all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Tag: philosophy

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.

 

 

 

In Praise of Silly Inspirational Sayings.

If you’re new to the ‘All Flockbinkers’ scene, it will be helpful to you to know that this is a blog about philosophy.

Well, not really.

It’s actually an opportunity to horse around shamefully, using putative discussions of logic, metaphysics, epistemology, etc. as convenient excuses to commit random absurdity and senseless acts of whimsy.

However, this particular post actually is going to be about philosophy!

Well, not really. It is in fact going to be about the kind of pop philosophy that makes its rounds on the internet, often featured in a meme backed with a sunset and/or a mountain.

Perhaps you can tell that i’ve been spending a good bit of time on Twitter recently.

Now, i don’t know what your experience has been on Twitter, but i’ve learned that there are several things that i can depend on running into as i scroll through the tweets. Allow me to enumerate some:

  • Opinionated election-year political rhetoric
  • Verses of Scripture or quotations from classic philosophy
  • Sound bites featuring apparently sensible business advice (like *I* would know)
  • Highly condensed and sometimes very funny jokes
  • Surrealistic art
  • Pictures of kittens and rhinoceroses
  • Photographs of skanky women
  • Photographs of paperback books posted by writers promoting their latest novel
  • [Note: there is considerable overlap between these last two categories]
  • Offers from people who want to handle all my marketing needs
  • A category that i like to refer to affectionately as “Twitter Poetry.” At its best, Twitter poetry can be quite interesting. The much more common experience, though, is some of the most abysmally horrific nonsense that has ever been violently stuffed into 140 characters.

But you know, of all the sorts of things that come cascading through my Twitter feed, i have a real soft spot for the category that i like to call “Silly Inspirational Sayings.”

I think you probably know what i’m talking about. It’s impossible that you have not encountered this sort of thing before. They’re everywhere on the internet: those encouraging statements that you often see featured in memes, along with a picture of a beach, a palm tree, and a beach chair and side table with a margarita on it. The statement says something like, “Every possibility is yours if you believe,” or “There is no greater you than the you that you are,” or something equally unintelligible and/or obviously untrue.

A famous example of the genre is one that has often been attributed (almost certainly inaccurately) to Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”  Groan.

Please understand: Not every encouraging or inspirational statement qualifies as a “Silly Inspirational Saying.” Some encouraging platitudes are actually helpful and accurate. In order to qualify as a Silly Inspirational Saying, a statement must be (1) a puff piece emphasizing how great i am, and (2) disconnected from reality.

Let me see if i can find an example of the sort of thing we’re talking about. Okay, here’s one:

CfyMtT7XEAEiM5B

Uh…no, they can’t.

The secret to these Silly Inspirational Sayings, i feel, is the picture. A patently ridiculous assertion, fortified with a picture of colorful balloons, suddenly becomes a nugget of elemental life wisdom. As a general rule, Silly Inspirational Sayings apparently seem more convincing when backed with suitable artistic reinforcement: an ocean sunset, a mountain summit or a cute animal.

The popularity of silly inspirational sayings leads to some interesting questions. Do people really find these statements convincing? Who are these people? Do they live next door to me? Is there someone out there in internet-land who, upon seeing a picture of a beach with the statement “every possibility is yours if you believe” superimposed over it, will hurl himself off a cliff and attempt to fly, or embark on a program of eating one box of Krispy Kremes per day, secure in the confidence that no harm will result? I wonder.

However, the ubiquity of silly inspirational sayings on Twitter has emboldened me to try and create some of my own. What follow are some examples based on a few recent attempts that i tweeted — several of which met with a reasonably warm reception, even though they were not backed with pictures of sunsets, horses, or the Grand Canyon. (If i am to pursue this idea more seriously, it’s clear that i really need to hone my skills in meme generating.)

 

“Be who you are, not who you’re not. But, wait a second, if you’re being who you aren’t, that would then become who you are. So you would STILL be being who you are. Wow. That’s awesome.”

“Be the you that you are. Because…trying to be the you that someone else is, is, well, it’s just metaphysically impossible.”

“Be the you that you are. Don’t try to be the you that you aren’t. Because, well, really, when it comes down to it, that’s just a confusing abuse of the pronoun ‘you’.”

“Be yourself; ignore the objective, informed input of other people. Because listening to what other people have to say might result in self-improvement. Oh, wait.”

“Don’t let other people tell you who you are. Have they cut you open to look at your brain and other organs? No. They have not.”

“Be the you that you have envisioned in your wildest dreams. No, not THOSE dreams. The other ones. Idiot.”

