all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Tag: logic

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

 

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

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

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


 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spock:  Indeed.

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

Sarek and Spock:  Indeed.

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

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

Spock:  By all means.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spock:  Um: No.

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

Spock:  Uh: Nah. Nice try.

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

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

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

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

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

Spock:  Erf. Oh boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  I… I don’t even.

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

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

Spock:  You and me both, Pop. 

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

Spock:  You take a refreshingly positive interpretation, mother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spock’s Dad, Sarek:  Yes, my son?

Spock:  And yet i feel strangely compelled to believe.

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

 

 

 

 

The Good Reader Appears to Be in an Unusually Good Mood.

 

Abstract:  In which our good friend, The Good Reader, enters stage left and spreads clouds of euphoria all about. And what can be the cause of this unaccustomed good humor? WE DON’T KNOW! But, doggone it, we’re about to find out.


 

The Good Reader has been one of the central characters on this blog since its inception, or the point when we started the blog, whichever came first. She is a fairly sharp cookie, and enjoys engaging the Blogger in a variety of topics, often taking the devil’s advocate position simply to keep things lively. Um, at least we assume this is why she would even consider taking a position different from that of the Blogger. It’s difficult to think of any other reason. I mean. Anyway.

Regrettably, The Good Reader often appears to be in a less than ideal mood, perhaps owing to her being unaccustomed to philosophical discourse–

The Good Reader:  Now, just you wait one cotton-frickin’ minute, Mister Blogger. I’m every bit as good with “philosophical discourse” as you are. At LEAST.

The Blogger:  Well now, if it isn’t The Good Reader herself, in the flesh! How delightful to receive a visit from you.

The Good Reader:  Don’t change the subject.

The Blogger:  Absolutely not! We were about to talk about the fact that you’ve recently seemed to be in a much better mood than you’ve tended to be in, in the past.

The Good Reader:  Hrrmph. Well, i guess that’s sort of true.

The Blogger:  So, i imagine our readers are curious to know what’s the cause of your change of mood?

The Good Reader:  Readers? Our ‘readers’? What readers? What do you mean, ‘readers’?

The Blogger:  Um, oh dear, ooff.

The Good Reader:  ‘Readers.’ What a queer sort of thing to say, Mister Blogger.

The Blogger:  Um, uh, it was a figure of speech.

The Good Reader:  A figure of speech? Meaning what? You’re not making any sense.

The Blogger:  Um, er, ahem, so what prompts this change of mood?

The Good Reader:  Mmmm. Well, i’ve had some really good news this morning!

The Blogger:  Indeed?

The Good Reader:  Indeed what?

The Blogger:  Indeed: what’s the good news!

The Good Reader:  Oh. Right. I feel silly. Well, the good news is that my nephew just earned his black belt!

The Blogger:  He earned his black belt?

The Good Reader:  He did.

The Blogger:  What martial art does he practice?

The Good Reader:  Oh, i don’t know, “Hae Kwon Phu” or something. I can’t keep them all sifted out in my mind. It sure looks impressive, though.

The Blogger:  I didn’t even know you had a nephew.

The Good Reader:  There is much that you do not know about me, oh Mister Blogger-Fellow. I am a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

The Blogger:  Say, that was good! “A mystery stuffed into a riddle.” Did i get that right?

The Good Reader:  Oh, close enough for rock and roll.

The Blogger:  Is this an expression of your own devising?

The Good Reader:  Nah. I think Sir Winston Churchill came up with it.

The Blogger:  Such a clever chap, that Sir Wilson Churchwell.

The Good Reader:  Ahem. Back to my little nephew.

The Blogger:  Yes. A prodigy, by the sound of it!

The Good Reader:  Kid’s a regular martial arts phenomenon! He was kicking, um, hiney, and taking names.

The Blogger:  Your pleasure in his achievement seems entirely justified.

The Good Reader:  You’re dern tootin’!  [a proud expression invests itself upon her features]  He made one of the other little boys cry.

The Blogger:  Did he now! Well, that’s just wonderful.

The Good Reader:  I’m so proud of him.

The Blogger:  I hope he didn’t get in trouble for wounding one of his fellow competitors.

The Good Reader:  What? Oh! No, you don’t understand. He didn’t HURT anybody. He used LOGIC on them.

The Blogger:  Ah, so he… um. Waittasecond. He used LOGIC on one of the other children?

