all flockbinkers are treadknicious… and other salient observations

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

Tag: treadknicious

A Fine, Honest, Admirable, Heartfelt Attempt to Define ‘Flockbinkers’

 

To begin with:

We talk a lot about flockbinkers ’round these here parts.

Editor’s Note: The blogger lives in Tennessee and occasionally lapses into a charming but grammatically substandard regional idiom. We, the AllFlockbinkers Editorial Staff, allow this, because it gives a sense of local color to the blog.

It’s true. We talk about flockbinkers. We just do. And we’re not ashamed to admit it. We’ve been doing so for a long time, and i can’t see that changing anytime soon. Sure and we’re a wee bit fond o’ th’ flockbinkers.

Editor’s Note: The blogger has never lived in either Scotland or Ireland, and we are scratching our beards over the mystery of where that last bit came from.

From time to time, a weary reader will call to our attention the fact that we haven’t yet defined the term “flockbinker,” which makes things a wee bit somewhat difficult when they are everywhere present on the blog. “How can i sit around and listen to you talk all day about frockbrinkers,” a typical reader might protest, “when i have no idea what they are?” An understandable objection, even if the misguided reader struggled a bit to get the word quite right. But no matter. Today we shall address the difficulty full-on. We are about to take the flockbinker by the horns.

The Good Reader:  You just said it again.

The Blogger:  Said what? Flockbinker? Of course! It’s a blog about flockbinkers.

The Good Reader:  No, you said they have horns.

The Blogger:  Oh, right, right. We talked about this a couple of years ago, didn’t we.

The Good Reader:  That was actually ‘The Timid Reader’ that you had that conversation with. I’m ‘The Good Reader.’ But she and i might actually be the same person. Maybe i was going under the name of The Timid Reader at that time. Maybe. Your blog is so weird. It’s impossible to know WHAT is up.

The Blogger:  That’s a very good point, and if i may say so, ontologically astute.

The Good Reader:  Thanks. So, back to flockbinkers and their horns. You said they had horns then, and when i (or she) tried to pin you down about it, you wriggled out of it by saying philosophical things that probably didn’t have an actual meaning. Or you might have said “it’s complicated.” You like to get out of making clear statements by saying “it’s complicated.”

The Blogger:  Actually, i did not say they had horns then. But yes, i remember, i did say we were going to take the flockbinker by the horns. And we did! Sort of. And that’s what we’re going to do right now!

The Good Reader:  Using the horns that they actually have, or horns that they don’t have?

The Blogger:  You’re becoming more of a philosopher with each passing minute, The Good Reader! I’m proud of you.

The Good Reader:  [says a word that we have chosen not to print because we feel it would detract from the family-oriented reputation of this blog]

 

But, ahem, back to the point:

The thing you need to understand about flockbinkers is that they can be used as placeholders in a logical scenario, without anyone actually knowing what they are, or even whether they exist… and, if they do exist, in what way.

Example:

1. All flockbinkers are treadknicious
2. All wamwams are flockbinkers
3. Therefore, all wamwams are treadknicious

…or, if you’re not particularly partial to wamwams… and let’s just be honest, not everybody is…

1. Some flockbinkers are nomnomnomnom
2. No fruitcakes are nomnomnomnom
3. Therefore, no fruitcakes are flockbinkers

[Oops. It appears we made a boo-boo. You get extra credit points if you can explain why that second syllogism was not valid.]

[And, by the way, if you’d like to learn more about logical syllogisms, you can find some marvelous examples of syllogisms in this post right here.]

So here’s the thing. Despite the fact that we are frequently referring to them in these logical syllogisms, it still may or may not be the case that such entities as flockbinkers, wamwams, and fruitcakes exist. And even if they do exist, there may be considerable uncertainty regarding what they are. I’ve never talked to ANYBODY who could give me a satisfying account of what fruitcakes are.

 

An excursus on ontology

Ontology is an area of philosophy that has to do with being and identity. It deals with (among other things) the question of what things are. You know? What they really are.

So, for instance, if you had a question about the ontological status of fruitcakes, and you chose wisely to consult a philosopher, you might get a response something like this:

The Philosopher:  Well, what is the fruitcake made of? Is it part of something larger? Is it subdivided into component parts? Can the fruitcake be assigned to a larger category, and do you know what that category is? Might it be assigned to several distinct or overlapping categories? Perhaps a plethora of categories? An El Guapo-esque plethora? What is the purpose of the fruitcake? How, when and where did it come into existence? Were there other things that came into existence along with it? Did someone give it to you at Christmas? I hate it when that happens. I don’t think anybody ever actually eats them. Have you ever heard of someone eating a fruitcake? I don’t even know whether they are edible. They sure don’t LOOK edible. I used mine to plug up a hole in the bathroom wall right behind the shower.

That’s what a trained philosopher might say if you asked him about fruitcakes.

Similarly, the questions about the ontological status of flockbinkers, wamwams, unicorns, Tiny Tim, the milk of human kindness, efficient postal delivery, the person who creates those Facebook memes with monstrously broken grammar, or a bargain item at Whole Foods might be addressed in the same manner.

 

So. Here we are. What ARE flockbinkers, anyway?

Whether they (flockbinkers) exist or not, it would be nice to know what they are.

