believe that may be a flockbinker roosting out in my back yard! No. Wait. Sorry. Apparently my neighbor’s laundry has blown over the fence.”

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I fear i must sit down.

Spock:  You and me both, Pop. 

Spock’s Mom, Amanda: Well, this information may not turn out to be useful, but at least we’re finding out that the experts have been working on the issue for several years now. That’s important, isn’t it?  

Spock:  You take a refreshingly positive interpretation, mother.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  So, let me be sure i understand. We do know that there is such a thing as a flockbinker, right? Not just from these moronic documents, but from other sources?  

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  Man, i haven’t had this much fun since the master at our academy accidentally burned his own hand off with his own phaser!  

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  Ugh, you are so vulgar. So here’s the real question: do we have any concrete, credible evidence to the effect that flockbinkers are even real? And not just the figments of some middle-aged blogger’s diseased imagination?  

Miscellaneous Vulcan Feller:  [mumbling]  I am not vulgar. He really did zap his own hand off. It was so cool.

Spock:  I am afraid that we do not. Whatever evidence there is, appears to be contained in… [he grimaces in a most un-Vulcan-like manner]… this folder.

Random Girl-dude Vulcan:  So what reasons do we have for even crediting their existence? One mentally unstable blogger mentions them in a few of his editorials, that’s not much evidence. 

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I fear i am in agreement with this young one, Spock. Is there no further evidence?

Spock:  There does not appear to be, father. And yet….

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Yes, my son?

Spock:  And yet i feel strangely compelled to believe.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I am tempted to interpret this as the influence of your human side.

Spock’s Mom, Amanda:  Well jeepers, dear, you say that as if it was a bad thing.

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I feel compelled to plead ‘no comment’.

 

Conclusion

And it turned out to be the case, indeed, that Spock (perhaps lulled into complacency by his human side) devoted much of his time during the next several years to research into the reality and nature of flockbinkers. The summary of his findings may be found in the archives of the Central Library on the planet Vulcan, under the title: “Flockbinkers: A Review of Certain Researches into Their Ontological Status, Physical Characteristics, Habits, and Method of Obtaining Food on Those Occasions When a Handi-Mart Does Not Happen to Be Open in the Vicinity.”

 

 

 

 

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]

 

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.

 

 

Three Philosophers Analyze Their Dinner at Chili’s

 

Abstract:  So there’s these three philosophers, see — variously interested in radical empiricism, rationalism, and the analytic/linguistic school of thought — and they meet at Chili’s for dinner. (For those of you who’ve not studied philosophy, the only people more fun than philosophers are [1] morticians, and [2] my Uncle Federico, who runs a dry goods store in Muncie, Indiana.) Gosh, what a barrel of monkeys! Can you dig it! Don’t you wish that YOU’d been at Chili’s that day? I know i do! Let’s listen in.


 

Our three philosopher-friends are seated at a booth by the windows — “so as to remain in touch with the more ecological aspects of human experience,” as one of them explained to the hostess while they were being seated. The following conversation picks up just as they’ve had the chance to settle in for a minute.

Philosopher #1:  Hmmm. What an odd document this ‘menu’ appears to be.

Philosopher #2:  How so?

Philosopher #1:  I see several problems. The subsections into which the whole is divided make no sense, either structurally or as bodies of intelligible data. And the menu begins with a listing of intoxicants. Should not that sort of thing come after the decisions have been made?

Philosopher #2:  Probably. I think i’m going to have the salmon with broccoli and rice.

Philosopher #3:  I don’t even see that.

Philosopher #2:  You’re looking at the desserts, goofball.

Philosopher #3:  Oh. This has very quickly become my favorite page.

Philosopher #2:  You can always come back to it. The dessert is supposed to be the last part of the meal.

Philosopher #3:  What canon of judgment establishes a necessary order for the components of a meal, ordered out of a menu?

Philosopher #1:  Here we go again.

Philosopher #2:  Look, dude, just allow the received social structures to define the manner in which you interact with the data.

Philosopher #3:  That doesn’t even.

Philosopher #1:  What if i were to eat a page from this menu, rather than any of the food items depicted thereupon?

Philosopher #2:  Please tell me that you’re joking.

Philosopher #1:  The ‘joke’ is a language-game in which i tend not to willingly participate.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  [sidles up to table]  Hi there! My name’s Geoffroy, and i’m going to be your server. Can i start you fellows off with something to drink?

Philosopher #1:  What is the square root of inert negativity?

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Um. Heh heh. I’m not sure i understand the question.

