Thursday, June 11, 2009

Alternatives to the Burning Armchair

(by guest blogger Tamler Sommers)

There has been some discussion lately about whether the burning armchair is too combative and aggressive to serve as an appropriate symbol for the experimental philosophy movement. My first thought when I came across the controversy was that people need to lighten up a little. But then I realized that a slow burning is possibly the worst way to go and I began to see the critics’ point. So, inspired by Obama’s Cairo speech, I’d like to offer some alternative symbols for the X-Phi movement in hopes of reconciling the two feuding factions.

1. A beautiful day in Compton, CA, sounds of children playing in the background. An armchair sits on a corner enjoying the sunshine. Out of nowhere, the sound of screeching tires fills the air. A Chevy Suburban tears down the block. As it passes, we see Josh Knobe hanging out the window of the Suburban with an AK 47 yelling “caught you slippin’, caught you slippin’!” and filling the armchair up with holes.

2. An armchair sits in a deep black pit with only a bucket beside it. Thomas Nadelhoffer appears at the top of the pit with a small bisson frise. He calls down to the armchair:
“It rubs the Scotchguard on its upholstery…it does this whenever it’s told.”
Silence.
“It rubs the Scotchguard on its upholstery or else it gets the hose again.”
Silence.
“Now it places the Scotchguard in the basket….”

3. An armchair is taken prisoner by an unknown captor and placed in a small hotel room for fifteen years with no contact to the outside world other than a television and a small serving of dumplings that are pushed under the door every evening. The armchair has no idea why it is there.

4. A fleet of AH-64A Apache helicopters approach the shore of a small village of armchairs. In the cockpit, Shaun Nichols hits a button and Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries” blare from the helicopter speakers. Bullets from automatic weapons rain down on the helpless armchairs. “Run Lazy-boy! Run!” shouts Eddy Nahmias from one of the Apache open doors.

Other suggestions welcome.

27 comments:

Edouard Machery said...

What about waterboarding the armchair? It's not torture we're told.

Kevin Timpe said...

Tamler, I hope your Photoshop skills are as good as your imagination. I expect pictures (and perhaps even new t-shirts!) with the new logos. Maybe we should have Leiter run a poll to see which of these new symbols is best.

Justin W said...

Perhaps something more conciliatory would do the trick. If there were only a way to investigate the real world without leaving one's armchair... Oh wait, here we go: Armchair Cruisers.

Brad C said...

Here is an idea for a more self-deprecating logo:

A cartoon of one Ancient Greek guy talking to a bunch of others. The single guy has a clip-board in hand. On the clip-board we see:

Check one to share your intuition:
( ) What Euthyphro is doing is pious
( ) What Euthyphro is doing is impious

Caption of cartoon: "The guy who didn't have to drink hemlock"

Josh Weisberg said...

(What a great way to procrastinate!)

A cocky, overconfident armchair meets Josh Knobe and Shaun Nichols (with several of their grad students) in a cornfield, ostensibly to discuss the promotion of the armchair’s brother (an Aero office chair). Josh, Shaun, and their students beat the chairs with aluminum baseball bats and dump their mangled forms into a shallow grave while they are still alive. (Voice over by Tim Williamson.)

Josh Knobe, with dyed blond hair and wearing long johns and a fuzzy hat, stuffs the armchair into a wood chipper, spraying remnants across the snow-covered Minnesota landscape.

Mid-70’s high school, Josh Knobe invites the armchair to the prom as a joke, where (during the coronation of prom king and queen) Shaun Nichols and the other x-phiers dump pig’s blood onto its upholstery. However, things go horribly wrong when the armchair uses its satanic powers to burn down the gym and everyone in it.

6p010534a34107970b said...

Hilarious! I especially love the one with Nadelhoffer. I vote for that or Knobe flying down the freeway on an Armchair Cruiser.

Old Town said...

The funniest thing I've read in a LONG time.

Kevin said...