Of course, the question of what they are might seem to hinge on the question of whether they exist. This was a sticking point in a conversation i had a couple of years ago with The Good Reader, who (in my estimation) seemed not to appreciate the nuances of the discussion. But might it be the case that a nonexistent entity can still have recognizable characteristics? You could all describe a unicorn, if called upon to do so. You could describe a planet that is in the throes of being blown up by the Death Star (or one of its many successors). You could describe the experience of what it would be like to check out for less than $75.00 at Whole Foods. This last one might require a strenuous exercise of the imagination, but i am confident that you could pull it off.

So, you see, it might be possible for a thing to have attributes even if it is not a real thing.

So, without further ado, why don’t we assemble some experts on logic, metaphysics and semantics, and see if we can come to some understanding of what sort of critter the ‘flockbinker’ is. Or isn’t. If there even is one.

 

Our panel of experts weighs in:

And by “our panel of experts,” we mean “the somewhat random group of people we were able to assemble by offering to let them look at a McDonald’s hamburger we’ve kept in its wrapper for seventeen years and which has not decomposed at all.”

The Good Reader:  I’m dumbfounded that you would even ask me this, given the large number of frustrating conversations we’ve had about flockbinkers and unicorns and other things that don’t exist but that you claim do exist, or something — and if you say, “it’s complicated,” i will reply with a very rude word. You know i will.

The Timid Reader:  Why do you insist on embarrassing me like this? I don’t even get it. You have it in for me. You lose no opportunity to expose my ignorance in front of your thousands of readers.

Editor’s Note: The Timid Reader is referring to a conversation that occurred in one of the early posts to this blog, in which she was publicly revealed as not knowing what a syllogism was. Which really wasn’t a big deal, but she took it way personally.

Editor’s Note2: Apparently The Good Reader and The Timid Reader are two distinct people, after all. But according to The Good Reader, earlier in this very blog post… oh dear. Curiouser and curiouser.

The Blogger:  I wish.

The Timid Reader:  To expose my ignorance?

The Blogger:  No, the part about thousands of readers.

Elvis Wu:  Well, if i understand correctly the things you’ve told me, and the posts i’ve read on this blog — really interesting blog, by the way! —

The Blogger:  Gosh, thanks, Wu.

Elvis Wu:  — it would seem that the flockbinker is a modally existent entity that is often characterized as if it were a kind of semi-mythical beast, but is at other times spoken of as if it were a small appliance, like a toaster, or a blow-dryer.

One of our British readers:  I’m not entirely certain i understand what it is that i’m being asked. Then again, i’ve been following this blog for a couple of years now and have never felt that i had any idea what was going on. It is awfully amusing, though, isn’t it?

Jennifer Smith (of “Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith Talk About Philosophy” fame):  Okay, i’ve got this. The flockbinker was originally created for use in logic exercises you wrote up for your students. He is a logical placeholder with a deliberately absurd name, and is of uncertain ontological status. [pauses to catch her breath]  Don’t be too impressed; i’m sure i stole every word of that from one or more conversations i’ve had with Little Biffy.

Jennifer Smith’s Uncle Hubert, who happens to be visiting from Spokane and was fascinated by the idea of a seventeen-year-old hamburger:  Well now, Jen’s told me about this blog, and i have to say i think it’s just a terrific idea. A terrific idea! The young people these days are in such need of guidance and critical thinking skills and such —

Jennifer:  Uncle Hubert, he’s asking you to define a ‘flockbinker.’

Uncle Hubert:  Right, right, right. Well, i have to just say i don’t really have the background to be talking about specialized foreign terms, but i think the whole idea’s a terrific one, i really do. The young people today, they just don’t seem to —

Jennifer:  Thanks, Uncle Hubert! Blogger, you may want to move on to the next person.

Random elderly woman in Coolidge Park:  They took my purse. They ran up from behind and took my purse.

The Blogger:  Flockbinkers did this?

REW:  Who? I said they stole my purse!

Tharg, the Primordial Man:  Ooog, bunga bunga, froom froom ooga froom, frockbinger tredmishus, bonga froom ooga wamwam ontological status mooga mooga.

One of the anonymous people who took the quiz a couple of weeks ago:  So what i remember from that quiz is that you offered five choices for whether flockswingers exist… yes, no, maybe, both, and… um… all of the above? Or something.

The Blogger:  [in a hoarse stage whisper]  No, those were NOT the five choices i gave you on that question, and you haven’t even identified the question accurately, never mind your inventive pronunciation of the term ‘flockbinker’…

Anonymous quiz-taking dude whose strong suit is apparently not precision:  And i think i selected “all of the above” because the question seemed really hard and i figured “all of the above” was probably my safest bet. Yeah. That’s what i did.

_____________________________________________

So there you have it, patient readers. I hope you have found this discussion of flockbinkers at least somewhat enlightening. I don’t think it went in exactly the direction i’d had in mind when i started out. I’m going to go for a long walk now through desolate places and contemplate the lonely existence of the philosopher in modern life.

 

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.

 

 

 

We happen upon Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith in the middle of a rousing philosophical discussion. Let’s listen in.

If i’m not mistaken, you people…

(and here i refer to The Good Reader, in both his singular and plural capacities… that is, as an individual human person reading the blog, and as an archetypal personage representing all three of you who are readers of the blog… as well as in both his male and female manifestations)

…well, anyway, it is you, Good Reader, whom i am addressing, and it seems to me that i’ve not yet introduced you to Little Biffy and Jennifer Smith.

Which seems extraordinary. How many posts to this blog have we gotten through thus far, and still have somehow managed not to introduce these two characters who are so near the very center of what the “All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious” thing is all about? Too many, that’s all i can say. So it’s high time you were introduced to them.

