all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Category: Unicorns

A Bit of Discussion — Long Overdue — of the Concept of ‘Your Mom’

 

Abstract:  It’s the classic rejoinder: “Your Mom!” Jeepers… I’m laughing uproariously right now, just typing the words! But what is this ubiquitous bit of linguistic magic all about? Where did it come from? What exactly does it mean? Is there, in fact, a Real Thing called ‘Your Mom’? Is it, you know, some sort of insult… and ought your actual mom to have an opinion about it? I bet she does. [snicker]


 

So here’s the thing. We spend so much time on this blog analyzing terms like ‘logical coherence,’ ‘metaphysical grounding,’ ‘epistemic hoo-ha,’ ‘frozen ontological patties,’ ‘what the heck,’ ‘wamwam,’ ‘treadknicious,’ ‘um-bum-bety-boom,’ and ‘eWeeWee,’ that we appear to have overlooked one of the classics.

What about the expression “your mom” [snicker]?

Perhaps it should be noted, by way of introduction, that linguistics and metaphysics are not the same thing and do not necessarily cover the same territory.

“Dang!” i can hear you saying. “What the consarn tootin’ heck are metaguistics, and that other one you said right afterward?”

Ah, an excellent line of inquiry, gentle reader. What we mean here is simply that just because we have a word for something, that doesn’t mean that the something actually is a real thing in the real world.

‘Unicorns,’ for instance. We have a word for them, but they’re not real.

 

Unicorn #1:  Up yours, buddy!

Unicorn #2:  Paul! Calm yourself. The man spoke in ignorance.

Unicorn #3:  If he’s going to go around listing off the things that aren’t real, why doesn’t he start with his own intelligence quotient?

Unicorn #2:  [sigh]  You fellows just need to chill out for a bit. Why don’t we go graze awhile. Maybe by the time we come back, he’ll have said something sensible.

Unicorn #1:  Not much risk of that, if you ask me.

[The three unicorns exit, stage left. Meanwhile, the Blogger continues, unaware that his blog has been host to three unicorns.]

 

The Blogger:  So, the first question we have to ask is this: does the term “Your Mom” mean anything at all, anything that actually exists in the Real World?

The Good Reader:  Well, MY Mom certainly exists. I got a letter from her just a few days ago. And she calls about once a week to see if i’m married yet.

The Blogger:  Ah, but that’s not what we mean when we use the expression “Your Mom.” We’re not talking about your mom.

The Good Reader:  Oh. Wow. I could have sworn.

The Blogger:  No, it’s more of a universal expression. It means something more like, “One’s Mom,” or, “That sort of philosophically-defined Mom over there.” Or even, something like “You’re a weenie.”

The Good Reader:  Ah. But when you say to me, “Your Mom,” i figure you mean, “My Mom.” You know. It just sort of figures.

The Blogger:  Well… i suppose that is one possible meaning of the expression.

The Good Reader:  Well gee. Thank you.

The Blogger:  There’s probably a range of possible meanings of the term “Your Mom.”

The Good Reader:  [dubiously]  Maybe.

The Blogger:  Well, let’s experiment! Let’s see how many possible definitions we can come up with for the expression, “Your Mom.”

The Good Reader:  Um. Okay. Knock yourself out.

The Blogger:  So, to begin: One possible definition of the expression ‘Your Mom’ is, “the woman at whose o’er-brimming paps you nursed as a wee, itsy-bitsy infant.”

The Good Reader:  Okay. That makes sense. You said it kind of funny, but i guess we can let that go.

The Blogger:  And another definition of ‘Your Mom’ would be Russia. You know, as in “Mother Russia.”

The Good Reader:  Um. Okay. I don’t think that’s what people have in mind when they say the expression, ‘Your Mom.’

The Blogger:  …and of course, ‘Your Mom’ can also mean, “a Crock Pot somewhat in need of being washed because it’s got cheesy material encrusted on it.”

The Good Reader:  That’s not even a thing!

The Blogger:  It most certainly is.

The Good Reader:  What? You’re a wee wee.

The Blogger:  [chuckling]  At least you didn’t call me an eWeeWee.

The Good Reader:  Um. What.

The Blogger:  Didn’t you notice? Oh dear…”eWeeWee” was one of the technical terms listed at the beginning of this blog post.

The Good Reader:  That… what? I don’t even.

The Blogger:  But back to the topic at hand. Your denial that the expression “Your Mom” as indicative of “a Crock Pot somewhat in need of being washed” is a real thing.

The Good Reader:  I can’t even think about that anymore. I’m still thinking of “eWeeWee.” Is that a sound that you made up yourself, or did you overhear one of the kids on the street corner saying it?

The Blogger:  [somewhat irritated]  Never mind. You’re missing the point.

The Good Reader:  “eWeeWee.” It is kind of fun to say, isn’t it? “eWeeWee. eWeeWee.”

The Blogger:  Stop that! We’re talking about Your Mom.

The Good Reader:  Let’s not do that. She isn’t here to defend herself.

The Blogger:  [on the verge of blowing his top]  Not THAT Your Mom! The other one! Er, the other ones! Or something.

The Good Reader:  Golly, there must be at least, what, two or three billion of ’em? Out of our total population of about seven billion?

The Blogger:  Okay, you need to cut that out right now. We’re trying to have a serious philosophical discussion here!

The Good Reader:  Correction: Neither one of us is trying to have a serious philosophical discussion. I’m certainly not. And your idea of philosophy appears to be “making odd sounds with your mouth and then trying to justify them intellectually.”

The Blogger:  [pauses for a moment, decides the best course of action is to ignore this]

Okay. So, one possible meaning of the expression “Your Mom” is a Crock Pot that very much needs to be washed. On account of the cheezy material, and whatnot.

The Good Reader:  [rolling eyes]  Okay. Sure. Go on.

The Blogger:  And another is, a meteorite that left a Volkswagen-sized crater just a couple of miles outside the city of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The Good Reader:  No. I’m sorry. Just no.

The Blogger:  …and another possible meaning is, “what you ate for breakfast this morning, but with the strawberries removed.”

The Good Reader:  What? Stop that! You’re just making up random nonsense.

The Blogger:  [somewhat huffily]  I am practicing philosophy at a level that you, perhaps, as a layperson, are not able to appreciate.

