all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Tag: ontological

A Brave [Ahem] Attempt to Define the Term ‘Bertrand Russell’ [Oh Dear]

 

Abstract:  Before there was Bertrand Russell, there was the concept “Bertrand Russell.” Or, wait, did i get that right? Did the actual dude “Bertrand Russell” come before the concept of Bertrand Russell? It’s so hard to keep this stuff sorted out! Anyway, the narrative you are about to read concerns a group of philosophers gathered ’round a table at Chili’s restaurant. Bertrand Russell happens to be one of ’em. But listening in on the conversation, you’d never know it! Heh heh heh.


 

St. Thomas Aquinas:  I greet you cordially, gentlemen. As i believe you all know, we are gathered here to discuss the essence and existence of one Lord Bertrand Russell.

Bertrand Russell:  Greetings, fond fellows! It’s an honor to find myself among such distinguished company.

Albert Camus:  [mumbling]  I’m not certain i understand what’s so great about him, but whatever.

Ludwig Wittgenstein:  If only Bertrand Russell were here.

Aquinas:  Oh, and if only the moon were made of green cheese! Look, you can’t always have everything you want.

Bertrand Russell:  But i am! Helloo! You’re such a card. I’m right here. Next to you!

Aquinas:  So. Perhaps we might begin by attempting a definition of ‘Bertrand Russell’ and establishing that definition as having ontological authority.

Wittgenstein:  That odd relationship between the words we speak regarding Bertrand Russell, and his concrete reality among other concrete realities, interests me immensely.

Bertrand Russell:  I’m right here, idiot.

Aquinas:  So here’s the agenda for this discussion. We’re going to establish the ontological basis for belief in the existence of Bertrand Russell, discuss the relationship between the term ‘Bertrand Russell’ and the actual dude, and explore the possibilities regarding his existence, nature, proclivities, and patterns of usage–in terms of lanes and spaces–when he finds himself in a parking lot.

Wittgenstein:  Could you lay all of that out for us in outline or grid form?

Aquinas:  I’m way ahead of you. Check this out:

 

Questions:

  1. Does Bertrand Russell exist?

  2. In what manner does he exist?

  3. Is it possible to define him?

  4. What sort of being is he?

  5. Is defining Bertrand Russell the same thing as defining the term ‘Bertrand Russell’?

 

Wittgenstein:  Dude, you are so cool. I’m seriously lovin’ this. I’m actually feeling just a little bit aroused right now.

Aquinas:  I shall interpret that as high praise, and not as an expression of a perverse, or at any rate non-normative, er, sexual…

Bertrand Russell:  Look here, the joke’s over. I’m sitting right here. I can answer all of your questions regarding my ontological status.

Aquinas:  So, to begin: the ontological status of Lord Bertrand Russell. Is he, or is he not, an actually existent entity?

Wittgenstein:  Of course, we’re using ordinary language to attempt to establish metaphysical realities. That’s maybe a problem right there.

Bertrand Russell:  I am here, right here, you mealy sop!

Camus:  I’m far from convinced that this discussion is of any importance whatsoever.

Wittgenstein:  Yes, that IS what you would say, isn’t it. [to Aquinas] Give this man a range of options, and he will always opt to spotlight his own importance.

Camus:  I’m of no importance. Meaning is all-important. And can only be realized through meaningful action.

Wittgenstein:  Tra la la, tra la la, tra la la.

Aquinas:  Gentlemen! Back to the topic. I believe that sufficient evidence exists, of a documentary nature, to support the thesis that Bertrand Russell is ‘real’.

Bertrand Russell:  Ass! I’m practically sitting in your lap.

Wittgenstein:  Regarding Bertrand Russell, perhaps we might say that he is “all that is the case in the case of Bertrand Russell.”

Camus:  Wut.

Wittgenstein:  I’m just sorta spitballing, here.

Bertrand Russell:  [muttering to himself]  Quelle nightmare.