Let’s leave the detailed introductions for a future post. For now, suffice it to say that Little Biffy is a budding young philosopher and a student at Foundations Collegium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He’s somewhere around, oh, maybe ten years of age. It’s hard to tell. He’s really kind of ageless. As evidence of this, i offer the fact that he was created at least 15 years ago, and he’s still the same age now that he was then. YOU try pulling that off. (What’s that? You’ve tried, you say, and you’ve got thousands of dollars in plastic surgery bills to prove it? Well, i’m not sure we’re talking about exactly the same thing, but sure, okay, that’s fine.)

Little Biffy is sort of like a half-pint Socrates. He cannot imagine anything more enjoyable than the pursuit of truth. He loves exploring ideas with people, and plying them with questions until some sort of satisfying conclusion is reached.

One of his regular victims …er… fellow explorers, is Jennifer Smith. Jennifer is in her late 20’s. She’s a business graduate from UTC, and is presently working at Unum in some kind of decently-paying but not-terribly-inspiring desk job. She likes to wind down after work at the Panera Bread on Market Street, sitting at one of the tables on the sidewalk out front with a chai latte and a frothy bestseller, and forget that she finds her career and her life pretty unfulfilling.

Jennifer is a fairly typical twenty-something, in a lot of ways: she’s bright and did well in her college classes, but she has given very little thought to the big questions that life is built around. Or, to put it the way Little Biffy would, she has given insufficient attention to the sharpening up of her worldview.

Biffy met Jenn a few years ago while hanging out at Panera Bread, and she has been one of his favorite interlocutors ever since. She finds him amusing, annoying, and challenging, and puts up with his insistent lines of questioning because, deep down, she really does value truth, and enjoys his challenges to her way of seeing things.

The following excerpt is from one of their early conversations, one sunny spring afternoon a few years back, at a coffeehouse called the Stone Cup.

Little Biffy:  Allright, Jennifer… I think it’s time for a lesson in logic.

Jennifer Smith:  Wow. My friends are going to be so jealous.

Biffy:  Heh heh. I think you’re kidding. But, well, anyway, here goes. Listen closely. All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

Jennifer:  Wait. I thought you said this was going to be a lesson in logic.

Biffy:  Exactly! Yes. It is.

Jennifer:  But what you just said didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Maybe i’m letting my ignorance of philosophy show, but i thought logic was supposed to be about things that make sense.

Biffy:  But Jennifer, it makes perfect sense to say that all flockbinkers are treadknicious.

Jennifer:  In some other solar system, maybe.

Biffy:  Well, there is that. Heh heh. So stay focused. All flockbinkers…

Jennifer:  Stop. What’s a ‘flockbinker’?

Biffy:  You’re missing the point. Just hang with me. All flockbinkers are treadknicious.

Jennifer:  Okay. Fine.

Biffy:  And all wamwams are flockbinkers.

Jennifer:  I don’t know what a wamwam is, either.

Biffy:  That’s okay. It doesn’t matter. Just stay with it. It’ll make sense eventually.

Jennifer:  Terrific. Got it. All flockbinkers are wamwams.

Biffy:  Actually… that’s not it. All wamwams are flockbinkers.

Jennifer:  It’s the same thing!

Biffy:  Well, really, no. But we’ll get back to that.

Jennifer:  Oh, come on. How can it not be the same thing? All flockbinkers are wamwams. All wamwams are flockbinkers. Not that it even matters, ‘cause you’re talking gibberish. All pooh-poohs are hubbabubbas. All blahblahs are froomfrooms too, i bet.

Biffy:  Heh heh. That sparkling wit. It never gets old. No, Jenn, you see, just because all wamwams are flockbinkers, that does not at all necessitate the opposite scenario, that all flockbinkers are wamwams. Try this. Imagine the category of all wamwams.

Jennifer:  I don’t dare. I’ll have nightmares for weeks.

Biffy:  Okay. Fair enough. Imagine the category of all dogs. You like dogs, do you?

Jennifer:  Dogs are great, and they have the added virtue of not sounding like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Okay. I’m picturing all the dogs.

Biffy:  Now imagine the category of all mammals. All the mammals in the world. Got it?

Jennifer:  That’s a bit harder to picture. There’s lots of mammals.

Biffy:  Right, but you know what mammals are, so you can at least imagine what that particular category would involve. Imagine all the mammals in the world, standing in a big circle the size of Alaska.

Jennifer:  Would they all fit?

Biffy:  Sure. Easily. Under factory-farming conditions, anyway.

Jennifer:  That was not even remotely funny.

Biffy:  Uh, sorry. [turns beet-red] So, anyway, all the mammals are in a huge circle the size of Alaska, with lots of room to walk around and graze and joyfully prance upon the grassy hillsides.

Jennifer:  Much better. Okay, all the mammals are in Alaska, prancing. Some of ‘em are freezing their little mammal buns off.

Biffy:  Great. I mean, not that the beasts are cold, but that you’ve got the picture. Now, imagine that all the dogs are also in that Alaska-sized circle. Got it?

Jennifer:  Sure. Well, wait a second. Aren’t they already there? ‘Cause they’re mammals, too.

Biffy:  Excellent! You’re getting it! You’re halfway there. So all of the dogs are mammals.

Jennifer:  Right. Every single one. And if you keep patronizing me, i’m going to tweak your nose. I’m old enough to be your… mmm, your aunt.

Biffy:  Oops. Sorry. [turns red again] So all the dogs are mammals. Now, are all of the mammals dogs?