The Good Reader:  Um. Okay, i’ve got another one. Your Mom can also mean, “the little flakes of dead skin that come off when you scratch your butt.”

The Blogger:  Uh…hmmm. Maybe. What’s your justification for that definition?

The Good Reader:  You’re impossible.

The Blogger:  I’m a philosopher!

The Good Reader:  Indeed.

 

Epilogue

As of the publication of this blog post, The Blogger has since come up with another 27 possible meanings for the expression “Your Mom”… and he doesn’t seem to be tiring of the subject. This may be worth following up at some point.

The unicorns do not appear to have returned.

 

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.

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.

 

A Philosopher Hands out Candy (and Philosophy Classics) to Trick-or-Treaters

This year, for the first time in several decades — indeed, the first time in the entirety of my adult incarnation — i decided to do Hallowe’en.

I’ve never gotten really excited about Hallowe’en. As a philosopher, i feel a need to know what i’m celebrating when i observe a holiday, and Hallowe’en seems to be just a confusing hash of ancient pagan imagery, modern horror, Disney, magical unicorns, and contemporary kiddie-fied commercialization.

However, this year i decided to get with the program; you know, find out what everyone else has been experiencing all this time. And it seemed fitting that, as a philosopher, i should provide the kiddoes with a uniquely philosophical experience that they’d be unlikely to get at the other houses.

Upon discovering that some people like to dress up the front of their home to reflect the spirit of the holiday, i decided to make an attempt. I chose as my theme the decay of Western Civilization… the tragic, inexorable unraveling of more than two thousand years of achievement and tradition… the entropic deterioration of centuries’ worth of cultural advancement and rational thought… leaving a (metaphorically speaking) dilapidated, moss-grown, disintegrating ruin. The advantage here is that i didn’t really have to do anything to decorate. My front porch already looks like that.

Then i hauled a big cauldron onto my porch and loaded it up with goodies for the little trick-or-treaters. Finally, i put on my bow-tie and wire-rimmed spectacles (my ‘philosopher’ costume) and i was ready to go.

The evening, i must say, went very well.

By way of illustration, why don’t i narrate for you my encounters with three different batches of trick-or-treaters, each group interesting in its own way. Let’s start with a group of five children that came by pretty early on, while it was still light out.

 

Group One

“Greetings,” i said to the group at large. “Welcome to the Philosopher’s Haunted Den of the Breakdown of Western Civilization.”

They eyed the front of my house apprehensively, as if searching for a notice of condemnation by the building inspector.

“And what are you?” i asked the first kid who bravely stepped up to my porch.

“I’m Conan O’Brien’s haircut,” he explained.

“Ah!” i said. “Not bad. I can see it. An extremely accurate likeness. And you?” i asked the next kid.

“I’m an ocelot that identifies as a manatee that is actually a bottle of Dr. Pepper.”

“That’s exactly what i would have guessed. Very clever. Layers of ontological complexity. I like it.”

“And i,” said the next kid, an absolutely whacking redhead, “am a mathematical impossibility.”

“No kidding!” i said. “That’s amazing! Can you be more specific?”

“Sure,” she said. “I’m the square root of peace and love for all humankind.”

Dig,” i said. “Oh yeah. Wow. Can you dig it.”

We all sort of dug it for a few seconds.

“Yeah,” said Conan O’Brien’s haircut, quietly. “Crazy.”

“And what about you?” i asked the next kid.

In the most earnest, heartfelt voice i have ever heard emerge from the body of a human being, he said, “I am a single tear from the eye of a magical unicorn.”

“Well, of course you are,” i acknowledged. “Even a fool can see that. Good work.”

The fifth and last kid stepped forth boldly. “And what are you?” i asked.

“Your Mom,” he said, simply.

“Roger that,” i said, and reached into my cauldron to fish out goodies for each of the kids.

Now, i’m afraid we need to pause a moment before going on.

Most regular people, when preparing to receive trick-or-treaters, will stock up on Mounds mini-bars, Kit Kats, Jolly Ranchers, and those awful candy corn things. But do not forget that we are here dealing with a philosopher, not a normal person. My cauldron was stocked with something much better than candy: pocket paperback editions of some of the shorter philosophy classics. To wit: John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Rene Descartes’ Discourse on Method. Immanuel Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics. And Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. By way of concession to the tastes of children, i also had a pile of 100 Grillion Dollar Bars in there. To sweeten the deal, as it were.

“For you,” i said to the one who’d identified as my Mom, “a copy of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, and a 100 Grillion Dollar Bar.”

“But it’s not real!” he demurred.

“What?” i said. “It is absolutely real! This is an authorized edition of the Tractatus!”

“I meant the 100 Grillion dollars.”

“Oh,” i said. “Hmmm. Define real.”

“Cool, a philosopher who’s also a smart-aleck. I can’t wait to tell my friends.”

I was not going to take this from a pipsqueak whose idea of a Hallowe’en costume was a lackluster impersonation of my Maternal Ancestor. “You were trick-or-treating in the hope of amassing a fortune?” i demanded. “No. You were trick-or-treating in the hope of getting lots of candy. This is candy. ‘Grillion’ isn’t even a number.”

Annoyed, i distributed philosophy books and 100 Grillion Dollar Bars to the remaining kids with no further complaint, although the fellow identifying as the tear from the eye of a magical unicorn did tremble slightly. No harm done, the kids were off, and i was left to contemplate the complexities involved in the naming of candy bars.

 

Group Two

This next interesting group came along a while later, after a few rather disappointing cohorts of fairies and zombies. “Hello, hello!” i said to them. “Welcome to the Philosopher’s Haunted Den of the Utter Decay of the Western Cultural Tradition.”

“SWEET,” said one of the kids, obviously genuinely impressed. “It even looks like a deteriorating architectural corpse, a rude, broken-down relic of past greatness.”

“Um, yes, thank you,” i said. “Moving on. Let’s start with you. What are you identifying as this evening?”

“I’m a naughty, naughty fellow,” he said in the most perfect deadpan you’ve ever seen.

“Well, yes, i’ve no doubt of that,” i said. “I meant, what are you dressed up as?”

His companion, with an almost-matching costume, spoke up. “He means that literally. He is identifying as a naughty, naughty fellow for Hallowe’en. He’s usually the perfect kid. He never does anything wrong. The grown-ups all love him. It’s disgusting.”

