Show Comments
  • dita

    ‘m afraid that while i CAN concede his point, i still wish he would eat shit, considering how much alison’s made that motto her axis. i feel like he’s about to deconstruct her entire purpose, which, ok, someone’s going to say, well, if she’s not strong enough to handle that, that’s her fault and the motto didn’t have a solid enough foundation to begin with. i think alison’s strong enough that this won’t veer her off-course, but it’s definitely a safety cone that requires a sharp swerve. he’s doing it in such a cheerful, dismissive way that it’s hard for me to see past that.

    as someone who’s not yet twenty and is constantly fluctuating between two
    emotions in this comic (impressed by the level of maturity and drive some of these
    characters possess at their age [i could not handle things so well, jfc], and the nuanced grasp they have in situations far
    beyond me, and also disappointed by the amount of privilege and bias
    some of them display) lots of these situations just….yeesh. very familiar. though to be fair i would be one of the sheeple thinking to myself, “oh my god, stop hogging the class, Blonde Girl. just let him call us idiots like we all know we are and we can start the material.”

  • ∫Clémens×ds

    Oh my God Alison, get a clue.
    Your line was “I know.” and then two pages of explaining how you overcome this problem by never assuming it’s settled. You are embarrassing yourself.

    Look at the student in front of her, the judgement and exasperation in his eyes and posture. And it’s coming from an embarrassment to begin with: his watch is on is right wrist.

    • Loranna

      . . . There’s something embarrassing about being left-handed? O.O

      • ∫Clémens×ds

        Well on the list of blasphemies it’s right below being a ginger, right?

        (/joke) (left handed myself)

      • MrSing

        There are some who would call it sinister.

  • Rumble in the Tumble

    Remember kids, there’s literally nothing wrong with being a fascist~! ,’;^y

  • Emmy

    When I saw “A is A”, the classic spinning newspaper with headline leapt into my mind:

    Mega Girl’s secret identity revealed … JOHN GALT!

    On another note, this is a great exchange and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

  • Sam Bleckly

    I really like this professor. Intelligent, insightful he is doing such a good job of being entertaining while educating his students

  • Prodigal

    If he was truly not impressed by logic games, he wouldn’t hide behind playing so many of them.

  • zarawesome

    Gurwara looks like he used to teach philosophy in a wrestling ring.

  • MrSing

    Allison is forgetting that not all people are compatible. That some viewpoints of the world by definition can’t tolerate others.
    Sometimes the best you can hope for is that people merely tolerate each other.
    The ammount of violence and supression of ideas that would be needed for all people in the world to come together as one would be of a scale few people can bear to imagine.
    Only a ruthless tyrant who “knows best for everyone” and actually believes they are doing “the right thing” could harden their hearts enough to commit such atrocities.

  • We’ve established that Gurwara is going to twist anything Allison says into an attack on her. She should be thinking about why. What’s his agenda? Was it to single out and cut down the class as dummies because he gets off on it, or is he stupid enough to think that this is effective pedagogy? Was he going to personally attack anyone who spoke up, or was he looking for Ali?

    • Christophe2314

      His agenda is that of a philosophy teacher: to force her to defend what she says. So far, she keeps backpedaling and scrambling to find a statement that will please the teacher, rather than standing up for what she believes in. She fails to realize that the teacher is playing devil’s advocate: whatever Allison says, he’s going to find a way to attack it, because her ability to defend her beliefs matters as much as the beliefs themselves.

    • Dartangn

      His agenda is to act as a teacher of philosophy. Which means critical examination. That’s important for a teacher in general, let alone one who’s primary field of study is ideas. People don’t self examine nearly enough. Philosophy demands it. He’s doing his job. Little more, little less. As thousands of philosophers have done before him back to Aristotle.

      • Is it? Prove it. He’s shown up, insulted the class, took a snort from a hip flask, and insulted anyone who stood up against him. You *think* he’s a philosophy professor. But since he’s being particularly vicious to a young woman, he must have noble intent, right?

        • hwfross

          We’ll get back to you once a we see where this conversation/confrontation is going. Narratively I doubt he’d being a dick just for its own sake. Though he may be needling Allison out of curiosity.

        • CanuckAmuck

          You have an odd definition of “particularly vicious”.

        • MrSing

          Hey now.
          It’s really dishonest to say the only reason people are praising the professor is because he’s “being particulary vicious to a young woman”. Besides that this young woman is basically a physical god, and that he isn’t being vicious from my point of view, you’re putting some real nasty words into other people’s mouths.

    • Glen Raphael

      This *is* effective pedagogy. Or at least could be, assuming the students are willing to think about ideas and separate their ideas or arguments from their *selves*. When somebody says “You are wrong about X” or “This idea that you’ve just expressed has a dangerous downside” that is not an attack on YOU. It’s a chance to learn and think and test and understand your own ideas better. How could you ever know if your ideas are sound if nobody ever attacks them, thereby giving you a chance to really THINK about defending them? If your ideas are wrong, someone who tells you so and can back it up with rational arguments is doing you a favor, giving you the opportunity to either shore up your weak moral foundations or replace them with a better set!

      A college philosophy class shouldn’t be a “safe space” for half-baked ideas. Indeed, having your own specific prior ideas challenged (and getting the chance to try to defend them) is what’s FUN about a philosophy class.

      • Hey! I’ve got a great idea! How about Ali given him boxing lessons? I’m sure he could use some self defense classes. It’s a classroom, so he consented to any sort of lessons by dropping in right?

        • CanuckAmuck

          If the class were “Boxing Lessons from Ali”, your point would be valid.

      • UnsettlingIdeologies

        “This *is* effective pedagogy.” But it’s not. I think it’s probably coming from a good place and pedagogically sound goals, but the practice itself is either poorly planned or poorly executed. The biggest sign of that to me is that he is currently engaging only one student in the class and the rest are passive observers. He could easily restructure this activity so that multiple students were simultaneously engaged.

        Beyond that, putting someone on the spot in front of a whole classroom and asking them to defend core beliefs sets them up to respond defensively rather than openly. Most folks double-down when directly challenged, especially in front of their peers. There are *MUCH* more effective ways to get students to question their beliefs, even closely held ones. Just off the top of my head, what if he had them work in pairs to find a shared axiom. Then, their assignment would be to find flaws with it. Inviting people to critique their own ideas gives them the possibility to question their beliefs without as strong of a threat to their self-image. And doing so in teams could help them break through any mental blocks. Hell, he could have presented his own example axiom first and had THEM critique it. That way he makes himself (at least appear) vulnerable before asking them to do the same.

        • Glen Raphael

          My premises include: (1) the instructor knows a LOT more than the students do about his subject; (2) most of the students don’t (yet!) know enough about the subject to spontaneously generate good examples they’re willing to defend, (3) Those who do so are likely prone to many of the same common misconceptions.

          If there exist common ways to *be wrong* in this subject, pairing students up means some of the pairs will just reinforce each other’s bad reasoning. If coming up with good examples or good criticisms in advance (prior to seeing the process modeled like this) is hard, some of the pairs will just stare at each other saying “I dunno, I can’t think of any {examples and/or flaws}. You?” Both of those possibilities would be less educational for that specific pair than would witnessing a semi-socratic discussion designed to tease out some of the issues.

          Although only Ali is conversing, some other students are likely to have made the same kinds of mistakes she has so they can learn about the flaws in their own ideas from listening; others get to learn more generally what these terms all mean and the general process of flaw-finding in this area from seeing it in action.

          Asking students for an example can help the teacher calibrate his teaching to how much students already know and the kinds of subjects they’re already interested in. Also, some teachers are just better at explaining stuff in a dialog context.

