all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Category: Uncategorized

Baby, It’s Treadknicious Outside

Abstract:  Oh my, but it’s been a long time. Should it be any surprise, then, that in this episode–basically–everything happens, everybody (basically) says everything, and Elvis Wu is (um, basically) revealed to be pregnant?

(Okay, not really that last bit. Just kiddin’ around wid ya.)

 


 

Okay, fellers. Let’s just come out and say it. This has tended to be a terrible blog in the matter of posting instability: what i mean is, we’ll jump in vigorously for a few weeks, then drop out for a few months. Lather, rinse, repeat. As of today, it has been…umm… [counting on fingers]… oh dear, it’s been precisely one year–to the very day!–since our last post. Ouch! Sorry there, old fellows.

Today’s post, then, will have to involve a bit of catching up.

The Good Reader:  Oh dear. What might “catching up” happen to mean?

The Blogger:  The Good Reader! Well, howdy there. I’ve not seen you in a while.

The Good Reader:  Well, duh–you’ve not seen me since the last of those blog posts that you wrote, i being apparently (according to YOU) a figment of your creative impulse. [makes grumbling sounds]

The Blogger:  Jeepers, Reader, i’m not sure i’d want to put it exactly like that… um… umm… uhh… well… oh golly… as a matter of fact, that was an excellent way of putting it. Let’s not dance around the issue. You have delineated the art of war. You have nailed the head on the donkey. You have committed the perfect storm.

The Good Reader:  [Goes somewhat cross-eyed for a moment, then decides not to pursue the material about donkeys and perfect storms. You have to choose your battles.]  Anyway, what might “catching up” happen to mean? It’s basically a random blog. You blog about whatever philosophical or quasi-philosophical or pseudo-philosophical topics you happen to have on your brain at the moment.

The Blogger:  Unfair, unfair! And also unanswerable, unless we’re prepared to devote a whole blog post to that obvious untruth, which we at present are not. So here’s what i mean by “catching up.” The last few posts to the blog involved…

…an oddball Christmas event in which The Good Reader, Little Biffy, Jennifer Smith, Elvis Wu, and i enjoyed the benefits of a Christmas fireside while analyzing terms associated with the holiday season,

…a scintillating introduction to The Photographer, who turned out to be quite the astonishing gal,

…a horrific invasion of Tribbles, accompanied by an equally horrific invasion by Mister Spock, Mister Sulu, and Captain Kirk,

…a delightful–simply delightful!–analysis of the concept of extreme sports,

…a delightful–simply–um–well–never mind–in-depth discussion of marketing strategies,

…a whole freaking bunch of people going into a freaking bar, a species of behavior which we at All Flockbinkers can hardly condone–and it’s a shame, really, that this sort of thing is even finding its way into the blog,

…an in-depth and strangely satisfying analysis of the concept of extreme sports,

…some further analysis–and there can never be too much, really–of that classic jape about the three Scotsmen sitting on a fence…

…yet another attempt, fruitless as usual, to figure out what flockbinkers are,

…and, of course, yet another fascinating look at our Reader Mail.

So what we need to do with this one, is figure out how to pick up where we left off.

The Good Reader:  There’s no need for that. I’ve hardly ever read something so random as this blog. Just write about something. It’s not like your four readers will notice. Personally, i think you should write about what a flockbinker is. You’ve been promising to do that for, what, several years now? Or maybe the treadkniciousness of tribbles. You completely failed to address that topic in the post that was supposed to be devoted to it. Or you could talk about whether tribbles would make good Christmas tree ornaments.

The Blogger:  Four readers? You must mean, of course, the four readers who have engaged the most substantially with the content of this blog…?

The Good Reader:  How did i KNOW that would be the only part of my statement that you’d pay attention to.

The Blogger:  …Because, seriously, i have WAY more than four readers.

The Good Reader:  Okay.

The Blogger:  Anyway, here’s my plan. Having briefly reviewed the material we covered in our last few posts, i think we’ll turn this one into a big Christmas party. You know, like the one we had last year?

The Good Reader:  Christmas is long over, dude. It’s May. May comes after Christmas.

The Blogger:  Well, i mean, it depends on what you mean by ‘Christmas.’ They’re apparently getting snow in the upper midwest. Can you believe that?

The Good Reader:  Oh, bother.

The Blogger:  ANYWAY, You can’t know if Christmas is going to be treadknicious, unless you first know what treadknicious means.

The Good Reader:  If you’re not just yanking me around–i mean, if you’re really about to deliver–then, wow, go for it! What DOES treadknicious mean?

The Blogger:  Well, that is to say, i… didn’t actually say i was gonna define it.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmmm.

The Blogger:  I just said you can’t know if Christmas is going to be treadknicious.

The Good Reader:  Ah.

The Blogger:  But it may well be.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm.

The Blogger:  That’s all i’m saying.

The Good Reader:  Righto.

The Blogger:  So, um, anyway.

[They sit in contented silence for a moment.]

[And, just when you were tempted to think that we’d gotten to the end of this blog post…]

[Ah! Ho, ho!]

[Elvis Wu suddenly and quite unexpectedly joins in, having appeared as from the aether, from the vastness of cold space, from the undifferentiated void]

Elvis Wu:  A terribly treadknicious holiday to the both of you!

The Blogger:  Well, my stars and garters! If it isn’t Mister Elvis Wu!

Elvis Wu:  [bows humbly]  At your service.

The Blogger:  It’s really good of you to come. I imagine you have a grillion things on your schedule.

Elvis Wu:  Oh, i’m always down for an All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious reunion.

The Good Reader:  But, no, just waittasecond. Where, Elvis, did you just come from?

Elvis Wu.:  Ah! From the Undifferentiated Void.

The Blogger:  Seriously?

The Good Reader:  No, goofball, he’s not being serious. Seriously! Where DID you just come from?

The Blogger:  Well, if it’s not Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith!

[The two of them enter as from a gathering haze, from the towering cloud of nothingness, from the blooming manifestation of the Outer Dark]

The Good Reader:  No.

The Blogger:  It’s good to see the two of you!

The Good Reader:  No. Just no. What in the world.

Jennifer Smith:  What? OMG! Where am i? What is this? Are we… what? I am so confused. Please. I cannot EVEN.

Little Biffy:  Mister Blogger!

The Blogger:  What up, Biffy! How’s it going, Jennifer.

Jennifer Smith:  I do not EVEN. What in… WHAT in the world.

The Blogger:  It’s our little reunion party! Since it’s been about a year since the blog has seen the light of day… if, um, that’s the sort of thing that blogs do… see the light of day, i mean… we’re having a bit of a soiree to celebrate!

[Jenn finds a convenient chair to sit in, contemplate the Deeper Things, and nurse her wounded sense of How Reality Works]

The Good Reader:  So i’m still confused. Are these people real, or fictional?

The Blogger:  Are you?

The Good Reader:  Am i what?

The Blogger:  Are you real, or fictional?

The Good Reader:  I’m real! Well, i mean, i’m as real as you are… whatever THAT means.

Biffy and Elvis:  Wassail!

Bertie Wooster:  I say!

Jennifer Smith:  Waittasecond. Who’s that?

Bertie Wooster:  Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, at your service, what?

Jennifer Smith:  Oh. My. Word.

…and wouldn’t you know it, we find ourselves in the continuation of last year’s Christmas party–with the somewhat inexplicable addition of Mr. Bertie Wooster–as if nothing has happened in the interim!

Elvis Wu:  [singing joyously]  Baby, it’s treadknicious outside!

Little Biffy:  I think it’s pretty darn treadknicious inside!

Jennifer Smith:  Wooh, talking about ‘treadknicious’-ness, i feel a pretty treadknicious headache coming on.

Bertie Wooster:  You know, Jeeves used to have the perfect potion for that sort of ailment. I wish i could tell you what the ingredients were.

The Good Reader3:  Reality, as we know it–or as we think we know it–is nought but the breath of a passing moment, the exhalation of the lonely hours.

The Good Reader:  Okay, that was not even me. I have no idea who that was.

And, as if in answer: “Wassail!” cry the assembled throng.

 

Epilogue:

The group disappears, as into a gauzy haze–or perhaps a hazy gauze–or maybe even a hazy, gauzy mist–and we are once again left with just The Blogger and The Good Reader.

The Good Reader:  I thought a throng was supposed to be a much larger group of people.

The Blogger:  What?

The Good Reader:  Well, if that was an assembled ‘throng,’ i’d have expected there to be, oh, i dunno, at least 20 people.

The Blogger:  Well, Good Reader, we could explore at some length what the term “throng” can be used to mean in a variety of contexts….

The Good Reader:  Let’s not, never mind.

The Blogger:  As you wish.

The Good Reader:  So, wait, i have an even more pressing question. Was all of that a dream sequence? And if so, whose dream? Yours or mine?

The Blogger:  Perhaps the good reader’s dream?

The Good Reader:  But i AM the Good Reader!

The Blogger:  Well, i didn’t capitalize it now, did i?