“Ah!” i said. “How silly of me. Got it. And you?” i asked his cohort.

“Well,” he began, “I’m a fellow who’s not quite mischievous enough to be called ‘naughty’ but who is, nevertheless, not an entirely reputable citizen.”

“And i see you two are a package deal,” i observed.

“We are,” said the first one, a naughty, naughty expression on his face.

“And you!” i said, directing my attention to a young man dressed in what appeared to me to be the garb of a well-to-do dandy from the early 1800s.

“I’m a character from the novel Persuasion, by Jane Austen,” he explained.

“That’s tremendous!” i said. “As it happens, i just re-read Persuasion a few months ago. Which character are you?”

“Well,” he said, somewhat tentatively, “I’m not actually in the book.”

“I see,” said i, although i didn’t.

He continued. “I’m a character that Austen would have included in the novel if she had actually known what she was doing.”

“Ah,” i said. “That’s more like it. Most treadknicious of you.”

The fourth child stepped forward, a little squirt of a dude who appeared to be dressed, as nearly as i could tell, as a shapeless blue amoeba.

“I’m an as-yet-undiscovered chemical element,” he said.

“Ah, but here you are,” i said cleverly. “You’ve been discovered.”

“Discovered by you,” he said. “The scientific community still hasn’t got a clue.”

“Niiiiiiiice,” i said. “Does this element have a name?”

“Nunnayurbidnium,” he said.

“Oh, sorry,” i said. “Didn’t mean to offend.”

“No,” he offered, “I mean the element is called ‘Nunnayurbidnium’.”

“Ah,” i said. “Yes. Of course. Very good. I shall append it to the periodic table in my old college chemistry book. The scientific community will never have to know.” He and i shared a mutual scholarly wink, and then i cauldron-dove to fetch the kiddies their goodies.

 

Group Three

The third interesting group arrived shortly after dusk, at around that time when the little kids and their parents are starting to thin out and the teenagers elaborately made up as zombies or wearing lame skeleton t-shirts are becoming the dominant demographic. Happily, the group of which i now speak was not made of such stuff.

There were eight people in this group: one set of three, and another set of five. The two sets of trick-or-treaters weren’t actually together, but they all arrived at my front porch at more-or-less the same time.

“And who are YOU people?” I was talking to what appeared to be the leader of the group of five, which i took, furthermore, to be a family of aliens. Not the illegal kind; the interplanetary kind.

“We’re a family of aliens,” he explained helpfully.

“I gathered as much,” i said. “And what brings you ’round these here parts?”

“Well,” he began, hooking a tentacle into each of the two straps of his overalls, “It’s like this. We are the last of our race. Our civilization was wiped out by a race of even meaner aliens from a neighboring planet.”

“Grrrrrr,” chorused the wife and kids, their tentacles waving menacingly in the air.

“That’s awful!” i said. “So you’re refugees here on earth, seeking asylum?”

“Well, it’s more like, we’re hopin’ to set up a GoFundMe account so that we can afford thermonuclear weapons and wipe them other aliens off the face of their stupid planet.”

“Well, gosh, y’know, okey-dokey,” i said, concluding that these varmints were serious customers and not to be trifled with. Casting about for a change of topic, i said, “Well, sir, your young’un here looks just like you.”

The lad waved his tentacles about in evident pleasure.

“Don’t he now?” said the proud papa, huffing a cloud of pinkish gas from the top of what i believe to have been his head. “He sure do favor his old dad, that’s what i’ve always said.”

I nodded. “I gotta say, the apple don’t fall far from the tree. So, remind me again… i don’t think i caught it the first time… what’s the name of the planet y’all are from?”

The father replied with the most horrifying sound i have ever seen produced by an object that was less than six feet away from me: a sort of screeching moan, mostly made up of harsh vowels and painful dreams. “So,” i squirmed. “Um. So that’s the name of your planet, is it?” By this time the conviction was finally borne in upon me that these were probably not kids wearing costumes.

“Wow, okay,” i said, turning my attention to the remaining group of three, who had sat patiently on their fence during the preceding proceedings. Did i mention that these three fellows had a portable fence, mounted on wheels, and that they were sitting on it?

“And you fellows,” i said. “What’s the story?”

“We’re Scotsmen,” said the first one.

“Aye, that we are,” said the second. “Three of us.”

“Sittin’ on a fence,” added the third.

That certainly cleared things up for me. “Golly,” i said, “you fellows seem oddly familiar. Might i have encountered you in a joke somewhere?”

“It’s not unlikely,” said the first one.

“You’ve probably haird the one about the three Scotsmen,” said the second one.

“Sittin’ on a fence,” added the third.

“Aye, that i have,” said i, involuntarily falling into their mode of speech. “So that’s why you fellas seem so familiar.” Then, seizing an opportunity that was not likely to come round again, i asked, “So what’s the punchline? I’ve never heard the finished version of the joke.”

The three Scotsmen looked at each other, then back at me, smiled mysteriously, and said nothing.

[Editor’s Note: For a discussion of the original joke about the Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence, you might want to check out this post… (“So There Were These Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence, See”) from about four years ago. You might, additionally, enjoy checking out this later post: “An Attempt to Get to the Bottom of This ‘Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence’ Thing.”]

Unsure of how to continue the conversation, i dug out some Hundred Grillion Dollar Bars and pocket philosophical classics from my cauldron, distributed them among the strange company, and saw them off.

 

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. My first participation in Hallowe’en in about 40 years. I feel you must agree with me that it was a smashing success.

And you will be gratified to note, as i was, that after having checked all up and down the block the next morning, i saw no sign of philosophy books that had been tossed aside into people’s yards or chucked into conveniently located garbage cans.

[Editor’s Note: For some clues as to where some of these kiddies might have gotten the ideas for their inventive costumes, have a look at the post prior to this one.]

 

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.

The Blogger Goes Through Some of His Reader Mail!

As you might have supposed, we get a lot of letters from our enthusiastic readers — as well as from the other 96% of the people who read the blog.  [Ba-dumm-cchh]  It doesn’t take long for the mail to pile up on The Blogger’s desk. As it turns out, there are people all over the English-speaking world who are hungry to learn more about philosophy, and who have found that our modest little blog is the very thing they were looking for. It’s deeply gratifying — it really is. It warms our hearts. We love hearing from our devoted readers… and from the other 96% of the people who stumble across the blog.