The Good Reader:  [beaming]  He did. And i know you and i have had our differences, Mr. Blogger, but i must confess that i stole some of your logic oriented material and fed it to him to use during the tournament, before he went up there.

The Blogger:  The Good Reader, you must fill me… and my readership… in on all of the juicy details!

The Good Reader:  Sure thing! No. Wait. Your ‘readership’? What in the Sam Hill are you talking about?

The Blogger:  Oh, ha ha, just messing around with you, ha ha, once again, ha ha.

The Good Reader:  [a somewhat dark expression on her face]  Okay. Whatever. So little Aloysius was up against another little fellow who seemed bigger and more aggressive than he was, and i was honestly kind of afraid for him.

The Blogger:  The poor tyke!

The Good Reader:  And i could tell that he was kind of nervous.

The Blogger:  Bless his heart!

The Good Reader:  But then, i saw a kind of resolution pass over his brow, if i can put it that way, and he leaned in and whispered something to the other little boy.

The Blogger:  Did he now! Probably something along the lines of, “Please don’t break too many of my bones.”

The Good Reader:  Ha! No. I’ll tell you what he whispered to him. This is based on what Aloysius told me about it later. He said, and i quote, “All flockbinkers are treadknicious.”

The Blogger:  No!

The Good Reader:  He did.

The Blogger:  You’re toasting my egg noodle!

The Good Reader:  Nope, not that that expression means anything. That’s what he said. See, i had prepped him before the event. And the other little boy fell back a little bit.

The Blogger:  I should say! No one can stand before the force of sheer logic.

The Good Reader:  I guess not. And then Aloysius–

The Blogger:  That’s a terrible name, by the way.

The Good Reader:  Right, right. So then Aloysius took a step toward the other fellow, and whispered to him, “And all wamwams are flockbinkers.”

The Blogger:  Well i’ll be.

The Good Reader:  Now, the other kid was beginning to get kind of shaken up, you know, sort of confused and disoriented.

The Blogger:  There’s no force stronger than logic.

The Good Reader:  I guess not. And then… remember, the round hasn’t even begun yet, they’re just standing there on the mat… Aloysius…

The Blogger:  He’s had to go through life with that name.

The Good Reader:  Right, just for a few years. He’s eleven. Aloysius leans in and whispers one more thing to the other kiddo, who begins shaking violently, and weeping openly. You want to know what he said?

The Blogger:  [proudly]  I can guess. I bet he said, “Therefore, all wamwams are treadknicious.” Hmm? That’s what he said?

The Good Reader:  That’s what he said. He’s a black belt now.

The Blogger:  Well of course he is. How proud you must be.

The Good Reader:  I really am. I gotta thank you for the gift of logic, Mister Blogger. I know we’ve had our differences, but i have now seen with my own eyes the power of logical discourse.

The Blogger:  What’ve i been telling you all this time?

The Good Reader:  I know, i know. You were right about at least that one thing.

 

 

The Blogger Lays His Metaphorical Cards on the Table

 

Abstract:  In which The Blogger candidly discusses whether or not this blog is actually about philosophy, or whether it’s just an excuse for some obscure horsing around.

________________________________________________________________________

The question has been put, and the battle has been joined: Is this blog really a substantial exploration of philosophical issues? Or is it a floppy monstrosity consisting largely of mostly aimless conversations in which The Good Reader scolds The Blogger for being a conspicuous ass?

As it turns out, quite a catalog of reasons can be assembled in support of either position.

Persons making the accusation against the blog: Sandra, from Kansas City, for instance.

“I’ve been following this blog for a couple of years now… well, i don’t know if ‘following’ is the right way of putting it… i mean, i’ve read the posts, you know… and i have to say it, i just don’t think it’s about anything. I think it’s a bunch of random thoughts that this blogger guy comes up with, and then he tries to make them funny, and he adds in some odd characters, and he writes about them.”

Oh boy. There are some people you just can’t reach.

Persons defending the blog, on the other hand, like… um… uuh… well… aw, gee….

Well, okay, here’s one. Christopher, who lives in the British Virgin Islands. He has this to say in defense of this website:

“Dude, i’m totally all about it. I mean, like Jack! this is some pretty funny material.” He pauses to snicker for a few seconds. “It’s like, how many Scotsmen can you put on a fence? Oh my gosh! This stuff is hilarious! So yeah, i’m totally about this website, as a, you know, way of communicating what–um–philosophy is, and, you know, that kind of thing.”