Philosopher #1:  [irritated]  It was a simple enough question.

Philosopher #3:  Great! Now he’s going to be in a mood for the rest of the meal.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Heh heh. Heh heh. Um.

Philosopher #2:  What is the square root of Your Mom.

Philosopher #3:  [laughs inexplicably]

Geoffroy the Waiter:  You know what, i’m gonna let you fellows look over the menu a bit more, and i’ll be back in a minute.

Philosopher #1:  Good plan, Ghee-off-rooy.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Heh heh, it’s pronounced “Jeff-ree.”

Philosopher #1:  No it’s not.

Geoffroy the Table Server:  Um, heh heh.  [scuttles off quickly, sweating]

Philosopher #1:  What an idiot.

Philosopher #2:  Never mind him. Just look at the menu and decide what you want to eat.

Philosopher #3:  Remind me again, at what point in the meal is it permissible to look at this “desserts” section?

Philosopher #2:  After you’ve eaten some real food.

Philosopher #3:  And by what standard are we able to evaluate the Real in the world of nutrition? Is not everything depicted in this menu Real? At some level?

Philosopher #1:  Perhaps it’s worth pointing out, at this juncture, that “nourishing” and “it looks good in the picture” are not necessarily equivalent concepts.

Philosopher #3:  Oh dear. I’m still not able to detect any intelligible pattern of interaction by which this ‘menu’ is mapped over the data of my own experience.

Philosopher #2:  When is that waitress person coming back? Before i’ll have had the chance to make a rational decision based on an adequate survey of the relevant data? I’m feeling pressured to make a decision based on insufficient data.

Philosopher #3:  [waxing oratorical]  I sense that he shall return in the fullness of time.

Philosopher #2:  Time! Now there’s a self-contradictory construct for you.

Philosopher #1:  I’ve told you a thousand times [sic], that doesn’t make any sense. Just because you’re able to slip something past your dissertation committee, that doesn’t make it a real thing.

Philosopher #2:  Nyah nyah nyah. You can’t dismiss an idea just because you’re not equipped to understand it.

Philosopher #1:  [muttering]  Your Mom’s not equipped to understand it.

Philosopher #2:  What? Did you say something about someone’s Mom?

Philosopher #1:  Maybe i did, and maybe i didn’t.

Philosopher #2:  If we were to have this same conversation an infinite number of times, i wonder how many of those times would involve a reference to your Mom.

Philosopher #1:  Well, even after ‘x’ number of conversations, even if she hadn’t come up any of the previous times, there’s no guarantee Your Mom wouldn’t come up the, like, infinite-th time.

[Geoffrey the Waiter slips back up to their table, having braced himself with a few slugs from the vodka bottle he’d conveniently hidden in his backpack that morning.]

Philosopher #3:  Well, how very Humean of you.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  It didn’t sound very human to me.

Philosopher #1:  What? You’re still here?

Philosopher #3:  I didn’t say ‘human’… i said ‘Humean.’

Geoffroy the Waiter:  So, you have trouble pronouncing ‘human’? Nobody’s perfect. We’re only human. Or ‘humean.’ Heh heh.  [immensely pleased with himself for holding his own amid such august company]

Philosopher #1:  ‘Humean’ is a reference to the philosophy of David Hume, an important philosopher of the 1700s.  [mutters under breath]  Imbecile.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Oh.

Philosopher #2:  Among other things, he said that if all of your knowledge is based on observation… which he believed to be the case… then you can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future, even if the same thing has tended to happen over and over in the past. For instance, just because tipping a glass over has tended to cause water to splash all over the table every time you’ve done it before…

[He deliberately knocks a glass of water over onto Philosopher #1’s lap]

…that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen the next time. Oh, will ya look at that. I appear to have made a boo-boo.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  I just thought you had a funny speech impediment.

Philosopher #3:  I do have a funny speech impediment. It’s extremely rude of you to point it out.

Geoffroy the Waiter:  Um. Uuhhh…Sorry?

Philosopher #2:  What does that have to do with David Hume?

Philosopher #3:  Nothing, so far as i can tell. I’m not going to be tipping this embarrassing specimen of a table server–i can tell you that.

Philosopher #1:  Me neither!  [hitching on to an apparent excuse to leave off tipping]

Geoffroy the Waiter:  [slinks off, unnoticed]

Philosopher #3:  I think i’ll have the ‘Southwestern Eggrolls.’

Philosopher #1:  What an incoherent concept. Eggrolls are not associated with the American Southwest, either historically nor as a cuisine.