We thought it would be a nice idea to share with you a representative sampling of the correspondence we’ve been receiving in recent weeks.

Why don’t we start with this one, from ‘Madison’ in Spokane, Washington.

Hi there, Calling All Flockbinkers blog. I just want you to know that I’m a new reader, and maybe I have a lot to learn about whatever it is you’re doing. But I tried taking your Flockbinker Quiz #1 and I actually got sick afterwards. I don’t mean I felt sick in my soul or anything like that, I mean I actually came down with something and had to stay near the bathroom for two days. Please don’t ever post anything like that again. I promise I will keep reading your blog as long as you never ever post anything like that ever again.

Madison, we really appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts.  We certainly had no intention of traumatizing anybody when we designed and posted that quiz, and we’re sorry that you had a bad experience.  If you’ll drop by our “All Flockbinkers” office sometime, we’ll give you a cup of coffee and let you sit in the comfy chair while holding a small, furry stuffed elephant that we keep on the coffee table.  Hopefully that will make you feel much better.  It usually works for us.

Let’s have a look at another letter from one of our readers.

Hmm. What have we here? ‘Laura,’ a teacher in a classical school in Phoenix, Arizona, has this to say:

I’m an educator. I work really hard to provide a strong educational experience for my students, and to develop good assessment tools to use in determining what they’re getting and what they’re not. When I give them a test, it is a carefully crafted instrument that has been thought through in all of its details. I found your ‘flockbinker quiz’ personally offensive. You are mocking the very idea of teaching and learning. Who do you think you are, Mister Blogger, if that is indeed your real name? Who do you think you are? That’s what I want to know. Who do you think you are?

Laura, Laura, you must calm yourself! So turbulent! Could it be that you tried taking the Flockbinker Quiz #1 and did not do well on it, thus revealing your own need for further study… and you are taking your frustration out on us? We could, of course, be wrong. It’s just one possible explanation among many others.

On to another piece of reader mail.

Alright, here’s ‘Langford’ in Jacksonville, Florida, who wrote us the following:

I’ve recently become interested in the study of philosophy, and was overjoyed to come across your blog! Imagine my dismay when I read through your so-called “Flockbinker Quiz #1” and discovered that you were basically making an idiotic joke of mankind’s earnest search for transcendent meaning across the centuries. I assure you that I shall never darken the door of your blog again. If, that is, a blog is the sort of thing that has a ‘door.’ Hmmm. Must give further thought to this question.

Okay, gosh, Langford, wow, that’s terrific, thank you. Golly.

Perhaps we’ve heard enough on the subject of our recent pop quiz. What ELSE might our devoted readers have on their minds?

This one is from ‘L.J.W.’ in Nashville, Tennessee.

Thanks for posting such interesting content on your blog, o administrator of the “Calling All Flockbinkers” site. I have dutifully followed your blog from the very beginning and it has been a consistently enriching experience.

[Editor’s Note: Now THAT’s what we’re talking about. This is probably the sort of thing that the first three readers meant to communicate, but they were having difficulty getting in touch with their true feelings. L.J.W. then continues:]

One thing I have noticed, though, is that you don’t post very much about the plight of women and minorities. Given the messy circumstances of the current election cycle, and the kinds of public discussion being stirred up as a result, I find it remarkable that you haven’t posted more about the oppression of minorities and women. You’re missing out on a great opportunity. You should devote more of your blog to the discussion of the rights of women and minorities.

Thank you, ‘L’, for your thoughtful contribution. Can it be, though, that it has somehow escaped your notice that “flockbinkers” are a minority group? How many flockbinkers do you encounter on a daily basis? Any at all? None? It’s hard to get any more “minority-status” than that. Flockbinkers (as well as wamwams, unicorns, and some of the other entities featured on the blog) are among the rarest of minorities, and — as we’re sure you will acknowledge — they are hardly ever discussed. It’s almost as it they don’t even exist. As if they are invisible.

To touch on the other point you raised, flockbinkers may be women as well. We’re just not sure. We don’t know. Very little is actually known about flockbinkers, which is one of the reasons why the regular discussion of them on this blog is so important.

Mary, from De Pere, Wisconsin, would like to share the following:

“I have incredibly mixed feelings about how The Good Reader is portrayed on your blog. I feel as if I identify with this person, somehow, and I take it personally when you belittle her and make her the butt of your snooty philosophical jokes. Why do you have to portray The Good Reader as if she had no common sense, just because she is not as comfortable as you are when talking about nonsense and things like flockbinkers and unicorns that don’t exist? You, sir, are no gentleman.”

Wow, Mary… and by the way, we genuinely appreciate hearing from you… don’t you think you’re being kind of harsh? After all, if The Good Reader couldn’t take a bit of good-natured ribbing, why then she wouldn’t be a regular on the blog. She’d be on somebody else’s blog, where she could be assured of being treated with the sort of dignity and kindness that is appropriate to the loyal readership of an internationally recognized website. Apparently she’s not into that kind of thing, though, and who can blame her? It sounds ghastly.

This one is from Wee Baby Bobby, who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. Bobby says,

“Coo, dribble, cough-cough, drool, sneeze, coo, hiccup, yawn.”

All we can say, Bobby, is that you have given voice to what is almost certainly the opinion of most of our readers, many of whom are clearly a bit shy about coming out and saying it. We appreciate your frankness, Bob, and look forward to making your further acquaintance when you’ve taken the time to expand your vocabulary a bit!

And here’s one from Geoffrey, in Kingston-upon-Hull, England.

The fact is, as a lad i was raised on a flockbinker farm and it was my job to take the ‘binkers out to pasture every morning and return them to the fold in the evenings. I was for this reason able to become intimately familiar with their habits, and it is my opinion that your account of them is extremely accurate. I applaud you for getting this kind of information out to the online world.

So… wait.  Um.  Geoffrey, are you actually trying to tell us…

…Oh, just a second, look here. We appear to have another letter from Geoffrey, postmarked a few days later. Let’s see what he has to say in this one.

