all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

What IS a Flockbinker, Really? The Philosophers Weigh In

 

Abstract:  One of the ongoing challenges we’ve experienced in association with this blog, is the fact that some of our most essential vocabulary never seems to have been defined. Flockbinker? Wamwam? Someone’s Mom? Perhaps even yours? The assembled throng furrow their brows; heads incline with justifiable concern; someone passes out and falls over from the mental strain. So we’ve brought in some brainy types to see if this problem can be rectified. These include some of the leading luminaries in the history of philosophical thought, as well as some of our regulars here on the blog. This exchange ought to be a real treat.


 

The Blogger:  Okay, fellas, so here’s the question. What is a flockbinker?

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  A flockbinker is all that is the case, in that particular realm of discourse in which the term ‘flockbinker’ is applied as relevant.

Rene Descartes:  [Scoffing in a particularly French manner]  That was ridiculous and did not mean anything.

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  Your Mom is ridiculous and doesn’t mean anything.

Rene Descartes:  [Deliberately ignoring this remark]  Rrmff. I would say that a flockbinker is that which (in its capacity as a flockbinker) thinks the thoughts of a flockbinker, and therefore, is, a flockbinker.

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  Wut.

Rene Descartes:  Well, it was better than that stupide thing you said.

Plato:  Okay. Here it is. In order to ascertain what the term ‘flockbinker’ applies to, we must first determine whether we are talking about a feature of the ultimate realm, or merely an item in the world of appearances. Of course, if a flockbinker is a feature of the Real world–that realm from which the world of our ephemeral appearances derives–then it will of course have its analog in the world of our perceptions.

Rene Descartes:  [mutters]  That, too, was ridiculous and did not mean anything. These people who have chosen to call themselves philosophers!

Francis Bacon:  Well, what Plato calls the “world of appearances” is simply reality. Let’s strip away the foolish hocus-pocus. If a flockbinker can be demonstrated to exist–if he is available to our senses in the world of the real and concrete–then he is a real object. We cannot begin the discussion of his attributes until we have settled the issue of his existence.

The Blogger:  Well, of course he exists! He’s at the very center of what this blog is about!

[Francis Bacon looks the Blogger up and down in the way that one would examine a particularly fascinating centipede.]

William James:  Well, you know, this Plato fellow made a helpful distinction between different levels of reality. I’d like to, if i might, distinguish between the mental and the physical parts of the real world. It might be argued that any mental state in which a flockbinker is featured as real, according to the consciousness of the individual, is one that is, in a certain sense, peculiar to its own flockbinkerosity.

Everyone Present:  Wut.

Little Biffy:  So much philosophical talent assembled in one room! Gosh, i’m practically speechless! But not quite, heh heh. I would say that a flockbinker, insofar as it has any kind of independent existence, is a sort of logical placeholder for use in certain kinds of (generally quite funny) philosophical dialogues and syllogisms created by The Blogger.

The Blogger:  What an excellent answer! This little fellow’s a winner if ever i saw one!

Little Biffy:  [grins innocently]

Elvis Wu:  Hmmm. The flockbinker, he is like a cup of the very finest rice wine that can be imagined. Each saloon claims to feature it on their menu.

Everyone Present:  Wut.

Elvis Wu:  When one has a reputation for being wise and inscrutable, it’s necessary to invest some effort from time to time in cultivating the impression.

[Francis Bacon looks at him sort of cockeyed. Wittgenstein, on the other hand, has obviously had his respect for Elvis Wu’s intellect considerably deepened.]

Jennifer Smith:  Okay, here’s my question. If a flockbinker is not a real thing–

Plato:  Define “a real thing.”

Descartes:  Yeah. Define “a real thing.”

Jennifer Smith:  Okay. A real thing is a thing that actually exists in the real world.

Plato:  Define “the real world.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  Yeah. Define “the real world.”

Jennifer Smith:  [rolling eyes]  Um. Okay. Whatever. Pass.

The Good Reader:  Well, my question is, so long as we’re getting all serious about nonsense words and such, why do we need to define a flockbinker specifically, as if it were a real item, like my purse? Are we also going to define a squibblymidget?

The Three Scotsmen:  Arrrgh!

The Blogger:  Well, of course a flockbinker is a real thing! It’s what this blog is about!

The Good Reader:  Okay. My little finger is a real thing. Is a flockbinker a real thing in the same sense that my little finger is?

The Blogger:  Well, um, we would kind of need to, um. Uh. Hmmm. Yo.

The Three Scotsmen:  Arrrrgh!

 


Epilogue

The Good Reader:  I’m thinking that this discussion didn’t go quite the way you expected.

The Blogger:  [Pouts, refuses to look her in the eye]

The Good Reader:  [Not to be put off]  Mmm-hmm, so, ya didn’t get the kind of conversation going that you were hoping for?

The Blogger:  Go away.

 

All Flibertysquibs Are Treacleandjam: Or, Just a Different Batch of Nonsense

 

Abstract:  In which the Blogger is confronted with a taste of his own linguistic medicine, and the Good Reader teams up with a mysterious “Anti-Blogger” and two anonymous young ladies you may recall from days of yore, to dismantle a long-established literary tradition.


 

The Anti-Blogger is an archetypal sort of fella. He’s sort of like, “The Blogger,” only different. He’s like, you know, the opposite. When The Blogger says “left,” the Anti-Blogger says “right.” When The Blogger says “plain,” the Anti-Blogger says, “peanut.” When The Blogger says “capitalism,” the Anti-Blogger says “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” When The Blogger says “Which way to the Men’s room?” the Anti-Blogger says, “Dang, that was one very excellent burrito.” When The Blogger says, “Girl / I want / To be with you / All of the time / All day / And all of the night,” the Anti-Blogger says, “My little China girl / You shouldn’t mess with me / I’ll ruin everything you are.”