The Good Reader:  How should i know? I can’t tell what you’re capitalizing and what you’re not. This is conversation.

The Blogger:  Okay. I was referring to the meta-good reader.

The Good Reader:  The meta-good-reader?

The Blogger:  Sure. The embodiment of the blog’s readership, in general.

The Good Reader:  BUT THAT’S ME!

The Blogger:  Hmmm. Yes. Good point. Well, i can see that, once again, we need to distinguish between “The Good Reader” #1, #2, and #3.

The Good Reader:  Oh, bother.

 

 

A Flockbinker, a Unicorn, the Buddha, Three Scotsmen, and Owen Wilson Go Into a Bar.

 

So, okay, so there’s a party of seven that goes into a bar. Right? There’s a flockbinker, and a unicorn, and the Buddha, and three Scotsmen, and Owen Wilson. Yeah.

It’s been a little while, hasn’t it, since we featured a philosophy joke about some combination of people going into a bar. (Interestingly, these have tended to be among our most popular posts.) And, if memory serves, we’ve never posted a joke that had the Buddha, a unicorn, and Owen Wilson in it. Look, if you never experiment, you never find out what works and what doesn’t.

But: Let’s get back to the joke. Our protagonists have just entered the bar.


 

Barkeeper:  Say, whadda we got here? I ain’t seen you people around this neighborhood.

Buddha:  Time and place become as water to the man who has transcended the veil of illusion.

Barkeeper:  What.

Owen Wilson:  What my super-spiritual friend is trying to say, is that we’re not from around here, but we thought we’d stop in to wet our whistles.

Barkeeper:  So what’s with you people? Surely it ain’t Hallowe’en and i missed it, huh? Heh heh.

Unicorn:  If it’s not Hallowe’en, then why are you dressed like a mollusk?

Barkeeper:  A what?

Unicorn:  A mollusk. You know, a squid, a slug, a clam.

Barkeeper:  So wait, which of those am i dressed up like?

Unicorn:  ALL of them.

Barkeeper:  [suddenly notices who he’s talking to]  A talking horse?  [calls out to some of his regulars]  Hey, fellas! I got Mister Ed over here! Heh heh heh. Mister Ed the talking horse!

Unicorn:  I’m not a ‘talking horse,’ you intestinal hernia with a hack job of a haircut. I’m a unicorn. See the horn?  [He points it menacingly at the barkeeper]

Barkeeper:  Whoah, easy. You don’t look like no unicorn i ever seen. Ain’t you supposed to be all cuddly and colorful?

Unicorn:  Please tell me that you’re not mistaking me for one of those cutesy animated pastel rainbow monstrosities covered with glitter. That’s not a unicorn. That’s what the inside of a seven-year-old girl’s brain looks like.

Owen Wilson:  That is so totally unfair. I cannot believe you are even saying that.

Scotsman #1:  Then again, it could be argued that, since a unicorn is a mythical beast, it hardly matters how ye represent one. “Ye,” in the present instance, might be construed to indicate the author of this blog.

Scotsman #2:  I mean to say, if something doesn’t exist, there canna be a right or wrong way of representing it visually. It’d be like saying one drawing of Elizabeth Bennet could be more accurate than another.

Scotsman #3:  …sittin’ on a fence.

Unicorn:  However, since i quite clearly do exist, your argument falls to pieces. Here i am, standing before you, and i’m just as obviously not a pastel puffball with rainbows emerging from my hindquarters.

Owen Wilson:  Woww.

Scotsman #1:  It might be reasonably urged that, since we are all the denizens of a blog post created by a distressingly whimsical philosopher, the idea that any of us ‘exists’ in any ontologically satisfying sense is a fairly empty proposition.

Flockbinker:  Frockbinger.

Scotsman #2:  However, since there are accepted traditions for the visual depiction of Scotsmen (a category that does, in fact, exist in the real world) and unicorns (a category that does not in fact exist, but which has nevertheless a kind of secondary reality due to the influence of literature and art), then the unicorn here can make the case that there are more or less accurate ways to represent such a creature.

Scotsman #3:  …sittin’ on a fence.

Barkeeper:  [somewhat dazed]  Maybe… maybe none of you exist! Maybe you’re all just a figment of my imagination. Yeah. Maybe you’re all just a nightmare.

Random Patron of the Bar:  Geez, Fred, they look real enough to me.

Unicorn:  So are we just going to stand around arguing ontological categories, or are we going to get some liquor into these thirsty Scotsmen?

Buddha:  To have one’s eyes opened, one must be willing to let go of temporal things.

Owen Wilson:  Hey, Buddha, man, we’re really digging all the philosophical input, but you might want to table that stuff until after we’ve been served.

Scotsman #1:  I’ll have a Scotch, neat.

Owen Wilson:  Neat. I like that.

Scotsman #2:  No water, no soda, no ice. Just Scotch, the way the Almighty intended.

Buddha:  To peel away all that is inessential: this is what it means to find the true Path.

Owen Wilson:  Dude, seriously.

Scotsman #3:  Sittin’ on a fence.

Barkeeper:  On a fence? You want i should serve you your whiskey on a fence?

Unicorn:  That’s his line. His signature line. “Sitting on a fence.” As nearly as i’ve been able to determine, it’s the only thing he ever says. You’ll get used to it. He’ll take his Scotch neat like the other two.

Barkeeper:  Gotcha. Whew! You people are not my normal sorta customers. I still think maybe you don’t exist.  [He begins pouring Scotch.]

Owen Wilson:  And when you’ve got a spare minute, my man, you can dish me up a sparkling mineral water.

Barkeeper:  Sure, fella. I guess i’ve got a sparkling mineral water back here somewheres. For just in case the Brownie Scouts ever drop by. Heh heh.

Owen Wilson:  Woww.

Flockbinker:  Frockbinger.

Owen Wilson:  You said it, buddy.

Unicorn: And if you’ve got a water bucket or a trough out back, i’ll content myself with that.

Barkeeper:  Um, we got a toilet. That close enough? You can drink outta the toilet in the men’s room. We ain’t got a talking horses’ room, heh heh.

[The unicorn whinnies and waves his horn menacingly at the barkeeper, then decides that arrest on a charge of aggravated assault just isn’t worth it.]

Buddha:  Thirst is a form of craving. It is better to cultivate Emptiness.

Barkeeper:  Riiiiiight. Got it. One glass of emptiness for the Dalai Lama over here. And does that thing [here he indicates the flockbinker] want anything to drink? Maybe a strawberry soda? I keep one of them strawberry sodas around, for in case the Brownie Scouts ever show up.

Owen Wilson:  Woww.

Flockbinker:  Frockbinger.

Scotsman #3:  On a fence.

 

Epilogue:

 

The Good Reader, as is often the case, finds herself fairly steamed about this entry to the All Flockbinkers blog, and is quick to make her opinion known.

The Good Reader:  How was that EVEN a philosophy joke? It was just a random incident involving seven people, or creatures, or whatever, most of them not philosophers, having a random conversation in a bar.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  On the contrary, i could make a strong case that at least five out of the seven characters are philosophers… and the other two might be as well.

The Good Reader:  Okay, fine. But how was it a joke? It was just a bizarre conversation.

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  The Blogger likes to play fast and loose with the word “joke.” But then again, coming up with a satisfying definition for the word “joke” is perhaps more difficult than you or most people might think.

The Good Reader:  I think the Blogger’s blog is a joke. How’s that?

Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major:  [smiling]  Easy, now. Claws back in.

 

Addendum to the Epilogue:

 

Each of the characters featured in this joke (including the two commentators who show up at the very end) has appeared in earlier posts to this blog. If you’d like to familiarize yourself further with any of them, here are some links to older posts in which the various characters may be found.

The Flockbinker:  The whole dang blog is about flockbinkers, so it’s kind of hard to select just one post to send you to. Eenie, meenie, minie, moe… how about THIS ONE.

The Unicorn:  Here’s a post from a while back that includes a trenchant and incisive discussion of unicorns.

The Buddha:  Buddha and Confucius went to Chili’s for dinner. Confucius couldn’t get the Buddha to stay on task, look over the menu and order something. He kept wanting to say illuminating things to their server, Martin. Now this you’ve gotta see.

The Three Scotsmen:  Here’s the post in which that classic joke…you know, the one about the Three Scotsmen sitting on a fence… was first introduced. And here’s a more recent post in which the Three Scotsmen are presented as actual characters for the first time.

Owen Wilson:  Okay, i lied. This was the first time Owen Wilson’s ever been featured on the blog… but perhaps it won’t be the last!

The Good Reader:  She’s the personification of this blog’s readership, but also an individual gal in her own right. Here’s an older dialogue between her and The Blogger in which she’s in rare form and firing on all cylinders.

Elvis Wu:  He really is The Last Philosophy Major. Here’s a mossy old post in which Elvis relates a humorous story about Bodhifarma, one of the Patriarchs of Zen Buddhism.

In Which the Blogger Learns that a Photographer Is Not the Same Thing as “Being Stupid.”

