Re: Ask the Mineshaft.

1

Question #1.

Question #2.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:14 PM
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I'm confused. Do you want us to suggest questions? Or are we supposed to tell you which question, from a list that I'm not seeing anywhere obvious, you should pick to grade? If it's the former, ask what they'd do if they see a classmate cheat and there's an honor code in place.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:21 PM
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All right, pop quiz. Airport, gunman with one hostage. He's using her for cover; he's almost to a plane. You're a hundred feet away... Jack?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:21 PM
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2: The former.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:26 PM
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||

I just got asked if I had a baby bump. Sigh. I am not pregnant.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:30 PM
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What would you do if you saw people ganging up on someone on Facebook?

***
What should UC Berkeley law school do about that fucker John Yoo? What would you do if you were required to take a class from him?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:32 PM
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What would you do if you saw people ganging up on someone on Facebook?

Oooh, I like this one.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:33 PM
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Use standard sets of conflicting values to generate the questions:

Telling the truth vs. avoiding harm

Loyalty to family or friends vs. greater good

Creating the greatest good vs. respecting individual rights.

For the first, I like cases of fatal disease diagnosis: do you tell someone that they have six months to live if you think they will spend their last months anxious about dying.

for the second: covering up a crime for a family member. Alternatively, the plot to Antigone.

For the last, I'm a huge fan of the William James/"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" thought experiment.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:33 PM
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5: One more reason university faculty should be allowed to carry firearms.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:33 PM
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What would you do if you saw people ganging up on someone on Facebook?

Won't work, because everyone will think the "correct" answer is to stand up to the bullies. You need a more robust conflict of values, otherwise the essays will be all the same and very boring to read.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:35 PM
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Thanks. I try to be hip to the issues the kids face these days with their "computers".


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:36 PM
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I'm sure there are tons of examples in Exit, Voice and Loyalty. You could even use a school board example.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:37 PM
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You could point out that the person they're ganging up on is actually unattractive, to make the dilemma harder.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:37 PM
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Duty vs. avoiding harm: Should a soldier obey an order she thinks amounts to a war crime?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:38 PM
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Forgiveness vs. self respect: your boyfriend, whom you really love, has hit again, and again apologized profusely when he calmed down. Do you leave him?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:41 PM
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How about the John Edwards affair, from the point of view of a relatively junior staffer who learns of the affair? Do you leak? Tell your boss? Keep quiet? Start giving hints about how your car keeps breaking down and having staffers who drive hybrids would send the right image?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:43 PM
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Duty vs. avoiding harm: Should a soldier obey an order she thinks amounts to a war crime?

Ah! But if it's true that following the order amounts to committing a war crime, there actually is no conflict: illegal orders are void.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:44 PM
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(Of course, you might be wrong in your assessment.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:46 PM
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"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"

I tend to find them too eggy.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:47 PM
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illegal orders are void.

Even if students are aware of this many will still have difficulty advocating breaking orders. This may actually be more of a loyalty thing than a duty thing. Your duty my be prescribed by the law, but the desire to obey is linked to the individual.

Did we have this conversation once? I'm getting déjà vu.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:49 PM
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Pleasure vs. courtesy: Do you yet the yummy chili, even though you know it will make you fart up a typhoon in the upcoming meeting?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:51 PM
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American Apparel: Guy who runs it is too skeezy vs. Buy American-No Sweatshop.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:51 PM
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Rob, you rock. These are excellent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:52 PM
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Your friend tells you she is marrying a guy you c0onsider an abusive sociopath. Your friend has even suggested, in the past, that she sees him as manipulative and controliing. Do you support her decision or tell her you think she's making a huge mistak?


Posted by: di kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:55 PM
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But if it's true that following the order amounts to committing a war crime, there actually is no conflict: illegal orders are void.

Let's suppose, hypothetically, that the commanding officer has a written opinion from the President's top legal counsel advising that crushing the child's testicles is perfectly legal -- and in fact exactly what the founding fathers intended for you to do.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:55 PM
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On the illegal orders vs war crimes, a framing that often works is: would you torture to get information to avoid the death of many?


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:56 PM
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Did we have this conversation once? I'm getting déjà vu.