          And sure, you wouldn’t want the WHOLE class to be just the teacher talking to Ali, but doing so for a few minutes seems fine.

          He might still be a bad teacher – he’s been making some odd choices *within* the context of a semi-Socratic teaching method – but the method itself seems sound.

    • CanuckAmuck

      We’ve established that Gurwara is going to twist anything Allison says into an attack on her.

      No, you’ve have asserted that. Challenge =/= attack.

    • CanuckAmuck

      We’ve established that Gurwara is going to twist anything Allison says into an attack on her.

      “We” have established no such thing. Please do others the courtesy of not speaking for them.

  • Columbine

    Out of curiousity does anyone feel they’ve had a consistent axiom throughout their life? I’m not interested in the axiom or debating whether they’re good/bad like the Prof here seems to be. Just whether anyone feels they’ve had that sort of consistent ideology over time.

    I’m not convinced I have.

    • Christophe2314

      I personally don’t believe in axioms. If an axiom is a statement that can be accepted as true without question, then there’s no such thing. Every belief, no matter how obvious, should be questioned.

      • EveryZig

        You have to have some basic level of axioms (at least provisionally), since any statement can be traced back to an axiom or circular logic by just asking variations of “why” to a statement and all subsequent responses.
        For example: Q: “Why should you question every belief?”
        A: “Because it might be false.”
        Q: “Why do you say that some statements might be false?”
        A: “Because some statements contradict each other if true, which is impossible.”
        Q: Why is it possible for true statements to contradict each other?
        And so on.

        • Tylikcat

          I once spent a year teaching pre-school part-time.

          ’nuff said.

        • Christophe2314

          That’s true, there has to be at least one axiom at the beginning of it all. That’s the very basis of Cartesian logic. “I think, therefore I am” must be accepted as true before any other statement can be proven.

  • Francisco

    I have to agree with the professor. In reality people pull in different directions and have their own goals. Only a deluded dictator expects everyone to have the same goals as themselves. A “strong” dictator would impose their goals on everyone.

    • Any axiom can lead to tyranny if taken to its extreme. Simply saying that you believe unity is desirable doesn’t mean you want to impose it on everyone.

  • Masala Nilsson

    What’s the intended lesson here? That whatever you say, you’re wrong? Not to answer any questions from Mr Gurwara? I admit I’ve never studied philosophy, or morality, but if this is how a “good” teacher in either of those subjects behaves, then I don’t ever want to study any of them. It’s not like I’d ever dare to open my mouth or participate in class at all with an asshat like that in front of me, and the risk of public humiliation that that automatically seems to bring.

    • Shjade

      I believe the intended lesson is “examine your beliefs more carefully.”

    • Christophe2314

      The lesson isn’t that whatever you say is wrong… but everything Allison says is, indeed, wrong. Or at the very least poorly thought out. A philosophy professor’s job is to challenge your ideas. If your beliefs hold up under scrutiny, then great, but how will you ever know if no one attempts to tear them down?

      • UnsettlingIdeologies

        “how will you ever know if no one attempts to tear them down?” Just about every single piece of research I’ve seen on how people learn best disagrees with this idea. People don’t need to be torn down and then rebuilt. One of the most basic things people need in order to learn is to feel competent/capable at a task. His approach is setting students up to feel like their core beliefs are ridiculous and unreasonable. That sort of direct (and public) challenge to people’s self worth is a surefire way to get many students (not all, but many) to respond with defensiveness or disengagement.

        • Christophe2314

          That would be true… if it weren’t a philosophy class. The entire point of the class is introspection and critical thinking. The very first step is to admit that you hold beliefs without foundation, many of which are wrong. Ever since I came to that realization, I have identified dozens of harmful ideas that were just sitting there in my mind, planted there by society, and I’ve become a better person as a result. I have been systematically tearing down and rebuilding my own beliefs from scratch, and found that I have a much easier time defending them now.

          The teacher is trying to push his students towards this realization. Of course they’re going to respond with defensiveness or disengagement at first, it’s the natural response to being told that everything you believe in may be wrong. Not all of them will come out of this class with the ability to question their own beliefs, but those who do, which hopefully includes Alison, will have learned a truly valuable lesson.

          • UnsettlingIdeologies

            “Not all of them will come out of this class with the ability to question their own beliefs”
            This is precisely my point. It’s bad pedagogy. There are significantly better methods of getting people to question their beliefs than this. There are significantly better methods of getting students to engage in introspection and critical thinking. His method is a very classical approach (and one that is still lauded by a lot of the general public), and it definitely works for some students. But the problem is that most research suggests it doesn’t work for all students or even necessarily most.

            I honestly believe he is probably trying to push his students to think more critically. I’m just saying he’s using a relatively ineffective approach–one that is rooted in 1) some pretty harmful assumptions about students needing to be broken down in order to be rebuilt in the image of the teacher/institution and 2) a conflation of intellectually challenging students and personally challenging students.

          • Christophe2314

            Let’s be real, here: there is no method that works for every student. Some people will always refuse to admit that they are wrong, and nothing can be done for them.

            I also disagree with the assertion that he’s trying to break down the students in order to rebuild them in his own image. He is trying to break them down, yes, but for the purpose of letting them rebuild themselves. I’ll admit I was wrong before, though I’m not sure it was in this specific comment thread. I said I don’t believe in axioms. I get now that that’s not true: it is a person’s axiom that allows them to come up with their own interpretation of an idea. For example, a person for whom freedom is the most important value will have a drastically different idea of right and wrong from someone for whom happiness or safety is more important.

            The thing is, once you’ve identified your axiom, you’ll come to an inevitable realization: that you hold a shitload of beliefs that are in clear contradiction with said axiom. Breaking down said belief in order to rebuild them in accordance with your axioms is an important process that Gurwara is trying to push his students toward. It is a process that will lead students not to rebuild themselves in the teacher’s image, but in their own, in accordance with their axioms.

          • UnsettlingIdeologies

            “Let’s be real, here: there is no method that works for every student.”
            No, there’s not. But it’s also not simply a matter of some people refusing to admit they’re wrong. It’s a matter of pedagogy. There are teaching methods that work for *many many more* people. There are evidence based instructional practices that research has shown are more effective at getting (the majority of) people to learn. And tearing down people’s beliefs (after first compelling them to identify one…in public… on the first day of class before you’ve built any relationship of trust with your students) isn’t one of them.

            On the other hand, having students do an activity in order to demonstrate that a belief that is commonly held and lauded in our society has some dangerous implications? That sounds a lot more legit. If only he had started by asking about commonly held axioms in our society, or even posited this one on his own, then I’d be more on the Gurwara train. But framing it as a critique of an individual students’ belief system in front of the entire class is just bad teaching.

    • StClair

      Yeah, that’s… pretty much how philosophy goes. as other commenters will attest.

      As for the humiliation, something to consider, or learn, is that your identity – who you are – is not the same as your opinions or what you believe. The latter can be contested, even disproven, without diminishing your worth as a person.

    • MrSing

      The intended lesson is that her beliefs are not well thought out. And that this is dangerous. Allison means well, but her ideals and convictions only have a surface level of thought put behind them. That makes her very vulnerable to manipulation and confusion (as we have seen before).
      Unfounded ideals are also very easy to corrupt. Allison doesn’t want to be a tyrant, but if she purely beliefs that people HAVE to work as one it can lead to facism. The prof is showing her the worst case scenario of what her ideals could lead to.
      If you have really thought about your ideals and know how to defend them from the foundation up, you are protected against turning into what you hate.
      Also, there is no shame in being wrong in philosophy. It’s about growing and constantly challenging ideas and throwing them out or adapting them. You must first put aside your pride and learn to rely on the strenght of your arguments if you want to become a good philiopher. This is hard for most people, but it is one of the best things you can learn.
      You are only as good as your ideas, so you should not shy away from adopting better ones because you are ashamed of being wrong.