Let’s just be honest. Odd things happen, from time to time, on this blog.

The Good Reader:  Odd things happen routinely on this blog. In fact, i think it’s safe to say that if something is found on this blog, it is by definition an odd thing.

The Blogger:  [being all sly and stuff]  Ah! But, The Good Reader, YOU are a regular on this blog.

The Good Reader:  Hrrmmmff.  [disappears in a puff of virtual smoke]

As we were observing a moment ago, it is not unusual for unusual things to happen on this blog. Usually. This means that, as a reader of this blog, you must not be surprised no matter WHAT happens. Indeed, the good reader will quickly discern…

Waittasecond, who are you? YOU’RE not The Good Reader!

The Photographer:  I don’t know what you mean. I’m an excellent reader!

The Blogger:  That’s not what i meant. You see —

The Photographer:  I read all the time. I’ve even been reading your blog lately.

The Blogger:  That’s terrific! But what i —

The Photographer:  I don’t have any trouble reading, and i’m mildly insulted that you would imply that i can’t read.

The Blogger:  That’s not what i meant at all! I simply —

The Photographer:  I’ve been doing all of my own reading since i was 26.

The Blogger:  There’s no doubt of that.

The Photographer:  I intended that as a joke. Of course i could read when i was 26. Geez.

The Blogger:  Right. Um. So, okay, here’s what i’m trying to say. The expression ‘The Good Reader’ as used on this blog is how i characterize my readership in general, and sometimes, ahem, one of my regulars in particular.

The Photographer:  Ah! I get it. And i’m not him.

The Blogger:  Her. At least, i think it’s a her. When it comes to the readers of this blog, you can never be 100% sure what you’re dealing with.

The Photographer:  If it helps, i’m a her as well.

The Blogger:  Excellent! And i can see from the script we’re both embedded in, that you’re a photographer.

The Photographer:  What?

The Blogger:  A photographer. Someone who takes pictures.

The Photographer:  I know what a photographer is. I meant, what script are you talking about?

The Blogger:  The script that we’re both embedded in.

The Photographer:  The script that we’re both embedded in…

The Blogger:  The very one.

The Photographer:  Either you’re attempting to be poetic, or your doctor probably needs to change the dosage.

The Blogger:  Heh heh. That was clever. Tell you what: this little discussion of the script is throwing us off the point. Maybe we should leave that to one side for now.

The Photographer:  No argument from me.

The Blogger:  So, Photographer, what brings you to my little blog?

The Photographer:  I thought it looked really interesting. Philosophy and flockbinkers and unicorns and strange conversations and funny quizzes: it’s my kind of entertainment.

The Blogger:  Wow, that’s great! And you’ve been able to keep up?

The Photographer:  Able… huh? Able to keep up?

The Blogger:  You know. You’ve been able to track with us. You’ve understood everything. You haven’t felt left behind.

The Photographer:  I’m a photographer. That’s not the same thing as being stupid.

The Blogger:  Oops. Right. Heh heh. Of course.

The Photographer:  And i’m also an artist. I create abstract images using photographs as raw material.

The Blogger:  That sounds impressive! I imagine that sort of thing must require a certain kind of intelligence.

The Photographer:  Oh my gosh, did you just patronize me in the most appalling way imaginable?

The Good Reader:  Don’t feel too bad. He does that kind of thing to me all the time. All. The. Time.

The Photographer:  Really? And you put up with it?

The Good Reader:  Not exactly. He’s got some battle-wounds. Ask him about it.

The Photographer:  You go, girl! Well, anyway, here’s what my work requires of me, and you, Blogger, can decide whether you think it involves ‘intelligence.’

The Blogger:  Fair enough. Lay it on me.

The Photographer:  I select one or more photographs, not just for content but for texture, line and color, and i create a geometric matrix within which the visual field is structured using the elements of the photo as source material, analyzing the raw content in terms of not just line, color, texture and subject-matter, but also positive and negative spaces, patterns of energy and movement, reconstructed form, and i shape all of that into re-visioned aesthetic structures while trying to, at some level, respect the integrity of the source material.

The Blogger:  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Photographer:  Which, i suppose, makes me a kind of visual philosopher. Maybe.

The Blogger:  [recovering composure]  Jeepers.

The Photographer:  Well, you did want to hear about what i do.

The Blogger:  Yes. Yes, i did, and i am impressed.

The Photographer:  Why thank you.

The Blogger:  I must say, these are uncharted waters, Photographer.

The Good Reader:  I like this one. I hope she sticks around.

The Blogger:  Me too!

The Photographer:  Me too! Oh, wait.

May Your Days Be Merry and Delicious, and May All Your Christmases Be Treadknicious

 

Well, my gentle readers, it’s that time of year again. When the air is filled with tinkling bells / And the trees are white with crusty shells / And the frost is on the windowpane / It’s December time again! It’s time for evergreen wreaths and holly boughs, sleigh bells and silver bells, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, eggnog and spiced cider. Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

The Good Reader:  Well done, Blogger! You managed to populate that introduction almost entirely with song lyrics.

The Blogger:  It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Isn’t it?

The Good Reader:  Mmm-hmmm. I think so.

The Blogger:  And may i just say, it’s good of you to show up to the party.

The Good Reader:  The party? What party?

The Blogger:  My little Christmas party. I’ve invited a few friends over to celebrate the joy of the season and share eggnog and fruitcake.

The Good Reader:  Real friends, or characters from your blog?

The Blogger:  Oh, c’mon, Good Reader, is that a distinction we really have to make right now? It being Christmas and all?

The Good Reader:  Hey, don’t mind me. You’re the one who’s all into making fine metaphysical distinctions and talking about everybody’s ontological status.

The Blogger:  Gracious heavens, Good Reader, i didn’t realize you even KNEW those words! You may blossom into a real philosopher yet.

The Good Reader:  Grrrrr.

The Blogger:  Speaking of which: will you look at that, here come some of my other guests! Jen, Biff, come on in, it’s great to see you!

Little Biffy:  It’s terribly good to see you as well, Mr. Blogger!

Jennifer Smith:  Um. What. Where are we. What in the world. I’m so confused.

Little Biffy:  Jennifer, may i introduce you to The Blogger? He’s a philosopher friend of mine. I suppose you could say, in one sense, that he has taught me everything i know.

Jennifer Smith:  Uh… well, it’s nice to meet you, Blogger. Do you have a real name, or are we all going by job descriptions here? In which case, i’m “Meaningless Desk Job at a Faceless, Soulless Behemoth of an Insurance Company.”

The Blogger:  Oh, Jennifer, i know all about you. That was clever, by the way. Come in, come in! Have some eggnog.

Jennifer Smith:  How do you know all about me? Biff, how does this man know me?

Little Biffy:  It’s kind of complicated. Ooohh, look, fruitcake! C’mon, Jen, there’s snacks.

The Blogger:  Make yourselves at home. Mi casa es su casa. Literally, sort of, heh heh.

Jennifer Smith:  He keeps saying mysterious and creepy things. Who is this guy, Biffy?

Little Biffy:  I’ll explain everything to you in a sec. Let’s go look at the appetizer table. Ooohh, yum, cheezy sausage balls!  [Biffy and Jennifer go to the other side of the room]

The Good Reader:  Blogger, seriously, is this young lady not aware that she’s a character in your blog?

The Blogger:  Ssshhhh. Keep your voice down. Sometimes the weaker ones will panic.

The Good Reader:  Pfft! It sure took me a long time to get used to it.

The Blogger:  Okay, here’s the scoop on Jen and Biff. He, being more philosophically inclined, grasped early on that his conscious experience of reality might be only one level or mode of participation in the larger matrix in which he is embedded as an existent entity.

The Good Reader:  Mmm. Exactly how i would have put it.

The Blogger:  Biffy casts a critical eye on his world, takes nothing for granted, and he asks all the right questions. Jennifer, on the other hand — although she’s pretty bright — tends to take things at face value.

The Good Reader:  So Little Biffy knows that you’re his creator?

The Blogger:  Sure does.

The Good Reader:  And he’s okay with that?

The Blogger:  What sort of objection is he supposed to raise?  “I don’t like the fact that i am a figment of your creative imagination. Make it stop! Waa-a-a-a-a-a-anh.”

The Good Reader:  Well, if you put it that way.

The Blogger:  He’s got a good attitude about it. We’re all somebody’s creation, after all. No sense getting all bent out of shape about it.

The Good Reader:  Hark! Looks like somebody else is at the door.

The Blogger:  Well, that would be Mister Wu! Elvis! Come in, dude! It’s so good of you to stop by.

Elvis Wu:  A strong argument could be made that i had no choice in the matter. [smiles] But the pleasure is, at any rate, entirely mine.

The Blogger:  Fellas, i’d like to introduce you all to Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major.

Jennifer Smith:  The very last philosophy major? Ever?

Elvis Wu:  [bows gallantly]  At your service.

Little Biffy:  I’m happy to actually be able to meet you at long last, having heard so many rumors of your existence.

Elvis Wu:  Or perhaps, my ‘modal’ existence.