I don't remember a previous conversation on this, but that's not that reliable and I might not have been party to it anyway.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 1:58 PM
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Your friend tells you she is marrying a guy you consider an abusive sociopath. Your friend has even suggested, in the past, that she sees him as manipulative and controliing. Do you support her decision or tell her you think she's making a huge mistake?

Also, the friend has a potentially lethal form of cancer that can be cured with 90% certainty if it is treated right away. But she doesn't have health insurance, and she would be covered by the sociopath's generous employer-sponsored plan.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:01 PM
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28: Good, but see if you can't work-in a violinist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:02 PM
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29: ...and the cancer treatment is derived from stem cells taken from aborted foetuses.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:03 PM
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An already born violinist, or a violinist who might be the next Beethoven, if only their mother chooses to have them?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:03 PM
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So you're riding on a trolley when the Joker calls and tells you that there are explosives on a boat that is being driven by a brain in a vat. Meanwhile, a toddler is stumbling toward your trolley tracks, but can be distracted if you blow a whistle that will get the toddler's attention but which sounds at a frequency that will cause a nearby bird, of an endangered species, to plummet to its death. However! If that bird dies, then your fellow prisoner will...

Wait, sorry, I lost my place.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:04 PM
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29: The sociopath is employed as a very famous violinist.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:05 PM
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26: That changes the values at stake. The torture to avoid the death of many is an issue of greatest good vs. individual rights, like the Omelas case. Here I wanted loyalty and duty vs. avoiding harm to others. It shouldn't matter whether your commanding officer has a good reason to give the order.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:05 PM
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Just buy this game and crib a few questions from it.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:06 PM
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You wake up to find yourself hooked up to a famous philosopher known for her bizarre hypothetical scenarios and serious crush on Henry Fonda...


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:07 PM
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The sociopath is employed as a very famous violinist.

Famous as in "rich and famous"? And is this a community property state?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:08 PM
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The system is flawed in a pernicious way. Do you attempt to change the system from within, even though in virtue of being "within" you will have to do some things that you find distasteful or even immoral, or do you leave, abandoning the role you might otherwise have occupied to someone who will exult in precisely those things you would have wanted to change?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:08 PM
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34: Geez, rob, it's almost as if you think you're an authority who can lecture us on ethics.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:08 PM
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Good, but see if you can't work-in a violinist.

Moby, this is the third such hyphenation I've noticed from you today, and feel compelled to lodge a formal notice of disapproval.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:10 PM
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40: Sorry. I'll work-on it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:11 PM
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There's the question of taking the good you can get or holding out for the perfect. And then whether you slag your fellow environmental groups for selling out and impurity of thought.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:11 PM
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"What's better, Facebook or TV? And why?"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:11 PM
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"Work in on it" please, Moby.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:12 PM
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44: I think you mean "Worm in on it".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:12 PM
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But there's more! The famous violinist plays the most beautiful music—his rendition of Bach's A Minor violin concerto moves her and many others people to tears—but the flipside is that violinist was a darling of the Nazi regime. Is his art forever tainted by his associations?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:13 PM
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I was going to suggest that you find some professional philosophers who specialize in ethics, and ask for the silliest Trolley Car problem they can come up with.

But 32 kind of beat me to it. Pwned.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:13 PM
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45: I'm trying to hone in on better writing.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:13 PM
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35: Oh man, that game brings back memories. Freshman year of college, winter break, playing with a big group of HS pals. Girl gets question asking if she were separated from an exclusive partner for an extended time (geographically), would she fool around with someone else. She says "no". HS sweetheart smiles. Rest of room, 2/3 of whom are at girl's college, promptly throw the pitchfork card. Big group joke? Or revelation?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:17 PM
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Is his art forever tainted by his associations?

Alternatively, is Stan Murmur's taint forever associated with his art?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:18 PM
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Disobeying illegal orders? Changing the system from within? Slagging fellow environmentalists for selling out?

We seem to be forgetting that these are Texas schoolchildren we're talking about here.