    • Stephanie Gertsch

      I agree. I participated in a discussion based class for four years. The best teachers were those who were up front and honest, (gently) cutting the class jerks down to size while drawing out the quiet ones. They never set out to tear people down or asked for vulnerability without first modeling it.

      Allison is the brave one here. She’s willing to put herself out there even when her idea isn’t fully thought out. The professor just snipes without putting in any effort to help lead the class to a more nuanced view.

    • ∫Clémens×ds

      The lesson is that Nihilism prevails. Which, admittedly, isn’t a very good one.

    • Jared Rosenberg

      At least you’ve been warned.

    • Urthman

      To think critically about our own beliefs and assumptions because a lot of us have unexamined beliefs that are harmful to ourselves or others. To learn to listen to and engage with criticism of our beliefs without feeling like it’s publicly humiliating.

      • Not “get really hammered before teaching”?

  • Sebastián Rodoni Figueras

    I like him! Provided he doesn’t follow with some strawman bullshit.

    • Kid Chaos

      Oh, he’s all about the strawman bullshit; I can see it in his eyes. 😠

  • Tylikcat

    I am really struck by the expressions of the other students in panel six. Is it just me, or is there some curiosity, but also some serious side-eye going on?

    • ∫Clémens×ds

      Drawing someone from the 1/4 angle is really difficult and uninteresting.

      • Tylikcat

        So then, why pan back and show the rest of the class at all? I mean, the point has got to be in part a reaction shot, right?

  • CanuckAmuck

    Still not bullying. Still simply challenging a student’s preconceptions, which is what a philosophy instructor should be doing.

  • d4t4

    If you like these professor-student dialogues on unity and authoritarianism, might I recommend Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

  • Scholiast

    I’m beginning to understand how Mr. Gurwara got all those scars on his face.

    • Mechwarrior

      From Batman?

  • Anon

    People are going to jump all over this guy for being “mean”, but this is exactly what a good professor should be doing. Challenging your viewpoints, forcing you to defend them, perhaps making you alter them if you must.

    • Mechwarrior

      “Challenge your viewpoints” isn’t a synonym for attacking every statement a person makes. There should be a point that you make, and leaving the students confused as to what that is, or frightened of questioning you in any way, means you’re a poor professor.

      • Ryan Gauvreau

        In fairness, he’s challenging someone who, arguably, professors should be frightened of questioning in any way.

        As far as he knows, he could get fired for this.

        • Mechwarrior

          A good professor could completely deconstruct her argument and point out all the flaws in it without ever coming close to looking like they were personally attacking Alison. He’s not doing that. Regardless of the threat of losing his career or being dismembered by an angry metahuman, he’s absolutely terrible at his job.

    • Christophe2314

      I’m already seeing a lot of those. Man, people really don’t like being asked to think.

  • Werdna73

    He’s going to say she’s acting like a “true tyrant” because she’s calling on the rest of the class, and that’s forcing them into action that they wouldn’t have taken otherwise.
    That’s my guess, at least.

  • Oren Leifer

    Only when we all work together can we all success, Kheprisce? Allison’s got a good idea, but it’s definitely one that needs to be considered and I’m glad Mr. Gurwara (Professor Gurwara?) is challenging it and breaking it down. This reminds me a bit of what a particularly great Sociology prof I know does on the first day of class; break down your philosophies, and then give you the resources to build new ones with more stable foundations.

  • Seven Circle

    … ‘Tyrant’ isn’t ALWAYS a bad thing

    • *backs away slowly*

      • The_Rippy_One

        Mystery, I’d point out that it looks like Clem was a tyrant in her city – she was just (probably) a very easy going one, that was very liaise-faire about everyone’s lives/livelihood. With that giant tree over the top of it, and her plant control, everyone was living there strictly on her sufferance, even if she never used that power, even once. Living on a plant root means you must never truly pissing off the plant witch.

    • Weatherheight

      Just ask Abraham Lincoln. 😀

      • Kid Chaos

        Lincoln freed the slaves…and suspended habeas corpus. Make of that what you will. 😯

        • The_Rippy_One

          He freed the slaves he didn’t actually have any control over, at the time, and then the fellas who joined the union army semi-legally. Lincoln is one of our biggest mythic figures, and much as you’d expect, the man and the myth often don’t look all that similar.

          • Kid Chaos

            SEE ALSO: “The Lincoln Myth”, by Steve Berry. The Mormons try to manipulate several states into seceding from the USA. And something about Lincoln not actually intending to end slavery in the first place, because the states are supposed to pay their taxes, dammit! Or something like that. 😜

  • Eric Meyer

    Ah. Gotta love Philosophy teachers that know just how to make you question your whole worldview!

    • The_Rippy_One

      Well, that is the job

  • Liz

    Changed my mind. Dude’s a jerk.

  • zathura

    Does the douchery have a purpose? As someone who had one of this professors who was all about motivation through negativity, I can say it doesn’t work and only creates resentmen .

  • GreatWyrmGold

    Sarcasm is not the opposite of bravery any more than electricity is the opposite of light. The former can be used to counter the absence of the latter, but there are oh so many other uses.

    I don’t see how Alison’s axiom is inherently tyrannical, but it doesn’t take a genius to see how trying to fulfill it could easily turn tyrannical.

    • SuddenFan

      Sure, but his meaning is clear is the context of the moment and that’s all that matters.

    • cphoenix

      Yes. Why does he get to say BS stuff like “sarcasm is the opposite of bravery” while cutting down the stuff she says? I really can’t see this as anything more than a wasteful unproductive power game on his part. I doubt any good will come of it for anyone. I’m waiting for Alison to simply leave the class – or insist that he engage with other students, and when he treats them as poorly as he’s treating her, get him fired.

      For those who say this is how a philosophy teacher should act – I’ve taken philosophy courses at a top-ranked university, and I don’t remember anything remotely like this.

  • Pol Subanajouy

    Old Timey Boxer Announcer Voice:

    “And he comes out swinging folks! Can Mega-Girl hold her footing our does Professor Golden Cane have her own the ropes?!”

    • chaosvii

      Professor Golden Cane is a spiffy villainous alter-ego. It probably shoots a philosophy ray that forcibly converts people into hardcore solipsism!
      “How can you depend on your team-mates Mega-Girl, if they don’t even believe you exist?!”

      • Dean

        “It’s Deconstruction Time!”

  • peregon

    Ally, just take your shoe off. Some whoopins are pre-ordained. Whoop his pretty little cheeks.

  • persephone_the_wanderer

    So, I just have to say it, but I think Ostertag was having a bit of fun a few pages back. Alison’s already given us her axiom: “I don’t think this is fair.” (http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-6/page-33-4/). Those are the words she actually lives by — she sees something she doesn’t like, and does something about it.

  • Kris Dunlap

    Wow….she’s just not gonna win this.

  • RemoteScholar

    I kind of like Allison’s axiom once put into words, it shows her faith in humanity to pull together and do what’s right to help people in need. The professor/debater in me would ask for a little more elaboration on what she means by “people are better together” but I think she’s on to something with it. I really hope the professor doesn’t pull a “guess who else summarized that axiom in some of his speeches? Hitler!” or something else mean-spirited on her. If he quotes Caesar or other historical figures and points out the similarity in their thinking to her axiom, that’d be one thing and would be educational, but it going straight for Hitler comparisons on day-1 of class would come across as mean-spirited. Maybe he mentions tyrant because he’s jaded/realistic, in the sense that he doesn’t think it’s possible to get people in the world ‘unite as one’ or the phrase conjures up tyrannical dictatorships for him, or the possibly the how ineffective the United Nations is at uniting as one.

