all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Tag: logical

What to Do When the Dingbat You’re Talking With Says Something Illogical

 

Abstract:  In which a range of possible responses is considered, for those occasions when you’re talking with a complete oaf–and i’m talking about a real dingbat, here–you know, someone with the brains of a walnut that hasn’t even been removed from the shell–and that person says something so unbelievably illogical, it makes your toenails curl. These principles may also be applied to conversations that are NOT about sports.

 


 

Some possible responses when the person you’re attempting to reason with turns out to be a real yo-yo. Illogical discourse cannot be avoided completely, but there are strategies we can employ to take the sting out.

 

Smile and walk away (obviously not the right approach)

In such a situation, the response some people might make would be simply to ignore the infraction and leave peaceably. But please understand: THIS IS THE WRONG REACTION. To leave a person wallowing in his ignorance and metaphysical silliness would be to consign him to the dust heap of intellectual history. Only a cad, a bounder, a blackguard would commit such a crime against the tender thoughts of an ignorant neighbor! No, the correct response would be to bring correction to such an illogical person. Below, you will find a number of possible responses in this vein.

 

Correct him brusquely

“I say, my man, you’re talking like an idiot! And not just any idiot, but one who has had his brain removed and replaced with one of those little mini-microwave ovens! Or even… an Easy-Bake oven! Why, if you were any stupider, they’d have to come up with a new word for it! Like, “drupid,” or something. The assertion you just made will go down in the annals of dumb assertions, along with the grassy knoll hypothesis! Um, uuhhh.”

This is the sort of thing you might say to someone whose opinions on The Nature of Things do not appear to pass muster. Of course, if you’re feeling a bit more charitable, you might adopt the following strategy.

 

Ask some leading questions

Try prodding the person in the right direction with one or more of these:

“Have you thought this position through in a thorough manner?”

“What are your basic assumptions in this case?”

“Might there be an alternative hypothesis that you’ve not considered?”

“How many fingers am i holding up?”

“If there’s a truck heading out of town at 45 MPH, and another truck heading the opposite way at 60 MPH, how many midgets will it take to screw in a light bulb?”

“Tra-la, tra-la- tra-la, tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum.” (Not, technically, a question.)

 

Deliver a brief lecture on the principles of logic

This one might be an iffy bet if you’re unsure whether the person you’re talking to is firing on all cylinders. But as a general rule, something like this might do the trick:

“I say, my man! What say we hunker down for a spell and talk about some basic logical principles, eh? For instance, the Law of the Excluded Middle? In any situation where a strict yes-or-no answer is required, there is no possibility of a ‘maybe’ response; it would be the same as not having answered the question. And of course, we wish to answer questions, don’t we! That’s right. We do. And so, when the logical scenario with which we are presented demands a ‘plus’ or ‘minus’ response, it’s no good delivering a response of ‘your mom’ or something on that order. Ha ha. Am i getting through? Nice chat! I like your trousers.”

 

Seek out a safe space

There will be times, regrettably, where your well-meaning attempts to reason with your subject all come to naught, and you may have to beat a hasty retreat. You will want to seek out what we in the industry like to call a ‘safe space’. This is a place, preferably within a budding grove, where you will be insulated from the possibility of disagreement or pushback… where your presuppositions will remain untouched by the probing tentacles of an opposing viewpoint… where you will not be forced to re-examine any of your own guiding principles. Whew! That was a close one.

 

Begin jerking violently

Another possibility, if a budding grove turns out not to be available, is that you create your own ‘safe space’ by behaving in an astonishing manner. Zing! Whoosh! Bam!

“Dude, are you okay?”

Fop! Smash! Yow! Whoom!

“Um, i think i’m just sort of gonna back away, if you don’t mind.”

Mission accomplished.

 

Belch VERY loudly

This response has the virtue of being a vocal response, which seems in keeping with the fact that the illogical person’s statement was also vocal. Fight fire with fire, as the old-timers (and some firefighters) used to say. Such an exchange might go something like this:

Person X:  I think the Braves are gonna have a good season this year.

You:  [BRAAAAAAACKK]

Person X:  Excuse you!

You:  [Beeeeeeeeeeeeeelch]

Person X:  My my my!  [person looks somewhat uncomfortable]

You:  [r-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-p-p-p]

Person X:  Are you okay? I feel like your internal organs may be undergoing stress.

You:  [one lung pops out]

Person X:  Jeepers, man, i’m calling a doctor!

You:  [make it all the way through the alphabet down to ‘W’ before running out of steam]

 

Present the person with a ‘logical discourse’ tract

You may want to get in one last blow before the exchange comes to an end. This might take the shape of a tract dealing with the range of principles by which logical modes of communication are carried out. Similar, you see, to a gospel tract, but with a different purpose.

“Dude, it’s been a great talk. Can i leave you with this?”

“Sure. Um… ‘Basic Principles of Logical Discourse.’ Wow. I feel so very loved.”

“Dude. Here for ya.”

 

Call the police

This step should be considered a “last ditch” sort of option. But if the playground monkey you’re attempting to have a reasonable conversation with can’t be reasoned with, it may just be time to bring in the authorities.

Cop:  You have the right to remain silent.

Person X:  What? What’d i do? I was just trying to have a conversation with this bimbo.

Cop:  Anything you say can and will be used against you.

Person X:  Yeah, that sounds strangely familiar.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are a variety of interpersonal tools available for use in situations where the shmoe with whom you’re talking just can’t be reasoned with. Use them at your discretion, and have a lovely day! Dingbat.

 

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.

 

“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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