How about, "Your friend and his girlfriend are about to be married. She has represented to him that she is a virgin, but you know she is not. He has told her that he has never loved anyone like her before, and he's so glad she has saved herself for marriage, because he could never marry someone who has been defiled. Do you tell him?"

Or "Your friend asks you to buy a handgun for him because he has a restraining order against him and he won't pass the background check. You believe that background checks, though the law of the land, are an egregious violation of the Second Amendment. Do you buy it for him?"


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:19 PM
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There was a similar thread before, but I am unable to locate it in the archives.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:20 PM
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"Your state is about to require that textbooks become politically slanted towards an ideology which plays fast and loose with facts, morality, and corruption. Do you interpret every conversation as a threat to your Jesus?"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:23 PM
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We seem to be forgetting that these are Texas schoolchildren we're talking about here.

A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are the University of Oklahoma offensive line who have been tied to the track by the mad philosopher. Fortunately, you can flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is the UofT back-up quarterback tied to that track. Should you flip the switch?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:31 PM
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Okay. bing and google both failed, but Yahoo! allowed me to find this thread which, upon re-reading, is less helpful than I remembered.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:36 PM
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54: Find a second trolley.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:41 PM
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51: "Jesus asks you to kill an unborn baby. What do you do. He says if you don't, he'll make global warming real. Now what?"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:50 PM
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Wow. The thread linked in 55 contained the following exchange.

Anderson: Even today's dizzying array of porn contains nothing for that fetish.
I dunno ... babysitters are caretakers, right?

Apostropher: Ogged, you wanna post the link?

Ogged: Dude, we'll never live it down.

Nine months later, Ogged posted it. One of my favorite Unfogged moments (but don't relive it at work).


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 2:52 PM
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Regarding the OP, I take it that rob's suggestions provide a good enough direction, but I'm curious what the point of having high school seniors answer one of these questions (and be graded) is.

What's this for? What are you supposed to be testing/grading for? What exam are high school seniors taking that these questions (written and graded by a university prof.) are part of the test? Just curious.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 5:38 PM
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They look to be college admissions essay questions. It would explain Heebie's involvement. Or maybe she's looking for conversation starters on the bus.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 5:52 PM
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Except that the OP forecloses those two options. I dunno.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 5:58 PM
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Oh. I just don't remember answering essay questions for college admissions. There were the SATs, and AP exams, and the essay for the college application, but that's all I recall. Maybe it's different for in-state applicants to state schools? Like the college application asks you to answer specific questions? (Which are timed? That can't be right.)

It sounds like the seniors are being asked to take some kind of general aptitude test, the nature of which is unfamiliar to me.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 6:00 PM
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62 to 59. There are a lot of testing changes in primary education that weren't around in my day. Must be one of those.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 6:01 PM
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I mean to 60. (FAIL!)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 6:02 PM
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What's this for? What are you supposed to be testing/grading for?

One component of a merit scholarship.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 6:05 PM
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Ah. Thanks.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 6:23 PM
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I have another question:

How do US Olympic-level athletes who engage in downhill skiing (or, god forbid, moguls) ever get health insurance in this country? Like ever?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 6:27 PM
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"Imagine yourself immersed in a vat of organic, free-trade pickles. How would you position yourself and why?"


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 6:48 PM
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I am going to ignore 4 and respond to
I have to grade whatever I pick. What should I pick?

Pick one of the four questions the student didn't answer. Should be easy grading work.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:24 PM
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This doesn't entirely meet Heebie's criteria, but a classic Freshman Comp question at my old institution went something like this:

NYC is dangerously overpopulated, and you have to devise a fair and logical plan to reduce the city's population by 1/3. Explain your selection criteria and defend your choice. Pro-tip: a lottery is random and therefore doesn't count as a logical selection.

A fun followup classroom exercise is to make students do an oral presentation and defense of another student's proposal.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:44 PM
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"The torture to avoid the death of many is an issue of greatest good vs. individual rights, like the Omelas case. "

Huh. No-one else sees this as honor vs dishonor? Not since the Spanish Civil War?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:45 PM
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Ok, what does count as "a logical selection"? It isn't obvious why the randomness of a lottery makes it illogical.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:49 PM
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a lottery is random and therefore doesn't count as a logical selection.