    As someone who got to be teaching assistant for a few years, I can attest that so far, everything he has said (and the whole discussion that has occurred in the last few comics, in this classroom) is definitely NOT the professor harassing her, at least not any more than it has been Allison harassing him (including the last line he says in this page. It’s the first time he has sounded snarky to me, but no more snarky than Allison’s “I don’t think this is fair” 2 comics back). It’s sounds like no more than a philosophy debate, and a very tame one so far. It’s important for the professor to be adversarial in a class like this, even if only sometimes to play devil’s advocate to explore unpopular philosophical viewpoints, so this seems like a very realistic portrayal of a college philosophy course. This whole chapter is giving me flashbacks to a course I took 😀

    • Preacher John

      It’d be on point to bring up Rome and Mussolini’s fascist Italy, quite literally the fasces symbolising “Strength through Unity” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasces

    • Urthman

      Maybe he genuinely believes Allison is a potential tyrant and that this is his chance to help her become the sort of person who won’t become a tyrant. Alison is one of the scariest people in the whole world unless you know her well enough to trust her.

      • Boojum

        If you know her well enough to know that she really wants to rip apart anyone who gets in her way (remember her conversation with Cleaver), then she still remains scary. At least she’s trying to find another way, but it’s good that she learn frustration in a classroom setting before trying more in the real world.

    • Dartangn

      Is that really a considered faith she expresses, or just the repeated hollow platitudes that boil down to childhood lessons about being nice and sharing and helping? Might well be a bit of educated poking is exactly what she needs to mature a bit philosophically.

  • Duke Araja

    Oh man, I love this guy.

  • Weatherheight

    Not sure this is an axiom, but it’s certainly a cool foundational belief.

    But can Alison defend it?

    Hrm, shaky start…

  • I suppose he’s right, but note that that doesn’t mean Alison is a tyrant.

  • Philip Bourque

    In philosophy class, the only right answer is the one the Professor gives you.

    • Christophe2314

      Only if you have a terrible teacher. A good philosophy teacher will challenge your ideas, but he will also accept them if properly defended.

    • CanuckAmuck

      I’m sorry you went to a sucky school.

  • Kellie Merie

    Is dude trolling for a purpose or is he just a drunk bully?…..tune in next week to find out

  • Mechwarrior

    No, the axiom of a true tyrant is “don’t wanna, can’t make me.”

    • Weatherheight

      and also..
      “I, on the other hand, CAN make you.
      Here is the list of choices of things I can make you do.
      Pick one of them.”

  • Lostman

    And Alison fell straight for his trap.

  • Boojum

    “People uniting as one is not only the means to a better world, but a description of that better world.” Declaring the basis of fascism as your axiom is probably not a good thing when you’re a practically unstoppable superhuman.

    • Oh I’m sorry, I thought that was part of the basis of Buddhism.

      • Boojum

        It’s really not. Buddhism is about self-improvement, not “saving” others. Helping others is certainly appropriate when following Buddhism, but there is no expectation that they will follow your lead.

      • Tylikcat

        Nah. In Buddhism, people – well, not just people, but everything – is already one, and separate existence (and permanence, and a bunch of other things) are just the illusion folks often talk themselves into. It’s not a matter of uniting and being one, it’s a matter of stopping deluding yourself that you aren’t already!

  • Loranna

    Okay, now I’m sold. This guy is pure gold. ^_^

    I love how, in Panel 6, the students around Alison have such ambiguous reactions to her statements. Some look to her with interest, or at least curiosity, others just give her sidelong glances, and the guy sitting right in front of her seems like he’s wishing he were in another classroom. The whole atmosphere of mixed interest not only highlights Alison’s struggle to move beyond her old “I’ll handle this! (with my fists!)” approach, but also foreshadows Professor Gurwara’s observation in Panel 8 — perhaps he wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines?


    • ∫Clémens×ds

      To be fair, these are college students. Of course they’re going to look bored out of their skulls. Look at them, the only one with paper sheets is the guy who asked Alison for them. It’s a philosophy course and right now everybody is very annoyed they aren’t all napping.

  • Sage Catharsis
  • Christophe2314

    Man, I love this guy. I mean, he’s got a point. Allison is working on the assumption that everyone’s idea of a better world is the same, which is clearly not the case. The fact that people don’t agree is the source of every conflict, and so the only way to create a world without conflict is to force everyone to ignore their own principles and follow yours. Basically, tyranny is the only true path to peace. Also, gotta love how Allison’s statement that “we’re all in this together” is immediately followed by a shot of all her classmates looking so, so bored and apathetic.

    • Emmy

      Also, gotta love how Allison’s statement that “we’re all in this together” is immediately followed by a shot of all her classmates looking so, so bored and apathetic.

      They’re probably thinking about how the whole semester is gonna be this weirdo and Miss Know-it-All prattling on endlessly to one another, whereas they specifically went on RateMyProfessors.com and decided on Karapovsky’s section of PHIL 201 because it was supposed to be an easy A.

    • ∫Clémens×ds

      I mean, he’s got a point, but not a particularly complex one. That’s quoting Churchill’s apocryphal “Democracy is the worst regime apart from all others” levels of political discourse. I really do hope next page isn’t Pr. Gurwara lecturing her at length on something she has to know due to her status and interests.

      And I know this is a narrative ploy to get us readers to learn about this but come on, there had to be ways to communicate these ideas to us without making Alison seem like she’s never learned that fascism was ever a thing.

      • chaosvii

        Well yeah, it shouldn’t be complex, otherwise Alison and her peers would likely get lost during this first day of “Intro to Doubting Your Habitual Sociopolitical Assumptions 201”
        The guy has been lobbing low balls ever since he brushed off the fact that he lied about a dude’s paternity leave was death. He’s full of mirth and Alison needs to either
        A) Lighten up and see that his stand-up philosophy is a style of critical detachment from ideas & concepts that are typically loaded with emotional investment rather than a personal affront to what she aims to achieve in life
        B) See the thinly veiled flaws in his flippant rhetoric and sincerely see how his simple criticism can in fact be countered with nuanced accounts of how her axiom is combined with other axioms, and together, said axioms avoid the pitfalls of ancient dictatorships and modern nationalistic movements.

        Perhaps she needs a bit more coaxing in order to achieve B, but I expect her to at least start towards that path after the Professor clarifies the connection between axiom & unintended consequence. As for her appearing to not notice the connection, keep in mind that she’s probably going to be given the opportunity to understand what he’s getting at and subsequently object to it in a reasoned manner on the next page.
        I know it’s easy to rev up your “I’m so disappointed in Alison for not skillfully resolving conflicts in a dramatic fashion AGAIN” engine at *every* single opportunity you can detect in the narrative, but she has to meaningfully fail first for the sounds it makes to come off as intriguing rather than loud & impatient.

      • Lostman

        “And I know this is a narrative ploy to get us readers to learn about this but come on, there had to be ways to communicate these ideas to us without making Alison seem like she’s never learned that fascism was ever a thing.”- ∫Clémens×ds

        Which is funny because it seem that Alison has never read a post-modern superhero where half the time in those stories the ‘superman’ is always show half the time to be tyrants doing questionable actions (like other the world) for the ‘greater good’.

        • Tylikcat

          Oh, c’mon. The surprise would be Pintsize hadn’t read any such.

          • Lostman

            It’s Pintsize: he probably hate’s them with a passion.

    • Graeme Sutton

      Force isn’t the only way to get people to follow your principles.

      • Christophe2314

        Sometimes it is. Sometimes, people simply don’t respond to reason. Sometimes, what you think is reason actually isn’t, and so reasonable people won’t follow you. I’m not saying that you should force people to follow your principles; I’m saying that you should accept that not everyone will follow you.