Well, okay. I reckon we’ll accept our defenses wherever we can find them.

So the sides are defined, and the field is marked. What IS this blog about? Is it, as Sandra avers, a random body of material? Or is Christopher right in averring that it is… well, whatever he seems to have been saying? And in keeping with the philosophical character of the blog (you see what i did there?) we’re going to structure our material as a series of logical arguments.

Let the games begin! Uhm, or something.

 

This Blog is a Substantial Exploration of Philosophy

The thesis here is that The Blogger is performing a significant public service by serving up generous portions of substantial argumentation in support of important ideas.

Argument #1:  Flockbinkers

Oh my word! Do we really need to include anything else in our defense? This blog is all about flockbinkers, and it’s hard to get any more philosophical than that. Flockbinkers are practically the definition of philosophy! They’re what philosophy is all about! Now, in response to the nay-sayers who might claim that flockbinkers don’t exist, our reply is: …well, give us a minute on that one. Scratching our heads here. This one turns out to be a bit of a toughie.

Argument #3:  Logical syllogisms

You can’t…and may i emphasize this?… you simply CAN’T chuck a rock around here without hitting a logical syllogism! The joint is veritably stupid with logical syllogisms! Um, if that’s the sort of statement that makes sense. Anyway. It’s just one logical syllogism after another. It’s almost as if they’re following each other to the seaside cliffs in order to hurl themselves off the edge! No, that wasn’t part of the argument. Just a nice image that i suddenly came up with.

Argument #2:  Definitions of words

Our final, knockout argument consists in the fact that…Dude. We are constantly defining words around here. This blog is practically about nothing but the definition of words. Spin around blindfolded, and you’ll find yourself pointing at somebody who’s in the process of defining a term. Hey! You there! Little Biffy! Whatcha doin’ over there? What? Defining terms? Ho! I figured as much! Carry on!

The defense rests.

 

This Blog is a Sad Excuse for a Bunch of Horsing Around

Since this is a position with which i am entirely out of sympathy, i have asked our friend Sandra (from Kansas City) to supply a few insights. Do your best, Sandra!  [snicker]

Argument #1:  Even an idiot can identify what’s wrong with each post

Oh my word. What a sad assemblage of nonsense, nonsense and more nonsense! Pretty much every single post to this blog is saddled with at least one, if not several, if not a seemingly unending stream of fallacious reasoning and just plain silliness! Sometimes the Blogger sticks something into the post that you’re supposed to find, and that’s not hard at all. On top of that, though, are the myriads of mistakes in reasoning, etc. that tend to clog the place up, apparently through no knowledge of his own. It’s exhausting, really.

Argument #2:  At no point are terms like ‘flockbinker’ or ‘wamwam’ ever defined

This blog is built around nonsense words that the blogger never takes it upon himself to define. What do these silly words mean? Does it matter? Do i care? No, in fact, i do not. Neither am i able to take seriously a blog where much of what’s going on is in the form of “cromblasters” and “wigwams” and “Your Mom” and other unintelligible things. If the Blogger wants to talk himself to sleep at night muttering random syllables, why he’s welcome to that, i just wish he wouldn’t call it a website.

Argument #3:  The so-called ‘logical syllogisms’ are awful, just awful

In his well-meaning but doomed-to-failure attempts to explore philosophy, The Blogger often sets up logical syllogisms in order to illustrate his points. Oh. My. Word. This guy is trying to teach ME logic? Every time i read this blog, i feel like i know less and less about logic. If i keep it up, i’m afraid that soon i’ll no longer remember how to eat and use the bathroom by myself, and i’ll need to hire a full-time nurse. THAT is how bad this blog is on logic.

The prosecution rests.

 

Epilogue

The Good Reader:  Yawn.

The Blogger:  I heard that. You yawned.

The Good Reader:  I did! I’m a little tired. And, plus, i don’t think i get the purpose of this post. Sure, you’ve finally admitted that your writing is somewhat pointless and silly, but apart from that, what…?

The Blogger:  I’m not sure i understand you. I was clearly the winner of our little debate.

The Good Reader:  You’re making a joke.

The Blogger:  I flattened her! My arguments made sense, and hers didn’t!

The Good Reader:  Hmmm.

The Blogger:  I laid forth a coherent body of evidence in favor of the blog, and she had nothing but a handful of sad personal impressions with no logical support whatsoever!