This isn't, um, what's the word, logical.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:50 PM
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Dammit, neb.

Surely if NYC is dangerously overpopulated, this would be an incentive for people to move out of NYC on their own?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:51 PM
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Live New York City?!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:53 PM
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I mean leave?!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:53 PM
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70: Easy.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:57 PM
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73: If all human life is of equal value, then logically a lottery is the only legitimate method of selection. Any other method would generate a contradiction with valuing all human life equally.

I call bullshit on JM's institution for conflating "logically" with some more loaded notion of practicality.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 8:59 PM
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Wait, we're talking about human life? Not just human desire to live in New York? I didn't think we were killing the people, just making them leave.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:02 PM
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But is life outside of New York really worth living? I ask you.

(Answer: Yes.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:04 PM
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But is life outside of New York really worth living? I ask you.

It would be a lot easier to tolerate all the snow this winter if I lived there. But I can't say I find life outside New York to be completely bereft of value.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:09 PM
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A lottery doesn't make a logical selection and it gives up entirely on any notion of designed fairness. The goal of the assignment (which I didn't write) was to get students to come up with some sort of system of classification. "What fools we mortals be" is not a rational system of classification.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:18 PM
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No killing required! Actually one of the better solutions a student came up with was relocating all of the self-contained communities, starting with the universities.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:19 PM
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A lottery doesn't make a logical selection and it gives up entirely on any notion of designed fairness.

I don't understand how either of these obtain. Is the idea to develop a system that entirely eliminates chance? Because that seems wildly counterproductive to the actual goal.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:20 PM
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No killing required!

But it isn't explicitly forbidden either, right?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:20 PM
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I'm with Sifu. I have no understanding of what notions of "logic" and "fairness" are at work here.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:25 PM
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relocating all of the self-contained communities, starting with the universities.

What New York needs is more universities, not fewer! Start by getting rid of Wall Street, instead.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:26 PM
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Sifu and essear clearly just haven't taken enough eugenics classes to understand the issues involved here.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:27 PM
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Huh. It made sense back then. I think the idea was that a random lottery seems makes the system unequally unfair.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:27 PM
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89: How about, "A random lottery would make for a boring essay" or something like that?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:28 PM
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When I think logic, I think "avoid contradiction" and "first order predicate calculus" and when I think fairness, I think "Rawls." The combination of these does not rule out a lottery.

I fully admit that my associations are weird, and mean I am out of touch with humanity.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:29 PM
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First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers bankers! Then, ship a bunch of hipsters off to a sustainable farm to help grow food for the overpopulated city.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:30 PM
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87.--Sure, no reason not to move the financial services sector. We'd maybe try to keep them in-state for the taxes, though.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:31 PM
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88: I've only taken one, so I guess so?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:31 PM
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unequally unfair.

This is not contradictory, but it still makes my head hurt.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:31 PM
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Okay, so eliminating a lottery: everybody who has a car is allowed to convince anybody that'll fit to pile in, and they drive away. Done!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:31 PM
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Sorry, rob, I did mean "equally unfair," and meant to suggest that "equally unfair" did not amount to "fair".

Sifu, why would the people want to leave in random dude's car?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:34 PM
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Well presumably the car owners would try to covince, like, their friends and family members to come along. If nobody wanted to go with them then they would have to go by themselves.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:36 PM
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97.2: Corinthian Leather seats?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:36 PM
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It's true, people with really sweet cars would have a leg up. And the idiots who bought 7 passenger SUVs yet live in Manhattan would be able to start minor cults. Still, I think it'd work.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:38 PM
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Why would the people with cars want to leave? Surely they have an incentive to wait for other people to leave so that the city traffic will get more manageable?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:41 PM
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Free outbound tolls.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:42 PM
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Or are you saying that those people who own cars must leave? Because that might answer the problem.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:43 PM
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Right. Everybody with a car, use it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:51 PM
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But it took forever to find this parking space.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:56 PM
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According to the rules of that particular essay class, you'd have to come up with a bit of back-justification for choosing car-owners, but you're basically done. Congratulations!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 9:58 PM
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Did they have to give a justification for why the group of people removed from the city total about 1/3 of the population?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 10:02 PM
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They were allowed to do a certain amount of hand-waving about the numbers. These were short essays, no research required.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 10:07 PM
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I think heebie should model her question on the gun control discussion happening at Crooked Timber right now, and grade the responses based on their merit relative to the average comment in that thread.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 10:25 PM
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Since my comment on that thread, I have discovered that at least one company manufactures utility-belt sized fire extinguishers---sold in their own holsters!