You get the idea.

In this post, we get a rare glimpse into the thinking of this extraordinary fellow, as he suddenly appears from nowhere and takes on The Blogger at a fundamentally philosophical level. And as dessert? We get to revisit the razor’s-edge thinking of Females #1 and #2, and as the cherry on top, even The Good Reader shows up! It’s a party, man.

 

The Blogger:  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

The Anti-Blogger:  All flibertysquibs are treacleandjam.

The Blogger:  Wait. What?

The Anti-Blogger:  I said, “All flibertysquibs are treacl….”

The Blogger:  Right, right. But that doesn’t mean anything!

The Anti-Blogger:  It means as much as “all flockbinkers are treadknicious,” or whatever it is that you’ve been saying.

The Blogger:  It most certainly does not! “Flockbinker” is a real word, and “liberty-squabs” absolutely isn’t!

The Anti-Blogger:  Flibertysquibs is as real a word as flockbinkers. They’re both nonsense.

The Blogger:  Are not!

The Anti-Blogger:  Are so.

The Blogger:  Are not!

The Anti-Blogger:  Are so!

The Blogger:  Look, there’s a solid literary tradition undergirding my use of the term “flockbinkers.” And you just now made up the word “flaherty-drabs.”

The Anti-Blogger:  Flibertysquibs. And a few random blog posts by a single eccentric sitting in front of the computer in his jammies does not constitute an established literary tradition.

The Blogger:  It does! Oh, wait.

The Anti-Blogger:  [smiling]  See here, you’ve got a real problem. You just can’t make claims for one set of nonsensical words, and then try to block those very same claims from being made of other nonsensical words. It’s as if you’re tying to establish a hierarchy of nonsense.

The Blogger:  If there’s never been a record album with that name, someone better snatch it up soon.

The Anti-Blogger:  Hmmm?

The Blogger:  “A Hierarchy of Nonsense.” Shoot man, i’d buy it. I don’t care what the music sounds like.

The Anti-Blogger:  Very cool. But now, back to our topic. What is it about the word “wamwam” that makes you want to treat it seriously as a philosophical term, while at the same time rejecting “treacleandjam”?

The Blogger:  Why, because it IS a legitimate philosophical term! And the other one’s just a succession of sounds that you made up to make my position look ridiculous.

The Anti-Blogger:  I don’t think your position needs much help to look ridiculous, but i’m delighted to do what i can.

The Blogger:  Mmmmmm.

The Anti-Blogger:  Tell ya what. Why don’t you explain, right now, what it is about the term “wamwam”–which, if i’m not mistaken, can’t be found in the dictionary–that makes it a legitimate philosophical term.

The Blogger:  Delighted to! Well, first off–  [pauses, deeply immersed in thought]

The Anti-Blogger:  Mmmmm?

The Blogger:  Sorry. Just assembling my case.

The Anti-Blogger:  Fine. Carry on, my good man.

The Blogger:  Okay. So, the question is, how is the word ‘wamwam’ a real term, whereas the stupid nonsense you’ve been saying isn’t?

The Anti-Blogger:  Something like that.

The Blogger:  Why, it’s simple. It’s because you just now made those terms up in order to make me look like a buffoon.

The Anti-Blogger:  Well, once again, i’m glad to help nature take its course, if any help is necessary. But my having made those terms up just now is no different from your having made your terms up a few years ago.

[The Good Reader walks up, interested in the discussion.]

The Blogger:  [To the Anti-Blogger]  Look. Flockbinkers are not the same thing as flibertysquibs, and the state of being ‘treadknicious’ is not the same as being ‘treacleandjam’.

The Good Reader:  Why not? None of it means anything.

The Blogger:  [infinitely patient sigh]  Saying that these are ‘undefined terms’ is not the same thing as saying that they don’t mean anything.

The Good Reader:  Sure it is. It’s all a bunch of nonsense. You just like making funny sounds — and building a blog around it. If 2-year-olds had a blog, they would be doing the same thing.

The Blogger:  They would not!

The Good Reader:  Would so.

The Blogger:  Would not!

The Good Reader:  Would so.

The Blogger:  [sigh]  Look here. It seems to me that we’re dancing around the main issue, which is….

[It is at this point that the little gathering is joined by two young ladies who were, um, anonymously featured in an earlier post to this blog a couple of years back]

Female #2:  Howdy!

Female #1:  How’s it going.

The Blogger:  Um, howdy there. I haven’t seen you two in a long while!

Female #2:  No indeed! We have been otherwise occupied.

Female #1:  Developing categories by which to better understand horses.

Female #2:  So. Okay. I have a question. Is it possible to misspell “frockdrinkers”? After all, it’s not in the dictionary.

Female #1:  And does it matter how you pronounce it? I’d kind of like to pronounce it “flockber,” which is shorter and easier to say.

The Blogger:  But that’s not how it’s pronounced….

Female #1:  Ah ah ah, but it’s not in the dictionary, so how is it that i can’t pronounce it however i want to?

Female #2:  And i’d like to spell it “fwump,” which is considerably shorter and much less trouble than “frodpickers.”

The Good Reader:  Oooohh. Such good points they seem to be making!

The Blogger:  Oh, stop. Look guys, you can’t just randomly make up spellings and pronunciations for words! The universe would descend into utter chaos!

Female #2:  Chaos and abaddon, with darkness upon the face of the deep, and spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places!

Female #1:  And all kinds of terrible stuff going on.