The Good Reader:  Ah.

The Blogger:  I won! I ran over her like a grocery store shopping cart running over a dried banana peel!

The Good Reader:  This is an experience you’ve had before?

The Blogger:  Just last week.

The Good Reader:  Which grocery store?

The Blogger:  Kroger. They’re normally really clean. I’m not sure what that banana peel was doing on the floor.

The Good Reader:  Cool. So, to summarize, you’re under the impression that you kicked some serious butt in that little discussion up there?

The Blogger:  Absolutely! She was rendered a smoking carcass by the time i finished my remarks. There was nothing left of her. Some smoke and a bit of ash, that’s about it.

The Good Reader:  Mm-hmm.

The Blogger:  So you agree?

The Good Reader:  [smiling]  Absolutely. Is there anything to eat around here? I’m suddenly famished.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

I have read every single post to this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Wut.

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

The Blogger:  Um.

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

The Blogger:  Oh boy.

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

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

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

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

 

Letter #3.  A joke about ‘fruitcake’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Ah. Lay it on.

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

The Blogger:  With ya so far.

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

The Blogger:  That was it?

Mm-hmmm.

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

 

Letter #4.  Is logic really necessary?

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Well, YEAH.

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

The Blogger:  Mmmmmmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Yes, i think i understand you.

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

The Blogger:  A penetrating line of inquiry.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Honestly, ARE All Flockbinkers Really Treadknicious?

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

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

(Um, uhh, huh huh, well… sort of.)

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

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

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

 

The Blogger:  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

The Timid Reader:  What’s “flockbinkers”?

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

The Timid Reader:  Okay. All frockbingers are tardinorious.

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

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

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

The Timid Reader:  Um: okay.

The Blogger:  So, all flockbinkers are treadknicious.

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

The Blogger:  And some wamwams are flockbinkers.

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

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

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

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

The Timid Reader:  Even my baby nephew knows that.

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

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

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

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

 

Epilogue…

 

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

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

 

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

 

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.

 

The Blogger Encounters the Security Guard

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

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

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

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

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

Security Guard:  It’s what i do, sir.

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

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

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

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

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

Security Guard:  We are a rare and vanishing breed.

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

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

The Blogger:  So how do you like your job?

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

The Blogger:  Such as?

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

The Blogger:  Wow, that sounds pretty harsh.

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

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

Security Guard:  [sigh]

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

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

The Blogger:  Purgatory!

Security Guard:  The sheerest agony.

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

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

The Blogger:  Oh. Oops.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  A few.

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

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

Security Guard:  And Other Salient Observations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Idiom. That’s the word.

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

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

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

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

Security Guard:  I use it to fight crime.

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Jeepers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security Guard:  [mumbles something indistinct.]

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

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

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

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

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

Security Guard:  Red herring.

The Blogger:  Argument from analogy.

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

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

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

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

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

Security Guard:  Say, you there! Naughty fellow!

Naughty Fellow:  Um.

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

Naughty Fellow:  What.

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

Naughty Fellow:  Huh.

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

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

Security Guard:  Dr. Mummer is pregnant?

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

Security Guard:  Ah, yes, of course.

Naughty Fellow:  Can i come in now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Knock yourself out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mischievous Vagrant:  Every inch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security Guard:  Clever Kantian pun.

Mischievous Vagrant:  Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  I’m stunned.

Security Guard:  [Beaming with pleasure.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Blogger:  Beg your pardon?

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

The Blogger:  Well, it could be argued….

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

The Blogger:  [turning beet-red with pleasure]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security Guard:  Here for ya, bro.

 

 

 

A Brief Reminder (for the Uninitiated, or Perhaps Some of You Who Aren’t Very Bright) of What This Blog Is About

Greetings, o gentle reader.

In the case of some of you who may feel somewhat out of the loop, who have, that is to say, jumped on the train at some recent point without having read the first few posts to this blog — which, admittedly, are shrouded in the mists of about three years ago — there may be some small measure of confusion regarding what the heck is going on around here.