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 10:31 PM
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109: You should go over there and try to shift to conversation to Zardoz. The key quote from the movie is, "The gun is good. The penis is evil."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 10:31 PM
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111: I bet we can get a majority in favor of allowing concealed carrying of penises on campus, though.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 10:32 PM
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Wait, it's not allowed already? Shit.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 10:34 PM
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manufactures utility-belt sized fire extinguishers---sold in their own holsters!

They should offer them in a range of colors.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 10:34 PM
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113: Yeah, you're supposed to have it on display at all times. Doesn't your institution have those special holes in the desks?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 02-15-10 11:10 PM
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The ban on assault penises has lapsed. You're now free to own one that's collapsible and capable of firing more than 15 rounds.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 12:09 AM
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Heebie: Okay, sit down. You're in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it's crawling toward you.

Student: What's a tortoise?

Heebie: You know what a turtle is? Same thing. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't, not without your help. But you're not helping. Why is that?

Student: Do you make up these questions yourself, Professor, or do they write them down for you?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 2:30 AM
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One of last year's questions was "You're in a lifeboat and someone needs to go overboard. How do you decide?" It may have described the people as well, so that you had to decide to kill a super-productive doctor who cures everybody, or a painfully adorable small child, or Maryanne.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 5:59 AM
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How do you decide?

Easy. You transfer the mise en scene to a hot air ballon and get some students to make heartfelt speeches in the character of the people in it while the others get to vote.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 6:13 AM
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"Listen up, y'all. We got a major offensive going on 'gainst the rag-heads in this area. You knuckleheads man this checkpoint and stop anybody who isn't US military getting through. Got that! Nobody who isn't US military gets past this checkpoint!" With that your commanding officer drives off, leaving you and two other soldiers at the checkpoint. You have your standard gear, a single Jeep, and a radio.

Hours pass...

A car approaches, driving quickly. You move into to the road to flag it down will Dipsy aims his M16 on the car. The car pulls to a stop. The driver is an Iraqi man. He shouts at you something you don't understand, and gestures to the back seat. On the back seat is young child, maybe 8 or 9 years old, with what looks like a gunshot wound in his stomach. You know the boy in a few hours if this wound isn't treated. You know there is a field hospital about 10 miles up the road. You know these people aren't US military. What do you do?


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 6:34 AM
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121

118: Sophist's Choice


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 7:09 AM
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"Your dad/mom made a lot of money before the crash and you have a trust fund that ensures a comfortable life for the next 70 years. You face a choice in your college career. You can work hard on your math assignments all semester long, visit your prof during office hours with detailed questions, and focus on weak spots in your math comprehension before the final. Or you can spend the semester staring blankly into space during class, planning, if you get a low grade, to beg the prof for mercy and/or claim that that she/he was "unfair" or "too tough." What do you do?"


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 7:39 AM
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Your dad/mom made a lot of money before the crash and you have a trust fund that ensures a comfortable life for the next 70 years.

Yeah, but what if you invested with Madoff and it disappeared? You'll end up on NPR recounting the horrors of laying off your maid and selling the cottage in Florida.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 7:54 AM
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116: Mine has bayonet lugs and a flash suppressor. Laydeez.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 7:58 AM
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123: Rich lady afraid of being homeless --> News

Actually homeless lady --> not news.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 8:02 AM
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My homeless lady has bayonet lugs and a flash suppressor.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 8:05 AM
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I dislike the artificial trolley car type questions with an intensity that's almost Emersonian. Much better questions involve partial knowledge, unreliable information, and limited ability to predict the consequences of ones choice.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 8:07 AM
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Rich lady afraid of being homeless --> News