Jennifer:  Of course not! Some of them are gerbils, and some of ‘em are wildebeests.

Biffy:  So: all dogs are mammals, but not all mammals are dogs.

Jennifer:  That’s right… oh. I see. I’m embarrassed now.

Biffy:  No need! No need. So it’s clear to you that even if all wamwams are flockbinkers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all flockbinkers are wamwams.

Jennifer:  Yes. I get it. You don’t have to rub it in.

Biffy:  Okay then! Moving on. So if all flockbinkers are treadknicious, and all wamwams are flockbinkers, we can reasonably conclude that….

Jennifer:  We are visiting a zoo in wonderland?

Biffy:  Heh heh. You never seem to lose that lively sense of humor. That’s good. No, Jennifer, what we can reasonably conclude is that all wamwams are treadknicious.

Jennifer:  I guess so. And all borogoves are mimsy. And the mome raths, outgrabe. I think I’m getting the hang of this.

An Attempt to Get to the Bottom of This “Three Scotsmen Sitting on a Fence” Thing

Greetings, gentle readers.  (As well as those of you who are actually reading the blog.)  (Ba – dumm – chh.)

Several posts ago, i fraudulently claimed that the upcoming post would involve more information about the joke about three Scotsmen sitting on a fence.  I meant well!  I really was intending to talk about that next.  But then i went off on a tangent about my PechaKucha presentation, and then it was Christmas, and what with one thing and another, the Scotsmen got put on a back burner.

As you might well imagine, they were MUCH happier when they were sitting on the fence.  (Ba – dumm – chh.)

Which is where they find themselves once again, because this is the post you’ve been promised, o gentle readers.  (And those of you who are actually reading the blog.  Ba – dumm – chh.)

By way of reminder, let me refresh you on how the “three Scotsmen” joke goes.

“So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.”

That’s it.  That’s the joke.  That’s as far as it ever gets.  That’s all there is.

We-e-ell… that’s not exactly true.  There have been some attempts to finish the joke.  Here’s one of the more noteworthy examples:

So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.

And the first one says,
“All flockbinkers are treadknicious.”

Then the second Scotsman says,
“All wamwams are flockbinkers.”

And the third Scotsman says,
“Would ye rather find y’rself confronted by a self-referential absurdity,
or a non-sequitur disguised as a joke about three Scotsmen?”

A respectful silence followed.

Ahhhh.  Yes.  Now we’re talkin’ ’bout the good stuff.

But, you see, not everyone has been endowed with the philosophical equipment to fully appreciate a joke like that.  Perhaps that’s one reason why the standard form of the joke is the incomplete version, just the opening line.  Because if i try to finish it, the end product will end up just a wee bit too philosophically rich for your average taste.

But there is another finished version of the joke: one which, like the one above, is going to end up on the back of a t-shirt one of these days.

(I hear you tentatively snickering, o less-than-gentle reader.  You thought that was a joke, didn’t you.  Hah!  Note the conspicuous absence of either boldface print or a “ba-dumm-chh” following the statement.  It was most assuredly NOT a joke; it was the condensed form of a business plan.  I would advise you to learn the difference.  But i fear we digress.)  This other version of the joke is of particular interest as we seek to understand just what the joke is all about.  And here it is:

So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.

And the first one says,
“Blah blah blah blah blah.”

Then the second Scotsman says,
“Mumble mumble mumble.”

Then the third Scotsman says,
“Yada yada yada yada.”

Your mistake, of course, was in thinking that just because something is a joke, it’s going to be funny.

You’re what, how old? You should know better by now.

All that was the joke, including the last part.  Well, no: technically, the last part was the part that will follow the joke as it is displayed on the back of the t-shirt.

Man, these t-shirts are going to be something else.

But note what this version of the joke does for us.  It strips the joke down to its constituent elements.  It reveals the underlying skeleton of the joke.  And the joke turns out to have the same form as a great many other three-part jokes.  That form is as follows:

So there were three [entities] [engaged in some activity].

And the first [entity] [A] [says or does something].

And the second [entity] [B] [says or does something that is closely parallel to what A said or did]

And the third [entity] [C] [says or does something that is a startling departure from what A and B said or did, from which dissonance arises the humor value of the joke].

In keeping with that analysis, our joke above about the three Scotsmen is true to form.  The first Scotsman says, “Blah blah blah blah blah.”  The second Scotsman says, “Mumble mumble mumble.”  These are the usual sorts of things that you expect to hear a Scotsman say, when you encounter him seated on a fence.  But then!  Ah!  The third Scotsman!  When we get to him, we are treated to a delightful surprise: he says, “Yada yada yada yada.”

The third Scotsman turns out to be Jerry Seinfeld!

But let’s get back to the pure, unadorned, basic version of the joke.  “So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.”  There is something classic, lean and lovely about the basic version, the default version.  It doesn’t say too much.  It says just enough.  It’s thrifty and economical, in much the same way that Scotsmen are reputed to be.

You can almost mentally supply the rest, if you’ve ever heard a three-part joke.  You can envision the first Scotsman saying something, then the second Scotsman saying something, then the third Scotsman saying something surprising that causes your diaphragm to begin spontaneously leaping up and down, and a sort of staccato wheezing sound come out of your mouth.  All you need is that opening line, and you can experience the joke’s potential all by yourself, with no adult supervision.

It’s almost as if everything the joke was ever destined to be is wrapped up in that opening line, and once you’ve heard the line, the joke’s inner essence begins to unfold within you, like the fruit of the Banyan tree.  Or the flower of the lotus.  Um, or something.