To Whom It May Concern:  We have reason to believe that you may recently have heard from one of our patients, ‘Geoffrey.’ Would you do us, and him, and his family, the kindness of not encouraging him? ‘Geoffrey’ (not his real name) is a patient here at Foggy Wold Sanitarium for the Mentally Adventurous, And That’s Putting It Mildly. He is not actually supposed to be accessing the internet, and, frankly, we’re not sure how he got on to a computer. It might be helpful to you to know that, when not imagining that he is the child of flockbinker farmers, he will sometimes represent himself as The Knights Who Say ‘Ni’. Not just one of them — all of them, at the same time. We feel that the course of his treatment would be best served if you were to refrain from answering any correspondence you might receive from him.

Respectfully, the Psychiatric Staff
Foggy Wold Sanitarium for the Mentally Adventurous, And That’s Putting It Mildly

Well. The less said on this score, the better.

Finally, we have a letter from Leticia, in Windsor, Ontario. It is apparently Leticia’s opinion that…

…your blog is one of the most entertaining and informative things I’ve come across in a long while on the internet. In comparison with your lively and witty content, everything else I read online seems like a featureless, waterless desert.

Gosh, thanks there, Leticia! Even if we did made you up out of thin air in order to salvage this post, your kind approbation still means a great deal to us. Look here, we’ll take whatever we can get.

And thus we bring to an end this episode of “Reader Mail.” The next time we share with you some of the letters we’ve gotten from our readers, it will not be right on the heels of a Quiz that a large proportion of our readership seems to have struggled with. Ahem.

The Good Reader Registers a Complaint About Flockbinker Pop Quiz #1

Last week — much to the delight of many of you, if the stacks of Reader Mail covering my desk are any indication — we regaled you with your very first Pop Quiz.  Flockbinker Pop Quiz #1.  And oh, it was a thing of beauty.  Ten multiple-choice questions featuring ten options each.  We covered a number of exciting topics, including the various branches of philosophy, the classic flockbinker syllogism, and the ontological status of unicorns.

Well, as they say, into every life a little rain must fall, and too many cooks spoil the broth, and a stitch in time saves nine, and there’s no business like show business, and old age ain’t for sissies. My point is this: No sooner had the ink dried on that Pop Quiz (our first, in case i have neglected to mention it), than the Good Reader contacted me to lodge an objection.  I shall try to reconstruct the conversation as best i can from memory.

The Good Reader:  I’d like to register a complaint about your so-called ‘Pop Quiz’.

The Blogger:  Say it isn’t so!  Why, Good Reader, you’re my number one fan!  What can you possibly have found to object to in so carefully thought-through and fastidiously worded an academic instrument?

The Good Reader:  It was nonsense from beginning to end, that’s what!

The Blogger:  If that’s your objection, you clearly haven’t been paying much attention to this blog for the past three years.

The Good Reader:  Oh no, i have.  And you’re right.  Every single post you foist upon your unsuspecting public is just stuffed with nonsense.  But, oh, i dunno, it usually seems justified somehow.  It’s like, you’re combining philosophy and comedy, while working off the effects of your psychiatric medications. That i can deal with.

The Blogger:  I’m not on any psychiatric medications.

The Good Reader:  No?  Well, that does explain a few things.  Your doctor is falling down on the job.

The Blogger:  Ahem.  We were talking about your objections to the Pop Quiz.

The Good Reader:  I don’t think it was a ‘pop quiz’ at all!  It was a chaotic explosion of seemingly endless silliness and horrible meaningless randomness.

The Blogger:  I take it your impression was a negative one.

The Good Reader:  Look here, blogger-fellow, if you’re going to call something a ‘quiz,’ you’re leading people to believe that there will be educational value attached to it.  Right?  But that one was just, i mean, it was, just, just, a lot of nonsense.

The Blogger:  It had a great deal of educational value!  It was about philosophy.  It was about logic.  It was about existence!

The Good Reader:  It was about ten questions too long.

The Blogger:  You’re being needlessly harsh, o Good Reader.  Surely you must have gained something from taking the quiz.  You… you did take it, didn’t you?

The Good Reader:  I looked at every question and read all of the answers you provided, if that’s what you mean by “taking” the quiz.

The Blogger:  Excellent!  I bet you were considerably smarter after taking it than you had been before.

The Good Reader:  Probably not. In fact, i feel like my I.Q. dropped about 20 points from the time i started to the time i got to the end.  I was barely able to remember how to turn off my computer.

The Blogger:  Were there certain questions that you particularly objected to?

The Good Reader:  The first few weren’t so bad; they actually had something to do with philosophy.  And there were at least a few useful answers provided. But then it got more and more ridiculous.  Really, blogger-person, you should be ashamed of yourself.

The Blogger:  Ah, i see the difficulty.  You object to the use of humor in making philosophy more palatable to the average reader.  You feel that the quiz ought to have been more serious.  “Too much frivolity!” is your battle-cry.  “What do you offer the seriously committed, sober-minded lover of philosophical study?”  Bypass the lighthearted banter and get straight to the Big Questions: that’s your way of thinking.  You believe in diving right into the deep end of the pool.  I bet you drink your whiskey straight.

The Good Reader:  I only took up drinking whiskey after the traumatic experience of reading through that so-called pop quiz.

The Blogger:  But you say you approved of the first few questions?

The Good Reader:  No, not at all, it’s just that i wasn’t profoundly traumatized by the first few questions.  They at least offered a few real answers, hidden in there among the references to Justin Bieber and the Darwin Awards.  And the graffiti in bathroom stalls.

The Blogger:  But then things got a bit thick, is that what you’re saying?

The Good Reader:  About halfway through, you started putting in “answers” that were supposed to be comments from readers.  Seriously?  How does that make any sense?

The Blogger:  Well, it is a little hard to explain, isn’t it.  Who can understand the complex ways of the internet?

The Good Reader:  And then they started arguing with each other.

The Blogger:  Yes.  That was unfortunate.

The Good Reader:  Right there in the middle of the quiz.  You had your readers arguing with each other in the answer sections.

The Blogger:  I have feisty readers.

The Good Reader:  But it was YOU writing all of that stuff!  Don’t pretend it wasn’t.  You’re not actually wanting me to believe that there were real people getting into fights on your so-called pop quiz?  You wrote the questions, and you wrote the answers.

The Blogger:  Well, it’s complicated.

The Good Reader:  That’s your go-to remark when you don’t feel like explaining yourself.