Aquinas:  I’m having trouble tracking with you, Ludwig. Did you just spout a puffball of utter nonsense?

Wittgenstein:  Well, no. I attempted to formulate a definition of Bertrand Russell that would be both ontologically AND linguistically satisfying.

Camus:  [rolls his eyes]

Bertrand Russell:  I totally am right here next to you.

Aquinas:  I’m going to pretend this discussion is only just beginning, and no one has yet had the chance to articulate what strikes me as the utterest nonsense imaginable.

Camus:  Yo.

Bertrand Russell:  What is WRONG with you people? I am literally RIGHT HERE.

Aquinas:  So, why don’t we address the question, “In what manner does Bertrand Russell exist?”

Bertrand Russell:  Hello, hello! I know this one.

Wittgenstein:  He exists in a manner that can be thought, but not spoken of.

Aquinas:  You and your “thought, but not spoken of” nonsense. Get it together, Ludwig. We’re having a philosophical discussion, not a mystical communion.

Wittgenstein:  Um, ouch.

Bertrand Russell:  Look, i can answer that.

Camus:  It seems to me that if Russell is able to act authentically, then he is permitted to claim for himself existence.

Aquinas:  Yikes, i’d almost rather go with Wittgenstein’s answer. Hoo boy. Who was it that decided to accord existentialism the status of a valid philosophical system, that’s MY question.

Camus:  Yeah? Well, maybe YOUR MOM has the answer to that particular question.

Wittgenstein:  It’s good to experience philosophical debate at its most primal. Where’s Karl Popper when you’re wanting him?  [looking about the room for a fireplace poker]

Bertrand Russell:  Oh, come on! “In what manner does Bertrand Russell exist?” That’s an easy one. I’ve got this.

Aquinas:  Perhaps we should move on to the next question, “Is it possible to define him?”

Camus:  How is that not the same question as “What sort of being is he?”

Aquinas:  Well, if it’s not possible to define him, then we cannot say what sort of being he is.

Camus:  So they’re basically just two parts of the same question.

Aquinas:  I am developing a downright Aristotelian dislike for you.

Camus:  That did not EVEN.

Wittgenstein:  I can’t help thinking that neither of you has a point to make that “is the case.”

Camus:  Oh, go fondle yourself.

Bertrand Russell:  Ho! Woo-hoo! Look: I’ve got the answer to that one. I am a human person, the definition of which is consistent with the definition of humanity in general–if you want to get into all that.

Wittgenstein:  Look, what if we move on to the last of our five questions, which to my way of thinking seems the most interesting anyway. Is defining Bertrand Russell the same thing as defining the term “Bertrand Russell”?

Camus:  Of course not. Bertrand Russell defines himself through the series of choices he makes in a world of ambiguities. The term “Bertrand Russell”, on the other hand, is merely that: a term.

Aquinas:  And you, Camus, consistently choose to define yourself as an idiot.

Camus:  Maybe it’s your Mom who’s the real idiot.

Wittgenstein:  I’m thinking the terminological problem is intertwined with the problem of Russell’s identity so intimately that the two questions cannot be separated.

Aquinas:  Blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah.

Bertrand Russell:  Imbecile! I am totally sticking my fork into your Southwestern Eggroll. Hmm? You like that?

Aquinas:  Interesting. My Southwestern Eggroll seems to be moving about of its own volition. I feel moved to revise my understanding of locomotion, causality, objectivity and the self. There are apparently things that Aristotle hardly dreamed of.

Camus:  [muttering]  Your Mom is Aristotle.

Bertrand Russell:  I am about to start poking all of you in the ribs with my fork.

Wittgenstein:  How can his Mom be Aristotle? Was your speech-act an attempt to characterize some aspect of the real world? Or an expression of the sublime and irrational?

Bertrand Russell:  Idiot. Here i am. I am literally poking my fork into your freaking spleen. There is literally blood coming out! You can’t feel that? Hmm? What about this?  [pokes his fork into Camus’s liver]

Camus:  Ow. It feels as if someone is poking his fork into my spleen. And also, perhaps my liver.