“Be true to yourself. Being false to yourself is a really bad idea. But now, as we come to think of it, we’re not entirely sure what either one of those would entail. Okay. Forget we said anything.”

“Be who you are. You are already the best version of you. There is nothing about you that needs to change. Sober self-examination is only for people who…um, we forgot where we were going with that.”

“The ‘you’ that you are is better than the ‘you’ that you would be if you invested effort into a program of self-improvement. You’ll just have to take our word on this.”

“You do you. Other people are going to do whatever, but you do you. People have attempted to point out to us that this is a meaningless statement, but we don’t care. We’re doing us.”

“You be you. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not. You be you. You b u. UBU. Sit, UBU, sit. Good dog.”

“Be who you are. You’re beautiful and special. Don’t ever change. And certainly don’t take into account the helpful, objective input of other people. Narcissism is the new black.”

“Be yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else. Definitely not cool. Identity theft is taken very seriously these days.”

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Look Now, But Here Come Jennifer Smith and Little Biffy

About a year ago, we introduced you to the characters of Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith. Surely you remember: Little Biffy was the ten-year-old kid genius / committed student of philosophy, and Jen was the twenty-something business graduate who’d ended up in an unsatisfying job at a major insurance company. If your recall of that encounter is a bit hazy, you can go back and refresh your memory here.

What you may not have realized at the time is that it’s not uncommon for Jennifer Smith and Little Biffy to run into each other downtown and have lively philosophical discussions. She pretends to be annoyed with his dogged pursuit of answers and his insistence on precision, but the truth is that she secretly loves it. Not that there’s anything wrong with the world of business, and making an honest nickel while putting in a solid day’s work; but Jennifer has always had nagging questions about the meaning of existence that she couldn’t really share with most of her friends, so the Biff-ster provides her with an intellectual outlet. An intellectual outlet in the form of a ten-year-old. A ten-year-old philosopher. This is not a common thing. Nothing against ten-year-olds. But really, be honest — you were thinking the same thing. If you even try to deny it, you will lose all credibility. I would advise against it.

Well, you may want to fasten your seatbelt, because you’re about to find yourself right smack in the middle of another conversation between Jen and Biff — one that took place quite recently — at the Stone Cup coffeehouse right here in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

 

Little Biffy:  Well, i’ll be… it’s Jennifer Smith!

Jennifer Smith:  Why, hello there, Little Biffy! Wow.

Little Biffy:  It’s really nice to see you! This isn’t your usual haunt. You’re usually a Panera Bread kind of gal. I haven’t run into you here in a while.

Jennifer Smith:  No, you’re right — the last time we met here was that time you harassed me with confusing accounts of flockbinkers and other awful-sounding but, hopefully, nonexistent things. I wasn’t used to you yet. You were freakin’ me out.

Little Biffy:  Heh heh. I’m sorry you think that flockbinkers and wamwams sound awful. You sound really relieved to have concluded that they don’t exist!

Jennifer Smith:  No thanks to you. As i recall, you spent half the conversation trying to convince me that they DO exist.

Little Biffy:  Actually, your memory isn’t serving you very well on that point. I wasn’t trying to convince you that flockbinkers exist. I was just pointing out that whether they exist or not, and whether or not we even know what the term ‘flockbinker’ refers to, it’s okay to feature them in logical syllogisms.

Jennifer Smith:  I’m having scary flashbacks.

Little Biffy:  But we did end up learning a little bit about logic! That’s the bright side.

Jennifer Smith:  I don’t remember learning anything about logic. I remember a meandering conversation about flockbinkers and… mammals. We talked about whether all the mammals in the world could fit comfortably into the state of Alaska.

Little Biffy:  Well, not exactly. But i’m glad that our conversation at least made an impression on you!

Jennifer Smith:  You’re such an odd little fellow, Biffy.

Little Biffy:  I feel certain that you meant that as a compliment! Hey, since we’re both here again, how about we pick up where we left off with our discussion of logic!

Jennifer Smith:  Wow.

Little Biffy:  I’m glad you approve. So here’s a question: What is the importance of logic in daily life? Not just when one is talking about flockbinkers, wamwams and other critters of uncertain ontological status, but in the course of normal daily activities?

Jennifer Smith:  Hmm. Well, i suppose that depends on what you mean by “logic.”

Little Biffy:  That was a fantastic answer, Jen! It is okay if i call you “Jen,” isn’t it?

Jennifer Smith:  You’ve asked me that about fifty times. Yes, you can call me Jen. And i will feel free to call you “Mister Potato Head,” or whatever else comes to mind.

Little Biffy:  Well, that takes a long time to say, but if it’s really what you want to call me…

Jennifer Smith:  Ahem. Back to the question. What place does logic have in everyday life?