Come on, she was faced with the prospect of selling all of her properties and having to move into her son's guest house in Santa Monica. She even bartered her expensive portrait services for expensive dye jobs on her hair! That's the kind of adversity that forges a deeper understanding of the homeless.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 8:14 AM
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123: That woman is loathsome. She started writing a column for, I think, the Daily Beast last year that included her adventures in "riding the subway" and ruminations on "thank goodness I always bought very good jewelry." I think she got all her money from writing "How to Make Love to a Man" back in like 1980.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 8:15 AM
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What does a man really want? Alexandra Penney prescribes banana bread and boldness.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 8:24 AM
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122 was very good.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 8:29 AM
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I think she got all her money from writing "How to Make Love to a Man" back in like 1980.

According to Wikipedia:

"The book took two years for Penney to research, which included interviewing more than 200 men and reading numerous books ..."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 8:53 AM
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132: Someone should do a review of that book. For the Mineshaft.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 9:01 AM
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To find out if other men felt similarly shortchanged, the author interviewed 200 of them, beginning with the muscle builders who work out at her Greenwich Village gym.

If there's anyone who's experienced in making love to a man, it's muscle builders at a 1978 Greenwich Village gym.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 9:09 AM
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To get the right ambience, Penney prescribes lighted candles, flowers and appropriate music (Ravel's "Bolero", Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose", Puccini's "Tosca").

Tosca??? Good grief.

134 FTW


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 10:19 AM
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111: To be fair, Zardoz also has the scene where Connery tells Charlotte Rampling, after she's gotten him out of his bizarre scarlet bondage gear, "You have given me what no other has: love. If I live, we will live together," which was pretty good romantic movie dialogue for the '70s.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 3:06 PM
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136: he also tells her to stay within his aura.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 3:08 PM
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137: Why must you ruin everything beautiful remotely non-godawful?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 3:16 PM
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Re-reading the thread linked in 58, I am curious what ever happened with the Dead Female President and her emo-guy.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 02-16-10 4:16 PM
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Fafblog does Trolley problems. The awesome thing I didn't realize when I first read that entry is that the fat man stuck in a mineshaft is an actual problem from the world of philosophical trolley cars.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 02-17-10 10:26 AM
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Update: I picked my 5 questions. I want to share them, but I'm not sure how much care I need to take in disguising my questions so that they'd be unsearchablefor. Advice?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 7:51 AM
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You could run them through ROT13.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:00 AM
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1. Tvir na rknzcyr bs na vffhr va fbpvrgl jvgu gur sbyybjvat punenpgrevfgvpf: gur orfg fbyhgvba erdhverf crbcyr gb tvir hc na vzzrqvngr orarsvg va snibe bs ybat grez pbbcrengvba. Qrfpevor gur vzzrqvngr orarsvg gung zhfg or sbesrvgrq naq jung gur ybat grez fbyhgvba jbhyq ybbx yvxr. Ubj qb lbh pbaivapr crbcyr gb tvir hc guvf pheerag orarsvg?

2. Erpragyl, gur sbyybjvat rssrpg jnf bofreirq va n POF Arjf/Arj Lbex Gvzrf Cbyy. Pbapreavat gur ercrny bs "Qba'g Nfx, Qba'g Gryy", vaqvivqhnyf jrer nfxrq gjb irefvbaf bs gur sbyybjvat dhrfgvba: "Qb lbh snibe be bccbfr _______ freivat va zvyvgnel?"

Va gur svefg irefvba, gur dhrfgvba jnf cuenfrq "Qb lbh snibe be bccbfr tnl zra naq yrfovnaf freivat va zvyvgnel?" Bs gur erfcbaqragf, 71% fnvq "fgebatyl snibe" be "fbzrjung snibe" naq 19% fnvq "fbzrjung bccbfr" be "fgebatyl bccbfr".

Va gur frpbaq irefvba, gur dhrfgvba jnf cuenfrq "Qb lbh snibe be bccbfr ubzbfrkhnyf freivat va zvyvgnel?" Va guvf irefvba, 59% erfcbaqrq "fgebatyl snibe" be "fbzrjung snibe" naq 29% fnvq "fbzrjung bccbfr" be "fgebatyl bccbfr".

