Archive for September, 2016

But You’re Not!

September 13, 2016

I just thought I’d throw this up here for posterity so I don’t lose it. I read this in the Onion a few years back and it’s a peach! Thanks to Randy Auxier for sharing it with Happenstance on our trip to Illinois to play at Cousin Andy’s House Concert.


Uncompliant Philosophy Student Drives Professor To Swearing

37-year-old philosophy professor Hank Kirby was driven to swearing at one of his students in front of the rest of the class last Wednesday after the student persistently refused to recognize as meaningful the so-called ‘problem of other minds’. “He’s just an idiot!” said usually good-natured Hank, when interviewed later about the incident.

The class began amicably enough with Kirby introducing the topic in what he thought would be “an interesting and engaging” manner. His opening question, “How do you know that I’m not a robot?” was met with some enthusiasm by several of the students present, one of whom then suggested that this was “completely possible.”

Things started to go awry however when 17-year-old Benjamin Dupre joined in the conversation.

Dupre’s first interjection was apparently “But you’re not a robot” to which Kirby apparently replied “Well yes, I’m not saying that I actually am a robot but the question is, how can you be completely sure I’m not a robot? What are you basing your assumption that I’m not a robot on?” Dupre was then heard to reply once again “But you’re not.”

A complete record of how the conversation progressed after that is not available but a portion of it can be reconstructed from notes taken by another student, Kathy Mullyman:

KIRBY: Okay, so let’s just imagine for the sake of argument that I was at robot, designed in some robot factory or other and –

DUPRE: But you’re not.

KIRBY: No, okay. Well we’ve already established that I’m not actually a robot. But suppose, as a kind of thought experiment, that I was a robot and that every time it looked to you as though I were feeling some emotion or –

DUPRE: But you’re not.

KIRBY: No, no I’m not. I’m not saying that I am. I’m just saying that we could imagine that I was a robot and that if I was a robot you might not be able to tell the difference –

DUPRE: But you’re not.

KIRBY: No . . . but this is philosophy. The idea here is that we try to hypothesize. We try to imagine what it would be like if something were the case. We try to imagine what it would be like I were a robot.

DUPRE: But you’re not.

KIRBY: Jesus! Look – I’m not saying I’m a robot okay. Why don‘t you get it? I’m just saying that, even though it would be incredibly unlikely, just suppose I were –

DUPRE: But you’re not. (End of transcript)

Although the remainder of the conversation is unavailable several students report that Kirby’s last words before leaving the classroom were “You f*cking asswipe!” When asked by the Dean why he hadn’t just humoured Kirby and gone along with the idea that he might be a robot, Dupre replied, “But he isn’t.”