The Blogger:  Um, uh, yes, precisely. So no. No: you can’t just randomly make up spellings and pronunciations for words, just sorta out of your noggin.

Female #2:  Words… that you’ve randomly made up.

Female #1:  Right out of your noggin.

The Blogger:  Well, no, um. I mean…um. Oh, poo.

The Anti-Blogger:  I’m afraid they’ve scored one on you.

The Good Reader:  As in: Ga-ZING. Pow. Whack.

Female #1:  I feel like we’ve maybe gotten him back for that “horse people” thing a couple of years back?

Female #2:  Hey! I thought he made some very good points in the horse people discussion.

Female #1:  What? He just kept including random stuff and confusing the issue. But what am i saying? You were just as bad!

Female #2:  Hrmmff. You only think that because you’re a horse people yourself. I thought he performed brilliantly.

[Females #1 and #2 withdraw, still arguing the merits of the various horse-people models. The Anti-Blogger has, meanwhile, somehow dissolved into the aether, leaving The Good Reader standing alone with The Blogger.]

The Good Reader:  Ahh! This sort of conflict is good sometimes, y’know? It sort of clears the nasal passages and whatnot.

The Blogger:  If you say so.

 

 

The Parable of Buridan’s Ass; and, in Other News, There’s Apparently a Delinquent Ruffian Named “Skeeter.”

 

Abstract:  In which the Blogger takes on the timeless parable of ‘Buridan’s Ass’… with some helpful contributing material from Buridan himself, as well as from his ass, by which of course we mean his donkey, heh heh…as well as a few contributions from a delinquent ruffian named, and i am not kidding you, Skeeter.

 


 

This post is about insoluble dilemmas. Well, i mean. Okay. Yes. It is. Never mind. [sigh]

On Facebook, one of my friends–Marcy–which rhymes with ‘parsee,’ as in, ‘a member of a certain south Asian priestly class,’ hardly a coincidence–posted a challenge on her page, to the effect that her readers were to grab the nearest book, find page 56, read the 5th complete sentence on that page, and post it.

Here is what i came up with.

“His words leapt forth in explosive pulses, not entirely unlike the bursting of an egg that has been hurled against a red brick schoolhouse wall by an incorrigible young ruffian named either ‘Charlie’ or ‘Freeman’, or ‘the Biff-ster’, or ‘Your Mom’ or even ‘Sir Your Mom,’ or perhaps ‘Skeeter’.”

My friend’s Facebook challenge was a bit more problematic, in my case, than it may have been for some of her other readers. As i sit here at my computer desk i am literally sur-ROUN-ded by books, and in attempting to select among them, i found myself confronted with the same sort of dilemma Buridan’s Ass was faced with. You might well reply that Buridan just needed to get his Ass in gear, which might have been a workable solution had the hapless animal been of a mechanical sort, some sort of motor vehicle that just happened to have the term ‘ass’ in its name, for instance, the fuel-injected ASS-495, but regrettably, the donkey was an actual flesh-and-blood critter whose inability to choose between the two bales of hay located equidistant from him resulted in the unhappy animal’s demise.

Oh dear. It occurs to me that before we continue i’m afraid i’ll need to school the good reader in a bit of Medieval Philosophy.

The Good Reader:  This post has already descended into almost pure chaos. I have no idea what’s going on.

The Blogger:  Well, for the aficionado of philosophical thought, i’m certain my material has presented no difficulties.

A Randomly Selected Aficionado of Philosophical Thought:  An absolute pile of incoherent hash from beginning to end, my good man. No sense in it whatsoever.

The Good Reader:  [grins to herself, says nothing]

The Blogger:  Oh poo, we’re just wasting time here. Back to the topic. Um, whatever that is. We were talking about…Buridan’s Ass.

You are perhaps familiar with the parable of Buridan’s Ass from your studies in Medieval Philosophy. But if not, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version.

Our protagonist, in the present instance, is a man named John Buridan (c. 1299 – c. 1360), one of the key philosophers of the late middle ages. Mr. Buridan was noteworthy for his work in epistemology and impetus theory, but what he is perhaps chiefly remembered for among today’s students of philosophy is his parable of “Buridan’s Ass.” In this little story, a hungry donkey ambles into a hayfield and finds himself, inexplicably, evenly placed between two equally delicious-looking bales of hay. Poor hapless donkey! What is he to do? For each bale is as tasty-looking as the other, and each is equally far from him, so he is left with zero basis on which to make a decision in favor of one or the other. The poor donkey, logical to the last, languishes between the two haybales until he dies of starvation.

But here’s the question: Was Buridan himself responsible for the parable of Buridan’s Ass? Nearly overwhelming evidence seems to suggest that the parable was developed by one of his detractors. Nevertheless, it remains to this day the one thing he is *sigh* best remembered for.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Ahem. Here’s the point in our narrative at which i find i must sheepishly confess to having made up the quotation, above identified as having been taken from page 56 of one of the books that surround my desk.

Since i could not choose from among the grousands* of books among which i am ensconsed here in my man-cave, no one of which is measurably closer to me than any other, i have elected to generate a sentence which, i am reasonably sure, MUST be featured on page 56 of at least ONE of these books. Consider, by way of comparison, the story of the grousands of monkeys iconically working away on grousands of typewriters, and the likelihood that one of them will come up with Hamlet.

But we have wandered afield of the point.

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  But iff’n it weren’t no real quotation, then you done lied to yer trusting readership.

The Blogger:  Wha- Huh? Who the stink are you?

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  I’m Skeeter. I was listenin’ and it sounded interestin’. So i done came over and inserted myself-like in the proceedins.

The Blogger:  Oh. Um, how did you even get into my house?