    • Joseph Herbert

      “The fact that people don’t agree is the source of every conflict, and so
      the only way to create a world without conflict is to force everyone to
      ignore their own principles and follow yours.
      Basically, tyranny is the only true path to peace.”

      Wow- I’m not sure I agree with my interpretation of this; convergent facilitation is an excellent approach…

      … conflict can be constructive and beneficial:
      1) http://thefearlessheart.org/strengthening-collaboration-through-encouraging-dissent/

      and — “Tyranny is the only true path to peace” — wow, I completely don’t share that perspective, because I’ve *witnessed* firsthand truer ways of creating real peace

      … between seemingly-diametrically opposed parties:
      2) http://efficientcollaboration.org/the-noncontroversial-essence-bringing-people-together/

      • Christophe2314

        Note that when I said that tyranny is the only true path to peace, I did not mean it in support of tyranny. Individual liberty is absolutely crucial to my personal ideology, I simply accept that it comes with inevitable conflict. In my opinion, a world where we fight once in a while is better than a world where we don’t even have the possibility.

      • Sebastián Rodoni Figueras

        Exactly. Arguably the most beneficial event in the history of mankind was the space race, and that would have never happened withouth the rivalry between the US and USSR.

  • 3-I

    I really don’t like this guy. I’ve always been vehemently opposed to professors who think their role is to antagonize students, but more than that, he’s pulling fucking sucker punches on Alison. That’s not teaching, that’s just posturing.

    • Tylikcat

      FWIW* this really isn’t how I’m interpreting it. I feel like he’s working pretty hard to coax her – probably someone, anyone, but Alison is the one who was willing to start – into expressing an axiom, and then defending and clarifying if through yer standard dialectic. When she came up with a totally non-axiomatic statement about fairness – he totally encouraged her. And then she dropped that and went with a muddled statement about bullying. Her A=B was just her being flippant – but then she did come up with an axiom that is something she’s working with, and maybe hasn’t entirely worked out, but is something that is pretty central to her at the moment. And he praises it.

      And then, when he points out its shortcomings – and yo, it has some serious issues, which is part of the point of the class, right? – he does so with a grin (a hugely sincere grin, note his crinkly eyes) to take the sting out. I don’t doubt Alison is feeling a bit like she’s been riding a roller coaster – this is totally not the kind of work she’s used to – but considering that it’s going to be disorienting by its very nature, I don’t get the impression at all that he’s being mean-spirited.

      * And I realize there’s a lot of room for personal opinion, and the extent to which a lot of people seem to find his approach mean and or terrifying is pretty fascinating for me, as someone who is mostly on the other side of the lectern these days.

      • Shjade

        The only philosophy-related course I ever took was a pretty softball one, or at least that’s what I’d thought it would be going into it, the Ethics of Sex.

        If that small sample size was any indication, this fear of self-analysis and critical introspection is pretty common in college students. There were only a handful of us willing to go back and forth with the professor, knowing full well we would likely be on the receiving end of a rhetorical knockdown pretty much every step of the way – not as a means of degradation, but simply pulling apart the flaws in our initial thoughts to get down to the foundations and get into the meat of everything.

        As a rule, people just…don’t enjoy that feeling of being “wrong,” especially when they KNOW they’re going to be wrong, somehow, and don’t know how to give the “right” answer. In a lot of people (of any age, really), that’s going to get you some pretty hostile and defensive results, so I can’t say the comments here are surprising, even if they do demonstrate a total misunderstanding of the whole point of this kind of exercise.

      • MisterTeatime

        > And then, when he points out its shortcomings – and yo, it has some serious issues, which is part of the point of the class, right? – he does so with a grin (a hugely sincere grin, note his crinkly eyes) to take the sting out.

        See, this is exactly why I really don’t like him. Being happy to argue with me and attack my viewpoints is something I can handle from my friends, in a casual setting. On a stranger, and especially someone who’s clearly got the establishment backing them up (e.g. an authority figure in a formal context like this), it just looks like “ha ha you suck,” which is a very bad first impression.

        (If I really wanted to hold this discussion on the first day of class, I would pass out axioms on slips of paper instead of asking students to put their most personal beliefs up in a shooting gallery. They might not be as effective arguing from a perspective that isn’t theirs, but as Gurwara demonstrates here, it only takes one engaged student to make an effective and interesting discussion.)

        • Tylikcat

          What you are saying makes perfect sense from what I have observed…

          …but… this is just so utterly counter to how I’ve approached being a student. Debate is fun! Arguing with someone who knows a lot more than me is extra fun! Learn from the best! (Learning to shut the fuck up – okay, that was hard.)

          (I’m exactly the same way about studying martial arts, though of course the threshold for making sure this person isn’t actually going to do any damage is, well, real. Oh, hey, super awesome visiting master wants a demo dummy – whee!)

          • chaosvii

            I want to engage in debates about stuff I care about (and even stuff I only sorta care about) all the time, but most folks aren’t really a fan of playing the role of opposing view. 🙁

          • MisterTeatime

            As the scene goes on, I’m finding it more and more likely that Mr. Gurwara is trying to engage Alison in friendly (or at least non-malicious) debate, not knock her down personally.
            Which makes me really wonder what in the world he was doing when he subtly accused her of threatening his job on page 34. That was an incredibly adversarial thing to do, and couldn’t help but color her first impression of him.
            It’s possible he really was just checking whether he understood the situation, and I would understand his desire to do that. But the way Alison’s face fell when he asked the question pretty clearly indicated that a) she was sincere about not threatening him, and b) she was genuinely hurt by the suggestion. If he had no ill intent, I would expect him to apologize at that point- he’s learned that she wasn’t a threat and that he hurt her.
            Instead, he immediately applied more pressure (repeatedly asking her to volunteer a personal axiom, including rejecting her attempt at a simple and comfortable answer, and what looks an awful lot like the beginning of judging her publicly for trying to back out (panel 4)). And I can’t figure that out.

  • FlashNeko

    Oh boy, here we go.

    I really hope I’m wrong that this is the lead-in to a very Objectivist-leaning rant but man, anyone who says “Saying that you feel other people working together is a good thing secretly means you want to lord your power over them” does not give me a lot of faith in what they’re going to say next.

    • Preacher John

      “People uniting as one” covers a lot more ground than “people working together”. Historically the former has been the foundation of many aggressive nationalist movements. F’sure that’s not what Alison intends, but half the point of philosophy is being clear what you mean and what you do not mean.

  • Catnik

    “Sarcasm is the opposite of bravery”

    Moments later: “The axiom of a true tyrant!”

    I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he’s not helping here.

    • Shjade

      I don’t think he’s being sarcastic.

    • MrSing

      That wasn’t sarcasm though.
      Many facists were very charismatic and made “powerful, very moving” speeches that basically said what Allison said. That’s how they got into power.
      They were still tyrants though, even if they believed what they said.

      • “Fire is useful” can be an axiom even if people burn to death in accidental fires.

  • ClockworkDawn

    I am taking a distinct disliking towards this fellow. Not sure why.

  • Preacher John

    Hehehe even if this guy is a secret super-villian, he’s a good philosophy prof – all about challenging the students and pushing them to think things through.

    • Jared Rosenberg

      He’s not a super-villain IMHO. He’s a foil, and is doing a very good job at it too.

  • Jeremy

    I have never liked this approach to teaching.I think it is important to challenge students, but it can be done without browbeating them.

  • No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

  • yumtacos

    This is one of the few cases in comics when the hero rises to antagonism, learns from it, and the antagonist is not evil, but genuinely interested and being truly socratic. These last few panels have really well-done. I love that your characters are never simple and one-dimensional.