Aquinas:  I’ve about had it up to here with your attention-grabbing egocentricity, Al!

Bertrand Russell:  This is actually almost as enjoyable as getting to participate in a philosophical discussion. Here, i’m going for Aquinas now.

Aquinas:  Hey! What was that?

Camus:  What was what?

Aquinas:  One of you $!%*&#^@&$% s  just poked me in the ribs!

Camus:  Hey there, watch the blasphemy, Tom! Isn’t that one of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Aquinas:  Actually, no, it’s not, although it might cogently be argued that it–

Bertrand Russell:  [a giant poke]

Aquinas:  Ow! Who’s doing that?

Bertrand Russell:  Okay. I have to confess i’m actually considering giving up philosophy to become a practical jokester. Did anybody hear me say that? Of course not. This is the greatest! I’m here, but i’m not here! I’m an ontological impossibility!

Wittgenstein:  I’m still trying to figure out how Aquinas’s Mom can be Aristotle. Is there a variant sense in which you are using the terms?

 

The Dessert Course

In which B.R. exults in his newfound freedom, and continues joyously poking his tableware into the torsos and limbs of all present–much to his own entertainment and the growing consternation of the assembled company.

 

Spotlight on the Oft-Neglected Wamwam

 

Abstract:  In which some attempt is made to discuss wamwams: to establish their ontological status, distinguish them from flockbinkers (and woodoos and frou-frous and humma-hummas and bumma-bummas and blastcabbages and CharlesBabbages and Your Mom and a long list of everything else), to figure out what exactly makes them tick, and to discover what sorts of things they pick up when they go to the supermarket.


 

One of the ongoingly vexing things about this blog, is that we keep using terms that we don’t even know the meanings of.

(No, wait. That can’t be right.)

What we meant to say, is that we sometimes speak of things about which many people have a somewhat limited understanding.

(There. That’s much better.)

One of these somewhat abstruse terms is “wamwam.” It you’re a follower of the blog, you’ve seen this word appear on numerous occasions, and you may have been as confused as we are about what it means.

(No, wait. That’s not at all what we meant to say.)

What we meant to say, is that the term “wamwam” is a somewhat difficult one, requiring a delicate linguistic touch and a healthy dose of philosophical insight.

So: Why don’t we devote the current post to an examination of this term, “wamwam,” with the hope of arriving at some even remote understanding of what the blasted term means?

(No, wait.)

 

The Good Reader:  Howdy there, Blogger! I see that i’ve arrived at just the right time to get in some good discussion of some of your favorite meaningless terms.

The Blogger:  Howdy, The Good Reader! Your wit appears to be as sharp as ever.

The Good Reader:  You flatter me. [smiles sweetly]

The Blogger:  So, how do you view our prospects for solving the mystery of the humble wamwam?

The Good Reader:  Far as i’m concerned, there’s no mystery at all.

The Blogger:  Seriously? Why this IS good news? What do you have to tell us about wamwams? Do enlighten us!

The Good Reader:  Sure thing. They don’t exist.

The Blogger:  Wha– um, i mean– surely you can’t–

The Good Reader:  They are as fictional as the unicorn.

The Blogger:  Well now, um, as we’ve seen in an earlier one of these posts to the All Flockbinkers blog, unicorns aren’t actually fictional. They’re something more like, oh, “archetypal” or “ontologically scrappy” or “they show up on weekends and certain holidays.”

The Good Reader:  Um.

The Blogger:  Seriously, unicorns aren’t fictional. They’re more like, oh, “trans-existent.” Or maybe, “provisional.” Or i dunno, maybe, “sorta missional”…?

The Good Reader:  Okay. Anyway, you were wanting to talk about wamwams.

The Blogger:  Um, yes, of course. Wamwams. One of the more real entities featured in that astonishingly diverse body of materials that we call “the universe.”