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  I grokked my way in. It weren’t hard.

The Blogger:  Oooooo-kay.

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  So do ya have a book that says that thing about Charlie or Skeeter–that’s my name, Skeeter–or don’t ye?

The Blogger:  Um. No. I don’t think so.

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  But you said ya did. In my book, heh heh, get it, ‘book,’ that means yer lyin’ to yer trustin’ readership.

Buridan’s Ass:  But if he’s simply using the quotation as a kind of placeholder in order to make his point, does it really matter whether the quotation is a real one or not?

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  Well, seems to me it does. Fella’s gotta mean what he says and say what he means, is how i was raised.

The Blogger:  Um. Waittasecond. Who in the name of all that’s biological are YOU?

Buridan’s Ass:  I’m Buridan’s Ass.

John Buridan:  And i’m Buridan! It’s a pleasure!  [shakes hands all ’round, as hearty a fellow as ever broke biscuit or went for a ride on a rickety snowmobile]

John Buridan. At your service.

The Blogger: But…how did you guys even get in here?

John Buridan:  Well, your young friend here left the door hanging open when he grokked his way in.

The Blogger:  But that doesn’t… i don’t even… what in the….

Buridan’s Ass:  You’re focusing on an unimportant side issue. The question before us is twofold: (1) whether the ass will eat of the hay on one side of him or the other, and (2) whether this is even the sort of question that can be resolved.

The Blogger:  Those aren’t the questions i’m wanting to explore in this post.

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  But it seems to me, fellas, that if you got a ass–heh heh, i just said ‘ass’–

Buridan’s Ass:  [rolls his eyes]

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  –like i said, iff’n you got a ass–heh heh–that’s plopped right down between two equally spaced bales of hay–well, y’know, on my pappy’s farm–

Buridan’s Ass:  Yada yada yada. I’m the ass here; seems like i’d be allowed a crack at the question of what an ass would do.

John Buridan:  The ass makes a fair point.  [pauses significantly]  Heh heh, i said ‘ass.’

Buridan’s Ass:  [rolls his eyes]

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  Well, all i’m a-sayin’ is–

Buridan’s Ass:  Silence, child! I shall now address the question at hand.

[All present direct their attention to the ass, who holds forth from the top of a conveniently placed hay bale]

If i were confronted with two bales of hay, each one looking equally tasty and nutritious, and each located precisely the same distance from me, i’d just arbitrarily pick one and go at it. The idea that i would stand there and starve to death is insulting.

John Buridan:  Well, i mean.

Buridan’s Ass:  No, c’mon, seriously. I get your need to illustrate a logical principle. Sure. Okay. I just resent your oh-so-easy reliance on a negative stereotype about asses. We may be stubborn, but we’re not stupid.

John Buridan:  Don’t blame me for the goofy analogy. I’m not even the one who came up with it. Some shmoe with a low opinion of my work did.

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  I dunno, man, the ones on my pappy’s farm is so dumb you could thow a rock at ’em and not do no damage.

Buridan’s Ass:  That…didn’t make any sense.

John Buridan:  [laughs heartily, claps his hands]

The Blogger:  But if you’re going to tell a parable, it obviously isn’t going to apply across-the-board in all instances. The point of a parable is to illustrate a specific point. I don’t think the story is intended to confirm anyone’s stereotypes about the stupidity of asses.

Buridan’s Ass:  The story could have been about an ocelot.

John Buridan:  What? I don’t even know what that is.

Buridan’s Ass:  Or a weasel. My point is, there’s no reason to select an animal that already is enmired in a struggle against people’s deeply held prejudices.

The Blogger:  I think you may be going a bit deep with the cast of characters in the story.

Skeeter the Delinquent Ruffian:  Well my only point is, when you got a ass–heh heh–and it’s tryin’ to eat a bale o’ hay, you don’t wanna put no distractions in its way.

John Buridan:  Once again, child, that was a completely strange sort of thing to say.

 

Epilogue

The Blogger:  Well! That one went all over the place, didn’t it.

The Good Reader:  Your blog occasionally never ceases to amaze.

The Blogger:  You have to admit, i actually ventured into the field of real philosophical investigation this time.

The Good Reader:  As opposed to…?

The Blogger:  Oh, well, you know. Um. Attempting to identify the salient features of a flockbinker.

The Good Reader:  Ah. Yes. Well, you sort of did, didn’t you.

The Blogger:  Sort of?! I totally did! Axiology, logic, talking asses…it’s all there.

The Good Reader:  Well, you didn’t really address the issue that you set out to address. You started out surrounded by a bunch of books and trying to figure out how to pick one. Then you went off onto asses and hay. You never did get back to your original point.

The Blogger:  Well, maybe the original point was about the difficulty of making decisions?

The Good Reader:  Okay. I remain unsatisfied. I want to know what to do when i’m surrounded by books.

The Blogger:  Ah! A delightful dilemma to find oneself in, wouldn’t you say?

[The Blogger and The Good Reader heave a contented sigh together]

 

*A note on weights, measures, and quantities:  The term ‘grousands’ denotes an amount somewhat less than ‘grillions’ but vastly more numerous than, say, ‘a bunch’ or ‘a whole lot’ or even ‘lots and lots.’

 

Introducing Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major

 

Abstract:  In which we are, at long last, formally introduced to one of the more important characters on this blog, that champion of truth, the honorable Mr. Elvis Wu: The Last Philosophy Major.


 

If you’ve been following for any length of time, you’ll recall that in one of the early posts to this blog, there appeared a character named ‘Elvis Wu.’ In that episode, he related a story about a zen philosopher named Bodhifarma (which apparently means ‘the knowledge of agriculture’). Sound familiar?