Interestingly, the same principle would likely not work with a different opener.  Observe closely:

“So there were these three kittens in a pet shop window, see.”

Who cares?  No one wants to hear the rest of the joke.  You can just tell it’s not going to be funny.

Or this:

“Okay, so there were these three disgruntled postal workers shooting up a McDonald’s right?”

Nope.  Too risky.  If your listeners are nervous about whether the subject-matter is politically correct, they’re not going to laugh.  They’ll be looking over their shoulders to see if anyone else is laughing.

Or this:

“So there were three intransitive verbs, and they walk into a bar, see.”

Nope.  Too abstract.  Maybe if you’re at a cocktail party with a bunch of grammarians, that one would go over uproariously.  You really need to know your audience.

The point i’m making, the Scotsmen joke has a kind of universal appeal.  As soon as that opening line hits, you’ve got the crowd in the palm of your hand.  They don’t need to hear any more.  They’re happy.  You’ve succeeded.  “So there were these three Scotsmen sitting on a fence, see.”  Just sit back and watch the magic happen.  One business-looking fellow in the middle of the room is thinking, “Now here’s a joke that a man can sink his teeth into.”  And over near the punch bowl, a woman is thinking, “Oooohh, Scotsmen, i bet they’re wearing kilts and everything.”  And off in the corner, a young guy in wire-rims and a turtleneck is thinking, “Golly, i wonder if this joke is going to turn out to have been a self-referential absurdity, or…” (and here he chuckles to himself) “…a non-sequitur disguised as a joke about three Scotsmen?”

See?  Something in it for everybody.

A Flockbinker Christmas.

Christmas Day is just around the corner, and The Blogger would like to take this opportunity to wish you (The Good Reader) and yours a very merry holiday!  ‘Tis the season to be jolly, and treadknicious, and all manner of other enjoyable things.

The association between Christmas and flockbinkers may not be immediately evident to the untrained observer.  Perhaps it would be helpful to cite the following passage, as declaimed by Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas:

“There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flockbinkers by night.”

In addition, there is the obvious fact that the term “treadknicious” rhymes with “season’s greetings,” a fact which cannot be entirely coincidental.

But at this point, the Good Reader is unable to restrain him-or-herself and cries out, “Wait wait wait.  Hold on.”

“Hmmm?”

“Even if we choose to totally ignore your somewhat rough treatment of sacred Scripture, i just CAN’T let that other thing slip by.  Season’s greetings does not rhyme with treadknicious.”

“Ah, but it does, o most excellent Reader.  You’re just not listening closely.  Sound the syllables out.”

“Tred – ca – nish – us.  See – zuns – gree – tings.  Not even close.”

“I heard it.”

“Stop that!  No you didn’t.”

“I heard it plainly.  An exact rhyme.”

“You’re a loonie.”

“Well, The Good Reader, we may just have to agree to disagree on this issue.  At any rate, i wish you the most treadknicious of holidays!”

“Y’know, Blogger-person, you never did explain to my satisfaction what ‘treadknicious’ means.  Maybe i don’t WANT to have a treadknicious holiday.  Maybe it means intestinal worms or something.”

“Eww!”

“Well, how would i know?  You toss around all these undefined words and you expect me to feel like you’re wishing me a happy holiday!  Maybe you’re really wishing that i’ll blow out a tire while skidding on ice, and hurtle through the air, and end up at the top of a Christmas tree.”

“Worse things have happened to people.”

“So that’s what it means?  Have the kind of holiday that i’ll need to call AAA to fix, in freezing weather?”

“No, not at all.  I’m just saying it wouldn’t be the end of the world if that DID happen.”

The Good Reader makes a face that i wish i could replicate on this blog, accompanied by an equally interesting sound, and then says, “Okay, so what does treadknicious mean?”

“Well, it depends.”

“I KNEW you were going to say that!  I knew it!  How did i know that?”

“Perhaps your facility for logical thought is becoming more finely-tuned?”

“Um.  I don’t think so.  I think there are other reasons.  For instance, your refusal to be pinned down and answer questions in a way that is even remotely satisfying.”

“Gosh, The Good Reader, that was kind of harsh.  Subtlety and cowardice are not at all the same thing.”

“Cowardice!  That’s the word i was looking for.  Thank you.”

“You wound me.”

“Oh, you’ll get over it.  Anyway, i can tell i’m not going to get any action out of you as far as defining treadknicious, so i’ll just accept your holiday greeting and hope it’s not something horrible.”

“That’s the Christmas spirit!”

“And, um, i hope you have a thwump-thwump New Year!”

“A thwump-thwump New Year?  What does THAT mean?”

“Aha!  Gotcha.”

“All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious… And Other Salient Observations” (the PechaKucha mix, Part 3)

Greetings, [The] Good Reader!  The last time we blogged together, we were taking a bit of a guided tour through the presentation i gave last week at Chattanooga’s PechaKucha Night, Vol. 19.  It was a sweet little presentation, by all accounts: charming, endearing.  It tugged at the heartstrings.  It warmed the inward parts.  Therefore, i feel very little compunction over devoting three blog posts to it.  The finer things are worth dwelling on at some length.

Thus far we have covered at least the first half of that storied PechaKucha presentation.  So perhaps we ought to pick up where we left off.