[They both laugh, The Good Reader rolls her eyes, and Jennifer looks grumpy]

The Good Reader:  Well, Mister Wu… or should i call you ‘Doctor Wu’?

Elvis Wu:  Good one. I’m a Steely Dan fan, myself.

Little Biffy:  [Singing from near the appetizer table]  “Are you with me, Doctor Wu? / Are you really just a shadow of the man that we once knew?”

The Good Reader:  Ever since the Blogger first introduced you on this blog as “The Last Philosophy Major,” i’ve been curious about the same thing that Jennifer just asked. “The Last Philosophy Major.” What does that even mean? Surely you don’t mean that there are no more colleges or universities with philosophy departments. There must be.

Elvis Wu:  The answer to your question is actually kind of complicated.

The Good Reader:  Oh my gosh, you’re as bad as this guy!  [She indicates the Blogger.]  I can’t get a straight answer out of him either! No wonder you guys hang out.

Elvis Wu:  There are still academic departments at many institutions of higher learning that continue to label themselves ‘philosophy’ departments, if that serves as a partial answer to your question.

The Good Reader:  It’ll probably have to do for now.

Little Biffy:  [Still singing]  “Are you crazy, are you high, or just an ordinary guy?”

[Jennifer slips away from Little Biffy, and approaches The Blogger.]

Jennifer Smith:  Blogger, can i talk with you for a minute?

The Blogger:  Sure thing, Jen. What’s on your mind? As if i don’t already know. Heh heh.

Jennifer Smith:  That’s not funny! See, that’s what i wanted to talk to you about. I find it unsettling at best that you and Biffy seem to think that i’m your creation. But no. Come on. I’m an actual person, Blogger. I have my own thoughts and experiences. This “I created her” stuff has got to go.

The Blogger:  It doesn’t seem to bother Little Biffy.

Jennifer Smith:  Biffy’s a freak of nature. I have no idea who or what created him. I think he may have sprung fully-formed out of a Black Hole in outer space. But i know who i am.

The Blogger:  If that’s true, then you’re a rare one indeed. Hardly anybody knows who they really are.

Jennifer Smith:  You’re going all philosophical on me, and i’m just trying to make a simple point. Stop telling Biffy that you created us! It’s sick and twisted, and he’s just a kid. You’re messing with the head of a little kid.

The Blogger:  He’s a boy genius. I don’t think he’s in any danger of being bamboozled by a story that is completely without credibility. And, as it happens, this story is a true one.

Jennifer Smith:  Okay… okay… then, how about this. You and i are standing together in the same living room right now, in what i assume is your house. Right? Here we are, you and me. I’m just as real, and as present, as you are. Or vice-versa.

The Blogger:  That’s because we’re both creations of the REAL Blogger.

Jennifer Smith:  Oh my word.

The Blogger:  Yup. You might want to think of me as an avatar of the guy writing the blog. I mean, i’m him, but i’m not really him, you see. I’m the version of him that he sticks into the dialogue to represent him.

Jennifer Smith:  I’m just going to sit down over here for a minute.

Little Biffy:  [From the appetizer table]  How’s it going over there? These cheezy sausage things are terrific!

The Good Reader:  I just tried some of the fruitcake, and it’s actually not bad! Everybody likes to make awful jokes about fruitcake.

The Blogger:  Mine is homemade, from a family recipe. You’re thinking of those rubbery inedible brick-shaped things wrapped in cellophane that they sell at truck-stop convenience marts.

Jennifer Smith:  Yeah, what are those made of, anyway? It looks kind of like, hardened jell-o with sediment and petrified fruits embedded in it.

Elvis Wu:  I’ve never spoken with anyone who has actually eaten one of those. I think they may be poisonous.

Little Biffy:  Or even caustic! They’re wrapped in cellophane because they cause burns if brought into contact with the skin!

Elvis Wu:  “Turn and run! Nothing can stop them, / Around every river and canal their power is growing…”

Little Biffy:  “The Return of the Giant Hogweed”!  The Last Philosophy Major knows his early Genesis! I salute you, sir.

Elvis Wu:  Except, in this case, it would be “The Return of the Giant Fruitcake.”

Jennifer Smith:  I have no idea what they’re talking about. What a frustrating Christmas party.

Little Biffy:  The Giant Hogweed is a terrible invasive plant species that looks pretty but can burn, scar, or even blind you if your skin comes in contact with it. And the British rock group Genesis recorded a song about it in the early 1970s.

Jennifer Smith:  Back when you were just a wee tot.

Little Biffy:  [Turning red]  I wasn’t born yet. But i listen to my parents’ records.

The Good Reader:  Yikes! Is this appropriate Christmas conversation? People’s skin being burned off by hogweeds and fruitcakes? I’m with Jen. This party needs a jump-start.

The Blogger:  Okay, we’ve covered fruitcake. What’s eggnog?

Little Biffy:  [Sings]  “Christmas is a-coming, and the egg is in the nog…”

The Good Reader:  I know this one! It goes back to the Middle Ages. Authentic eggnog is made from milk, cream, sugar, spices, eggs, and whiskey or rum.

Jennifer Smith:  Well, why don’t they call it an ‘egg shake’ or an ‘egg smoothie’? What does ‘nog’ even mean?

The Good Reader:  I think it was an archaic word for whiskey. Eggnog: Egg whiskey.

Little Biffy:  Yum. Egg whiskey.

The Good Reader:  My Grammy made it from scratch every Christmas. Mighty strong stuff.  [Hesitates.]  She was a bit of a lush, my Grammy.

The Blogger:  Fantastic! And what about the Yule log? Where did that come from?

Elvis Wu:  That one’s easy. You know the problem some people have, confusing the words “your” and “you’re”?

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm.

Elvis Wu:  Well, people used to have a similar problem related to their Christmas fireplace logs. The “You’ll” log was traditionally the one that a family saved for when they had holiday guests over — as in, “you’ll be at home here with us,” or something like that — but the tradition apparently fell into the hands of illiterate people and thus we have the Yule log.

Jennifer Smith:  Ugh. You’re not the Last Philosophy Major. You’re the Appallingly Terrible Puns Major.

Elvis Wu:  I enter a plea of ‘guilty’.

Little Biffy:  Given that we’re in the South, maybe we should start calling it the “Y’all” log?

[Groans all around, except for Elvis, who looks at Biffy with renewed admiration.]

The Blogger:  Well, i think it’s time for a holiday toast. Elvis, would you mind doing the honors?

Elvis Wu:  I would be honored.  [He pours himself a fresh cup of hot spiced cider.]

Jennifer Smith:  I have no idea what to expect. I mean. This guy.

Little Biffy:  Expect the unexpected.

Jennifer Smith:  But if you’re expecting ‘the unexpected,’ then what you’re actually expecting is… wait, he’s about to offer the toast.

Elvis Wu:  [Lifts his glass]  May your days be merry and delicious, and may all your Christmases be treadknicious!

The Assembled Throng:  Wassail!

 

 

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.

 

 

Now, Boys and Girls, Let’s Look at Some Syllogisms

Is it just me, or has it been entirely too long since we’ve explored the exciting world of how to construct a sound logical syllogism?

A Voice from Near the Back of the Auditorium:  Pretty sure it’s just you.

Heh heh. Terrific. Thanks. Ahem. So, why don’t we refresh our memories regarding what a ‘logical syllogism’ is and how they function as components in an argument.

A Voice from Near the Back of the Auditorium:  Let’s not, and say we did.

Mmmmm. Pardon me one moment.

“Ushers? We appear to have a situ — very good. Yes. Thank you.”

Glad that’s taken care of. You can’t always control who ends up in your audience.

So, anyway, for those of us who could use a reminder, or are perhaps new to the blog, a syllogism is like the basic building block of a logical argument. Each syllogism is made up of three statements: the first two are the ‘premises,’ and the third statement is the ‘conclusion.’ The two premises introduce a set of ideas which, if understood correctly, lead necessarily to the conclusion.

Here, let me show you.

1. All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

2. Some wamwams are flockbinkers.

3. Therefore, some wamwams are treadknicious.

As you can clearly see, if the first two statements — the premises — are true, then the conclusion is bang-on. This is how a syllogism is supposed to work. The premises give you all the information you need to start out with, and if everything is set up right, the conclusion should naturally follow.

Here’s another example.

1. All Republicrats are freemish.

2. Some Democricans are Republicrats.

3. Therefore, some Democricans are freemish.

“But wait a second!” you say.  “This is the same exact thing as that ‘All flockbinkers are treadknicious’ syllogism, but with a different set of silly words inserted into it.”

Ah, excellent reader, how good of you to pick up on that!  And, indeed, the two syllogisms might be, sort of, the same thing — if all of the ‘silly words’ (as you have so uncharitably labeled them) are not only functionally but semantically equivalent. But that’s assuming an awful lot, isn’t it! (And you know what happens when we assume.) What makes you so sure, good reader, that a ‘flockbinker’ and a ‘Republicrat’ are the same thing?