“This blog — ”

you may be saying,

” — i mean, well, golly, this blog, i have to say, i don’t really get it. What’s it all about? Is it really about flockbinkers? What’s flockbinkers? Seriously? That hasn’t been explained to my complete satisfaction. At all, really. And if it’s a blog about flockbinkers (whatever that is), why aren’t they mentioned in every post? Only some of the posts talk about flockbinkers. Sometimes the guy just rants about stuff he finds frustrating, or talks about logic, or philosophy, or puts on a pop quiz, or pretends he’s getting letters from readers that he’s actually making up himself and he prints them and then responds to them. I mean, what the heck? What IS this? What am i EVEN reading?”

The good reader may certainly be forgiven if he suffers from a sense of disorientation. The first 23 posts to this blog, stretched unevenly over the past three years, have tended to jump about somewhat like one of those disembodied frog’s legs you hear about, you know, the ones that leap when you touch them with an electrode.

Perhaps this post will help clear up some of the confusion.

“Calling All Flockbinkers” is, in fact, a blog about flockbinkers. Sure. I’ll admit it. It is. It’s a blog that is unapologetically about flockbinkers… and you know what, i don’t care who hears me say it. It’s an unapologetic blog that is unapologetically stuffed with flockbinkers, a blog that is flockbinker-saturated and flockbinker-rich. It’s a flockbinker-rich environment. A target-rich environment for flockbinkers. If there’s such a thing as flockbinker season, which i don’t think there is, but my point is that if there is, you’re sure to bag some o’ them babies on this here blog without even trying. You can’t turn around without poking a flockbinker in the boomflop. Why, you can’t chuck a brick around here without nailing a flockbinker right in the fobwazzit. The place is veritably flocking with flockbinkers. It’s binking with flockbinkers.

But, ahem, in response to the dear reader’s earlier objection that flockbinkers are not mentioned in every post…

…that, in fact, some of the posts are about Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence, or about the difference between “horse-people” and people who are not horse-people, or about a couple of people named Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith who have long discussions about meaning and existence and the nature of God and the role of logic in modern life, or about something called ‘ontology’ that sounds awfully complicated, or about why it’s ridiculous to be naming Winter Storms, or about some guy named Elvis Wu who claims to have been the Last Philosophy Major…

…in response to this objection i reply that you don’t actually have to be talking about flockbinkers, in order to be talking about flockbinkers. Or, to put it another way, the subject matter of your discourse can be flockbinkers even if you have not mentioned them, not even once.

 

The Good Reader:  Oh, come on.

The Blogger:  The Good Reader! Delightful of you to show up. Somehow i sensed that you would.

The Good Reader:  Well, i can’t just sit by and let you try to put this sort of thing over on the three other people who are reading your blog.

The Blogger:  Three is almost certainly a low estimate. But let’s set statistical analysis to one side for the present. What exactly is it that you’re objecting to?

The Good Reader:  You expect me to dignify that question with a serious answer.

The Blogger:  I do.

The Good Reader:  Really.

The Blogger:  Of course i do! Dignify away. Dignify with passion and zeal; dignify as if your life depended on it, Good Reader; dignify like the wind.

The Good Reader:  [mumbles something unintelligible, but which sounds like the sort of thing a properly brought-up lady simply does not say, and which the editors have chosen not to attempt to replicate here]

The Blogger:  I’m not sure i can count that as either an answer or a dignification. Try again.

The Good Reader:  You said that you can talk about flockbinkers without talking about flockbinkers. You can mention flockbinkers and yet not mention flockbinkers.

The Blogger:  Splendid! You’ve been paying attention.

The Good Reader:  Well, on the subject of ‘paying attention,’ do i remember something you said once about Aristotle’s three Laws of Logic? And one of them was that a statement and its opposite cannot both be true at the same time?

The Blogger:  Good Reader, you take my breath away. I am deeply impressed.

The Good Reader:  Okay, stop being impressed already and give me a straight answer. What would Aristotle say if he heard you prancing about and saying, “I’m talking about flockbinkers, i’m not talking about flockbinkers! This blog post is about flockbinkers, just kidding, it’s not about flockbinkers, no, it really is after all!”

The Blogger:  I don’t ‘prance about.’

The Good Reader:  I’ll tell you what Aristotle would say. He would say, this man is an idiot, who gave him permission to set up a blog and talk about philosophy?

The Blogger:  He most certainly would not.

The Good Reader:  Would so.

The Blogger:  Would not.

The Good Reader:  Would so.

The Blogger:  Would not!

The Good Reader:  Neener neener.