Nffhzvat guvf jnf n jryy-pbaqhpgrq cbyy, jul qb lbh oryvrir guvf jbeq pubvpr yrq gb fhpu n qvssrerapr va bcvavba?

uggc://jjj.pofarjf.pbz/oybtf/2010/02/11/cbyvgvpf/cbyvgvpnyubgfurrg/ragel6198284.fugzy

3. Va lbhe bcvavba, vf zngurzngvpf vairagrq be qvfpbirerq? Whfgvsl lbhe nafjre.


4. Gur cbyvpr oryvrir gung Fghqrag K unf frg va zbgvba n cybg juvpu znl erfhyg va unez gb bgure fghqragf. Gurl cvpx hc n frpbaq fghqrag, Fghqrag L, jub vf xabja gb nffbpvngr jvgu Fghqrag K. Gb jung rkgrag vf vg rguvpny gb dhrfgvba guvf Fghqrag L, va beqre gb qrgrezvar gur sthvyg be cynaf bs Fghqrag K? Ner gurer vagreebtngvba grpuavdhrf gung ner bayl whfgvsvnoyr haqre pregnva pvephzfgnaprf? Ner gurer vagreebtngvba grpuavdhrf juvpu ner arire whfgvsvnoyr?

5. Lbh unir orra nfxrq gb qrfvta n Yvsr Fxvyyf pynff sbe 8gu tenqr fghqragf, gb cercner gurz sbe gur arkg sbhe lrnef. Jung gbcvpf jbhyq lbh vapyhqr, naq ubj jbhyq lbh nccebnpu gurz?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:08 AM
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Done and done!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:09 AM
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Including the url is a good clue for us Cryptoquote fans.


Posted by: Axydlbaaxr | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:13 AM
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Just commenting to get this thread back on the sidebar. Hey everybody, read my five questions!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:45 AM
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Question 3 is awesome. I dunno if high school kids will get it, but it is certainly something on which those qualified can write seemingly without end.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:49 AM
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Zngu is totes vairagrq. Proof, verification, and refutation are social processes, innit? See also "Zngurzngvpf is what zngurzngvpvnaf do."


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:54 AM
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So if there was zngurzngvpf on other planets, it wouldn't have any similarities with ours?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:56 AM
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You made the baby Plato cry SPBP.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 8:58 AM
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Was the Internet invented or discovered?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:09 AM
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So if there was zngurzngvpf on other planets, it wouldn't have any similarities with ours?

I didn't say it wouldn't. There may be some transcendent reality out there that zngurzngvpf is particularly well-suited to describing, or of which zngurzngvpf is an expression, but zngurzngvpf is not the transcendent reality.

Warning: I don't know what I'm talking about.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:16 AM
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Disclosure: I used to be a zngurzngvpny platonist. Eventually it felt too much like God getting all the credit for the good stuff, his people for the bad. To put it crudely.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:18 AM
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Further disclosure: I have just used a colon three times.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:19 AM
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I personally think the question is a false dichotomy. Zngurzngvpf is a game. The rules are agreed upon. Some rules are based on observations, some are pulled out of asses. Once you have a set of rules, some outcomes are highly likely, some are less likely.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:22 AM
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I think those questions are awesome, heebie! Each one is interesting, and there's a good variety.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:25 AM
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155 is good. Makes me wonder if a similar principle applies to language.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:28 AM
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Tricky Heebie! Doesn't Chaitlin say lots of maths is true by chance?


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:28 AM
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Thanks, peep!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:30 AM
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Rather! You can use chitlins to predict the .


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:30 AM
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^ future


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 9:31 AM
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The torture question got omitted. They only needed 4.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 11:33 AM
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Aww, I thought that was an excellent question. Is the committee also tired of political discussions?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 11:44 AM
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Yeah, I was a bit disappointed, too. I was curious to see what they'd say.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 2:32 PM
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Quine's Two dogmas of empiricism is a way to split the difference; possibly one could read it as a way of systematizing which rulesets are allowable for zngu.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 2:48 PM
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I hate reading Quine.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-19-10 2:50 PM
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