Philosopher #3:  I think you’re demanding too much philosophical rigor from a popular family restaurant.

Philosopher #1:  If a food makes no sense, i’m not putting it in my body, that’s all i’m saying.

Philosopher #2:  Well, um, okay. So, do you see anything that appeals to you?

Philosopher #1:  I find nothing in here that meets my standards for logical coherence.

Philosopher #2:  Dude, how do you not starve on a regular basis.

 

Epilogue

As it turns out, the three philosophers did end up receiving nourishment, although it was not Geoffroy the Waiter, but the Chili’s restaurant manager who ended up making sure they got hooked up with the appropriate foods. Geoffrey was meanwhile quailing in the back, trembling slightly, and peeping out from time to time to see if the three philosophers had left yet. His life would never be the same. Shortly after the events recorded in this blog post, Geoffrey quit his job at Chili’s and has since been happily employed as a vacuum cleaner salesman…just a few miles, interestingly, from the place where “Southwestern Eggrolls” were invented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Again, It’s Time to Look Through Our Reader Mail!

Well, it’s that time again. Time to reach into the mailbag and see what kind of correspondence some of you — our most excellent readers — have been sending in.

The last time we looked at our reader mail was… [counts on fingers]… um, oh dear, over two years ago! (If you’d like to check out that post, here ya go.) No wonder the mailbag is brimming over. Apologies for having neglected your letters! You’ve no doubt had all manner of insightful suggestions and lavish praise for the All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious blog during that time! Let’s have a look-see.

Editors’ Note:  We have assigned each letter a handy title — after the fact, you see — for your easy reference. The Blogger did not have these titles to refer to as he was opening each letter, else his entire experience of reading the mail might have been different.

 

Letter #1.  The classic “just what do you think do you’re doing” objection

Let’s start with… okay, here’s a letter from “Lindsay,” who lives in Port Huron, Michigan.

I have read every single post to this blog.

The Blogger:  Well, that is indeed gratifying! It’s good to discover that we’ve got another fan. Let’s read some more.

It’s a form of self-torture. I just can’t make myself look away. Your blog is the most appalling spectacle i can even think of. I have spent years studying philosophy, and your blog is, like, the opposite of philosophy. Making a mockery of the most basic questions humanity has ever struggled with… how are you EVEN a PERSON?

The Blogger:  Oh dear. And this letter started out with such promise. We cannot allow such baseless slanders to go unanswered!

Don’t interrupt. I’m not done yet. It seems to me that you’re doing immeasurable harm to the reputation of philosophy in the eyes of people who are just now learning the basics of it… you’re crippling them before they even have a chance to get started! How can you look at yourself in the mirror while shaving, that’s what i want to know.

The Blogger:  Dear, misguided reader! I am shocked!–appalled!—that you could have so misunderstood the nature of this blog. A lively, comical romp through the bowels of the philosophical tradition (if, er, “bowels” was quite the word i was looking for) is not AT ALL the same thing as “making a mockery” of philosophy. Why, “making a mockery” of philosophy would involve the trivializing of foundational principles of philosophical thought by turning them into occasions for slapstick. It would involve substituting nonsense and whimsy for the sober, perennial discussions of which the philosophical tradition is based. And we would never dream of doing ANY of that!

 

Letter #2.  A Reader has confused our blog with “Buzzfeed.”

Okay now, here we have a letter from “Taylor,” hailing from Pomona, California. Let’s see what ol’ Taylor has to say.

Man! I discovered your website a few months ago, and i’ve been digging on it religiously ever since! Dude! That is some funny jack, right there.

The Blogger:  [blushing]  Well, golly, you’re really being far too kind.

No, seriously, like, your quizzes are the best! Like, the one about what celebrity crush are you actually going to end up marrying. I was roaring.

The Blogger:  Wut.

And, like, the one where i had to answer a bunch of stoner questions and it told me which Harry Potter character i was.

The Blogger:  Um.

And your funny videos! The one about Americans from other parts of the country eating Midwestern food for the first time was HI-larious. And the one where blindfolded strangers try to guess each other’s age.

The Blogger:  Oh boy.

And all the articles about fashion and style and beauty and whatever.

The Blogger:  Okay, wow. Here’s the thing. I’m afraid you may have gotten us mixed up with some other website.

And the one where you have to guess what Stormy Daniels’s favorite color is, based on lines from classic Disney movies.

The Blogger:  [sigh]  I’m afraid we’re gonna need to move on to the next letter.

 

Letter #3.  A joke about ‘fruitcake’

Hmmm. Here we have a missive from “Johnathwane,” who makes his home in Newport, Rhode Island.