The Good Reader:  All meaningless words are the same thing. They all mean, and i quote, ‘diddly-squat.’

The Blogger:  But i disagree. Perhaps different nonsense terms indicate different categories of nonsense?

The Good Reader:  Nonsense is nonsense! How can there be different ‘categories’ of nonsense? It’s all nonsense! Nonsense nonsense nonsense.

The Blogger:  Well, what if the term ‘wamwam’ occupies a certain semantic territory, albeit one that does not correspond to any actual existent thing or category of things, while the term ‘republicrat’ occupies a different semantic territory?

The Good Reader:  That did not EVEN mean anything. You’re stalling.

The Blogger:  Of course it did! Perhaps if i were to use more simple language… in deference to your elementary grasp of philosophy….

The Good Reader:  [mutters something under her breath that does not sound nice]

The Blogger:  Allright. Try this. What if there are modalities of meaning, some of which are attached to existent entities and some of which are attached merely to mental images, or even to nodules of possibility that correspond to no intelligible image or idea?

The Good Reader:  You’re boring me.

Okay, okay, enough. We probably need to cut our losses on that one. Jeepers. Our first examples seem not to have gone over very well.

So here’s a syllogism in which all of the terms are ordinary, recognizable words.

1. If James is a good boy, he will be pelted with frozen waffles by a mob of crazed orangutans.

2. James is not a good boy.

3. Therefore, James need not worry about being pelted with frozen waffles by a mob of crazed orangutans.

Random Reader of the Blog, Who Is Not Specifically ‘The Good Reader’, But Who Is Nevertheless a Good Reader, and Who Raises His hand, Indicating That He Wishes to Volunteer to Analyze This Syllogism:

I’ve got this.

Um, right off the top of my head, i can see three problems with your… oh, what was the word you used? Syllogism? I think that was the word. And here they are.

Problem #1:  Being pelted with frozen waffles by a mob of crazed orangutans is not a real thing. This does not ever happen. It just doesn’t. Literally no one has experienced this. The Blogger is scraping the bottom of a nonexistent barrel.

Problem #2: Even if it were a thing, it is highly unlikely that being pelted with frozen waffles by a mob of crazed orangutans would be the consequence of being a good boy. When you’re a good boy, the teacher gives you an ‘S’ for ‘satisfactory’ in the behavior section of your report card. Orangutans, crazed or sober, are not involved.

Problem #3: Even if crazed orangutans throwing frozen waffles were a real thing, and even if this were the sort of thing a good boy might expect to happen to him, there’s no reason to assume that one could not be pelted with frozen waffles (by a mob of crazed orangutans) even if one were not a good boy. Maybe there just happens to be a mob of crazed orangutans roaming the neighborhood, pelting people indiscriminately with frozen waffles. They don’t care whether you’ve been a good boy or not. They don’t know. They can’t even tell the difference. Dude. They are crazed orangutans.

So for those three reasons, and probably some more that i haven’t noticed, this syllogism is a disaster.

Back to you, Blogger.

Darn it. I hate to admit it, but Random Reader of the Blog has scored some decent points there. Hey, fella, toss me an email later on… i may have a job for you on this blog.

So. That syllogism turns out to have been a wash; let’s try one last one.

1. No flockbinkers are unicorns.

2. A unicorn is a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger.

3. Therefore, a flockbinker is not a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger.

And i’ll just go ahead and start you out with a hint: The syllogism is invalid.

The Good Reader:  Invalid! Duh. Of course it’s not valid. There are so many things wrong with that one, i don’t EVEN know where to begin!”

The Blogger:  I see that The Good Reader has once again made an appearance. Well, Good Reader, lay it on us. What’s the problem here?

The Good Reader:  There are skoozoos of problems. To begin with…

The Blogger:  One moment, please. Did you actually say, “skoozoos of problems”…?

The Good Reader:  I did.

The Blogger:  I’ve never heard that one before. Hmmm. Interesting. Well, okay, carry on.

The Good Reader:  Right. First off, how can we know that no flockbinkers are unicorns?

The Blogger:  Well, i mean, golly, they just aren’t!

The Good Reader:  That’s the best you’ve got…?

The Blogger:  Let’s just say this: say we are positing, for the sake of argument, that ‘flockbinker’ and ‘unicorn’ are mutually exclusive categories.

The Good Reader:  Fine. That’s pretty arbitrary, but whatever. So then let’s go on to the next thing, which is your totally false definition of ‘unicorn’.

The Blogger:  False definition? What? Where?

The Good Reader:  You claim in this syllogism that a unicorn is “a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger.”

The Blogger:  Okay. So?

The Good Reader:  That’s not even a good definition of a fish, much less a unicorn! A fish can’t have eight legs. It wouldn’t be a fish. It would be… an arachnid? Or something.

The Blogger:  But unicorns don’t exist, so how can there be a true or a false definition of one? Hah! I’ve got you there.

The Good Reader:  So… Okay. Here’s this. Dumbo the Elephant has a six-cylinder engine, seventeen heads, ginger ale for blood, and he eats postal delivery workers for breakfast.

The Blogger:  What? That’s not right! Dumbo isn’t anything like that!

The Good Reader:  Ah, but he’s a fictional character, he doesn’t exist, so, according to you, i can define him any way i want to.  [makes a highly unattractive ‘neener, neener’ face that her mother would find most frightfully disappointing]

The Blogger:  Well, um, we could discuss at some length the issue of what it means to say that Dumbo ‘does not exist’….

The Good Reader:  …and we could apply the exact same criteria to whether unicorns exist or not. Surely you’re not saying that Dumbo the Ohmigosh Stupid Fictional Elephant is somehow more real than a unicorn…?

The Blogger:  Well…no.

The Good Reader:  I didn’t think so.

The Blogger:  So, for the sake of the argument, a unicorn could STILL be a “small, slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger.” We just define him that way, by fiat. In this syllogism, that’s what a unicorn is.

The Good Reader:  So syllogisms don’t have to have even a remote connection to reality. Logic is for dreamers and drug users and Tim Burton and people in psychiatric hospitals.

The Blogger:  Um, no.

The Good Reader:  And anyway, you yourself said that this particular syllogism is invalid. Right?

The Blogger:  I did. You just haven’t discovered the reason why it’s invalid yet.

The Good Reader:  I’ve pointed out that it’s made up of bizarre garbled incoherent hash. You want more than that?

The Blogger:  Well, to be exact, you haven’t really….

The Good Reader:  So, Mister Blogger, why would you say that it’s invalid, if not for the fact that you haven’t defined a single thing correctly in it?

The Blogger:  Well, a flockbinker could still be a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger, even if it’s not a unicorn. Maybe there’s more than one kind of animal that’s a small slippery fish with eight legs and a stinger. A unicorn is one kind, and a flockbinker is a different kind.

The Good Reader:  I hereby accuse you of the excessive use of alcohol.

The Blogger:  No, really, it works. Think it through. Draw a diagram if you have to.

The Good Reader:  If you want to represent logic to your readers as being a truckload of absurdity that’s completely useless for actually figuring anything out in the real world, go right ahead.  [*sigh*]

The Blogger:  See, here’s the circle that includes all of the unicorns, and here’s the circle that includes all of the flockbinkers —

The Good Reader:  Someone kill me now.

The Blogger:  And notice that, even though the two circles don’t overlap, they could still both contain different kinds of small slippery fish with —

The Good Reader:  Make it painless, if possible, but i’m ready to go.

 

It’s a Brave New World: Some Ideas Regarding What to Self-Identify As, This Hallowe’en

Well, people, it’s 2017, and the hip thing to be this year is something that you weren’t born as. Furthermore, it’s the Hallowe’en season, and the hip thing to be at Hallowe’en… is… something that you weren’t born as.  Clearly, the timing of this post could not have been more appropriate.

The question of being, in philosophy, is called ontology. (It can also, sort of, be called ‘metaphysics’. Don’t worry about it. It’s complicated.) The exploration of ontology forms one of the cornerstones of this blog:  trying to figure out what things are, what it means to be something, what categories things go into, how various kinds of things fit together. What, for instance, is a flockbinker? Are YOU a flockbinker? (Don’t even pretend that you’ve never wondered.)

And people, it just don’t get any more ontologically interesting than this recent trend toward identifying oneself as something that one… well… isn’t.

You want some examples?  Sure.

A retired schoolteacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania recently proclaimed herself to be an ocelot. A different retired schoolteacher in Plano, Texas, not wishing to be outdone, has proclaimed herself to be TWO ocelots. Yet a third retired schoolteacher, this one from Des Moines, is marketing herself as an ocelot that identifies as a manatee that is actually a bottle of Dr. Pepper. A 47-year-old plumber in Bozeman, Montana proclaimed himself last week to be a character from Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, except it’s not a character who actually appears in the book, but would have, if Jane Austen had known what she was doing.