The Blogger:  If Aristotle were to appear right here with us, right now, he would simply acknowledge that i have nuanced the term ‘flockbinker’ so as to enable it to mean different things in two different contexts, thus the Law of Non-Contradiction does not apply.

The Good Reader:  Oh my word.

The Blogger:  You can talk about flockbinkers… that is, carry on a mode of discourse that might technically be characterized as ‘talking about flockbinkers’… even if the term ‘flockbinker’ does not feature as an element in the discourse.

The Good Reader:  Just kill me right now. Right now.

The Blogger:  In a sense, the theme of ‘talking about flockbinkers’ is the subject-matter of every single post to this blog, even the ones that are about winter storms or horse-people or that joke about three Scotsmen sitting on a fence. In that more technical sense — which i would not expect you, a non-specialist, to understand —

The Good Reader:  Right now. Kill me right now.

The Blogger:  — as i say, in that more technical sense, ‘talking about flockbinkers’ is the all-pervasive theme that weaves through all of the posts, even the ones that don’t ‘talk about flockbinkers’ in the common sense.

The Good Reader:  This is how philosophers cover their tracks. They make up a pile of fancy-sounding vocabulary and then try to make you feel inferior for not understanding them.

The Blogger:  Oh, Good Reader. You wrong me. You cut me to the quick.

The Good Reader:  Just admit that about half of your posts have not actually been about flockbinkers, either in a technical sense or in the regular sense — if there’s such a thing as ‘the regular sense’ of talking about flockbinkers. Regular people don’t actually talk about flockbinkers.

The Blogger:  But if we can get enough of them reading this blog, they will!

The Good Reader:  Apart from the four of us — give or take — who make up your current readership?

The Blogger:  I’d like to dispute that figure. I’m not sure where you’re getting your numbers from. There are WAY more people than that reading this blog. I have readers in Canada, Australia, Scotland!

The Good Reader:  …and me. That makes four. Anyway, the point is that anytime you begin to make extravagant and ridiculous claims that are an appalling insult to the intelligence of your readers on this blog, you can depend on me to step in and inject a note of reality.

The Blogger:  And i can assure you that i — along with my thousands of other readers — value and appreciate that very much about you.

The Good Reader:  Thousands. THOUSANDS of readers.

The Blogger:  See you again soon, The Good Reader!  [pulls the plug on her]

 

…and, for the rest of you, my extensive international readership, i hope this little discourse has helped clear up any confusion you may have had about the subject-matter of this blog. Until the next time!

 

“I Know What You’re Doing…You’re Trying to Use LOGIC on Me!”

I have a friend from college days — let’s call him ‘Grog’ — who once shared with me (back in college days) the following highly amusing story.

‘Grog’ [not his real name] had apparently had a conversation with a freshman about… oh, who knows what. Knowing ‘Grog,’ it may have been politics, social theory, or theology. And apparently ‘Grog’ was having difficulty getting his argument to land home. He tried one approach, then another, but she just wasn’t connecting. At long last, however, after a frustrating and apparently fruitless series of attempts to put his reasoning across to the hapless lass, a look of recognition finally appeared upon the young lady’s features, as if she had awakened from a fearful slumber and was for the first time fully tuned in to the conversation. And she said:

“I know what you’re trying to do! You’re trying to use LOGIC on me!”

In Grog’s [not his real name] later recounting of the incident to me, he appended the following observation. “What was she wanting me to do?” he queried. “Go like this?”

And right there, in front of me, he plunged into a series of horrific full-body spasms that successfully communicated the idea of whatever it is that’s the clean OPPOSITE of logic.

I got it.

Personally, i would have much preferred logic. But there’s no accounting for tastes.

During the years since ‘Grog’ shared the story with me, i have often turned that incident over in my mind. There are people in this world… i know this sounds terrible, and i hate even to have to raise the subject, but sometimes unpleasant things must be talked about… there are people in this world who have somehow landed the impression that logic is a bad thing. Have you run into people like this? Their view of human life is as follows:

  1. Over here, in this corner, you’ve got the people who are cool, caring, creative, intuitive, interesting, connect easily with others, dance with unicorns, know how to have a good time, and, in short, are fully human.

  2. And in that other corner way over there, there are the people whose terrifyingly blackened innards are gummed up with LOGIC, and who are, as a result, really stuffy, cold, irritating, and, let’s just come right out and say it, evil.

One can hardly point out to them that such a setup is not logical. It simply wouldn’t have the intended effect. Yes? You can see the dilemma.