  • Weatherheight

    Sarcasm is not the opposite of Bravery.
    Inaction is the opposite of Bravery.

    Sarcasm is a limited form of both Cowardice and Bravery – it involves taking a stance and stating it (bravery) while simultaneously avoiding direct confrontation (cowardice). And the prof knows that – since he’s using Sarcasm against Alison a few times.

    The only thing I dislike about this guy is that he uses the very rhetorical tricks he is disparaging. A good teacher can achieve the same effect without being intellectually dishonest. Alison knows he’s pulling a fast one but can’t address his critique because she’s being pushed into a corner. And that is something he is very deliberately doing, for the sake of pissing her off. We don’t think or argue as well when we’re ticked. If he’s trying to get them to think, these tactics/tricks are counter-productive.

    On the other hand, Alison is usually much better at seeing through BS and calling it than this (IMO, her dialogues with Patrick demonstrate this). Could it be the social pressure from the class that others in this discussion have picked up on, maybe? Maybe Alison *does* feel guilty about the professor who got fired (Alison stated that she didn’t want to get anyone in trouble back then, and if she really felt that…)?

    Love this arc, love the involvement by the readership, LOVE that people are having such varied reactions. Great work, all.

  • Walter

    I dunno…

    I feel like in my general *eye rolling commenter* persona, I’m supposed to cheer for dudes pointing out Alison’s flaws. That’s what we do here at strongfemaleprotagonist, right?

    But…I don’t know what he means yet. I can sort of squint and see Alison as a tyrant (because she is, by not destroying it, approving the existing power structure. Sole veto of all society via not murder = tyrant? It’s shaky, I know.) But like, what part of what she just mentioned is tyranny? I’m honestly confused. Looking forward to finding out though.

    • Tylikcat

      I can anticipate more than one direction he might take this – but I don’t pretend to know (looking forward to Tuesday.) But while it’s possible, I suppose, he’s going to do something reprehensible, I suspect, he’s just going to recast it in a way that’s going to make Alison uncomfortable – which is exactly what he should be doing. Not for the sake of discomfort, but to make her think. I trust he has more subtlety than to Godwin the conversation, because I think he really does want people engaged, and that’s a pretty good way to break engagement.

      Some possible thoughts – on what basis are people coming together. (I mean, seriously, that’s a pretty vague statement, almost up there with the withering away of the state.) Does it just happen? One can idealistically posit that people will all be peers and will band together for equal goals – but often that will not be true. What happens when some of the people have disproportionate power? What happens when they have somewhat but not entirely overlapping goals?

      I mean, seriously, the ability to manage all this minutia is the difference between politics and war. And the ability to do it well is the difference between a statesman and a tyrant. (“Hero” not being a role that fits easily into this schema.)

  • The_Rippy_One

    He would if he felt it was sophistry. Tautology is a useful tool, but also one that is very limited in it’s use.

  • Iarei

    For someone who’s unimpressed with people who argue on assumed conclusions this guy’s not being very impressive. Right now he’s subversively interpreting “people uniting” in Allison’s axiom as implying such cooperation MUST be enforced or come at some cost to independence or freedom. I get what he’s saying but he’s being unnecessarily antagonistic and pigeonholing her argument to the worst possible interpretation instead of pointing it out AS a worst case scenario. He’s arguing like a forum troll.

    I’d go with something “You’re a teacher, isn’t getting together with people to make a better world what you do?” except then he is being kind of a tyrant so that’s less snappy.

    You know, like last page when Allison responded “I never said that” ? Instead, she should have said: “No; That would make me a bully, obviously.”

  • EveryZig

    And the prof continues to dance a merry jig on the line between trickster mentor and trolling jerk.

  • Tsapki

    You know you have a great character when half the viewers want to award him a medal and the other half want two minutes alone with him in a soundproof room with a pipe wrench.

  • FlashNeko

    Well, if you read what he’s saying, he DIDN’T actually reject the “A is equal to A”.

    He just deflected it back on Alison by basically saying, “Oh look at the dummy dumb not actually saying anything at all.”

  • FlashNeko

    No offense to people defending this guy, but saying he’s “challenging” his students feels like the same kind of logic that leads to stuff like “boys will be boys” or “you just need to man up”.

    • Tylikcat

      I’m certainly not offended, but I’d be a lot more interested in a defense of this position than just an assertion. You might note I’ve written out my own interpretation of what he’s doing above, which I see as involving a lot of encouragement and praise, even as he’s leading Alison to reconsider some of her basic principles, which is going to be uncomfortable, pretty much by definition. (Though I don’t get the Karapovsky is dead comment.)

      • FlashNeko

        Can you give any examples of that praise? All I’m seeing is a lot of snarky deflections or mean-spirited personal attacks.

        And as for my defense of my position, I may just have a fundamental disagreement with the idea that the only way to learn is for the teacher to always put you in a no-win situation where they can insult and rip you apart unless you’re 100% in lock-step with what their personal philosophy is (or just get really good at pretending that you are), which is what is inevitably taught in these kinds of classes.

        And if you ever have any issues with that kind of treatment… well, you just have to “man up and take it” because you get written off as “hating thinking” or “being too thin skinned” if you ever try to voice said issues. Because “that’s just how things are” (which is another sub-set of the “boys will be boys” mentality).

        • chaosvii

          “I may just have a fundamental disagreement with the idea that the only way to learn is for the teacher to always put you in a no-win situation…”
          See this is a major disconnect. You may interpret it as such, but I don’t see this style of confrontation as anything of the sort.
          He’s saying obviously absurd things, and asking a question that is difficult to answer even if you’re not emotionally invested in being correct about a single aspect of how you approach life.
          The fact that it is difficult to answer doesn’t make it a no-win situation.
          The fact that most answers that people (who understand the question) are expected to give can be shown to have unintended consequences through said answer doesn’t make it a no-win situation.
          The fact that the exercise can be used to show that a single axiom by itself would, in all likelihood, come off as an absurd way to live one’s life doesn’t make it a no-win situation.

          The exercise could come off as an implied strawman that the students can intuitively knock down the second they are aware of the fact that the professor never demanded that a *single* axiom be a perfect model for behavior for all contexts in isolation (are we supposed to take his rhetorical barb about a lack of universal truths spilling forth out of undergrads necessarily an indication of him standing before mindless automatons as a sincere insult?), and therefore understand that they live by several axioms all at once.
          The fact that they are personally aware of very few, if any, of their personal axioms is not only uncomfortable for most people, but a good thing for students to learn about themselves & others. Axioms are not easy to tease out of a person. Notice that Alison didn’t start with an axiom when she stated her opinion about the things this professor has done.
          Notice that he pointed out that Alison is merely assuming that the rest of the class is scared. Alternatives include: *Thinking about which axiom they want to present because they are perfectionists *Hesitation due to uncertainty as to whether the idea they’ve come up with is actually an axiom *Slothfully waiting for somebody else to say something so they don’t have to explain their thinking for a fair amount of time.
          Alison felt like this was an attempt at intimidation, and the reply she got was “Are you attempting to intimidate me? After all, I could easily feel as though what you are saying as an attempt at intimidation, especially since you are claiming that I’m bullying the entire class, and you don’t like bullies.”

          What you presented is not a defense of your position, it is a statement of your view on what happened and then a criticism of what took place within that paradigm of what presumably happened.
          Which I find delicious because Alison stated what she thought happened and criticized what she perceived to have taken place. In reply, she was asked if a unflattering paradigm of her criticism towards the professor as a bully of the entire class is accurate, to which she rejected as not being her intention.
          I’d like to know why said view is an accurate evaluation of the circumstances, because I’d already agree with you had I been under the assumption that your evaluation is an accurate one.