And there are apparently even more unsettling modes of self-identification in the offing: one young lady in South Bend, Indiana recently came out as a three-layer yellow sponge cake with cream cheese frosting, and at the time of this writing there is a breaking story about a fellow in Cross Creek, Florida who has chosen to identify as a (so far) undiscovered chemical element. He is calling himself “Nunayurbidnium.”

It’s the newest thing: Give yourself a good looking-over, then say “Well forget THIS, pal,” and announce to the world that you are something which you clearly are not.

To help us all get into the spirit of things this Hallowe’en season, i’ve come up with a handy list of items that, so far as i know, no one has yet identified as.

Pro Tip: If you choose to identify as one of these, you’ll want to get on it pretty quickly. Now that i’ve published the list, there’ll be a stampede (not at all surprising, in the case of ‘a herd of reindeer’ and possibly even ‘four weasels’) and you’re gonna want to establish your own identity ahead of the crowd so as to appear original.

So here are the possibilities. Identify away!

 

I, ______________________________, choose to identify as:

 

  • A fruitcake
  • A chaotic, shapeless, featureless mass (ah, but it seems we repeat ourselves)
  • A linebacker for the New York Yankees
  • A naughty, naughty fellow
  • A fellow who’s not quite mischievous enough to be called ‘naughty’ but who is, nevertheless, not an entirely reputable citizen
  • A weasel (meaning the animal, not ‘a naughty, naughty fellow,’ which of course is another thing that ‘weasel’ can mean)
  • Four weasels all living in the same box
  • A set of pastels that have been gently used
  • A blank canvas
  • A herd of reindeer
  • What the snow looks like after a herd of reindeer have been through
  • The discarded wrapper from a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
  • The square root of peace and justice for all humankind
  • The Thirteenth Floor
  • Your Mom
  • A remote possibility
  • An unfortunate fashion statement
  • The drive-through window at Frank’s Burgers on 3rd Street
  • Beans, beans, the musical fruit
  • A flockbinker (the regular, treadknicious kind)
  • A flockbinker that isn’t EVEN treadknicious
  • Something treadknicious that isn’t a flockbinker
  • A wamwam
  • A wambinker
  • A flockwam
  • An intransitive verb
  • A mathematical impossibility (but something other than “the square root of peace and justice for all humankind”)
  • A faux pas
  • A social blunder, but in English, not French
  • Seventeen different genders, all at the same time, and most of them previously undiscovered
  • Snow White AND the Seven Dwarfs
  • An intermediate-level class in cross stitching
  • An Arby’s roast beef sandwich with horsey sauce
  • A subatomic particle
  • A neutron in search of an atom
  • An atom in search of a happenin’ party
  • A happenin’ party in search of a meaningful occasion
  • A meaningful occasion in search of its place in the universe
  • The Bay Area
  • Stanford University, but with no students, faculty or buildings
  • Conan O’Brien’s haircut
  • An alien civilization
  • A family of five aliens whose civilization has been destroyed by other, even meaner aliens from a nearby planet
  • The internet
  • The web, which apparently isn’t the same thing as the internet
  • The cloud, which apparently isn’t the same thing as the web or the internet
  • The Tempest, which is neither the cloud, the web nor the internet, but is instead a play by William Shakespeare
  • A grunt of dissatisfaction
  • An expression of disbelief
  • A timely disclaimer
  • A single tear from the eye of a unicorn
  • The look on Jimmy Fallon’s face when he’s just said something amusing
  • A bright new world, full of possibility and hope, that lies just around the corner

 

Here’s a Philosophy Joke: Confucius and the Buddha Meet for Dinner at Chili’s.

“So Confucius and the Buddha, they go into a Chili’s, see….”

Confucius is dressed in normal contemporary attire, with a nondescript haircut and his beard shaved off — you know, so as to fit into his social surroundings. He’s like that.

The Buddha is dressed… like the Buddha.

They are seated quickly and begin looking at their menus.  The waiter comes to their table.  “Hi, i’m Martin and i’ll be your server. What can i start you guys out with?”

Buddha:  The self is an illusion. To say ‘i’ is to be mistaken.

Martin the Server:   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Confucius:  Uh, Martin, it looks like i’ll be ordering for both of us.

Martin the Server:  What’s with the Dalai Lama over here?

Confucius:  He’s kind of hard to explain.

Martin the Server:   O… Kay.  So can i get you guys something to drink? Water?

Buddha:  True Mind flows out of emptiness, like the water flowing out of the spring.

Confucius:  [To the Buddha] Not now, dude!  Sorry, Martin. Water will be fine.

Martin the Server:  [Skitters off, shaking his head]

Confucius:  Sid, you’re gonna need to tone it down. Not everyone’s likely to get you in a place like this.

Buddha:  To have one’s senses ensnared by time and place is to be far from enlightenment.

Confucius:  Sure, okay. Fine. Look at your menu and decide what you want.

Buddha:  It is our cravings that separate us from the knowledge of the Way.

Confucius:  One more comment like that, and so help me….

Buddha:  Sorry. I was not exercising self-restraint. And self-restraint, as you know….

Confucius:  Stop. Stop it now.

Buddha:  Oops. Sorry.

Martin the Server:  Your waters, gentlemen. Here’s yours [to Confucius], with lemon, and here’s yours [to the Buddha]. I added some True Mind to yours.

Buddha:  [looking down into glass]  No, you didn’t!

Confucius:  I’m glad you resisted the impulse to leave it empty.

Martin the Server:  Clever, sir. I wish i’d thought of that. Okay, so i’ll let you fellows look at your menus for a couple more minutes.  [He takes off]

Confucius:  He’s a good kid.

Buddha:  Reminds me of one of my monks, about 1500 years ago. He was always….

Confucius:  Just look at the menu.

Buddha:  Right.

Confucius:  They have a ‘healthy’ section. There appear to be vegetarian options.

Buddha:  Yum!  Er, i meant to say, you do me a disservice, stirring up my fleshly cravings.

Confucius:  Whatever. Mmm. Let’s see, the Cobb salad’s lookin’ mighty good.

Martin the Server:  [returns to table] Okay, you guys ready?

Buddha:  To rest in stillness and silence: This is the way of…

Confucius:  Ignore him. I’ll have the Cobb Salad, and he’ll have one lettuce leaf with nothing on it that might even remotely introduce flavor or pleasure.

Buddha:  Wait. That’s not what i want. I’ve decided what i want.

Martin the Server:   . . . ? . . .

Buddha:  Make Me One With Everything.

Martin the Server:   . . . ? . . .

Confucius:  I was SO hoping you wouldn’t say that.

Martin the Server:   . . . ? . . .

Confucius:  [to Martin the Server]  He always says that, and he always thinks it’s funny.

 

 

The Blogger Encounters the Security Guard

If you’re like most people, you may think of philosophers as starry-eyed eggheads who haunt university corridors and rarely interact with the real world.  Although this may be the case in the vast, vast, vast, vast… vast… vast… majority of instances, it isn’t always.  Philosophers can, in fact, be found in a wide range of settings.  There are philosopher-sales reps, philosopher-garbage collectors, philosopher-sportscasters, philosopher-pastry chefs, and even philosophers in middle management.

However, the stereotypes persist.  That’s why i find it so gratifying when i unexpectedly encounter philosophers who have chosen to establish themselves in non-academic settings.

The other day, for instance, i was entering the building where my doctor maintains his office, when i was caught off-guard… no pun intended… by the voice of a uniformed security officer whose desk was sort of obscurely placed in a corner.

Security Guard:  I greet you with enthusiasm and a high regard for your dignity and sense of well-being.

The Blogger:  I say! What a carefully thought-out salutation!

Security Guard:  It’s what i do, sir.

The Blogger:  You employ language in a careful, deliberate manner, choosing your words as vehicles for meaningful communication rather than rote conventionality, in such a way as to optimize precision, clarity and significance?

Security Guard:  Dude. You took the words (as it were) right out of my mouth. Except i would have included the Oxford comma.

The Blogger:  Is that what the security company that you work for pays you to do?

Security Guard:  Well… not really.  [He leans in toward me.]  You won’t narc on me?

The Blogger:  I wouldn’t dream of it.  It’s a pleasure indeed to meet a fellow philosopher in a place like this.

Security Guard:  We are a rare and vanishing breed.

The Blogger:  Especially in the security industry, i’m guessing.

Security Guard:  You’re tellin’ me, bub.

The Blogger:  So how do you like your job?

Security Guard:  The work isn’t terribly difficult. But there are annoyances.

The Blogger:  Such as?

Security Guard:  Everyone seems to assume the security guard is a moron.

The Blogger:  Wow, that sounds pretty harsh.

Security Guard:  It’s true! They don’t bother to ask questions, for instance; they just figure you don’t know anything. People routinely seem to take for granted that i know nothing about the physicians and staff in the building where i work five days a week. They’ll stand there in the lobby, puzzling over where to find a particular doctor, staring dumbly at the directory on the wall, asking each other questions that of course none of them are able to answer. I will generally toss them a cue at this point… “Is there someone i can help you find?” At which point they will often say, “No, thank you, well-meaning but retarded fellow. We’ll figure it out.” Okay, they don’t usually say the ‘retarded’ part, out loud, but i can tell they’re thinking it.