The Good Reader:  Um.

The Blogger:  So. I was thinking that i might enumerate some of the things that we know to be true about wamwams, maybe?

The Good Reader:  Knock yourself out. My movie doesn’t start for another hour.

The Blogger:  Cool! Well, the first thing that most people would think of, when the term “wamwam” is mentioned, would be, “it’s somehow related to flockbinkers.”

The Good Reader:  Um. That doesn’t establish it as a real thing. Quite the opposite, really.

The Blogger:  Oh, please, stop! Your ignorance of even the most basic principles of philosophy is showing itself.

The Good Reader:  Okay.

The Blogger:  So flockbinkers and wamwams are part of the same family, let’s say. They both fit into a similar category of reality.

The Good Reader:  Like, “Words that are fun to say when you’re wanting to get a laugh out of a classroom full of third graders?”

The Blogger:  I shall ignore that highly ignorant remark.

The Good Reader:  Knock yourself out.

The Blogger:  You say that with distressing regularity. Anyway, flockbinkers and wamwams are what we might want to call “ontological cousins”–they belong to a similar sector of reality. But they’re not the same thing.

The Good Reader:  No, of course not. Not at *all* the same thing.

The Blogger:  No. So what we’re wanting to do here, is to establish what exactly is unique about wamwams–how they are different from flockbinkers.

The Good Reader:  Okay.

The Blogger:  Um, well, first-off, i think we can say that–

A Flockbinker:  [appears out of nowhere]  Howdy.

[The flockbinker disappears in a puff of smoke]

The Good Reader:  Wait. Was that a flockbinker?

The Blogger:  It was indeed! Sorry about the brevity of his greeting. Flockbinkers tend not to be very talkative.

The Good Reader:  But… i mean… golly… what i mean is… he’s actually real?

The Blogger:  Well, of COURSE he is! What do you think we’ve been talking about all these years?

The Good Reader:  I figured i was just patiently indulging the ravings of your fevered brain as it attempted to sort through things it had absorbed in nursery school.

The Blogger:  Oh no. No no. There’s nothing fevered about MY brain! Flockbinkers are very real indeed! And–here’s the point we’re interested in right now–so are wamwams.

The Good Reader:  [muttering to herself]  Golly. Something to think about.

The Blogger:  Um, indeed, and furthermore–

[enter none other than the Three Scotsmen!]

Scotsman #1:  I see you’re addressin’ the abstruse philosophical themes agayne.

Scotsman #2:  It’s the kind o’ thing that really gets me blood up! Whooh!

Scotsman #3:  Sittin’ on a fence.

The Good Reader:  Oh my word. WHAT do we have here.

The Blogger:  You can’t tell me you’ve never met the Three Scotsmen? You’ve been on this blog for, how long now? I’d have figured you would have crossed paths with ’em at some point.

The Good Reader:  No, i don’t think so. I’d have remembered it, i’m pretty sure.

The Blogger:  Well, there there are, in all their Celtic glory.

[the three Scotsmen beam congenially]

The Good Reader:  That second one is kind of handsome.

The Blogger:  I cannot think of a less relevant observation, The Good Reader. You surprise me.

The Good Reader:  Hey, i’m just sayin’.

Scotsman #2:  [blushing]  Milady pays me an undesoorved compliment.

The Good Reader:  [curtseys like a champ]

The Blogger:  Oh, stop it, you two! I be-leeeeeve that we were talking about wamwams.

Scotsman #2:  Indeed we wehre.

Scotsman #1:  In all their ontological glory.

Scotsman #3:  Sittin’ on a fence.

The Good Reader:  …and whether or not they exist.

The Blogger:  Stop that! Of course they exist! Well, um, i mean… it’s complicated.

The Good Reader:  That’s your favorite thing to say.

A Flockbinker:  [appears briefly, just long enough to say]  Howdy.

The Blogger:  Oh, shut up.

 

 

 

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