        • Tylikcat

          BTW, I am meaning to get back to you, but if I don’t for a bit, it’s because both one of my students and I have a presentation Friday, and she just got me a draft of her poster today. (It’s a much bigger for her than for me, as it’s the culmination of her big research project.)

          This is one of the places I go to chill, but we’re in revision mode now, and I don’t actually have all my figures together. (I’ll still probably be back, just, just in case, I wanted to let you know why if I do fall off the face of the world, as I do occasionally do so.)

    • MrSing

      If you go on boxing lessons, you need to expect to get hit. If you go to a philosophy class, you need to expect to be challenged in this way. Neither is pleasant at first, both will learn you a lot.

    • hwfross

      Which is why I’ll repeat. Let’s wait a few more updates and see where he’s taking this. He could just be an jerk. He could have an ulterior motive. Or he could actually have Allison dialed in and has decided she’s an intellectual bone he’d like to gnaw. Of course he could also be a bit of all three.

  • fairportfan

    I don’t know about “the axiom of a true tyrant” … but with only a little tweaking, what she’s saying would be awfully close to the axioms of the original Italian Fascists …

  • MisterTeatime

    “why you need to be right”

    If you don’t need to be right, why question yourself? You can just say “yeah, I’m wrong, but it works for me” and ignore the rest of the lesson.

  • Stephanie Gertsch

    I’m kind of morbidly fascinated by the fierce debate going on in the comment section about whether this guy is a brilliant philosopher or a total hack. Personally, I’m going with hack. I remember college too clearly. It’s so, so easy for an older, more experienced person to breeze into a room and tear everyone down. Really. He can make completely bogus arguments (sarcasm is the opposite of bravery? For real?) and no one will call him on it because A) they don’t know the material yet (being as they are in a class trying to study it) and B) they are mere lowly students.

    Why doesn’t he write her axiom on the board and invite the class to critique it? The class that’s already checking out? Oh, because that would require effort. Apparently the sound of his voice is too mellifluous.

  • Soqoma

    Oh no, now he’s having FUN.

  • cphoenix

    Wrong is not the same as incomplete or imperfect. There are much gentler ways to improve a person’s ideas – including the Socratic method.

    What do you see as the value or virtue of aggression here?

    • Ryan Gauvreau

      //There are much gentler ways to improve a person’s ideas – including the Socratic method.//

      To be honest the titular practitioner of the Socratic method comes off as a bit of an asshole to me. At the very least, he could very easily replace the professor in this most recent scene.

  • Lostman

    I always found fascism to term people just throw around groups they didn’t like.

    • Tylikcat

      I’ve found Eco’s to be the most cogent, and so am attaching a brief overview. (And usefully, for contrast, several others are also included which if nothing else will probably explain my preference. Though I do love the frequency of fascism as anti-feminism. Rar!)


  • Mr BreaksIt

    It’s not terribly important, but I find myself wondering what cultural background Prof. Gurwara is from. By the name, I’m guessing Australian Aboriginal, but SE-Asian is also a strong possibility

  • Darkoneko Hellsing


    When you think you get it, you don’t.
    When you think you don’t get it, you still don’t.
    somehow tho. It looks like he’s about to say something expalanative, rather than something purposely mean.

  • Raven Black

    I like how it’s all looping back to her “we” from earlier. She’s speaking for the whole class, expressing opinions many of them probably don’t hold, on their behalf. She’s already *demonstrated* her misguided assumption that everyone wants the same things as her, feels the same way about things as her, and her willingness to fight “for everyone” (“it just proves that we’re scared”) in the microcosm of this classroom is very telling about how easily these assumptions slide towards tyranny. (See how she’s hogging the entire class, at the expense of others’ interests!) And after demonstrating it, he pushed her to explicitly state it.

    It’s great that he made explicit mention of that ‘we’ earlier so the stage was set for calling her out on this.

    NB. I don’t think the hogging the class is actually a problem, because there’s good solid lessons in this conversation for everyone in the class. Just as Alison is exhibiting small-scale tyranny, the rest of the class has exhibited how easily one can become “the oppressed” through inaction.

  • bta

    Fascism is hardly the only ideology to emphasize the importance of the
    group and of collective action for the good of all, though. In fact, you could
    even point at her “when one of us is hurt, all of us are hurt” as being
    rather opposed to fascism, which isn’t big on unconditional compassion.

    A more obvious critique would be how her statement is so generic as to simply be a platitude.

    think it’s also kind of important to remember that emphasizing a “we’re
    all in this together” sentiment is kind of healthy for an invulnerable
    young person. In fact, if she’d been making an individualist, relativist
    statement before, one could just as easily accuse her of being a
    selfish sociopath and insinuate that she’s alienated from humanity.
    Wait, that’s what her previous philosophy teacher told her… She just can’t win.

    Not that I think this guy is being particularly jerk-y as far as Socratic dialogue goes, but going straight for the “so, how about Hitler?” argument instead of the “that’s a nice generic statement, care to tell us more about it?” one is kind of a weird approach.

    • hwfross

      People uniting for a common cause can be either good or bad depending on its context. I’m not sold just yet, but I think, that the Professor is taking into account the indifference of the other members of the class and Alison speaking unsolicited on their behalf. Which certainly leans more to the Tyrant side of things.

  • Peter Ebbesen

    Aristotle did, for three years tutoring a young lad, the son of a prominent king.

    History remembers the lad as Alexander the Great. :p

  • Tylikcat

    Okay, I’ve had a bit to recover from the helpless laughter evoked by this statement – which was directed, I should be clear, not at you but at myself. Oh, dear, I do love this board far too much.

    So… One of the themes I’ve been aware of in my work for some time (not just my academic work per se, but software work before that, and for that matter my studies in political economics before that*) is resilience, and in particular how systems can be designed so as to be resilient to various kinds of perturbations.** Which comes up a lot if you’re designing, say, very large scale high volume highly distributed computer networks. Or smart power grids drawing from renewable (and hence variable output) sources. Or if you’re trying to create detailed mathematical models of neurons and their interactions.

    So, um, you just said some magic words and totally nerd sniped me, OMG.

    So… what do you mean by unity? Temporary unity around a particular purpose? Cultural homogeneity? What do you mean by stability? (My lab is in the process of publishing a paper with formal definitions for “robustness” and “flexibility” in just this kind of context.) Do you mean it will squat happily and not mess itself up if left alone? Do you mean that it can respond well to changing circumstances? I am not even trying to list all the options, but these things seriously aren’t equivalent.

    One of the nice things that’s come from having my head in biology so much is that I’m much less convinced of the existence of engineered optimal solutions – we’re dealing with such large and complex solution spaces that it’s probably often the case that there are multiple non-contiguous regions of pretty darn good solutions (and because they’re non-contiguous, for an organism to evolve from one to another would be a very rare event).

    I personally find systems that can adapt gracefully to messed up and changing situations most interesting. (Well, that and systems that just motor on and do well under any circumstances because they’re just that impervious. OMG, the globins.) But that’s… aesthetics.

    * Yes, my current field is neurobiology. Yes, my education is fucked.
    ** It’s also possible this is just a cover story to make me look a bit less like a giant dilettante. Except, I think I don’t care?

  • If you’re Ayn Rand, yes.

  • It’s not that in-class conflicts are scary when they’re defined and both parties know what the rules are. It’s that this guy is trying to bait someone when he’s got the upper ground, and there’s no stated “Hey, I’m going to take a go at your axioms so we can toughen you up. OK?”

    That’d be a great exercise. If someone thought to mention it up front. But the dude is drunk, so who knows what he’s doing?