The Blogger:  Security guards are not widely reputed as being, er, mentally gifted.

Security Guard:  [sigh]

The Blogger:  So is that the only thing you find troubling about your job?

Security Guard:  No. There’s also this: I’m expected to sit here and stare into space, with no books to engage my cognitive faculties or writing materials to use in composing my thoughts into structured bodies of argument.

The Blogger:  Purgatory!

Security Guard:  The sheerest agony.

The Blogger:  But at least the money is probably pretty good…?

Security Guard:  You are, of course, making a cruel joke.

The Blogger:  Oh. Oops.

Security Guard:  But — i’ll tell you a secret — you can’t let this get out —

The Blogger:  I am as silent as the grave. Well, that is, when i’m not talking.

Security Guard:  So here it is. I really do keep books here with me at my post. I keep them well hidden so that i won’t get in trouble. Come around here… i’ll show you.

[I step around the Security Guard’s desk and look under it. I am flabbergasted to discover a library of several hundred books, neatly organized by subject and author’s last name.]

The Blogger:  Now that’s an impressive body of reading material!

Security Guard:  Well, just a few volumes i’ve pulled together.

The Blogger:  A few.

Security Guard:  But enough about me. What is it that you do?

The Blogger:  Well, among other things, i’m The Blogger. I have several blogs, one of which — and the most relevant for our present purposes — is called “All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious.”

Security Guard:  And Other Salient Observations.

The Blogger:  Wait. What? You’ve heard of it?

Security Guard:  I’m one of your most devoted readers.

The Blogger:  Well, jeepers. I don’t EVEN know what to say.

Security Guard:  Reading your blog has kept me going during the times when i’ve been tempted to think that philosophical thought has all but disappeared from the postmodern world.

The Blogger:  Well, building discussions of philosophy around the concept of flockbinkers is what you might call my own personal… er… my…

Random Knight of the Round Table, Whose Arrival No One Had Noticed:  Idiom, sir. [He disappears again, just as mysteriously.]

The Blogger:  Idiom. That’s the word.

Security Guard:  Hey, whatever works. Plato had his Socratic dialogues; you’ve got your flockbinker blog.

The Blogger:  [Blushing] You place me in auspicious company, sir.

Security Guard:  Not at all. So, would you like to know how i’m able to apply philosophy in my current occupational setting?

The Blogger:  I’ll admit, i have been wondering.

Security Guard:  I use it to fight crime.

The Blogger:  You mean, you employ your deductive powers in the solving of open cases?

Security Guard:  Well, i guess i could do that. If i wanted to. But what i meant was that i use rational discourse and the application of philosophical principles in dealing with perps right here on the property.

The Blogger:  Seriously? So, for instance, if a bad guy were to show up right now, here at the entrance to the building…?

Security Guard:  I will subdue him by sheer force of logical argument.

The Blogger:  Jeepers.

Security Guard:  Not the usual sort of thing. That’s what you’re thinking.

The Blogger:  I am.  Boy!  Wow.  So, you’re saying that you are actually able to apprehend and immobilize the criminal element… by discussing philosophy with them?

Security Guard:  That’s precisely what i’m saying.

The Blogger:  And this happens here on a regular basis?

Security Guard:  Well — i mean — not really on a regular basis.

The Blogger:  So how many times have you taken down a bad guy using philosophy?

Security Guard:  [mumbles something indistinct.]

The Blogger:  I’m sorry? I didn’t catch that.

Security Guard:  [Turns several different shades of red, one after the other.]  I… well… that is to say… I haven’t really, up to this point.  That’s just sort of how i imagine it playing out, if i were given the opportunity.

The Blogger:  Wait. So you claim to fight crime using philosophy, except you haven’t actually tried it out yet?

Security Guard:  Dude, chill. I’ve got it all worked out. I can picture in my mind precisely how things would go down, if i just had the chance.

The Blogger:  And i can picture in my mind exactly what it would be like to win the lottery.

Security Guard:  Red herring.

The Blogger:  Argument from analogy.

Security Guard:  [Scowls.]  Okay. I’ll give you that one. So you’d like to see what doing combat with a potential vandal or robber — using philosophical argument, of course — actually looks like?

The Blogger:  If you can actually pull it off, yes. I’d love to see you in action.

Security Guard:  Okay then. Let us choose, as our first subject, this young gentleman approaching the front doors. He is clearly up to no good. I shall confront him.

The Blogger:  I’m about to see the master in action! This’ll be good stuff.

[A male in his early 20s comes in through the automatic doors.]

Security Guard:  Say, you there! Naughty fellow!

Naughty Fellow:  Um.

Security Guard:  If you have come here to perpetrate acts of unspeakable naughtiness, please know that your plans are doomed to failure!

Naughty Fellow:  What.

Security Guard:  As an advocate for the Rational Order of Things, i shall take all steps necessary to prevent you from performing deeds of wickedness.

Naughty Fellow:  Huh.

Security Guard:  If you have legitimate business in this building, you may state it now.

Naughty Fellow:  My girlfriend here to see Dr. Mummer. She pregnant.

Security Guard:  Dr. Mummer is pregnant?

Naughty Fellow:  Dr. Mummer a dude, man. My girlfriend is pregnant.

Security Guard:  Ah, yes, of course.

Naughty Fellow:  Can i come in now.

Security Guard:  You may. But mind you refrain from perpetrating acts of naughtiness.

Naughty Fellow:  Sure thing, man. Whatever you say.

[The young man continues on through the lobby, gets into the elevator and disappears.]

The Blogger:  I’m thinking that didn’t go quite as you’d anticipated?

Security Guard:  Not exactly. But you can’t afford to take chances.

The Blogger:  Of course not. The world being what it is, and the times being what they are, and all that sort of thing.

Security Guard:  Precisely. Oh, look, here comes someone else who appears naughty. What do you think?

The Blogger:  I’d rate him a nine out of ten on the naughtiness scale.

Security Guard:  At the very least. I must confront him.

The Blogger:  Knock yourself out.

Security Guard:  You there! Mischievous vagrant! State your business on this property.

Mischievous Vagrant:  Well, to be honest, i’m here to vandalize the exterior of the building and then go in and rob as many of the patients as i can.

Security Guard:  [aside to the Blogger] You see? We’ve got a live one here.

The Blogger:  I must admit, you nailed it this time.

Security Guard:  [To the mischievous vagrant] Rude fellow, know that i shall do everything in my power to prevent you from carrying out your nefarious program.

Mischievous Vagrant:  I’m trembling in my boots. Show me what you’ve got.

Security Guard:  To begin with, there’s the Categorical Imperative.

Mischievous Vagrant:  Oh, so you’re going to pull out Immanuel Kant on me? No dice. Deontological ethical theory is a house of cards.

Security Guard:  [His breath catching] So, wait. You’re… a philosopher?

Mischievous Vagrant:  Every inch.

Security Guard:  [Aside to the Blogger] Now THIS i had not anticipated. There may be some rough going here.

The Blogger:  Dude, you’re telling ME. The guy appears to know his stuff.

Security Guard:  [Returning his attention to the mischievous vagrant] So you fail to recognize that participation in organized society places ethical obligations on each moral agent toward all others?

Mischievous Vagrant:  I deny the very principle of moral agency. Take that!

Security Guard:  [Recoiling, then recovering] Then you deny that the universe presents us with any kind of intrinsic moral architecture?

Mischievous Vagrant:  I do. Categorically. Get it? Categorically?

Security Guard:  Clever Kantian pun.

Mischievous Vagrant:  Thank you.

Security Guard:  There is no larger structure informing any given course of action that you choose to undertake at any given time?

Mischievous Vagrant:  Well, there is the entirely subjective system of needs and desires that i’ve assembled during my life, due to a combination of heredity, environmental influence, and rational examination of the consequences of various kinds of actions.

Security Guard:  A teleological approach to ethical decision-making, if unsupported by a transcendent order, is merely arbitrary and indefensible.

Mischievous Vagrant:  [Takes a few steps back as if he has suffered a serious blow, then advances again.] Freely chosen actions need not be defended in terms of any ethical system outside of the agent’s own subjective proclivities.

Security Guard:  Any society structured along such lines as you describe would suffer from the most extreme version of Hobbes’ anarchic vision, and life would indeed be “poor, solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Mischievous Vagrant:  [Falls back again, recovers, and comes at the Security Guard with his best shot.] It’s impossible to establish an objective ground for moral decision-making; a systematic study of the world’s religious and ethical systems leads to a radical relativism.

Security Guard:  [Winces and takes two steps back, then moves in for his coup de grace.] On the contrary: When we consider together (1) the promptings of the individual conscience, (2) the typical patterns of cultural taboo found in most human societies, (3) the core teachings of the world’s religious traditions, and (4) the positions resulting from a utilitarian approach to social good, then certain patterns emerge that can be employed in the establishment of a binding social contract that will result in the securing of the persons and property of both individual persons, and the res publica in general.