Wu has also made guest appearances in a few other posts to the blog: for instance, this one, and this one over here, and that one over there.

Well. You are now about to be formally introduced to him.

“Elvis, meet my readers. Readers, please give a warm welcome to Mister Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major.”

[scattered polite applause]

“Hey, look, guys, you can do better’n that! I said let’s have a vigorous round of applause for Mister Elvis Wu, the Last Philosophy Major!”

[nobody claps this time except for one greasy-looking guy in a blue and grey flannel shirt and a Pillsbury baseball cap, about three rows from the back]

“Jeepers, fine, whatever.”

 

Elvis Wu:  It’s really all okay, Blogger. Why don’t you just go on, and they can applaud at the end if they want to.

The Blogger:  But it’s the principle of the thing, Wu. This is just unacceptable behavior. It’s as if all sense of decorum or public civility has completely evaporated.

Elvis Wu:  Another possibility you’ve failed to mention, is that hardly anybody actually reads your blog.

The Blogger:  Ahem, so now i think it’s time that i shared with the assembled throng, the teeming masses, some of the main points of your biography.

Elvis Wu:  Sure, you do that! Tell the assembled throng what you think they ought to know about me.

The Blogger:  Terrific. I think i’ll do just that.

 

How he and i first met

Elvis Wu and i first met at a philosophy congress in Atlanta about 20 years ago. In the opening session, Wu was sitting in the row ahead of me, and i noticed that he would nod vigorously, or shake his head violently, when he agreed or disagreed with whatever the person on the stage was saying. I also noticed that his disagreements tended to come about five times as often as his positive appraisals. I grabbed him after the first morning session and made him sit down to lunch with me. What i discovered was a man deeply disaffected with the way philosophy and truth are being approached in the modern academy; and i was able to plot out some of my own misgivings alongside his. It was a significant moment in my own “coming of age” as a philosopher.

I tell the story of my creating him to teach my students philosophy

Well, that story about the philosophy conference… was on one level of reality.

The ‘Origin Story,’ as it were.

[the blogger snickers gleefully]

In a somewhat more real sense, of course, ha ha, Elvis is a creation of my own for this here blog. I invented him about 20 years ago for a philosophy class i was teaching at the time, and he has grown prodigiously since then. Back then, he was an interesting character i used in written dialogues to teach principles of logic. He has, since then, taken on a life of his own! The posts featuring him have been some of the most interesting and challenging ones. He’s among a handful of characters at the very center of the All Flockbinkers world.

Wu counters with an–obviously!–spurious story about me

“Actually, Mister Blogger,” interrupts Wu, with an odd smile on his generally impassive Oriental features, “it was i who created you, to teach philosophy to my students in North Georgia a few years back. Your first appearance was in a dialogue on the topic of ancient Chinese philosophy, built around an extremely clever pun. And you have been among my most popular and successful creations. I like to build you into logical syllogisms, for instance, and create dialogues in which you are one of the chief characters.”

The Blogger:  Dang it, i should have guessed that Wu would try to pull something like that. And, owing to the format of this blog post–which, may i emphasize, i am writing and in which he is an entirely fictional character–i’m not really able to respond to the scurrilous accusation. The clever wretch. The dirty dog! Dang him!

A bit about what he does for a living

He’s a private tutor [putatively, that is, since he isn’t actually real, ha ha, ha ha] and offers private classes in various subjects to the home-educating community. He teaches literature, history, cultural studies, and of course, the queen of the sciences: philosophy. Every year he advertises his programs, and every year there ends up being a waiting list ten yards long of kids wanting to get into his classes. He’s an excellent teacher, and has proven to be very good at transmitting a heightened sensitivity to wisdom and truth to the upcoming generation. Putatively speaking, of course, since he doesn’t actually exist, ha ha.

“Doctor Wu”

One of Elvis’s favorite songs–not surprisingly–is the Steely Dan classic, “Doctor Wu.”

“Are you with me, Doctor Wu? Are you really just a shadow of the man that i once knew? Are you crazy? Are you high? Or just an ordinary guy? Have you done all you can do? Are you with me, Doctor? Are you with me, Doctor?”

I’ve asked him, more than once, about the personal significance of these lyrics to him, to his life. He just looks at me and smiles in complete silence. Sometimes i wonder if everything going on inside that there noggin is entirely healthy.

A bit about his college studies

Elvis majored in philosophy, in the late 1970s–back when a philosophy major still actually involved–at least, in part–the study of real ideas. He studied metaphysics, ontology, the philosophy of science, philosophy of art, philosophy of language, textual analysis, axiology, epistemology, game theory, truth-value, philosophy of mind, the perennial wisdom, philosophy of culture, philosophy of history… and, of course, logic. You name it–if it was a division of the academic study of philosophy–he took a class in it. According to the records department at the college he attended, he took way more than twice as many philosophy classes as he needed to for the completion of his major.

If you give him space, Wu will wax rhapsodic on the joys of his philosophical training, and the subsequent disappointment he has experienced attending philosophy conferences and seminars. During the past couple of centuries, says Wu, philosophy has been falling on harder and harder times, and has now gotten to the point where it’s getting kind of pointless trying to learn it from philosophy professors. It’s not as if they know anything about wisdom. You just have to know which books to read.

Why Is He “The Last Philosophy Major”

The problem with the field of “philosophy” today is that it has come to be dominated by people who are not really interested in wisdom. They may, of course, be interested in certain models of knowledge or value. They may like the idea of appearing to be part of an intellectual elite. They may be interested in being classed as cutting-edge theorists. They may be interested in being perceived as part of an ongoing “project” of some kind. Many of them are self-conscious about being involved in a discipline that isn’t taken seriously by many practitioners in other fields. The one thing, however, that they are not interested in, is the genuine pursuit of truth. Indeed, they are often the ones in the Academy who are most vociferously denying the very possibility of discovering truth.