A little over halfway through the presentation, i sort of shifted gears.  We had devoted the first few slides (as you may recall) to laying the groundwork, addressing such questions as “what is a logical syllogism, and how does one work?” and “just what the stink is a flockbinker?”  But having established the basics, it was time to plunge into some serious logical dilemmas, paradoxes, puzzles, and meaty philosophical issues.  It was time to move into the deep end of the pool.  Is that what they call ‘adult swim’?  I’ve never been 100% sure what ‘adult swim’ refers to, and it’s an expression i hear ALL THE TIME.

We had just been talking about Realism and Nominalism as schools of thought in Medieval philosophy, espousing two different understandings of what category terms (or ‘universals’) are all about.  “The Medievals addressed all kinds of questions,” i continued.  “John Buridan [1295-1358] explored moral determinism when he told the story of a donkey standing equidistant between two equally yummy-looking bales of hay. It couldn’t think of a reason to choose one rather than the other, and died of starvation.”

Now, i’m afraid this is the point at which i need to bring up the rather unfortunate fact that someone appears to have tampered with my slides somewhere during the process of assembling them.  This has got to be what happened.  It’s got to.  I can think of no other explanation for the fact that several of the slides in my presentation were either irrelevant to the section of the lecture in which they were displayed, or worse, were downright ridiculous, or, just as bad, ironically undermined the argument advanced in my otherwise insightful remarks.

What you have to understand is that i was facing the audience as i talked, and the screen on which the slides were displayed was behind me.  Therefore, i could not see what was on the slides as i talked; i sort of just assumed that they featured the visual content i had put together: a series of helpful graphics illustrating the nature and structure of a logical syllogism.  Pretty bracing stuff, actually.  I guess you’d have to have been there.  But, well, no, and here’s the point: if you’d been there, you would have seen something OTHER than the incisive and informative slides i had so painstakingly assembled.

For instance: I honestly have no memory of putting together a slide featuring the cover art to Bruce Springsteen’s album Born in the U.S.A….you know, that iconic shot of the Boss’s blue-jeans-bedecked hiney… coinciding most regrettably with the part of the presentation in which i talked about the classic problem known to philosophers as ‘Buridan’s Ass.’   You know, the story John Buridan told about the donkey and the two bales of hay.  Ha ha.  Very funny, practical joker whoever you are.  I hope you can sleep at night.

And there were several slides of a similar sort.

There was a slide featuring a conversation between Alice and Humpty-Dumpty, on the nature of word-meanings.  Including a picture of Alice talking to Humpty-Dumpty, up there on his wall, from the original edition of the book.

There was a slide featuring a conversation between Jennifer Smith and Little Biffy, on why terms like “flockbinker” are suitable components of a logical syllogism.

There was a slide featuring a discussion of why Gandalf didn’t just get the eagles to fly Frodo into Mordor.

There was a slide featuring a picture of the Rolling Stones, with a caption listing them as “five key Medieval philosophers.”

There was a slide announcing the supposed production credits for the presentation, including the Executive Producer, the Producer, the Associate Producer, the Casting Director, the Gaffer, the Best Boy, the Dolly Grip (“this cannot actually be a real thing,” was the note attached to this entry) and ending with, “…and Susan Sarandon as herself.”

There was a slide featuring the floor plan to Hamilton Place Mall, for crying out loud.  Jeepers.  My word.  Jeepers.  Some people have entirely too much time on their hands.

I must confess, however, that the jarring disjunction between [at least half of!] the slides, and my spoken presentation, did in fact add an additional level of entertainment to the lecture, and the audience seemed thoroughly engaged.  [*sigh*]  Philosophy has fallen into a sad state when the chief reason for an audience to enjoy a lecture on logic and ontology, is that the accompanying slides are absurd and irrelevant and have pictures of Bruce Springsteen’s butt on them.  You will perhaps excuse my discouragement.

Having gotten that off of my chest, i will now take you through the remainder of the lecture.  After the disquieting part where i told about Buridan’s Ass, with Bruce Springsteen’s Levis unblinkingly staring out upon the audience, i went on to talk about some other philosophical puzzles, including the “Liar Paradox,” and the “Prisoner’s Dilemma.”  The Liar Paradox, if you don’t know, is a classic exercise in structured self-contradiction, and one well-known version of it goes something like this:

The sentence following this one is false.

The sentence preceding this one is true.

OMW.  “What are you gonna do with that?” i challenged the audience.  The gleefully intoxicated audience member we spoke of earlier called out, “I’m gonna chew off my own pancreas!”  At least, that’s what i understood her to be saying.  The pronunciation was a bit off.  At any rate, one can certainly sympathize with her in her chosen strategy for resolving the dilemma.  I doubt that YOU, o most excellent Reader, even when entirely sober, would be able to devise a better one.  The fact is, the paradox cannot be resolved, no matter what your blood alcohol level may or may not be.  Note, if you will, that if the first statement is true, then the second one is false, which would make the first statement false.  But if the first statement is false, then the second one would be true, thus rendering the first statement true.

Dang.

While they were still reeling from that one, i introduced the audience to another classic example of what, in philosophical terminology, is known as a “stump-em-good.”  This puzzle is known as The Prisoner’s Dilemma.  But hey, why listen to me tell you about it, when you can listen to me quoting myself telling somebody else about it?

“Here’s a modern puzzle in a similar vein: A man and his accomplice are being held for questioning in separate rooms. They cannot communicate to get their stories straight. Should the man confess and plead for mercy, or should he maintain his innocence? Much hangs on his prediction of what his partner will do.