Little Biffy:  Right. Do we really need logic in the normal rhythms of living, or is it something special that can be safely consigned to “intellectual” pursuits?

Jennifer Smith:  Well, okay — again, i think it depends on what you mean by ‘logic.’ If you mean all the stuff about syllogisms and logical inference and whatnot, then i’d say those things have limited application. But if you just mean thinking clearly and making sense when we talk, then definitely — definitely a need in everyday life.

Little Biffy:  You’re making your Uncle Biffy proud.

Jennifer Smith:  That statement was disturbing in about ten different ways.

Little Biffy:  Indeed! Oops. Heh heh. So, Jen, would you care to elaborate? You’d say logic has application to normal everyday living? how so?

Jennifer Smith:  Okay. Here’s something. I’ve been following the current presidential campaign with stunned fascination. Every time you turn on the TV or log on to Twitter, it just gets even more bizarre. I can’t help thinking that if logic were more popular, then the whole climate of the country right now would be different. A thousand times better. Do you have a Twitter account?

Little Biffy:  I must confess i do not.

Jennifer Smith:  It’s just as well. You would be paralyzed with astonishment every time you opened up your Twitter feed. No logic to be found anywhere. It’s a logic wasteland.

Little Biffy:  If i didn’t know any better, Jennifer, Jen, i’d be tempted to say that you’re an apologist for philosophy in the public marketplace!

Jennifer Smith:  No. I just can’t stand it when people are talking past each other and making less than zero sense. It’s just so unnecessary.

Little Biffy:  Would you mind coming up with an example? But be careful. The Blogger likes to stay away from politics.

Jennifer Smith:  The…who? The Blogger? Biffy, what are you EVEN talking about?

Little Biffy:  I shouldn’t have mentioned that. It would be too hard to explain. The fourth wall must remain intact!

Jennifer Smith:  You’re making it worse. The fourth wall? What?

Little Biffy:  Never mind. Nothing. I didn’t say anything. I’ve been sitting here in complete silence.

Jennifer Smith:  You are SO strange.

Little Biffy:  Heh heh. Well, anyway. Um. Can you share an example of the kind of illogical public discourse you’ve found so frustrating in this election year? But just try not to, oh, you know, make it too specific.

Jennifer Smith:  Right. Because somebody called the Blogger doesn’t want his fourth wall breached.

Little Biffy:  Precisely! That’s exactly right! I didn’t think you understood.

Jennifer Smith:  Oh boy. Well, okay. Here’s something i see all the time. One person will make a political statement on Twitter or Facebook that sounds like a memorized slogan. Then another person will call that statement into question, and the first person will respond, not with an explanation, but with an insult and another memorized slogan. Or even just by repeating the same one again, as if that’s any kind of answer.

Little Biffy:  Terrific! That’s a good example.

Jennifer Smith:  It really bugs me, and i’m no philosopher. But how hard can it be to take someone’s objection seriously and address the point they’re making, as if you were actually listening?

Little Biffy:  How hard, indeed? Not hard at all, you’d think.

Jennifer Smith:  You’d think.

Little Biffy:  Well, what do you think might be the reason for this? Has public discussion always been characterized by this kind of belligerence and ignorance?

Jennifer Smith:  I don’t think so. I’ve studied enough history to know that political debate has always tended to get passionate, but it just seems like people used to be more articulate, used to be better able to argue sensibly, to actually engage the points other people were making.

Little Biffy:  I think that’s accurate, Jennifer. Do you have a theory to explain what’s happened?

Jennifer Smith:  Well, sure, i think it may be a combination of things. One of them is our educational systems. When i was in school, i don’t remember ever being taught about critical thinking. Not really. Not in any real sense. I was never taught how to put together a position and argue it… oh, gracious… you know… argue it logically. Stop grinning.

Little Biffy:  Let the record show that i did not say a thing!

Jennifer Smith:  You’re showing heroic restraint. But another thing is the whole popular culture. It just feels like we’re surrounded by an entertainment industry and a sea of media messages that discourage careful, reasonable thinking. It’s all, “follow your heart, do what feels right, have experiences, you do you, make it up as you go along,” whatever. No one seems to be saying that we should appeal to some kind of, oh, you know, structured understanding of what’s true and what’s not.

Little Biffy:  Logic.

Jennifer Smith:  Right. Sure. Logic.

Little Biffy:  Was there another factor?

