[lit-ideas] Geary's Philosophical Humour

  • From: jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 11 Oct 2013 00:34:42 -0400 (EDT)

Commentary on Geary's jokes below.


"Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, "I'd like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream." The waitress replies, "I'm sorry, Monsieur, but
we're out of cream. How     about with no milk?""

We are assuming the conversation took place in French. In French, 'sans' does not quite translate as 'without'. Cfr. "There is a green hill far away WITHOUT a city wall". It may be argued that Sartre's question is Griceianly inappropriate: "I'd like a cup of black coffee" seems to do, or even "I'd like some coffee, please" -- since it usually does come in cups. The addition 'without cream' seems otiose, and we are implicating that that is what the waitress (or waiter, since I assume the gender of the interlocutor is irrelevant) is implicating. Or not.


"Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?"

While 'solipsistic' is meant to replace 'hot' here, note that most solipsists agree that they CAN hold conversations with their-selves, in which case, the question is appropriate. On the other hand, wondering to oneself whether it is hot in here seems otiose.


"Entropy isn't what it used to be."

Good. L. J. Kramer should enjoy this.


"A biologist, a chemist, and a statistician are out hunting. The biologist shoots at a deer and misses 5 ft. to the left, the chemist takes a shot and misses 5 ft. to the right, the statistician yells "We got
'em!"" -- good

"There are two types of people in the world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data sets".


"There are two types of people in the world: Those who crave closure"

Note that the implicature of the two above is that the utterer implicates that he belongs to the FIRST TYPE of people in the world. Nothing is said about other worlds.


"Did you hear about the man who got cooled to absolute zero?  He's 0K
now."   good


"The programmer's wife tells him: "Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen." The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread."

This is more a problem of anaphora, as Griceians would have it. It relates to the logical form of the one about the baby ('a boy or a girl?'). In this case, the logical form is:

(!1l) & ((Ex)e --> !12

Variants with more complications include:

"Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread -- and if they have eggs, pick up a dozen" (implicating: "since I may go to the store later on and get the eggs in which case we may need a dozen loafs of bread").

The implicature seems to be disimplicated by the fact that the wife uses 'pick up' for one loaf of bread but 'get' for the dozen (eggs) -- but surely the anaphoric fixation is not entailed and merely implicated. And the programmer cannot be said to have DISOBEYED -- only if he never ran.


"A logician's wife is having a baby.  The doctor immediately hands the
newborn to the dad.  His wife asks impatiently: "So, is it a boy or a
girl"?  The logician replies: "yes"."

The implicature being of course that the baby is EITHER a boy or a girl. Note that in logical terms, the formalization requires a choice between what the Latins call 'aut' versus 'vel'. For modern logicians, all 'or' reduces to 'vel' (hence the symbol 'v' is used):

p v q

since there are such things as hermaphrodites, the logical form should be expanded to

p v q v r

Grice's case is similar. He is considering the answer,

"She is in the garden or in the kitchen"

to the question, "Where is your wife".

Grice uses the example to show that one should be as informative as 'is required by the purpose of the conversation'. It may be argued that if the father has seen WHETHER the baby is a boy (and not a girl), then the answer, "Yes, it is either a boy or a girl" seems less informative than is required for the purposes of the conversation as initiated by the mother. Or not. Perhaps she is a logician, too.


"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate."


"A Buddhist monk approaches a hotdog stand and says "Make me one with


"What do you call two crows on a branch?  Attempted murder."


"C, E flat, and G walk into a bar.  The bartender says, "Sorry, no

Of course the situation is solved if E is sharp enough -- to lie?


"The bartender says,"We don't serve time travellers in here."
A time traveller walks into a bar."

good. The implicature here relates to Grice's conversational maxim, "be orderly in the presentation of reported material --" to which a caveat should include, 'unless we're talking time travel'.

"Wife walks in on husband, a string theorist, in bed with another
woman.  He shouts, "I can explain everything!"

The implicature seems to relate to what Grice notes is hyperbole. His example, "All the nice girls love a sailor" (if not the same one). "Everything" is used, conversationally, in what logicians call 'a given universe or domain of discourse'. But logicians disregard the unquantificational use of 'everything' as used by adulterous string theorists.


"How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb?    A

The idea is that the implicature is generated or triggered by the maxim 'be relevant' which surrealists attach to the 'subconscious' level of conversation, unlike unsurrealistic Griceians.

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