“The ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ is an example of Game Theory—the complex dynamics of decision-making. My choice, x, in relation to situation y, will be to some degree predicated on factor z. But z is influenced by other factors, including the probabilities regarding my choice, x. Whew! My head hurts already. Decision-making is hard.”

Zoinks.  That confuses even me, and it’s me talking about it.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, Good Reader; we are nearing the end of the presentation.  Following my discussion of Game Theory, i went on to focus specifically on ethical thought.  It seemed the thing to do at the time.

“But what about moral judgments?” i queried.  “Two ways of thinking about ethical choices would be the ‘teleological’ model, which says morality depends on what the result of the action will be, and ‘deontological’ ethics, which says a moral act is right or wrong based on the nature of the act itself.

“Ethical decisions are a lot harder when the moral ground is continually shifting under your feet. With moral relativism, there are no norms for virtuous action—everything depends on circumstance and context, attitudes and contingencies. Which takes us back to the medieval philosophers.

“The ‘realist’ school would say moral decision-making connects us to the larger architecture of reality; the Creator built a moral structure into the universe. A nominalist, on the other hand, would say that each moral choice is a distinct event, to be measured on its own terms.”

The one-two punch of this incredibly lucid presentation of ethical theory would have been even MORE impressive, had not the practical jokester who was tampering with my slides, inserted some of his most egregious howlers during this section of the presentation–including a slide noting that those responsible for tampering with the slides had been sacked, and then, a bit later on, inserting another slide claiming that those responsible for the sacking of the persons tampering with the slides, had themselves also been sacked.  Great.  Nice Monty Python reference, bozo.  Thanks for ruining my otherwise lovely and fluid discussion of the dynamics of moral decision-making.

Anyway, it was time to wrap.  Here is my (admittedly somewhat stitched-together) concluding coup de grace:

“…which, of course, takes up back to where we started, to the flockbinkers who may or may not be treadknicious, depending, to some degree, on whether or not they are real, and if so, in what sense.

“Well, hmmm, actually, the preceding discussion doesn’t even remotely lead us back to those wild and wooly flockbinkers and their uncertain ontological status—but the realities of time and circumstance unfortunately do. Thank you so very much!”

Thus endeth not only the PechaKucha presentation, but my present presentation of the PechaKucha presentation.  And so, if i may echo my own sentiment: thank you very much.

On our next post: a bit more about the somewhat abbreviated joke about those three storied Scotsmen sitting on a fence.

“All Flockbinkers Are Treadknicious… And Other Salient Observations” (the PechaKucha mix, Part 2)

Well, let’s see.  When last we got together, you and i, a couple of days ago, for scintillating quasi-philosophical conversation while tossing back wildly overpriced coffee beverages featuring a somewhat aesthetically dislocating pumpkin spice theme and about five times more sugar than was really necessary, the topic was a presentation i had the pleasure of giving this past Friday night, at the 19th Chattanooga PechaKucha 20×20 Night.  My presentation at that event was about flockbinkers, a topic to which the public (in my view) has not had nearly enough exposure up to the present.  But we’re working on that.

So, the last time we talked, just the two of us, you, The Good Reader, and i, The Blogger, i was beginning to take you on a tour of some of the themes i touched on during the course of the presentation–all six minutes and forty seconds of it–these PechaKucha slideshow/lectures are notable for their brevity.  I gave you enough of a taste to whet your appetite for more, which is, indeed, why you’re back here reading right now.  So here’s some additional material that i shared with the audience on that fateful night.

It needs to be said, first of all, that since logic is no longer taught in the schools, and audiences aren’t as familiar with the idea of a logical syllogism as they once would have been, you kind of have to take them by the hand and gently introduce them to the basics.  (I’m sure you’ve run across people like this as well, and you know just what i’m talking about.)  So there was, of necessity, some of this kind of thing:

“You have to be paying attention.  Sometimes it’s all flockbinkers that are treadknicious, or just some, and sometimes none.  Now, if all flockbinkers are treadknicious, and no wamwams are flockbinkers, does it mean no wamwams are treadknicious?  Not necessarily.  Can’t something be treadknicious without being a flockbinker?  I’d say so.”

To my utter delight, at this point an audience member who had (i suspect) been availing herself of the adult beverages being offered at the back of the room, called out “Yes!” in answer to my question, “If all flockbinkers are treadknicious, and no wamwams are flockbinkers, does it mean no wamwams are treadknicious?”  Which provided me with a perfect platform for saying, “Not necessarily,” and continuing with the explanation.  My opinion regarding inebriation among audience members is undergoing something of a revolution.  Perhaps it should be encouraged to a greater degree than it has been in the past.  I’m just thinking out loud.

When you’re talking about flockbinkers to a crowd unaccustomed to such rich subject-matter, the almost inevitable problem of a vocabulary gap will arise.  After several brief logic lessons involving terms admittedly unfamiliar to the audience, i felt compelled to make the following concession to the sensitivities of my listeners:  “Now, i know what you’re thinking. ‘This guy is throwing around nonsense terms like wamwam and flockbinker, that don’t mean anything, and yet he claims to be talking about logic!’ Ah, dear concerned audience member, how can you be so sure they don’t mean anything? The nature of meaning is a bit tricky.”  Nice, eh?  Anticipate their objections and head them off at the pass.  Never allow the audience to feel as if they’re in the driver’s seat, that’s what i say.

Anyway, from that point we went from strength to strength.  Having addressed a variety of logical scenarios as encountered in several different syllogisms, we then moved on to address the ontological status of flockbinkers, a point which stands (for some people) near the very center of the discussion.