I very much enjoyed your Christmas post this past December. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of the concept of ‘fruitcake’. It set off a train of thought which i’d like to share with you.

The Blogger:  Well, sure, why not. Knock yourself out.

First of all, it occurred to me that we use ‘fruitcake’ in at least three different ways: (1) those inedible bricks of obscene non-food material that you can buy wrapped in cellophane during the holiday season, (2) the completely legitimate traditional food that the obscene bricks of gelatinous nonsense are supposedly inspired by, and (3) a crazy person.

The Blogger:  Okay… tracking with you so far….

So, in a sense, we could say that fruitcakes (1) are the fruitcakes (3) of the culinary world.

The Blogger:  Hah hah, that was clever. Wait. Was that the joke?

Not so much a ‘joke’. More of a lively observation. But wait: there’s more.

The Blogger:  Ah. Lay it on.

Imagine a fruitcake (3) — an actual person, not a fruitcake (1) that is being construed as a fruitcake (3) —

The Blogger:  With ya so far.

Okay, imagine such a fruitcake (3) attempting to produce a fruitcake (2) but ending up producing instead a fruitcake (1).

The Blogger:  That was it?

Mm-hmmm.

The Blogger:  [glancing furtively from one side to the other]  Wow, thanks, well-meaning reader “Johnathwane.” Looking forward to hearing more from you. Moving right along.

 

Letter #4.  Is logic really necessary?

Ooookaay, here we have a letter from “Madison,” who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Let’s see what Madison has to say.

First off, i’d like to say that i think your blog is a lot of fun.

The Blogger:  Sweet! I tend to think so, too.

So here’s my thing. You seem to put so much emphasis on logic!

The Blogger:  Well, YEAH.

Logical syllogisms, logical premises, logical reason, logical conclusions, logical arguments, logic logic logic.

The Blogger:  Mmmmmmm.

But i feel like logic isn’t really all that necessary, you know? It feels like a lot of stiff, irrelevant, silly restraints on what you can say and think. I feel like logic is sort of the opposite of feeling, intuition, body wisdom, spirituality. So is it really needed? Can’t we just get by with spontaneously saying what we really feel and know deep inside?

The Blogger:  I totally feel your discomfort, Madison. I guess here’s what i’d like to say to you. Elephants are floating across my chewing gum. It’s a great day to be flaming, viscous and incoherent! I’m a jumping bean of putridity and amazement. Go, run, little napkins, be free! Eat more chicken. Fly a reindeer. Beat the odds, even the losers. We the people of the effervescent universe, fall, fall, fall. Rise. Fall again. Roll Tide.

What? That was your answer? But i don’t get it. That was just crazy talk. I don’t think you understood my question.

The Blogger: Tradition up a shrimp pole, forty-five asterisk, wah-wah, oh my stars, the square root of disharmony! Planet of the vapes, http://www.muumuu.org, 3.1415, owch, hmm.

Stop it! That made no sense at all! It’s all just nonsense! I can’t EVEN.

The Blogger:  [goes into a spastic seizure accompanied by grunts and screams, rolling on the ground, kicking his legs up in the air]

I have LITERALLY no idea what you’re EVEN trying to do right there. I am SO scared right now. I am LITERALLY shaking with nervousness.

The Blogger:  And i thus conclude my remarks on that topic. Due to space constraints, i wasn’t able to go into as full an explanation as i’d have liked to. We may just  have to devote a whole post to this topic later on.

 

Letter #5.  An idea about the Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence

Whew boy! All right, here’s a letter from a reader living in Taos, New Mexico. This one is named “Rainbow Steed.” The person who wrote the letter, i mean. “Rainbow Steed.” The reader who sent in this letter is named “Rainbow Steed.” It appears that i actually have a reader named “Rainbow Steed.” What a remarkable world we’re living in. Anyway, here’s what “Rainbow Steed” has to offer.

Okay, so i’ve been thinking about those three Scotsmen. The ones who are always sitting on that fence? I’ve been thinking about them a lot.

The Blogger:  You’ve got to level with me. Is your name really “Rainbow Steed”…?

Yuppo. So in a drama class i’ve been taking, they say you’re always supposed to try and get inside the motivation of the character. What is motivating the character?

The Blogger:  Yes, i think i understand you.

So these three Scotsmen. They’re up on that fence. Why? What are they doing up there? What motivated those three Scotsmen to get up on that fence, and sit there?

The Blogger:  A penetrating line of inquiry.