  • Menace? I doubt he’d get that chance.

  • Ralph, the Dire Opossum

    Not to distract from the fascinating dialogue and characterization, but why is Mr. Gurwara so bad at shaving?

  • Dean

    He’s too old to be a biodynamic. All of the biodynamics are supposed to be around Alison’s age.

  • UnsettlingIdeologies

    Earnest question. You say that he is “frequently praising” her. When? Where? And do you really think that she (or anyone else in the class) is taking away the message that he thinks anything she says is worthy of praise?

  • UnsettlingIdeologies

    Well, his lesson plan seems to basically be “Step 1: Get students to offer up personal axioms. Step 2: Tear apart students’ axioms. Step 3: Enlightenment.” So, yeah, it makes sense to engage in a debate with the one student who speaks up.

    That being said, he could have gone about this entirely differently. For instance, he could have had them all write down a personal axiom or two. That would have gotten *all* the students engaged. Then, if he wanted to engage in the back-and-forth for the benefit of the class, he could have asked for someone to volunteer theirs to be deconstructed and potentially improved on (so they’d be more open to the possibility of it being challenged). And he could have gotten the students (including the volunteer) to do it, so that more of the students are active participants rather than passive observers of the process.

    His approach, on the other hand, reeks of someone who sees himself as the infallible expert ready to impart his brilliant knowledge on the ignorant students. Even if he doesn’t mean to single out a student, he sees more value in them watching him critique an axiom than having them do it. His approach is a very classical education approach, but it’s also kinda narcissistic and not generally considered best practice in teaching.

  • Danygalw

    “Sarcasm is the opposite of bravery.”
    No, I don’t consider that axiomatic.

  • Fairness and harm reduction are all but universal human morals, excluding sociopaths (who are amoral) and libertarians (who don’t care), of course … I’d say `we got this` is an amazing axiom. http://billmoyers.com/segment/jonathan-haidt-explains-our-contentious-culture/

  • hwfross

    On the other hand they’ve been talking for about a minute and a half real time. Maybe two minutes. I think the format of a web comic, especially when it’s forced into conversation mode, can sometimes mess with the perception of a conversations flow.

    Besides which, Allison wasn’t put on the spot, she chose to stand up to him, this sort of technique often works on someone like that since they’ll tend to muscle threw rather than cave. At least in my experience.

  • Ryan Gauvreau

    Thanks for introducing me to his definition.

  • Christophe2314

    He’ll keep going as long as it takes for Alison to start actually defending her axioms. Right now, she keeps saying stuff and then backpedaling when faced by even the weakest counter-argument. The teacher is acting as devil’s advocate. It doesn’t matter what his actual opinions are, his job is to tear down Alison’s to see if they’re built on a strong foundation. Clearly they’re not.

  • Stephanie Gertsch

    Meh. We’ll have to agree to disagree. His style may work for some students, but it would just make me lose respect for him. I think that true leaders will model the attitude of open mindedness they want to see in their students and encourage the entire class to participate and think critically, which is not something he’s achieving by monologuing. you can challenge someone’s beliefs much better by respecting them. “Ok. So let me push back on that. What if…”

    one of my favorite classes had a professor asking, “So we’ve reached the conclusion that suffering is good because it makes you holy. So: should we torture children because that helps them draw closer to God?”

    Now that’s helping you rethink your beliefs.

  • Christophe2314

    But does the obviousness of that statement make it any less worthy of being questioned? There’s a tendency, when debating morally charged issues, to assume that “because it’s right” and “because it’s wrong” are acceptable arguments. That is in fact one of the greatest sources of bigotry in the world. For instance, homophobic people are not evil mustache-twirlers, they’re people who are absolutely convinced that they’re in the right, but have never questioned what makes them right. In my opinion, the most obvious of beliefs can often be the most dangerous, specifically because they’re the ones we’re least likely to question.

    To get back to your suggested axiom, you actually started deconstructing it yourself. “I want to live at least a little longer” is not self-evident: it presupposes that one wants to experience more of what the world has to offer before checking out.

  • chaosvii

    Like seriously what are you on about?
    I am left to guess how this is intended to be a specific response to anything I said. Is this about my heckling of your perpetual engine?

    Finding *what* element of the narrative odd?
    Is this about your personal expectation of how socially competent Alison ought to be or something?
    What exactly is going on with your engine that makes it anything more than a personal sense of dissonance wrt her deal with her sister in issue 4? Like why exactly is it difficult to accept the premise that a teenage superhero would push aside or not really know how to address her family issues until a major event struck her entire family? Why ought it take place years ago instead? Do you have a reason you can point to about Alison’s family life which indicates that she could have dealt with this sort of thing?
    How does the more recent information called Dad-Cancer-of-the-Pancreas not fit the vague mold you’re proposing?
    What is the structural flaw that you are proposing? I get that you do not feel cozy with some number of aspects of the story, but you’re posting your dissonance instead.

    See, I don’t understand how it is a continuation of what you said before except in the vaguest sense of “narrative ploy” & “something she has to know due to her status and interests.”
    You are almost claiming that Alison should just know things that you believe are part & parcel of being a part of all the demographics & categories she falls under. What kind of things? What sort of basic understanding of what subjects in what field of interest? Which facts are in her head, huh?
    What are your expectations of Alison and why do they necessarily/probably fit into the life that she has led?

  • Christophe2314

    Ah, but for that to work you’d need to get everyone to agree with you. You might think that would be easy, and yet you only need spend five minutes arguing with an American about gun control to find out that’s not the case. See, it’s easy to say that we only need to stop using violence, but then bad guys show up who have no qualms about using violence, and a lot of people’s immediate reaction is to use violence against them. Not only that, but sometimes violence is in fact necessary for progress. For instance, when comes to time to remove a tyrant from power.

    Thing is, the stated purpose of tyranny in the comic is not to create peace, but to get everyone to work together, which is necessary for peace in the first place. You can’t get everyone to work together if they don’t agree, and I assure you, they don’t.

    • Graeme Sutton

      Ah, so is it simply an incredibly unlikely statistical coincidence that I have lived my life almost entirely free of violence, or is Canada a tyranny since that is the only state that could have ensured such a charmed existence?

      • Christophe2314

        Is that so? First off, you’re using a logical fallacy here: you’re assuming that because you’ve lived a peaceful, non-violent life, everyone has. Secondly, though it’s true that Canada has a fairly low crime rate, especially when it comes to gun violence, the fact is that this is in large part thanks to laws that not everyone agree with. So yes, you do need to force everyone to your way of thinking in order to prevent conflict.

  • Christophe2314

    I disagree with that. Of course any one-sentence belief won’t stand up to scrutiny, that’s why they need to be elaborated on. See, I don’t believe that any statement can apply to all of human experience. Beliefs such as “lying is wrong” or “violence is never the answer” seem obvious at first, yet they don’t hold up in the real world. But does that mean the answer is to just say “screw it, I’ll lie and use violence whenever I want?” Of course not.

    You have to dig deeper, find out the source of your beliefs. You need to understand why we decided that lying and violence were wrong in the first place. Once that’s done, you can rebuild those beliefs, but with conditions. “Lying is wrong, except in a scenario where it is clear that telling the truth would have negative consequences on people other than myself.” “Violence should never be initiated, but can be used in response to another person’s violent behavior.” Even those are rather reductive, but the point stands: by rebuilding a belief with a stronger understanding of what that belief exists for in the first place, you end up with beliefs that hold up a lot better when challenged.

  • Mechwarrior

    To repeat myself, a good teacher should be able to point out the flaws in a student’s argument without ever looking like they’re making a personal attack on the student. A teacher who tries to get the class involved and then goes on to make personal attacks on the student is grandstanding.