“Do flockbinkers exist?” I prodded them.  “What does it mean to ‘exist’?  Do unicorns exist?  No?  I bet you could describe one to me.”  (Did you catch that?  Huh?  Pretty nice, yes?  Mighty fancy footwork, if i do say it myself.  And given that this is my blog, i think it’s safe to say that anything said here is something that i will say myself.)  “If i said that a unicorn is a small slippery fish with twelve legs and a stinger, you’d cry out, ‘That’s not true!’  But of course it’s not true.  Unicorns don’t exist.”  Yes, i had them right where i wanted them.  They were in the very palm of my hand.

Having begun dealing with the issue of ontology, there was no turning back now.  “Some things that do exist are concrete entities (a Volkswagen, a toaster), and some things that exist are non-physical abstractions (justice, the number 37).  Could it be that the flockbinker is an abstract entity?   He exists as a concept, and AS such is real, even though he cannot be touched, taken for a walk or filled with water to the line indicated?”

Now, here’s the thing.  Once you begin saying things like, “‘x’ is not a concrete, physical entity; it is a concept,” there will always be a certain element in your audience–i hate to have to call these people out, but they do kind of make thigs rough for the rest of us–who will triumphantly say, “Aha!  Didn’t i tell you that ‘x’ wasn’t real?  And now he just admitted it.  You all heard him.”  If there were any such persons present in my audience the other night, to that person or persons i say, “Pah!”  And i say it again, for emphasis: “Pah!”  (I hope PechaKucha Chattanooga will excuse my rude manner of addressing someone who showed up at one of their events.  But i strongly suspect that PechaKucha Chattanooga is just as eager to root these people out as i am.)

But sadly, there will always be people who will confuse “real” with “tangible,” and such persons must be corrected at a level that they are able to understand.  Hence, my next series of observations:  “There ARE real things that don’t exist in the concrete world of our experience.  Elizabeth Bennet has a kind of reality; ask any Jane Austen fan.  Hercules and Thor both have a kind of reality, and in fact both have had movies made about them.  There is a kind of reality in fiction and myth.  The realm of the unicorn.”  Now, if you were addressing a society of philosophers, that’s not the sort of argument you would appeal to.  They’d never let you get away with it.  But when it comes to the sort of recalcitrant audience members we were holding up to critical scrutiny a few seconds ago, it’s the kind of argument you have to use.  It’s all these people are able to comprehend.  Thus has it ever been.  *sigh*

But having now cleared away some of the underbrush, we were then able to get on with some serious philosophical exploration.

“The reality-status of abstractions was a hot topic among the ancient Greeks.  Is a category of objects a real thing?  Is ‘tree’ real?  I don’t mean a physical tree, like the ones growing out there—i’m asking, does the concept ‘tree’ have a kind of reality?  Plato said yes; Aristotle had his reservations.”  Whoah.  Now we’re getting to the good stuff.  Just what DOES ‘real’ mean?  Is it only an individual physical thing that has reality, or do ideas have reality as well?  If i can refer to this tree as a ‘tree,’ and that tree as a ‘tree,’ and some other tree as a ‘tree,’ and a grove of dogwoods over there as ‘trees,’ then is there not something real about the concept ‘tree’ that enables us to apply it in so many different instances of objects that are not physically connected to one another?  Ah.

But then we continued:  “This same debate was picked up 1500 years later by the Medieval philosophers. The ‘realists’ thought category terms like ‘tree’ referred to actual realities; ideas were at least as real as concrete objects. The ‘nominalists,’ on the other hand, felt that only individual objects had reality, and category terms were just puffs of breath.”  Yes, you see?  We’re looking at two fundamentally different ways of seeing the world.  In the one case, you’re saying, “The term ‘flockbinker’ refers to a real thing if and only if it is physically, individually present to me right now and i can detect it with my senses.”  And in the other case, you’re saying, “Man, what a poverty-stricken world you must be living in, Mister Nominalist, if that is indeed your real name!  If you are unable to conceive of any realities other than physical bodies that are immediately present to your sensory apparatus, well jeepers, ya may want to join that gleefully imbibing audience member at the back of the room where the good stuff is being offered by the glass, because otherwise, i’m thinking reality must be a really empty place for you to be living in.”  Well, you probably wouldn’t want to be quite that harsh.  But you (and yes, i am assuming that you, The Good Reader, are able to see through the fallacious perspective offered by nominalism, and recognize that there are limitless varieties of abstract, spiritual, transcendent, and subjectively experienced realities populating the cosmos, beyond the mere concrete objects that the nominalist feels to be the sole inhabitants of the Real Universe) will need to devise some way of putting these people in their place, short of making possibly impertinent references to their ancestry and the circumstances surrounding their conception.

On that note, i think we’ll need to wrap up this installment.  Gosh, things have gone from fun and frothy to heavy and metaphysical, all within the confines of one blog post!  But that’s the sort of thing that can happen when you mess around with Stand-up Philosophy.  There’s no telling where it will take you.

In our next post, we’ll conclude our summary of the presentation that The Blogger (aka i, myself) offered at PechaKucha Night, Friday, December 5th, at 8:20 of the evening.

And following that, perhaps in the very next entry, there’s a very good chance… i’m just tossing it out there as a possibility… that we will see the re-introduction of the classic joke about three Scotsmen sitting on a fence.  There are good times ahead.  Can’t you feel it?  I can just feel it.

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