The Blogger:  Perhaps it should suffice to say that, yes, i wrote the questions and answers… but at another level of discourse, there were actual readers interacting with the questions and grappling with them, and offering their commentary aloud as they did so.

The Good Reader:  Ho hum, yada yada yada.

The Blogger:  Good Reader.  Your tone is unbecoming.

The Good Reader:  You had your readers saying things like, “ontology, shmontology” to each other in the middle of what was supposed to be a test.

The Blogger:  My quizzes are lively community affairs, like a block party.  Everybody wants to show up.  The joint gets to jumpin’.  A typical Flockbinker Quiz is like a really happenin’ social scene with music and laughter and dancing and people drinking too much.

The Good Reader:  The only thing “happenin” was that you made up a bunch of totally fictional readers that you don’t even have, and made it sound like they were arguing about something that Bertrand Russell said, whoever that is.

The Blogger:  Only one of the most important philosophers of the modern period.  He–

The Good Reader:  And to top it all off, you slipped me in there, and you made me sound ridiculous.  You put words into my mouth.

The Blogger:  Unlike what i’m doing right now.

The Good Reader:  Don’t interrupt.  You made it sound like i was fumbling through a really stupid attempt to define a unicorn.  You know what?  I know what your problem is.  You’ve never forgiven me for that time when we were talking about unicorns and i embarrassed you because you couldn’t explain the difference between The Good Reader(1) and The Good Reader(3).

[Editor’s Note: The Good Reader is referring to an incident that occurred in this post from July of 2013. S/he clearly has a long memory and a problem with letting things go. Some people are quite unwilling to let the past be the past.]

The Blogger:  It’s really never helpful to bring up the past.

The Good Reader:  Yes, that’s what you just now said in the sly editorial comment that you slipped in there in those brackets, thinking i wouldn’t see it.

The Blogger:  Oops.

The Good Reader:  So i guess the main thing that bothers me about your so-called pop quiz is that you used it as yet another instrument for making me look stupid.

The Blogger:  O Good Reader, so that’s what this is really all about!  I was incautious in my use of you as an example in one of the answers, and i hurt your feelings!  Golly, i’m sorry.

The Good Reader:  Well, i suppose i can choose to overlook it this one time, so long as you promise never to let it happen again.

The Blogger:  Absolutely.  I’m a changed man.  Gone are the days when i used to feature you as an example of someone with really elementary powers of reasoning, struggling to discuss things that are far beyond her capacities.  From now on, i’ll have you saying things that are easily within your somewhat limited intellectual reach.

The Good Reader:  Oh my word, you just did it again, just now, five seconds after promising you would never do it again!

The Blogger:  What?  What’d i say?

 

 

Your Very First “Flockbinkers” Pop Quiz.

 

Alrighty, boys and girls, it’s time for a pop quiz. (You knew this was going to happen eventually, and i shall be most disappointed if i find that you’ve not been paying attention.)  Put your books away, take out a pencil and a sheet of paper, and let’s begin.


Question #1:  Which of the following are NOT branches of philosophy?  Select all that apply.

A.  Epistemology

B.  Axiology

C.  Astrology

D.  Metaphysics

E.  Betaphyshics

F.  Ethics

G.  Justin Bieber’s Greatest Hits

H.  Logic

I.  Endocrinology

J.  Whatever Eckhart Tolle’s latest book is about

 

Question #2:  In which of these places are you NOT likely to find real philosophy?

A.  The dialogues of Plato

B.  The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas

C.  The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus of Ludwig Wittgenstein

D.  The poetry of Alexander Pope, Matthew Arnold and T.S. Eliot

E.  The “Intro to Philosophy” class at many state universities

F.  The “Philosophy” section at Barnes and Noble

G.  David Letterman’s interviews with Julia Roberts

H.  Facebook memes (with or without the obligatory misspellings, incorrectly used apostrophes and grammatical monstrosities)

I.  In the second stall from the end, in the men’s room at the Imperial Golden House #2.

J.  The pontifications of that barista who likes to begin every statement with, “Well, MY philosophy is….”

 

Question #3:  Which of the following are NOT functions of logic?

A.  Increasing clarity and reducing misunderstanding

B.  Creating a clear path from evidence to conclusion

C.  Guaranteeing the truth or falsity of propositions

D.  Furnishing a set of tools by which you can sound all fancy and stuff

E.  Creating an environment in which the Darwin Awards are possible

F.  Enabling you to demonstrate that your opponent is an idiot

G.  Enabling you to (inadvertently) demonstrate that you are an idiot

H.  Slicing, dicing, and making julienne fries

I.  Forging an insanely dense, turgid and confused mass of incomprehensible language where a perfectly ordinary conversation might have worked just as well

J.  Enabling the speaker to introduce nonsense terms like “treadknicious” and “inflammable” into the discussion

 

Question #4:  Complete the following sentence. You may select more than one answer. You may NOT select answer (G).  Somebody’s been hacking my WordPress…

“All Flockbinkers are ___________________ .”

A.  nonexistent

B.  extinct

C.  doing quite well, thank you, and living in a condo in Miami Beach

D.  rather a ridiculous thing to be taking up precious conversational time with, don’t you think? I mean, honestly.

E.  of uncertain ontological status

F.  related in ways we do not fully understand to wamwams

G.  symptomatic of The Blogger’s unique psychopathology

H.  treadknicious

I.  your mom

J.  oh, wow, that last one was pretty mature, wasn’t it

 

Question #5:  True, false, neither, or both?

“The present king of France is bald.”

A.  False: French men don’t go bald

B.  False: There is currently no French king.

C.  Do we mean “publicly bald” or “actually bald”?  I’ve heard he wears a hairpiece.

D.  Neither: There is currently no French king

E.  Yeah, okay, so somebody’s been channeling Bertrand Russell

F.  Bertrand Russell shmertrand russell, it’s a straightforward case of a bogus question involving a non-referential term

G.  I have no idea what those last two guys are talking about, i’m going with “true.”

H.  Okay, so there’s only one left, i’ll take “both.”

I.  It can’t possibly be “both.” A statement cannot be both true and untrue at the same time. That’s basic Aristotelian logic.

J.  What do i know from Aristotelian logic?  I was a sohsh major.  I’m going with “both.”

 

Question #6:  Select all that apply.