The Phuture of Philosophy

According to Mister Wu, the future of philosophy–at least, in formal academic settings–is a somewhat depressing one. As the culture around us deteriorates more and more into a relativistic morass of materialism and self-centeredness, the academic centers of philosophical “research” appear to be falling into step with the program. As Elvis Wu sees it, the real philosophy these days is being done by individuals who are not (typically) associated with the major academic institutions. They quietly search out that which is real and true, they write books, they conduct small seminars tucked away in this or that corner of the social world, they conduct their debates in whispers. They are a vanishing breed. They are the last seekers and defenders of wisdom. They are the last brave individuals willing to take a stand for truth. They are the heroes of our generation.

 

The Blogger:  Well, Wu, how does that sound? Did i set out a pretty good introduction?

Elvis Wu:  Golly, it’ll do until a better one comes along.

The Blogger:  Ha ha, i’m not exactly sure what that meant.

Elvis Wu:  [smiles mysteriously, and says nothing]

The Blogger:  No, man, seriously, i have no idea what you meant by that.

Elvis Wu:  [continues smiling mysteriously]

The Blogger:  Oh, come on, Wu, you’re kind of freakin’ me out, here.

Elvis Wu:  [continues smiling mysteriously]

 

The Blogger and The Good Reader Have Yet Another Argument

 

Abstract:  Yawn. It’s nearly as seasonal as baseball, or 4th of July picnics–the Good Reader and The Blogger are about to get into it again. Yet another philosophical argument. [*sigh*]  Not to worry, though: the only weapons at hand are the Good Reader’s sharp tongue, and the Blogger’s profound grasp of philosophical principles.


 

Early one afternoon, as the gladsome sun was beaming down upon the land….

The Good Reader:  I think you should reverse those two attributes.

The Blogger:  What? Ho! Why, hello there, The Good Reader!

The Good Reader:  Hello. How’s it going?

The Blogger:  Really well, thank you. Just gettin’ it done, y’know? Doin’ the stuff.

The Good Reader:  That sounds great. As a person of deep philosophical sensitivities, i applaud your efforts.

The Blogger:  Wow, thanks. Um. Uhhh. You just called yourself a person of deep philosophical sensitivities. Um. Uh. Wouldn’t that person be, well, uh, me? Among present company, i mean. You know, the very premise of this blog….

The Good Reader:  I know. You’re the big philosopher, surrounded by your adoring acolytes. And the point i just made was that you have misattributed tongue-sharpness to me, and philosophical profundity to yourself. Isn’t that sort of backwards? It occurs to me that, of the two of us, i’m actually the more philosophically acute.

The Blogger:  Oh, come come, Good Reader, this sort of thing really is unworthy of you.

The Good Reader:  But seriously! I tend to be the one who makes the important distinctions, like a philosopher. And you’re the one who, um, has a tendency to say… unhelpful things.

The Blogger:  I cannot believe what i’m hearing.

The Good Reader:  Okay. As the voice of logic and reason here, i’ll lay out some ways in which i am a more logical thinker than you are.

The Blogger:  I was just about to do that. Before you rudely interrupted me.

The Good Reader:  State how i’m the more logical thinker?

The Blogger:  Righto. Wait! No! You tricksy woman, you tricksed me.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm. Good. So here goes. Number one: I only use terms that i know the meanings of, and can define with at least some reasonable degree of accuracy.

The Blogger:  I’m afraid i’m not following you.

The Good Reader:  Ha ha! That was funny.

The Blogger:  No, i mean i’m actually not following you.

The Good Reader:  Oh. Sorry. Well, for instance, if i were to use a word like “wamwam” or “treadknicious” in an argument, i would be able to explain what it meant. I don’t use words that i don’t know the meanings of.

The Blogger:  Well, i don’t use words that i don’t know the meanings of!

The Good Reader:  Excellent! So what’s a flockbinker?

The Blogger:  [pouting]  I don’t feel like talking about that right now.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm. And that’s fine. I’m just saying, if i’m going to use a word, it’s because i know what it means. That’s all i’m saying.

The Blogger:  Well, golly, The Good Reader, you’re taking me at a disadvantage! Just because i’m not constantly talking about the meanings of the specialized terms that i use, that doesn’t mean that i can’t explain them if i need to.

The Good Reader:  Uh-huh. I’m sure that’s correct.

The Blogger:  Why do i feel like you’re making fun of me?

The Good Reader:  Here’s my Number Two. I don’t make statements that i wouldn’t be able to back up with some kind of a genuine argument.

The Blogger:  Well, that’s tremendous! You’re growing as a young, impressionable philosopher. I’m very proud of you!

The Good Reader:  [with a nearly inexhaustible fund of patience]  My point is that you DO tend to make statements that you’re not able to back up.

The Blogger:  Oh! Gee. I guess i wasn’t quite following you.

The Good Reader:  No. You weren’t.

The Blogger:  But… now, waittasecond. That’s not right! Are you accusing me of drawing unwarranted conclusions and articulating unfounded assumptions?

The Good Reader:  That was so beautifully stated. You’re really good at that sort of thing.

The Blogger:  [puffing up a bit]  Articulating the basic principles of philosophy?

The Good Reader:  No, talking about the holes in your skill set.

The Blogger:  Hrrmmf. The holes in my skill set? Why, i’ll have you know that… wait a second. What were we talking about, again?