Here’s an example of the sort of thing i’m talking about. In 1979, the rock band Supertramp released a song (kind of a cool song, actually) called “The Logical Song.” The lyrics to that song are guilty of virtually every possible fallacious representation of what logic is really all about.

Here, you wanna listen? It sounds kind of like this:

 

Man, did you catch that? What a series of poorly-conceived pot shots! On the one hand you’ve got innocence, youth, freedom, wonder, and birdies singing. On the other hand, you’ve got intellect, responsibility, practicality, logic. You know: the BAD things.

Dearie me.

Here’s the thing. The idea that “being a logical, analytical person” is somehow the opposite of “being a creative, imaginative, intuitive person” is pure baloney.

And not even real baloney. No. The kind of baloney that’s made out of chicken scraps.

See, it’s possible to be BOTH logical / analytical AND imaginative / intuitive. My main man C.S. Lewis is a prime example (well, not anymore; he’s dead) of that sort of person.

It’s possible, on the other hand, to be NEITHER logical / analytical NOR imaginative / intuitive. Some people are just kind of dull and stupid and have very little going on down inside, in that place there where most of us have something going on.

And then of course, it’s possible to be logical / analytical WITHOUT being imaginative / intuitive, and vice-versa. But the point is, you can be any combination of them. It’s not as if those things are opposites. You can be both, or neither.

The same principle extends far beyond the accounting staff and the left-bank artistes.

You can be both tall and redheaded. You can be both funny and mechanically inclined. You can have blue eyes and drive a Toyota. You can live in Nebraska and play video games.You can eat your sandwiches with the crust trimmed off and enjoy the music of Bonnie Raitt. You can include the word ‘magnanimously’ in every sentence and have an Atlanta Braves baseball cap hanging from the wall of your bedroom.

Not every pair of attributes has to involve opposition.

Here, let me show you.

Human #1:  Just one moment, pal! Are you left-handed?

Human #2:  I…am. Yes. Is there a problem?

Human #1:  But i can plainly see that you’re wearing K-Swiss athletic shoes.

Human #2:  Ye-e-ess.

Human #1:  Well then!

Human #2:  Um.

Human #1:  Explain yourself, mister!

Human #2:  Whatever you’re trying to say is just flying right past me.

Human #1:  You can’t be left-handed AND be a wearer of K-Swiss shoes!

Human #2:: Uh. I sure can. Looky.

Human #1:  You, my friend, are an anomaly. A crime against nature. A freak.

Human #2:  I am not! What in the world.

Human #1:  The left-handed people are the opposite of the people who wear K-Swiss!

Human #2:  What!?

Human #1:  You can’t be both!

Human #2:  That’s ridiculous. A certain clothing style can’t be the ‘opposite’ of favoring one hand over the other. That’s like saying that salmon are the opposite of adjectives.

Human #1:  Salmon? Adjectives? I don’t understand your point. I think you’re just saying random stuff to fill in space because you’re embarrassed over being exposed.

Human #2:  Oh my word. Look. Look here. Is light the opposite of darkness?

Human #1:  Sure! Sure it is. Everyone knows that.

Human #2:  And is cold the opposite of heat?

Human #1:  Yup. Sure is.

Human #2:  So far, so good. Now, is “being grumpy” the opposite of “having a Facebook account”…?

Human #1:  There is no opposite to having a Facebook account. Everybody in the solar system has a Facebook account.

Human #2:  My mom doesn’t.

Human #1:  Seriously?

Human #2:  Mm-hmm. She stays in touch with people using traditional mail.

Human #1:  You’re kidding! Wow.

Human #2:  Anyway, i think my point is getting buried. How about this: Is “being grumpy” the opposite of “having an REI sticker on your rear windshield”…?

Human #1:  Um, no. I don’t think so.

Human #2:  And is “having a mole on your upper lip” the opposite of “living in an 1800 square foot bungalow in the northwest suburbs of Chicago”…?

Human #1:  Uh… i’m going with ‘no’.

Human #2:  See, unless two attributes somehow involve the negation of each other at the level of essence, you can’t say that they’re opposites. Most attributes aren’t opposites. They’re just differences: things that happen to be true in different ways.

Human #1:  Just one minute… i can see what you’re doing!

Human #2:: What. What am i doing.

Human #1:  YOU’RE TRYING TO USE LOGIC ON ME!

 

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