Mischievous Vagrant:  [Stunned, he falls back several feet, utters an expletive, and turns tail to run.]

Security Guard:  And i think we’ve seen the last of him.

The Blogger:  I’m stunned.

Security Guard:  [Beaming with pleasure.]

The Blogger:  It was like… it’s as if Clint Eastwood was a philosopher.

Security Guard:  People really tend to underestimate the power of philosophical discourse.

The Blogger:  That was amazing. I’ve never seen philosophy used so directly in the service of public safety.

Security Guard:  Well, you know, so many people think of philosophical discourse as merely a web of abstractions disconnected from the realities of the practical world. If i can, in my small way, do something to change that perception….

The Blogger:  It’s a vision worth living by.

[We both stand in silence for a little while, contemplating the implications.]

 

Security Guard:  Oh! By the way, i’ve been meaning to say this for several minutes. The treadknicious character of flockbinkers is not necessarily the sort of fact that might be established through empirical investigation.

The Blogger:  Beg your pardon?

Security Guard:  Sorry. I should explain. It’s been my understanding that some of your readers are troubled by the fact that this blog has flockbinkers in the title, when in fact flockbinkers are not always the topic under discussion.

The Blogger:  Well, it could be argued….

Security Guard:  Right, right. I get you. But not everyone who reads the blog will have attained a sufficient level of philosophical sophistication to understand that.

The Blogger:  [turning beet-red with pleasure]

Security Guard:  As i understand your usage of the term, ‘flockbinkers’ exist… insofar as it can be said that they DO exist… in accordance with several distinct modes of ontological nuance.

The Blogger:  I can think of a certain regular reader of this blog who will take strong exception to that.

The Good Reader:  Enough of that, now. It’s not like i can’t hear you.

The Blogger:  Technically, Reader, you’re not hearing. You’re reading.

The Good Reader:  [says a word that we do not feel justified reproducing here, given that this blog is aimed at a family audience]

Security Guard:  So i made a seemingly purposeless reference to flockbinkers just so that no one will be able to say this post didn’t mention them. Y’know: to take some of the heat off of you.

The Blogger:  I am strangely moved, o noble security guard.

Security Guard:  Here for ya, bro.

 

 

 

Some Things That Flockbinkers Have in Common with Unicorns.

Greetings, o most excellent reader.

In a recent post, we were forced to acknowledge an objection some readers apparently have to this blog: that, even though it mentions flockbinkers in the title, not every post is actually about flockbinkers. Now, i do need to point out that the greater number of the posts do at least mention flockbinkers, and in that last post we did raise the somewhat metaphysically subtle possibility that even the posts that don’t mention flockbinkers might nevertheless be about them. One of our loyal readers wasn’t buying that one, though, so we thought we’d devote this post to some fairly explicit (be warned, parents!) discussion of flockbinkers.

In fact, why don’t we address a question that has doubtless occurred to more than one reader since this blog was launched. Perhaps you’re among those who have wondered: What is the connection between flockbinkers and unicorns? Are they similar in some way? They certainly do get mentioned together a lot in this blog. What exactly do they have in common?

Let’s set forth eight ways in which unicorns and flockbinkers might be thought of as similar.

1. They both have three syllables in their name.

Here, let me show you.

You – knee – corn. Flock – bing – ker.

You can sound them out for yourself. Three syllables each.

Now, you may not think this is a significant thing for two objects to have in common, but that is where you have made your vital mistake. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine any criterion for similarity between any two things that is more important than the question of whether the words used to depict them have the same number of syllables. You’ll just have to trust us on this one.

2. They both have a horn poking out of the middle of their forehead.

It must be admitted up front that this point is a controversial one. The scholarly community are not unanimous in the conviction that flockbinkers have a horn protruding from the forehead. Some scholars are skeptical regarding whether flockbinkers even have a forehead, or, for that matter any kind of head at all. There are hints in the philosophical literature to the effect that the flockbinker may be an entity something like a toaster, or a microwave oven. There has even arisen a recent school of thought that says flockbinkers may be more like clouds of pinkish gas than anything else. And, of course, there are those outliers who aren’t convinced that there even IS such a thing as a flockbinker… which leads us to our next point.

3. They both are nonexistent.

Of course, this point depends entirely on what you mean by the terms ‘existent’ and ‘nonexistent.’  If by ‘existent’ you mean the sort of thing you are likely to see served at dinner or parked in your driveway, then both the flockbinker and the unicorn may safely be termed ‘nonexistent.’

The more precise discussion of what it means for something to exist has been treated elsewhere on this blog and will be revisited many times in the future. We need not concern ourselves with it now. If, however, you are a philosopher, and therefore of a stamp that requires a higher level of precision than does the average reader of silly blogs, then the next point will doubtless be of interest to you.

4. They both occupy a kind of ontological territory that might be termed ‘modally existent.’

Perhaps ‘nonexistent’ is a fatally inexact way to characterize both flockbinkers and unicorns. Perhaps we might want to nuance that a bit, and say that they do… er, sort of… exist, but not in the same way that your iPhone exists, or those Depends undergarments you’ve started wearing recently and that you earnestly hope no one knows about. We might want to say that the unicorn and the flockbinker are ‘modally existent’… which is to say, they exist in a different sort of way from the things we usually think of as existing, like paper airplanes, government waste, and the number 439. Well, except the number 439 might also go into the category of modal existence, depending on what you think the normal sort of ‘existence’ is all about. For that matter, government waste may have have to go in that same category, because — although we all know that it’s there — it’s not the sort of thing you can swat with a yardstick or draw pictures on with a lump of charcoal. Some other things that might go in the category of ‘modally existent’ would be Elizabeth Bennet, the bogeyman, and whoever that guy is that Taylor Swift keeps writing songs about.

5. Discussing either of them in this blog can send a certain Good Reader into an apoplectic rage.

The Good Reader:  Okay, buster, you can just stop it right there. I am not about to put up with….

The Blogger:  I rest my case.

6. They both can be found in mythic and fantasy literature.

The Good Reader:  Now just a minute, you cut me off before i was able to make my point.

The Blogger:  But we’ve already moved on to another point.

The Good Reader:  Oh no, we haven’t. Not until we address the previous one, which you just kind of whipped on through while trying to make me look stupid.

The Blogger:  [sigh] Okay, Good Reader. You may respond in full.

The Good Reader:  You claimed that mentioning unicorns or flockbinkers on this blog will send me into “an apoplectic rage.”

The Blogger:  Well, in my defense, i didn’t actually mention you by name….

The Good Reader:  I don’t even have a name. I’m a character who serves as the personification of your readership.

The Blogger:  There is that.

The Good Reader:  But my point is, i am not enraged by hearing you mention flockbinkers or unicorns. I actually think they’re kind of endearing. What enrages me, maybe even apoplectically, is listening to you make bizarre statements that you can’t back up, and then insulting me and trying to make me look like a moron when i challenge you on it.

The Blogger:  I have never done that.

The Good Reader:  So that’s what enrages me. Apoplectically.

The Blogger:  Well, your clarification is of course welcome, Good Reader, but you still seem to be ignoring the fact that we’ve moved on to a new topic.

The Good Reader:  Fine. I’ll challenge you on that, too. Unicorns have, of course, been the subject of myth and fantasy literature. Flockbinkers have not. Nobody has ever even heard of flockbinkers.

The Blogger:  Except, of course, for the thousands of readers who regularly follow this blog.

The Good Reader:  I’m rolling my eyes. Can you see it? I’m rolling my eyes at you and making the face people make when their 16-month-old has just dumped a plate of spaghetti on the floor.

The Blogger:  [checking his watch] Oops, will you look at that, we’re almost out of time. Must move on to the next point.

7. They both tend to be featured in Medieval tapestries.

It is commonly known that unicorns are featured in Medieval tapestries, often in the company of a young virgin. What’s less well known is that flockbinkers, also, can be found pictured in Medieval tapestries. Have you ever seen a picture of the Bayeux Tapestry? It’s not technically a tapestry, it’s more like a really long visual newspaper article reporting how the fateful Battle of Hastings went. Anyway, about 2/3 of the way toward the right of the picture, you can see a strange creature taking a spear right in the face. Ouch. Well, many informed experts feel that this was a flockbinker who innocently wandered onto the field of battle at precisely the wrong moment. That is to say, the wrong moment if your preference is not to die horribly, but the right moment if you’d like to be immortalized in one of the world’s most iconic works of art. It’s really a matter of perspective, isn’t it.

8. They are both of interest to people who self-identify as ‘horse-people.’

It has been the personal experience of This Blogger that those who tend to view themselves as ‘horse-people’ tend to be drawn both to unicorns and to flockbinkers. To unicorns, obviously, because they’re basically the same thing as a horse but with extra stuff. But why are such people also drawn to flockbinkers? Perhaps because flockbinkers, like horses, tend to be a preferred mode of transportation among those who (as represented in Western films) poke cows for a living? But here we have wandered into the territory of pure conjecture.

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