Somehow I can't resist the imagery of Josh Knobe doing a drive-by shooting of an armchair. Fantastic.

Thomas said...

Tamler,

As always, thanks for the comedic relief. I am presently in middle America at a Motel 6 on a cross country move with my dad and three dogs in tow. Needless to say, my wagon is cramped (the bike rack and luggage racks are similarly packed)! And while I probably picked up a skin fungus rolling around on the floor of this seedy hotel laughing at your post, it was well worth the belly laugh.

Tamler said...

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone (and the kind words). I've got one more to offer:

A group of armchairs are on a trip canoeing in the Cahulawassee river in remote Northern Georgia. Two of the armchairs get lost briefly in the woods. Then, from out of the dense foliage, emerge two...

Actually, you know what, never mind.

Eddy Nahmias said...

Jonathan Weinberg places a sponge and electrode cap over the headrest of an armchair strapped onto an electric chair. He left the sponge dry. When he flips the switch, the armchair catches on fire.
Some say the armchair was innocent.

Stephen Stich drives a tank down a wide boulevard, followed by a line of tanks commanded by Machery, Mallon, Nichols, etc. Their path is blocked by a brave, lone armchair, who moves left and right as the tank tries to drive around it.
They do not run him over, but the armchair is never heard from again.

Michael Metzler said...

Argument can be war, but for philosophers it should remain a game of chess (Ritchie). Much safer for everyone. Personally, I muse and pontificate in the comfort of my armchair after reading the expirmental results of others.

Mike P said...

I have a suggestion that can get all four into one single symbol:

Shaun Nichols and Josh Knobe, both dressed as police officers, enter the warehouse hideout of a gang of armchairs. Pretending to place the chairs under arrest, the pair line the armchairs up against the wall while Thomas Nadelhoffer and Eddy Nahmias slip in armed with Tommy guns. Without so much as a word between them, the four riddle the chairs with bullets.

Badda Being said...

So much violence! How about showing some armchair love?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aodpb3vFU0

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

I have this vision of John Doris challenging an armchair to some one-on-one basketball.

Pete Mandik said...

After a late night at the bar with an armchair, the armchair tells Knobe "I want you to hit me as hard as you can". Knobe and the armchair later form Chair Club and even later, Project Armchair. Knobe later realizes that he is the armchair.

Tamler said...

Careful Pete. Remember, the first rule of Armchair Club is...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they should first poll the folk's intuitions to find out if it's permissible to burn the armchairs?

Badda Being said...

Perhaps the burning armchair should be replaced with a polling booth.

Anonymous said...

:-)

I didn't mean to fart in anyone's elevator with my comment, btw. I'm sympathetic to experimental philosophy myself. I just got caught up in the humor.

university administration said...

The on-going budget crisis has forced us to cancel all non-essential programs, including all armchair degradation initiatives, for FY 09-10. Sorry guys.

Badda Being said...

Anonymous, I'll bet my left testicle that not only do you like to fart in elevators, you also like to blame the person standing next to you.

Me, I like to take credit where credit's due. (Maybe that's why I don't have a lot of friends.)

Gil said...

It's "La-Z Boy"

James W. Patterson, Ph.D., Esogist said...

Tried eschwitz at domain- ucr.edu and it doesn't work with Yahoo.

If you have one that works with Yahoo, respond as I would like to run my blog by you.
http://consciousness-defined.blogspot.com

Peace

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Replace the "at domain-" with an "@" -- I'm trying to avoid spambots.

Some Splintered Mind readers might find your blog to be of interest. I'm pretty conservative about recommending blogs on my front page, as you may have noticed, except ones that are well embedded in the mainstream academic literature in philosophy of psychology -- yours is a little "far out"!

Sumana Gouba said...

Seriously, I think it is time to give up on the burning armchair iconography and promote experimental philosophy as an addition to rather than a subtraction from more traditional philosophy.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

My feeling is that most X-Phi-ers are of two minds on that matter and politer to traditional philosophy in their published work than when chatting amongst themselves!