The Good Reader:  Using real arguments to back up our conclusions.

The Blogger:  Right, right. Well, here’s the thing. When i talk about flockbinkers, wamwams, and drizzpuddlers…

The Good Reader:  That last one’s a new one on me. I don’t think i’ve heard you use that term before.

The Blogger:  [proudly]  That’s because i just now made it up.

The Good Reader:  Ah! Ni-i-i-i-ice.

The Blogger:  So, when i’m talking about wamwams and puzzknucklers and whatnot, i’m not always using these terms to indicate existent items in the real world. Sometimes they’re, oh, y’know, fun noises to make into the air with my mouth. No, wait. That’s not what i meant to say.

The Good Reader:  It’s okay. You can duck and cover, and i’ll pretend i didn’t hear anything the first time.

The Blogger:  Righto. So, when i’m talking about wamblinkers and poodlewatches and all that sort of thing, sometimes they’re just, oh, y’know, logical placeholders. They’re just empty terms that i’m using to stake out space in an argument.

The Good Reader:  Right, and that’s okay. I get that. It’s just that you… so easily… fade from that position to the position of apparently taking them seriously as real things.

The Blogger:  Don’t be dissing my flockbinkers, now. They have very sensitive feelings.

The Good Reader:  Q.E.D.

The Blogger:  So, anyway, was that your point #2?

The Good Reader:  Yeah, sort of. Anyway, um, let’s see… i think i’ve got a point #3 as well.

The Blogger:  I’m listening.

The Good Reader:  I don’t say something one day that’s going to be flatly contradicted by something i say the day after.

The Blogger:  That’s terrific! You’ll make a real philosopher, yet.

The Good Reader:  [with, once again, nearly infinite patience]  My point is that you DO that sort of thing. All. The. Time.

The Blogger:  Make a statement one day that’s contradicted by something i said the day before?

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm.

The Blogger:  Well, look here: when i use a term that i don’t know the meaning of….

The Good Reader:  See, you did it just now. Just now. I mean, just now.

The Blogger:  But i wasn’t contradicting something i said yesterday. I was contradicting something i said a few minutes ago.

The Good Reader:  [makes a sound that can be best described as part groan, part sigh, part psychotic break, and part hiccup]

[At this point, the Blogger and The Good Reader stare at each other in exhausted silence for a bit, like two boxers temporarily leaning against the ropes.]

The Blogger:  [recovering]  So. Here’s a question for you, smart guy. Um: female. In what does a genuine argument consist?

The Good Reader:  Oh, golly, let’s see. Hmmm. An argument consists in two (or more) opposing positions, each presenting arguments in favor of its conclusion and employing a definitive level of logical rigor.

The Blogger:  [momentarily stunned]  Wow, that wasn’t bad.

The Good Reader:  For what it’s worth, i learned that from you. I think maybe you’re just better at talking about it, than actually doing it.

The Blogger:  I’m not sure whether i should feel like you just complimented me… or not.

The Good Reader:  Sure. Why not? Go for it.

 

The Guy Who, For No Apparent Reason, Likes to Say ‘Egg.’

 

Abstract:  “Egg.” What? No, really.  Just: “Egg.”

_______________________________________________________________________

You meet the oddest characters sometimes. Well, i mean, maybe YOU don’t. But i do.

A few years ago, i ran into a somewhat odd fellow for the first time whom i have since come to think of as “the guy who, for no apparent reason, likes to say ‘egg’.”  We had, on that occasion, what’s got to have been the oddest conversation i have ever had with a human being… unless, of course, you count the other conversations i’ve had with him. He and i have crossed paths several times since then, and the conversations are always interesting. Here’s a sample:

The Blogger:  Well hello there! My name’s David.

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  Um…okay. And you are?

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  Come again?

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  I say! What an odd fellow.

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  So. Um. Your name is ‘Egg’?

The Eggman:  No.

The Blogger:  Ah. I’m terribly glad. Well then, what did you mean by saying ‘egg’?

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  Well, yes, of course. But what i mean is, what, specifically, did you mean in saying it? Did you mean, for instance, that you ARE an egg? Ha, ha.

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  Hmmm. Okay. I take it that you do, indeed, mean something by incessantly repeating the word ‘egg’? You’re not, for instance, mentally retarded?

The Eggman:  Jeepers.

The Blogger:  Hah! Got you to say something else.

The Eggman:  [brows furrowing]  Egg.

The Blogger:  Nope, sorry, you can’t back down now. I heard it.

The Eggman:  [smiling]  Egg.

 

Perhaps you have gotten the idea. I make statements and ask questions. The other fellow simply says “egg.” Here’s another conversation we once had.

The Blogger:  Well, if it isn’t the fellow who says almost nothing but ‘egg’!

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  Excuse me?

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  Oh, righto. Of course.

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  So, how’s it been going?

The Eggman:  Okay.

The Blogger:  Eh what?

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  Wait, but what you said the first time wasn’t the word ‘egg.’ I’ve caught you out!

The Eggman:  [exasperated]  Egg.

The Blogger:  No, no, i’m afraid i can’t let you get away so easily this time! You do have words other than ‘egg’ that you’re able to say!

The Eggman:  [smiling]  Egg.

The Blogger:  No, no, you see, i’ve caught you now! You can’t hide behind that word anymore! I know you’ve got others!

The Eggman:  Mmmm. Egg.

The Blogger:  Come on, there, fellow. Let me have it. Batter me with the force of your extended vocabulary.

The Eggman:  Idiot.

 

The basic idea seems to be that the word ‘egg’ is somehow so generously imbued with meaning, that it’s able to serve in the place of nearly any other word, in any part of speech. A rich and heavy word, egg, endued with a range of magical properties.