So. What if they’re really up there so they can more easily reach the light bulb?

You know, “How many Scotsmen does it take to screw in a light bulb,” and the answer is “three, but they have to get up on the fence first so that they can like reach the light fixture.” That would be funny, wouldn’t it? And that would explain their motivation.

Or cross the road? As in, “Why did the three Scotsmen cross the road? And right before that, they were like sitting on a fence, why were they doing that?”

Just brainstorming, you know, for some possibilities. And i’ll write again when i come up with some more ideas about the motivation of those three Scotsmen.

The Blogger:  Your further input will be highly appreciated, o most perspicuous reader!

 

Letter #6.  A Critique of the very form and content of this blog post.

I think we’ve got time for one more letter. Let’s see. Here’s one from “Malthe” in Copenhagen, Denmark! It’s always good to hear from our international readers.

Thank you. I have very much enjoyed reading the blog. I find it interesting in the extreme. It challenges my burgeoning philosophical inclination. And it’s funny.

The Blogger:  You’re too kind, Malthe. So what’s on your mind?

How is it that these letters are arranged in the form of dialogues? Like, the person who sent in the letter can tell what you’re saying in response to their letter, and so they add stuff in response to what you’re saying? What? How is that even a thing? Does the U.S. Postal Service even work that way? You can send mail that responds right as the reader reads it? No way. I’ve never sent a letter like that. The Danish mails do not work in this way.

The Blogger:  It might seem a bit odd, to the untrained observer…

I’m not an observer. I’m one of the people writing you a letter.

The Blogger:  Right, right. And i agree that it might seem a trifle odd that conventional mail should turn out to be… shall we say, interactive?… in much the same way that the internet often is. But that’s only to scratch the surface of the mysteries that surround the All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious blog.

You’re changing the subject. I want to know how mail can talk back while the person reading it is still reading it.

The Blogger:  Well, you know, it’s… it’s… kind of… complicated.

 

Honestly, ARE All Flockbinkers Really Treadknicious?

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

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

(Um, uhh, huh huh, well… sort of.)

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

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

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

 

The Blogger:  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

The Timid Reader:  What’s “flockbinkers”?

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

The Timid Reader:  Okay. All frockbingers are tardinorious.

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

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

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

The Timid Reader:  Um: okay.

The Blogger:  So, all flockbinkers are treadknicious.

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

The Blogger:  And some wamwams are flockbinkers.

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

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

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

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

The Timid Reader:  Even my baby nephew knows that.

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

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

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

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

 

Epilogue…

 

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

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

 

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

 

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the two categories are:

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

Those are the two categories of people in the world.

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

The Blogger:  What was that?

The Good Reader:  Wienerschnitzel.

The Blogger:  Excuse me?

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

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

The Good Reader:  THANK YOU.

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

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

The Good Reader:  And who is this courteous gentleman?

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

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

The Good Reader:  [blushing]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Unthinkable!

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

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

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

The Blogger:  What.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good Reader:  What?

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

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

The Blogger:  Hrmmff. That would work.

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

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

The Good Reader:  Um.

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

The Good Reader:  Fred? Who’s Fred?

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

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

The Blogger:  Then he’s a barber.

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

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

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

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

The Good Reader:  Um, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Mmm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Long-Awaited Flockbinker Pop Quiz #2!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

d.  Your Mom.

e.  A mathematical impossibility.

f.  The vicissitudes of Justin Bieber’s career.

g.  A duck.

h.  The entire inventory of a Dollar Tree.

i.  Conan O’Brien’s haircut.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

a.  The self is an illusion.

b.  The self is an elf on a shelf.

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

d.  Make me One with Everything.

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

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

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

h.  Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

c.  are examples of deductive reasoning.

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

e.  sometimes get into frustrating conflicts with emotional syllogisms.

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

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

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

i.  form the basis for several popular party games.

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

 

6.  Flockbinkers and unicorns…

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

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

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

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

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

f.  are both nonexistent, but in different ways.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

a.  Horse People are essentially indistinguishable from unicorn people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

a.  Philosophy is a fool’s game.

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

c.  Philosophy is a rapidly disappearing intellectual discipline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

a.  Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major

b.  Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith

c.  Confucius and the Buddha

d.  Smokey and the Bandit

e.  The Captain and Tennille

f.  Three Scotsmen sitting on a fence

g.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

h.  The Lone Rider of the Apocalypse

i.  The Blogger

j.  The Good Reader

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

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

j.25.  Chuck Norris

j.5.  Your Mom

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

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

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

 

Epilogue

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

 

 

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