The term ‘ontology’…

A.  means “an area of study that deals with being or identity”

B.  is a branch of philosophy similar to metaphysics

C.  is a branch of philosophy that is sometimes presented as a subcategory under metaphysics

D.  is a branch of philosophy under which metaphysics is sometimes presented as a subcategory

E.  Let me get this straight, some of you people actually talk like this on a regular basis?

F.  sounds almost like a branch of medicine

G.  is the science that studies new dinosaurs

H.  Get it? “Paleontology” studies prehistoric dinosaurs, and “ontology” studies the new ones.

I.  I’m guessing here, does it mean the study of elderly female relatives? I’m totally guessing.

J.  rhymes with “shmontology,” thus making possible the poem: “ontology, shmontology.”

 

Question #7:  Complete the following sentence. You may select more than one answer.

“The unicorn is an entity that ___________________ .”

A.  shares certain attributes in common with the flockbinker

B.  can be found throughout world literature and myth

C.  is of uncertain ontological status

D.  Dude, the same people who talk about unicorns do not use the word “entity.”

E.  can be used to trip up The Good Reader into saying self-contradictory things

F.  is often pictured communing with a virgin on medieval tapestries

G.  if it existed, would be kind of cool

H.  if it existed, would be a horror past all imagining

I.  is a favorite animal among those who self-identify as “horse-people”

J.  “…has a single horn growing out of its forehead. Except, well, you see, it doesn’t, because unicorns aren’t real. Well, it’s complicated. Darn it, you tripped me up again!”

 

Question #8:  Complete the following syllogism.

Some broomshovelers are hobnobbicus.

All broomshovelers are froombicious.

Therefore, _____________________ .

A.  some things that are hobnobbicus are also froombicious.

B.  You have got to be kidding me.

C.  No, it’s a serious logic exercise.

D.  How can something with nonsense words be a logic exercise?  That’s totally illogical.  heh heh.

E.  No, it’s not totally illogical. Non-referential terms can be used as placeholders to illustrate various kinds of logical relationships.

F.  Whatever.

G.  I’m guessing that “whatever,” in the present instance, means “i’m not capable of grasping the nuances of structured philosophical discourse.”

H.  Yeah, well, i’ve got your structured philosophical discourse right here, pal.

I.  Hey, can y’all take the argument offline, please?  I’m trying to figure out the answer to the dude’s question.

J.  I just got here. Sorry i’m late, everybody! Hey, did i hear somebody say “broomshovelers”?  Funny!  I’m actually studying that at the community college. Small world.

 

Question #9:  True, false, neither, both, or both neither and both?

“A flockbinker does not have to exist in order to be treadknicious.”

A.  That’s silly. How can something that doesn’t exist be “trebulishus” or anything else?

B.  You have to pick one of the five options he gave you.

C.  I did. What part of “that’s silly” doesn’t pretty much mean “false”?

D.  We’re all philosophers here. Precision is kind of a big deal.

E.  Guys, The Blogger here. Can you please refrain from using up all the answers with your bickering?  I only get to put in ten answers per question.

F.  You’re The Blogger, how do you not get as many answers per question as you want to include?  Hmmmm?

G.  Hey fellas, i’ll take a stab at it. “Neither.”  ‘Cause a flockbinker doesn’t exist and also isn’t treadknicious.

H.  Oh my word. Kill me now.

I.  What, that wasn’t the right answer? I thought it made perfect sense.

J.  Let me try. I’m going with “both neither and both,” on account of it sounds like the most complicated answer, and it’s a complicated question.

J 1/2.  He only included that one to be absurd. I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect anyone to select it.

J 2/3.  Well, it’s my answer and i’m sticking to it.

J 4/5.  By the way, o mighty Blogger, don’t think we haven’t noticed that you’re stretching out the answers.

 

Question #10:  Fill in the blank. Choose all answers that apply.

“There are two kinds of people in the world: dog-people and horse-people. We only threw in the dog-people to make the question seem more involved than it really is. You can lead a horse-person to water, but you cannot  ________________________ .”

A.  make him drink it.

B.  make his horse drink it.

C.  take the risk of attaching either the pronoun ‘he’ or the pronoun ‘she’ to ‘horse-person,’ because ‘horse-person’ is a gender-indefinite term.

D.  Well, traditionally, ‘he’ has been used as the gender-indefinite pronoun in English.

E.  Your respect for tradition is endearing! I bet you knit your own sweaters, too. Welcome to the 21st century! We’ve kind of moved beyond sexist grammar.

F.  There’s nothing ‘sexist’ about having an indefinite pronoun that happens to be the same word that, in other contexts, would be a masculine pronoun.

G.  The Blogger: Fellas, fellas, please!  Take the argument outside.  I’m really trying to run a quiz here.

H.  “Fellas”…?  What makes you think we’re both men?

I.  I was using the word ‘fellas’ in its gender-inclusive sense.

J.  The word ‘fellas’ does not have a gender-inclusive sense, dude. It’s a masculine-reference noun, admittedly idiomatic in nature but nevertheless conventionally masculine.

J.5.  You called me “dude.”

J.7.  What?

J.8.  You called me “dude.”  How do you know i’m a fella?

J.9.  I read your bio, dude.

J.995.  Oh, that’s right.  Blast.  Thought i had you.

 

 

 

Ontology, Equestrian Style

In which an impromptu discussion of philosophy erupts among three randomly-assembled persons: two twenty-something women, and The Blogger, who now dutifully reports the exchange to his readers for their potential benefit and edification. And all that sort of thing.

As the scene begins, Female #1—whose real name sounds kind of like ‘Paleontology,’ only much shorter and with different letters—but in order to protect her identity we are calling her something else—to wit, ‘Female #1— is about to make a profound observation regarding human types. Her cousin, Female #2, whose real name is a slight variant of ‘Augury,’ is perched nearby reading a book with one ear and listening in on the conversation with the other ear. The question of how she can be reading a book with one ear…it’s a real book, not an audiobook… can safely be deferred to another day.

DomenichinounicornPalFarnese-600

 

Female #1:  There are two types of people in this world: horse people and normal people.

The Blogger:  And the people who make musical instruments by winding old silk stockings around a spool and playing them with chopsticks. That’s a third category entirely.

Female #1:  I was being serious.