Now, i know what you’re thinking. “What a delroddish fellow,” you’re thinking–and may i commend you on the clever insult? “Anyone who’s only willing to say ‘egg’ is not worth trying to communicate with.”

Ah, but you see, you’re giving up rather too easily. Here, let me share with you another of the little talks we once had.

The Blogger:  Oh my goodness. The man who says ‘egg’!

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  How’s it going?

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  Righto, of course, ha ha. Of course.

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  But what i’m wondering is, can you be more specific? In what way, for instance, are you feeling ‘egg’?

The Eggman:  [apparently somewhat amused]  Egg.

The Blogger:  Oh dear. This really isn’t going to be much of a conversation is it.

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  [giving way to a sudden burst of inspiration]  Treadknicious!

The Eggman:  [smiling]  Thanatopsis.

The Blogger:  Tha– seriously? Did you just say ‘thanadropsis’?

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  No. Seriously. You just said something that sounded like ‘thangnapopsis.’

The Eggman:  Egg.

The Blogger:  No, come on, you can’t do this to me. Say it again. I want to hear you say ‘thandranopsis.”

The Eggman:  Mm-mmm. Egg.

 

And that, as they say–but not this guy, of course–was that.

Come to think of it, i’m not sure why i shared that one. I don’t think it really supports my point.

Anyway, that point was that we ought not to give up when people start saying ‘egg’ to us. There are certain settings, for instance, in which it’s perfectly good and natural to be saying ‘egg.’ No one will probe deeply to determine your reasons. At McDonald’s, for instance, when they’re trying to ascertain which of the breakfast biscuits you’re wanting. Or if someone asks you to list off the various things your stepmother is allergic to. Or someone cuts loose with a really sweet insult, leaving his opponent with a metaphorical mess on his face. Or when you get to the chapter on sexual reproduction in your human anatomy class.

Uhhh, the point i think i’m trying to make is that it’s not entirely outside the realm of reason and sense for a person to be caught saying “egg!” in public. Even when there appear to be no eggs present.

And then–while we’re on the topic–there’s the issue of what some of our most common words mean. Do you ever say “hello!” to other people by way of a polite greeting? Hmm? Well, can you define it? What, exactly, are you saying when you greet the other fellow with a polite “Hello!”…? Are you wishing him a good day? Are you telling his that it’s great to see him? What complete sentence does the word “hello” translate into? Would it go something like, “Well golly, person of my general acquaintance, i find your presence in my current visual field to be a delightful surprise, which i choose to acknowledge by uttering an odd duosyllabic sound”…? Something like that, maybe?

So i guess what i’m saying is, don’t let me catch you ragging on The Eggman for saying ‘egg’ without additional explanation. Maybe it means “hello” (whatever THAT means) or “thanks” (whatever THAT means) or “excuse me, your fly needs to be zipped up” (self-explanatory) or “terrible thing about that sudden drop in the the Dow Jones, eh what?”

Whatever it means, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason why he shouldn’t go on saying it. So i say to you, Mister Eggman: More power to you! You must resist the cries of those who do not understand! Speak on! Let your voice be heard! Egg! Egg! Egg!

 

Epilogue

The Good Reader:  Oh, honestly.

 

Why It ABSOLUTELY Matters That You Pronounce ‘Treadknicious’ Correctly

 

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


 

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

It concerns the pronunciation of the term “treadknicious.”

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

Here goes:

[Tred – nish – us].

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

No, no, no, no, no.

NO!

Hmm-Mmmm.

No no.

Just: No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just like that.

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

Please.

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

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

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

…”No.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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


 

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

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

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

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

Ahem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–from a film that Liam Neeson has not starred in

[YET]

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

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

Some things Liam Neeson would NEVER do:

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

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

Um. Hmmm.

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

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

Here are some things Liam Neeson would do:

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

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

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

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

(Wait. What? Umm.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’ll separate your yin from your yang.

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

He’ll separate your yin from your yang.

Heh heh.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

___________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Oh dear, let’s try that one again.

Sometimes important things happen to you.

[Ahem]  Much better.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Aristotle:  I would die for a gig like that.

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

Bertie:  I say!

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

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

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

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

Jeeves:  [Bows ever so slightly]

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

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

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

Jeeves:  To be sure, sir.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeeves:  Terribly good of you to say, sir.

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

Confucius:  I must agree. That was impressive.

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

Jeeves:  I shall attempt to render good service.

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

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

Aristotle:  Astonishing! Indeed she has!

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

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

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

Jeeves:  Indeed, sir.

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

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

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

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

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

Bertie:  Biffing idea!

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

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

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

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

Aristotle:  I rather like the one you just asked.

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

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

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

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

Confucius:  Brilliant! Precisely the correct answer!

Aristotle:  Wmmff?

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

Jeeves:  Quite so, sir.  [bows slightly]

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

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

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

[He and Confucius snicker demurely for a moment.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confucius:  Yet you are familiar with them?

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

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

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

Confucius:  Aha!

Bertie:  What, ho.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The waiter returns with their desserts]

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

Aristotle:  Wassail!

The Assembled Company:  Wassail!

 


 

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

 

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

 

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


 

Odd things happen.

Of course, you already knew that.

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

 

The First Scotsman:

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

The Three Scotsmen, Together:

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

The Second Scotsman:

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

The Three Scotsmen, Together:

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

The Third Scotsman:

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

The Three Scotsmen, Together:

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

The Three Scotsmen, Together Again:

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

The Three Scotsmen, Together Yet a Third Time:

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

 

Epilogue:

Um.

Okay.

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

 

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