CSotD: On the Nature of Reality

We start with a mere fragment of an Existential Comics episode, the rest of which is hilarious, in which a procession of philosophers question Aladdin’s “princeness” and, hence, the genie’s honesty and/or competence.

This cartoon pits my hatred of plot holes against my hatred of metaphysics, which makes for an interesting cage match.

The traditional first meeting of a freshman philosophy class involves the professor holding out his pen and asking the class, should he let go, will it fall to the table?

Then, when someone says “yes,” he asks “How do you know?” and he does not accept “We’re not idiots” as the answer, nor will he accept, “You want to put some money on it?”

I think it’s important to break youngsters out of assumptions and teach them to think independently and if we kind of left it there, I’d be okay, but the rest of philosophy is explaining precisely why we think maybe that pen is just gonna hover up there and who has suggested that and how they justified it.

Which reminds me of the apocryphal little student who wrote, “This book told me more than I wanted to know about penguins.”

However, I’m willing to admit that some exposure to metaphysics can be handy in those moments when you’re walking from the movie theater to the car and have a sudden, “Wait a minute …”

My most memorable having been, “Wait a minute, if they were all such dedicated counterculture rebels, why were they so invested in jock music?”

Of course, the answer wasn’t metaphysics but business: Lawrence Kasdan got a nice package deal on royalties from Berry Gordy rather than having to chase down two dozen no-longer-together underground bands.

Which doesn’t let the genie off the hook, but does fit nicely with our


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Tim Eagan)


(Pat Bagley)

I haven’t done my taxes yet, so I’m not sure what I’m going to find, but I expect to be with the two-thirds of Americans whose taxes are lower this year than they were last year.

For those of us who dig into our pockets to pay the number that appears on Line 15 of the 1040 — “Total tax. Add lines 13 and 14” — we’re quite aware of how much it may have changed.

But here’s where the perception/reality thing kicks in because, for most people, that’s just a number that then is diminished by “Federal income tax withheld from Forms W-2 and 1099,” and in most cases, winds up a positive number down at “If line 18 is more than line 15, subtract line 15 from line 18. This is the amount you overpaid.”

Which is where many people will get a bit of sticker shock, which is probably their own fault or the fault of their employer, because withholding became kind of a guessing game this time around.

Or, to put it another way, you asked to be turned into a prince but perhaps the accounting genie only made you look like a prince.

Still, amid all that perceptual uncertainty, there are some realities you can count on:

  1. The rich did just fine with the new law. Thanks for asking!
  2. “Trickle down” remains a colossal load of bullshit.
  3. If you let go of the pen, it will fall to the table.

And I’d bet against (3) before I risked money by doubting (1) or (2).


What is Reality?

Jen Sorensen suggests that we’ve left the real world for the Trumposphere and that none of this is real.

Her final remark in the margin reminds me of a friend who had a psychotic breakdown in which he drove across the country hallucinating pyramids and camels. Later, he said, “I know it didn’t happen, but it happened to me.”

Unfortunately, while he managed to make his peace with the episode, for the rest of us, this is going to be like one of those cheesy fantasy stories where, at the end, just as we’ve dismissed it all as a bad dream, we spot a pile of camel turds by the doorstep.


Tom Tomorrow plays out the fantasy in another way, though I have to say that I don’t blame random conservatives for harboring these delusions because the “Republican Committee to Preserve the Status Quo at All Costs” seems to have pretty good reach among cartoonists and I imagine it’s doing equally well with talk radio and on Fox News, which I ignore.

I don’t know how quickly we can get gas-powered cars off the road or reduce the number of fart-prone cattle, but I’m more concerned with getting rid of Citizens United and reducing the number of lobbyists, and I don’t think any of that is going to happen very soon.


Particularly not when, as Nick Anderson points out, we’ve got someone actually working in reality to dismantle our system of government, the only fantasy here being the idea that he’s working alone.

As for cartooning, it may seem absurd to listen to Trump fume about Saturday Night Live, because he has challenged the First Amendment throughout his reign, but, again, he has plenty of allies in Congress and elsewhere, and we probably should not laugh too much because one never knows anymore.


Yesterday, in response to Trump’s threats of censorship, Ann Telnaes tweeted the original Hustler spoof of a Campari ad starring Jerry Falwell that dragged satire into the Supreme Court, alongside the Trump equivalent she drew during last April’s conference on that legal challenge.

Here is the starting point for three days of coverage of that brilliant and valuable conference on how cartooning works within the First Amendment. It’s worth clicking through if you haven’t seen it before, perhaps worth revisiting if you have.

Our freedom to satirize our leaders was upheld by a unanimous court, but these are different times and a different court and let’s not assume anything.

Particularly since even a frivolous lawsuit can be financially ruinous, and we’ve seen recent examples of publishers who would rather save money — and avoid the anger of the mob — than defend principles.

And that, dear friends, is reality.


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