Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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The Syllogisms of Seinfeld

Image courtesy of Uproxx

With many of us blogging examples of humour in Logic, this post on the Syllogisms of Seinfeld seemed worthy of sharing here, especially for its examination of examples of logical fallacies being used to specific purpose in comedy:

Roles of Essence — The logic or fallacy used serves as the essence of what makes it funny. In these cases other aspects might enhance the humor, but the logic or fallacy is precisely what makes it funny, such that without it there is no humor left.

Type #1 — Equivocation: the name of the most common informal fallacy used in humor and usually it is the essence of what is funny. Equivocation occurs when two different meanings or senses of the same word(s) are used as if equivalent. In humor equivocation is often played out with two people—where one person says something implying one meaning and the other person takes it as if another meaning was intended.

“I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he’s converted to Judaism purely for the jokes.”
“And this offends you as a Jewish person?”
“No, it offends me as a comedian.”
– Jerry and Father Curtis, in “The Yada Yada”

The Role of Enhancer — the logic or fallacy adds to the essence of what is funny to make it even funnier.

Type #1 — Hasty Generalizations — occurs when a generalization is made from too few cases or, as often seen in humor, when the generalization is obviously not true as a literal statement (a clear exaggeration).

“So, what you are saying is that ninety to ninety-five percent of the population is undateable?”
“Undateable!”
“Then how are all these people getting together?”
“Alcohol.”
– Elaine and Jerry, in “The Wink”

The Role of Mechanism — the logic or fallacy is what gets you from one thought to another. When formal logic takes on the role of mechanism, valid logic is used to get the reader or audience to make a certain inference from one idea to another.

“Well, behind every joke there’s some truth.”
“What about that Bavarian cream pie joke I told you? There’s no truth to that. Nobody with a terminal illness goes from the United States to Europe for a piece of Bavarian cream pie and then when they get there and they don’t have it he says, ‘Ah, I’ll just have some coffee.’ There’s no truth to that.”
– Sheila and Jerry, in “The Soup Nazi”

 

 

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Saving Art from Itself

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Greetings and Happy New Year, Philosophers!

I wanted to share a few links and the Conan joke above as a follow-up to our conversation today about the value, purpose and nature of art and beauty.

I saw this article recently in Slate Magazine, “Why the Art World is So Loathsome,” and I think it might provide a jumping off point for those of you wishing to take your pursuits during this week’s study of Aesthetics toward the more modern. I thought this laundry list of complaints about modern art might offer an opportunity to recalibrate and state what we might deem as art’s redeeming purpose, or necessity.

Freud said the goals of the artist are fame, money, and beautiful lovers. Based on my artist acquaintances, I would say this holds true today. What have changed, however, are the goals of the art itself. Do any exist?

How did the art world become such a vapid hell-hole of investment-crazed pretentiousness? How did it become, as Camille Paglia has recently described it, a place where “too many artists have lost touch with the general audience and have retreated to an airless echo chamber”?

The Slate piece links to another article that posits a solution to the dire situation that will no doubt entice at least one of our face to face participants:

For the arts to revive in the U.S., young artists must be rescued from their sanitized middle-class backgrounds. We need a revalorization of the trades that would allow students to enter those fields without social prejudice (which often emanates from parents eager for the false cachet of an Ivy League sticker on the car). Among my students at art schools, for example, have been virtuoso woodworkers who were already earning income as craft furniture-makers. Artists should learn to see themselves as entrepreneurs.

 

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Resistentialism

Many thanks to GNA Garcia who shared this brilliant history of philosophical satire on twitter today:

My crowning moment in word serendipity is seared into my brain. I was thumbing through Paul Hellweg’s ”Insomniac’s Dictionary” when I stumbled upon the word resistentialism , which Hellweg defines as ”seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects.”

Reading that definition, I had what can only be described as a revelation. I felt that an entire category of my experience had been uplifted from the Cimmerian realm of the Inexpressible into the clear, comforting light of the Known.

Here, at last, was a word for the rug that quietly curls up so it can snag your toe, the sock gone AWOL from the dryer, the slippery piece of toast that always hits the floor jelly side down. Here, at last, was the word that explained the countless insolent acts of things, especially the infuriating intractability of plastic wrap.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines resistentialism as a ”mock philosophy which maintains that inanimate objects are hostile to humans” and calls it a ”humorous blend” of the Latin res , thing(s), and French résister , to resist, with existentialism . The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Fifth Edition (2002), perhaps in resistential defiance of its title, expands that definition to ”a mock philosophy maintaining that inanimate objects are hostile to humans or seek to thwart human endeavours.”

 
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