The Blogger:  There’s no doubt of that! And any serious foray into the development of a classification system deserves the very closest attention from one’s intellectual companions.

Female #1:  I have no response to that.

The Blogger:  And we…  [here the Blogger makes a sweeping gesture that tacitly includes the cousin, seated across the room with one ear in a book]  …are your deeply interested intellectual companions.

Female #1:  There may be a slight difference between “giving somebody your very closest attention,” and “making fun of them by proposing ridiculous ideas when they’re thinking out loud.”

The Blogger:  Perhaps, perhaps. So why don’t you restate your two categories.

Female #1:  Horse people and normal people.

Female #2:  [piping up from across the room]  And dog people!

The Blogger:  …and chopstick – silk stocking – spool – musician people. Four categories! Your taxonomy is rapidly coming apart, [person’s name withheld, but it sounds kind of like Paleontology except with different letters and not as long].

Female #1:  Oh, come on!

The Blogger:  And to make matters worse, just off the top of my head, i’m now thinking of the category of people who have been to Jupiter in a spacecraft that was made by supergluing 46 microwave ovens together.

“Ah,” you may reply, “that’s not a very densely populated category.”

Sure, fine, but the point is that it is a category distinct from categories 1-4. So now we’ve identified FIVE groups of people in this world. And we may not yet be finished discovering new ones.

Female #1:  You’re pretty good at carrying on the whole conversation all by yourself. I could go get a donut and coffee and come back in about an hour, and I bet you’d still have both of us covered.

The Blogger:  You’re not the first person who’s said that.

Female #2:  [from across the room]  And the people who keep guinea pigs. That’s a very distinct community.

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Female #1:  Look, guys, I was just making a simple comment on whether people are into horses or not. There’s no need to make a production out of it.

The Blogger:  What you call “making a production out of it” is simply our display of intense interest in your line of thinking. We are subjecting your ideas to careful philosophical scrutiny because we think so very highly of you.

Female #1:  Well, gee. Thanks. I feel strangely moved.

Female #2:  And pythons. Some people keep a ball python at home in a large glass case. Those are not the horse people and they’re not the guinea pig people. Well, some of them could be guinea pig people. They could raise guinea pigs in order to feed them to the python. So now we have an overlapping of two of the categories. This is getting really interesting. I think I could take a liking to philosophy if it were all like this.

Female #1:  If you mention one more animal, so help me.

Female #2:  And the people in northern Finland who herd reindeer!  [ducks around a corner]

Female #1:  Grrrrr. Okay, I’ve got this: all of the above mentioned categories are just sub-categories within the “normal people” one. There are still only two main categories. Horse people and normal people.  [sweet smile]

The Blogger:  Oohh, that’s good… but I anticipate a possible difficulty. You may run into some snags trying to pass off the people who use chopsticks to draw music out of stocking-encircled spools, or the people who say they have been to Jupiter in a collection of microwave ovens, as “normal.” I’m just saying.

Female #1:  Okay… how about ‘horse people’ and ‘the uninitiated.’

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Female #2:  [popping back into the room]  And the people who keep those enormous fish tanks with ten kinds of tropical fish in them, and an eel, and some kind of bizarre crab thing that lives on the bottom, and lots of intricate-looking pumps and aerating equipment, and some fancy weeds.

Female #1:  STOP that!

The Blogger:  And the people with those asymmetrical haircuts in which the vast majority of their hair is gathered on one side, thereby creating the impression that they should be tilting their head at a rather severe angle in order to maintain balance.

Female #2:  Right! I’ve never understood that. Why can’t people just settle for a regular, symmetrical haircut?

Female #1:  GUYS!

The Blogger:  So now we’re up to, what, about eight different categories?

Female #2:  Ten. I’ve been keeping a tally. But two of them overlap: the python people and the guinea pig people.

The Blogger:  Excellent! Attention to detail is good.

Female #1:  Oh my word. Neither one of you is a normal people.

The Blogger:  Then, according to your initial scheme, we must both be horse people! But I’ve never been on a horse in my life. Well, that’s not true. I was at another little boy’s birthday party once, a long time ago, and it was held at a stable, and all the party guests took turns riding the pony. I was the only one for whom the dang pony wouldn’t do anything. He just stood there. I tried following directions, but the pony just wouldn’t respond. It scarred me.

Female #2:  Well, of course it did! Poor little boy. Bad, bad pony.

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Female #1:  I have entered a nightmare from which I fear I will not awaken.

Female #2:  Can there be a separate category for people who might have become horse people, but didn’t, due to a traumatizing incident in early childhood?

The Blogger:  That makes sense to me.

Female #1:  Okay, stop, please, just stop. Listen. Here’s what I was doing. I was simply observing that some people in the world are into horses, and then there’s everybody else. That’s what I was saying.

The Blogger:  A true enough observation, as far as it goes.

Female #2:  Which isn’t very far! What about the people who practice dentistry and go to Africa in order to shoot a lion?

The Blogger:  Right, right! Of course. Is that eleven categories so far?

Female #2:  Twelve.

The Blogger:  Gotcha.

Female #1:  Okay, time out, time out, let me try this. There’s a potentially infinite number of ways in which you can categorize people. Right? You could come up with bajillions of classification schemes, and many of them would be totally valid and what not. All I’m saying… all I’m saying… is that there is one classification scheme that I’m thinking of right now, and it’s got two categories in it, that’s all, just two categories. And those categories are (1) the horse people, and (2) the people who aren’t horse people. That’s all I’m saying.

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Female #2:  And then there are the people who’ve seen pictures of horses on the internet, and they’ve thought to themselves, “Wow, maybe I should get a horse, I could be a horse person,” but then they think, “Well no, I bet it’s a lot of trouble and expense, and I’d have to have someplace to keep him, which I don’t, and there’s probably some kind of license you have to get, similar to a driver’s license, but for horses.” And so they decide against it.

The Blogger:  Against purchasing a horse? Or becoming a horse person?

Female #2:  Are they not the same thing?

The Blogger:  Well, it seems to me that someone could technically own a horse without being a horse person. They could own one for their business but they hire someone else to groom it, because they personally can’t relate to horses.

Female #2:  Yeah, I can see how that might be true.

Female #1:  Oh my WORD.

The Blogger:  You two are related, aren’t you?

Female #1:  No… no, I don’t think so.

Female #2:  Definitely.

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