Jennifer Smith:  Sure, i think so — there’s also the whole tech environment that has taken over our lives. I’m not even that old…well, compared to you i am… but i can remember a time before smart phones. We’re all slaves to our devices now, and people feel like they have to communicate in a way that’s quick and superficial, and in little bursts. Texts and tweets. I’ve got friends who even talk in statements that sound like texts and tweets.

Little Biffy:  You have tweet friends.

Jennifer Smith:  What? Was that an unbelievably bad pun?

Little Biffy:  It was. [turning red]  I’m sorry.

Jennifer Smith:  You little punster. Well, did i satisfy your need to talk about logic? Because this Patricia Cornwell story isn’t gonna read itself.

Little Biffy:  For now, i suppose. I’ll leave you and Ms. Cornwell to work out what needs to change in our society in order for logic to be returned to its proper place.

Jennifer Smith:  Mmm. I’m not sure how much help Patricia’s gonna be. She’s one of my guilty pleasures.

Little Biffy:  Well, carry on, Jennifer!

Jennifer Smith:  See ya, Little Biffy.

 

 

 

 

 

The Blogger Goes Through Some of His Reader Mail!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On to another piece of reader mail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Yes.  That was unfortunate.

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

The Blogger:  I have feisty readers.

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

The Blogger:  Well, it’s complicated.

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

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

The Good Reader:  Ho hum, yada yada yada.

The Blogger:  Good Reader.  Your tone is unbecoming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  Oops.

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

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

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

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

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

The Blogger:  What?  What’d i say?

 

 

Your Very First “Flockbinkers” Pop Quiz.

 

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


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

A.  Epistemology

B.  Axiology

C.  Astrology

D.  Metaphysics

E.  Betaphyshics

F.  Ethics

G.  Justin Bieber’s Greatest Hits

H.  Logic

I.  Endocrinology

J.  Whatever Eckhart Tolle’s latest book is about

 

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

A.  The dialogues of Plato

B.  The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas

C.  The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus of Ludwig Wittgenstein

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

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

F.  The “Philosophy” section at Barnes and Noble

G.  David Letterman’s interviews with Julia Roberts

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

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

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

 

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

A.  Increasing clarity and reducing misunderstanding

B.  Creating a clear path from evidence to conclusion

C.  Guaranteeing the truth or falsity of propositions

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

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

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

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

H.  Slicing, dicing, and making julienne fries

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

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

 

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

“All Flockbinkers are ___________________ .”

A.  nonexistent

B.  extinct

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

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

E.  of uncertain ontological status

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

G.  symptomatic of The Blogger’s unique psychopathology

H.  treadknicious

I.  your mom

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

 

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

“The present king of France is bald.”

A.  False: French men don’t go bald

B.  False: There is currently no French king.

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

D.  Neither: There is currently no French king

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Question #6:  Select all that apply.

The term ‘ontology’…

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

B.  is a branch of philosophy similar to metaphysics

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

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

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

F.  sounds almost like a branch of medicine

G.  is the science that studies new dinosaurs

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

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

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

 

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

“The unicorn is an entity that ___________________ .”

A.  shares certain attributes in common with the flockbinker

B.  can be found throughout world literature and myth

C.  is of uncertain ontological status

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

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

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

G.  if it existed, would be kind of cool

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

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

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

 

Question #8:  Complete the following syllogism.

Some broomshovelers are hobnobbicus.

All broomshovelers are froombicious.

Therefore, _____________________ .

A.  some things that are hobnobbicus are also froombicious.

B.  You have got to be kidding me.

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

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

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

F.  Whatever.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

H.  Oh my word. Kill me now.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

A.  make him drink it.

B.  make his horse drink it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J.5.  You called me “dude.”

J.7.  What?

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

J.9.  I read your bio, dude.

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

 

 

 

Ontology, Equestrian Style

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

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

DomenichinounicornPalFarnese-600

 

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

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

Female #1:  I was being serious.

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

Female #1:  I have no response to that.

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

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

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

Female #1:  Horse people and normal people.

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

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

Female #1:  Oh, come on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

51E2UmkkuXL._SY355_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

V0017113 Chastity (a virgin and a unicorn). Oil painting by a followe

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

Female #1:  STOP that!

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

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

Female #1:  GUYS!

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

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

The Blogger:  Excellent! Attention to detail is good.

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

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

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

956174068_2a91442164

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

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

The Blogger:  That makes sense to me.

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

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

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

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

Female #2:  Twelve.

The Blogger:  Gotcha.

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

Giulia_Farnese_unicorn

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

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

Female #2:  Are they not the same thing?

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

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

Female #1:  Oh my WORD.

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

Female #1:  No… no, I don’t think so.

Female #2:  Definitely.

clip_image001_med.jpeg

%d bloggers like this: