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  • Or maybe, just maybe, she’s angry at the person who arbitrarily failed a student to make a point and then mocked her for trying to prevent it?

    • Carl Stevenson

      I seriously doubt that he’s going to keep to his grading scheme. After all isn’t he a substitute teacher?

      • Tylikcat

        The other professor is out for the semester – Gurwara is most likely filling in for the entire period. Short term subs are rare in higher education, and usually when they happen it’s informal, where you contact someone you know who knows the material – or who can do a guest lecture that will be useful to the class – and beg them to take your class because what you thought was the flu turned out to be appendicitis and you’re on bed-rest for the next week.* Or, more commonly, you know ahead of time when you need to be out of town, and you plan your schedule around guest lectures or other such activities. (Or just cancel class.)

        * I still have my appendix, but this was how I gave my first large format lecture – excepting conferences – on about 18 hours notice. Look, 150 students really is different than 18. My mouth was so dry it kept making these clicking sounds.

    • Zac Caslar

      If she is, she’s missing the point of being in the class.

      Actually, I’ll unpack that a little.

      So, a) she’d be assuming that the experiment is absolute. That entire grade of the class has been decided by this single interaction. I seriously doubt that it’s so, but if it is I give Mr. Chumbawumba copious points for chutzpah.

      b) Allison would be forgetting her place in the cosmos here: she’s the student. She’s not an evaluatrix dispatched to make sure this class is being “fairly” administered; this is doubly so in a class about examining the personal theories of “fair” itself.

      c) she’d be letting her sense of outrage wash away the actual value of the class itself. The Grade Is Not The Point. Granting an auto A and the privilege of being able to wander off for a semester is a profound disservice to the student.

      There is _something_ _worth_ _learning_ _here_. LEARNING. This is what Higher Education really is about: honing the actual intellectual tools themselves.

      Having everyone “win” by automatically getting an A grade would be like letting Allison take a sharpie and (very convincingly) drawing a 6-pack on her stomach. All of the cosmetic appeal, none of the actual muscle.

      Point of fact, I seriously doubt this class can actually be “failed” by a student who does the assigned reading and who finishes -if not even well- the assign coursework. This is not a mechanical exercise that a Google-bot could ace, this is mainlining the challenge of ethical logic.

      And she’s a SUPERHERO. There is possibly no more important a topic for no more important a kind of person than for her to understand her own motivations and moral reasoning.

      • Walter

        Mr. Chumbawumba? Come on man, not cool.

    • Weatherheight

      everything you say is true. But Alison just lost any moral authority she might have been able to have claimed. While the prof’s style is somewhat disrespectful (and I’m fairly certain this a rhetorical tactic, not actual disrespect), Alison just took disrespect to a whole new level.

      I’m expecting Alison’s expression to be most incredulous when Duwara reveals that he cannot, in fact, give anyone an “A” by a vote taken on the first day of class.

      I also expect her tantrum to escalate (hopefully in a non-violent manner).

    • If she didn’t want her beliefs challenged, she shouldn’t be in college.

      • masterofbones

        I’ve said it before – she has no reason to be in college except that she thinks that is “the right thing to do”.

    • Soqoma

      Yeah, but you know all this grade nonsense is for the sake of the argument. He’s not going to follow through with any of it. (at least, a sane adult wouldn’t)

    • Batty

      Right. The I want to prove a point to the super hero who spoke up when I was belittling everyone and supposedly fail one random student to prove a point thing has nothing to do with her anger.
      Hey if I was failed so quickly Id cuss at you two. After all, what do I have to loose? You going to fail another one of my classes?

    • cyrano111

      When did he mock her?

      She believes the world works in a particular way, and he has shown her that she’s mistaken. Her bitterness is understandable, but if she is angry at him, that is misdirected.

      And although these students seemingly believe they will genuinely pass and fail according to this exercise, that cannot be the case, as they would realise if they had time to think (much like the exercise itself).

    • Alon Rand

      I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to rescind his arbitrary grades before the end of class. Nobody gets an automatic A, nobody gets an automatic F, this was all a thought experiment, see you Thursday everybody.

    • Jon

      Or more likely, she’s angry at having one of her axioms be grossly disproven.

      People don’t react kindly to evidence that something they have believed is wrong without a lot of training in doing so.

      • Richard Griffith

        I don’t see her Alison’s Axiom as having been disproven. “We are all in this together,” if we all work together we can do better than if we think individually. That was shown perfectly by what happened here, decisions based on individual priority can be to the detriment of the group. “We are all in this together”. Our selfishness affects others. We can do better if we cooperate and work together.

        • Balthazar

          So she should have made the work together?

          What if someone didn’t want to?

          How would she stop that?

          Punch them in the face?

          The prof ain’t saying her axiom is wrong, he’s only saying it could possibly lead to her forcing everyone to do what she believes to be “for their own good”.

          “The axiom of a tyrant”


      • Peter

        Did he really disprove it tho? As far as i remember her axiom was “People working together would lead to a better world”. Nothing he did until now really showed that this is wrong. He showed that it is difficult to get people to work together, but her axiom was never even touched by this realization.

      • ChaosVortex

        How is her axiom wrong?

    • Cartheon

      Or maybe she is angry that he just schooled her by showing that people are people with all the good and bad that comes with and blind idealism can get you burned. Considering her very antagonistic interaction with him culminating in cursing at him while he remains calm, collected and still willing to engage in conversation, I have yet to get any inclination that he is specifically gunning for her.

    • Balthazar

      “Mock” and “question” are two different things.

      You have to remember, this is a philosophy class. This is a class where “I did it because it was the right thing” is not a valid answer.

      What is the right thing? Why do you think so? Is it always the case?

      So let’s get back to the point.

      What did the professor really do?

      Alison thinks that to choose a white stone instead of taking a risk for the “greater good” and picking a black stone is selfish.

      This is all well and good for someone who doesn’t have any prior conflicting responsibilities, but she of course couldn’t understand that for some people, their grades and education do not belong solely to them but also to the people who helped them get there. That girl has responsibilities to her family that outweigh the responsibilities to a single unknown classmate.

      And yet without even thinking of that Alsion automatically admonishes her choice as “wrong” and her own as “right”.

      What the professor is attempting to do, (or at least I hope he is) is not being a general jerk face but attempting to show Alison that not everyone thinks the way she does or is in the same situation she is. She claims “We are all in this together” but quickly loeses sight of the “we” and fixates on her own belief that not risking yourself for others is “selfish”.

      Understanding others is the first step to work with others. Every person is a logical being and therefore their actions are a combination of emotion, risk assessment, and self serving.

      Even Alison who is attempting to be “the good guy” seems to be only doing that to prove the professor wrong, in her own way selfishly trying to force everyone to do what she wants to prove her point even at the risk of failing everyone.

      At least… It can be taken that way.

      Remember, everything should be questioned and every answer reevaluated not just to check if it’s the “right” thing to do but also to open up to new ideas and viewpoints.

      Alison should try to chill a bit and listen to others.

      I mean she isn’t a superhero anymore, carrying the weight of unbreakable righteousness on her shoulders, so what’s wrong with a little self reflection?

  • Pugsy

    I like this guy, but I don’t… but I do.

  • DHeidel

    I’m just going to call what I’ve been suspecting since Guwara was introduced.

    Allison is going to call him out on an unrealistic Prisoner scenario that’s contrived and designed to confuse and divide the students.

    He is going to reveal that he is the survivor of ethnic cleansing – hence the facial scars and cane – which precisely mirrored the events of the class. An ethnic minority that got the metaphorical black stone. If everyone stood up to the ethnic cleansing, it could have been stopped – everyone putting themselves in the same boat as the reviled minority. Instead, everyone had an excuse to turn their back and let Guwara’s people get killed – fear, apathy, cynicism. Perhaps there even was an Allison in Guwara’s past – people that stood up alone and were killed alongside, just like the Germans that tried to shelter Jews in WWII and ended up being sent to the concentration camps as well. Or perhaps Guwara was one of those people who stood up and put down the black stone and paid dearly for it.

    I think this is a beautiful way of framing not only Allison’s naivety about why people are complacent but her own privileged position. She’s indestructible so she’s lived her life putting down the black stone because she has nothing to lose. She’s also untouchable at the university so getting a failing grade is irrelevant to her – the school will just reverse it or fire Guwara to keep their star student. For her, it’s easy to be the first to step into the breach but that is a luxury that most normal people don’t have.

  • bardkun

    This guy reminds me of a high school history teacher I had. The Monday after we finished a big exam, she stormed into class, carrying a stack of papers and looking furious. She explained that the school had lost all our exams, and instead of giving us time to go over the material again, they’d handed her a “similar” exam and told her she had to administer it THAT DAY. Grades were due.

    We were just as pissed as her, but what could we do? We spent most of class taking the test, which was only barely relevant to the exam we’d already taken. She quickly browsed them, sighed, and said she could already tell most of us had failed.

    And then said, “congratulations, now you can imagine how it felt to be a black person trying to vote in the 60s.”And proceeded to tell us we’d be studying Jim Crow starting the following day.

    I doubt he’s actually going to fail anyone. He’s simply making a point, one that makes her very angry.

  • Pyre

    And thus Alison learns that life doesn’t come with a lengthy instruction manual. Bonus points for the known super “who doesn’t like bullies” to resort to a threatening insult against a normal.

    This is probably the best philosophy lesson that she will ever get.

    • Peter

      I’m kind of on Allisons side with this one. She is actually the only person who stands up against a guy who abuses his power (at least thats what it looks like from her perspective, you can’t blame her for not seeing through his bluff) because the others are too afraid of him.

      That she is invulnerable and could kill everyone in the classroom in a matter of seconds is besides the point. He still is in a position of power and uses this to bully the class (again, thats what it looks like from her perspective). Her insulting him because of this is in no way different than it would be if one of her classmates did it.

  • MinorGryph

    Reposting this from last pg since I posted WAY too late for most people to see it:

    I think I see where Allison went “wrong”. It isn’t wrong to assume people will be inherently good and try help each other if convenient, but it IS wrong to assume a group of strangers will join in solidarity against threats to individuals. The first day of class, no one knows each other so there is no social contract.

    Allison might have turned this experiment around if she had put down a black AND given Davenport her white stone. This would placed the risk cost of helping him solely on herself instead of whole class.

    Davenport would then have the choice of putting down a white and saving himself, or trying to help Allison in return by keeping his black. Seeing their exchange may also have guilted the students who paying attention into putting down black stones. Interaction begetting togetherness.

    Ultimately that would still have failed due to people not paying attention, but Allison would have shown that people can stand together without a tyrant forcing them, and that it is worth trying. Instead of getting angry and losing faith in humanity when everyone chose to abandon Davenport.

  • Giacomo Bandini

    And here we go. In my humble opinion , these scene get some light on Allison’s true fatal flaw: that she feels invulnerable.

    She has just told her professor to go fuvking himself, an act that no one of her companion won’t even dream to do, not even the poor John, who has way more reasons to be furious with professor Guevara. And she has done it because in the end, she has no true reason to fear the consequence of her action. The college won’t ever expel Mega-Girl, for starter. But even if that happened, in the end, it is no big deal: she is maybe the more powerful biodinamic alive, here true destiny doesn’t lie in college studies, despite what she may be telling herself. She is here to learn, so to find the better way to save the world, and she can do that in any other place. But common people like her companions have it different: they cannot so casually afford to risk to fail a course, or even expulsion, for an ideological discussion.
    This exchange proves that despite her best efforts, Allison is not like us. And how can she help us, if she cannot truly understand us?

  • Carl Stevenson

    I’m actually surprised that Alison has this little empathy for her classmates and naive enough to not even consider people having flaws?
    Otherwise, the teacher is actually pretty good at drawing out some real character development for Alison. Just kind of loving the full deconstruction of Allison’s axiom.

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      This is something she had since she was a kid. Remember the soccer team “I can do it, why aren’t they trying harder!” I’m sure I’m paraphrasing, but Allison has always been a little bit disappointed in the world from the beginning.

  • Preacher John

    Alison doesn’t really get sarcasm, eh? It is pretty obvious that Mr Gurwara is being sarky in panel 5… Hmm, I don’t know where he’s going in panel 7 though, seems to be veering off track into amateur psychology.. He’d be better off pointing out how that one girl’s perfectly justifiable reason not to comply (with Alison’s vision) demonstrates his first point about “axiom of a tyrant”..

    • Khlovia

      No, she gets the snark; that’s *why* she cussed at him.

  • Samara2Q13

    All this proves is that through intelligent design you can make everyone an ***hole.

  • Yes, you can make people feel stupid and angry, prof. Point taken … I guess. This kind of seems like a waste of time for a college level course. Then again, the way that the students are written, some of them seem to be at a middle school level at best. Not saying that can’t happen, but it’s kind of testing my suspension of disbelief. It’s way too set up.

    • Tylikcat

      Even with everything Gurwara did to shake everyone up and make them decide quickly, I’m kind of surprised as well. I only know The New School indirectly… but I did spend a year at a strange little vaguely neo-Marxist high school (long story) and I even under these conditions I would have expected a solid third of the students – well, at least a quarter – to play black as a “fuck you, this game sucks”. …and I kind of suspect the student bodies are somewhat similar.

      …well, okay, that was back in the eighties, maybe we were just mouthier then? (There were some cultural shifts – teenagers in the eighties were generally more independent than a lot of my undergrads are now.)

  • Alison clearly has more self-control than I. but seriously, who intentionally pisses off the superstrong woman who can FLY? other than someone who really doesn’t care for their nose in its normal, unbroken state.

    • Um… take a close look at his face. Either the professor is a professional boxer in his spare time, or his teaching style has gotten him attacked before and he’s okay with it.

  • Mechwarrior
  • Trev

    I am of the opinion that this guy and Alison are going to end up as BFFs

  • I’m back to being lost.

    • Johan

      Welcome to the club. We have tee shirts somewhere ^^

    • chaosvii

      1) Alison made a statement that has terrible implications if applied axiomatically (which is to say, without qualification, moderation nor caveat) in various political circumstances.
      2) Prof noticed that she didn’t recognize those implications, so he delivered an object lesson as a way to show her that people don’t just unite because they should, and in fact can’t afford the risk of failure sometimes, so they opt not to even try unifying even when it screws over someone they hardly know.
      3) Alison wisely opts to not “apply” her axiom, and implies that people are tricked into being bad people that don’t unite.
      4) Alison is confronted with the fact that while she can afford to risk failing a class in order to prove a point, others can’t. Which explains so much of why they don’t choose to be a hero all the time. It also indicates how presumptive it was for her to imply that not being heroic in this circumstance is a choice that can be casually demonized.
      5) Prof guides this whole process to have Alison in a state of dissonance which can only be healthfully resolved through the recognition that what she claimed to be her axiom is not actually a personal axiom so much as a pretty good motto which Alison fills with qualifications, caveats, and only ever applies in moderation.

  • AFB

    The prof might not be a nice person, and it’s unfair to John, but this lesson contains truly valuable information for Alison of all people: since her mission is to get people to seek positive-sum outcomes, she needs to understand what obstacles prevent them from already doing so.

  • Nexxo

    I think that no students will be harmed in the making of his point. Namely, that people all have unique experiences and needs and therefore will always experience a conflict/tension between acting in their own interests and in those of their group/tribe. As such there has to be some room for self-determination in being a group member; it has to be a free choice.

  • Weatherheight

    Yep. Alison’s taking it personally now.

    But she’s learning a valuable lesson. The values a person has, no matter how noble, just, or beneficial they may be, may not always be shared by others – and sometimes that differing value may have underpinnings with which you happen to agree.

    I enjoy the look on financial aid girl’s face – she’s clearly not completely comfortable with her decision but she could not see any other acceptable choice. And now that she realizes there was a viable choice but one she couldn’t have risked (and wisely so, given the outcome), now she feels somewhat worse. Very nice artwork in this arc. Duwara’s expressions on this page are also amazing – clearly enjoying the teaching experience unti Alison crosses the line with a deliberate personal attack. He is clearly in Authority Figure mode in that last panel.

    • Khlovia

      Not so sure; I think he’s still enjoying himself. The grin is still there; just not quite so gleeful. I think he’s tickled that he reduced Miss Noble to cussing him out.

  • Maracaibo

    I mean, this is a thought experiment, right? Dude isn’t actually going to fail anyone, right?

  • Joshthulhu

    Just because his points are valid doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole! Also a life lesson.

  • Soqoma

    Ugh. This is so good.
    Of course, the person who has to act in their own interest is the person who is not in the interest of others. What makes someone selfish? Being vulnerable.

    I would be angry too–I’m still with Allison–but as someone who also teaches adult students; this kind of live-the-concepts tactic is so well executed, I can’t help but feel some major Guwara appreciation right now.

    (I also don’t believe he’s going to follow through with this point system)

  • David Chuhay

    You’re not wrong, sir. You’re just an asshole.

  • Silenceaux

    I want to support you here Alison, but you’re kiiiind of just Getting Mad At Things instead of really examining the causes of a result that surprised you this deeply.

  • Timtombimbomb

    I can’t believe none on one knows they aren’t at risk of failing.

  • I think Allison needs this guy. He may come over as offensive, but every point he makes is one she needs to consider. And we haven’t seen his endgame yet.

  • 3-I

    “You’re REEEEEEALLY not angry at ME! You’re angry at this other student I put in an impossible place and am now trying to set you against so you’ll fight and ‘learn something’!”

    Ugh, fuck this guy and his whole teaching style.

  • lyndsey

    Alison and I are similar in our bordering on absurd faith of human cooperation. We are also similar in our anger problems. But where we are different is that I wouldn’t have dropped the F bomb. I would have walked out of the class, middle finger in the air going. “Well, we’ve all got our grades guys! Let’s get out of here.”

    • Johan

      Same here. Well almost. I would have left too but not even angry. He didn’t disprove her belief at all and it’s clear she doesn’t have much to learn from him,

      • Insanenoodlyguy

        She has SO MUCH to learn from him.

  • Rosemarie Thiessen

    It should still be early enough to withdraw from a course and change to a new one.

    • Peter

      They can’t.

      “And as this course is a requirement for your major, you will have to take it again next semester.”

      Page 36.

  • Jake

    If this guy actually fails his students to prove a point, he deserves to get fired. If he doesn’t he’s an awesome teacher. But I like this guy, he is essentially sitting in front of a suitcase nuke, and seeing how far down he can push the detonate button before it blows up. He is either really stupid, fairly clear that is not the case, or he has balls of diamond.

  • Jared Rosenberg

    Considering how powerful (and well known) Alison is I find this professor to be somewhat suicidal.

    • Tylikcat

      Well, then that would pretty much prove that Alison is effectively a tyrant, would it?

  • Ryan B

    If I were a kid in class I’d already be typing up an email to the dean of students…

  • ConcinnityB

    it’s not *their* fault, it’s the fault of the person who /put them in that position/, knowing the consequences that would result

    • chaosvii

      Ethics is not always about the best choice in a (roughly) fair scenario, at times, it is about the best remaining set of actions worth undertaking in a terribly unfair set of circumstances.

  • Karl

    I’m still wondering – can you actually fail a student like that? I guess he could deliver the reward, somehow, but failing a student like that?

    • Christophe2314

      Pretty sure he can’t. Also, pretty sure he wouldn’t even if he could. If he really does it, then this was the only class of the entire semester. This was just a thought experiment.

  • Johan

    It still feels all weird. They know he’s not gonna fail anyone right? Or if he really does, I’m gonna question de writing for the first time since I started reading this comic. This is a really weird arc.

    • chaosvii

      She was talking about free cooperation being the one true path when she said it was a description of a better world. He’s not saying that the statements she’s intended to make can’t be applied in moderation or are doomed to be politically exploited, he’s using an object lesson to demonstrate that most people don’t simply naturally cooperate when given the chance to do so. That the axiom she provided fails to be self-evident, and in fact requires justification. Alison didn’t recognize that she justifies her axiom when she applies it, and doesn’t exercise it when she intuits that it ain’t appropriate (see: Cleaver discussion).

      What Alison inadvertently said was “people are better off when they are united, the world is better off united, people are worse off whenever anyone is harmed due to a lack of unity, and this is so self-evident that it’s basically true in all contexts and people would be fools not to unite.” And if Alison noticed that she inadvertently implied all that, she would have distanced herself from that *axiomatic* interpretation of her words.
      See, while unity may be a pretty damn good key to a better world, it is a key that requires a lot of other prerequisites (not axiomatic). This object lesson is designed to indicate that people have non-foolish reasons, as well as reasons which are not worth demonizing, for their non-unity choices when faced with an unfair circumstance (fair circumstances in the world are less common than is desirable) which requires massive risk in order to unite and therefore aid a person they haven’t met.

      The professor provided a massively simplified example to do this, but consider how unfair circumstances pop up on the world stage all the time. How ethnic identities, religious affiliations, gender identities & performances, as well as certain forms of sexuality are still scapegoated, and too few people stand up for them because of the obscene risk that is posed by having those people’s back.
      If one does not see the analogy here then of course it looks weird and unfair, because it is always unjustified in the world and it would be a terrible idea to construct a game with such heavily biased rules then expect everyone to have a good time playing.
      Ethics is not always about the best choice in a (roughly) fair scenario, at times, it is about the best remaining set of actions worth undertaking in a terribly unfair set of circumstances.

  • Mujaki

    And this is why they have “rate your professor” surveys at university.

  • Christophe2314

    Yeah, that was the guy who didn’t even have a white stone. Didn’t exactly get to make a choice.

  • Christophe2314

    Well, it is selfish. Selfishness isn’t always pure evil. That’s the point the teacher is making: morality isn’t black and white, and you can’t get everyone to play along with your idea of good because everyone has their own conflicting motivations.

    Oh, and think the college students not realizing this is just a thought experiment with no real impact on their grade is unrealistic? Spend five minutes reading through the comments here. Plenty of dumb idiots ’round these parts.

    • ∫Clémens×ds

      I’m not sure that’s what the webcomic is trying to convey, what with our protagonist taking a stand behind the One True Fight for the semantic nuances of what “selfish” means. Because apart from that, I agree.

      I think there’s an interesting point to be made, but we’re still not there and it doesn’t seem like it’s our favorite philosophy Professor’s goal, about selfishness and common interest not necessarily being at odds.

  • Christophe2314

    What? He’s awesome! Constantly challenges his students’ beliefs and is willing to play devil’s advocate: check. Unafraid to piss off even a living god: check. Makes jokes and uses practical exercises to keep students engaged: check. I would love to be in his class, as would anyone who has to ability to question their own beliefs. That’s precisely why Alison needs to be here, why this is in the comic. Alison has never faced real opposition. She’s never been proven wrong before. She needs to learn that she’s not always right.

    • chaosvii

      I think Alison understands that she’s not always correct, but there’s still that matter of how she doesn’t quite recognize that her most deeply held convictions are vulnerable to abuses and should not be considered righteous simply because they sound very good.
      Finding oneself immune from being incorrect once all the data is in was a lesson that Patrick recently learned.
      Say what you will, Alison has at least undergone self-reflection past her teen years, even if it isn’t all that much for a prospective Philosophy/Sociology/Whichever other major requires Axiology as a required course undergrad.

  • Christophe2314

    Uh, yeah, sure. There’s totally one of these in my class and I swear it’s not me!
    *shifty eyes*

  • Christophe2314

    Of course he’s not going to fail anyone over this. I am amazed that anyone actually thinks he will. And the point of view you’re expressing here is worrying, and is exactly why Alison needs to be in this class. You’re basically saying that, because she’s incredibly powerful, she doesn’t need to listen to anyone she doesn’t like. This is a very slippery slope.

  • Tylor

    I like to think they’ve all gone to the other, unlikely, extreme. They’re all treating it at face value despite knowing that it’s false because that’s the way to get the most value out of the thought experiment. Granted, with some of the comments from the people who didn’t understand the premise, there might be one or two who are confused enough to think their grades are, in fact, at risk.

    • Insanenoodlyguy

      And some people just want to win (even if it’s just a thought exercise). If your axiom is, instead: “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, the white stone is the only correct choice for somebody with a white stone.

  • Tylor

    I think you are wrong. She says that willingly failing the course would be letting others down. It is entirely viable that the money to pay her tuition has been raised at the cost of some sacrifices by her family. To put down a black stone is to risk those sacrifices being for naught in exchange for the chance of helping someone else. To put down a white stone is to ensure the sacrifices of those she cares about paid off at the cost of making someone else lose their opportunity.

    There is a good case to be made that it is simply a question of which loss by others it is more important that she respect.

  • Thewizardguy

    Actually, when you look at what the teacher is actually saying, he hasn’t made a single ad hominem attack the whole time. He’s clearly being a pretentious arsehole, but he’s teaching a valuable lesson to someone nobody’s prepared to teach. No other teacher would ever risk upsetting Allison like this because she has automatic power over them, simply because of who she is.

    Like him or hate him, Guwara’s good at his job.

  • Johan

    That’s really weird right? It’s like the students are made dumber so the teacher can look better.

  • Johan

    lol right? XD

  • Johan

    That was the guy who only had a black stone. Right? Wait, need to go back and check

  • Johan

    Yeah … but that Alison isn’t the same we had before. It doesn’t make sense after all she’s seen and all she’s learned.
    Since his point and her axiom are not mutually exclusive, she has no reason to get angry at him. And even if he did something to warrant that anger, where did that F-bomb come from?

    • chaosvii

      His point and her manner of applying her axiom in a non-axiomatic fashion are not mutually exclusive, but the axiom that she provided is in direct conflict with the point he demonstrated about unity being a fairly evident sub-optimal choice in the various treacherous environments that are often called “society” for short.

      Alison is angry because she thought that there was some vice or chicanery going down to blame for everyone opting to be individualists, yet there was no such scapegoat which could be universally applied. Unity was just plain the option that could not be risked, and Alison instinctively made the obvious choice towards unity because risk isn’t really a thing for her.
      She doesn’t wear seat belts, she one-punches her way to victory, she is able to be a superhero at all times in all places, but most people can’t be heroes all that often, and would be crushed if they tried. Alison is faced with the fact that this sucks a lot, and is angry that she can’t expect a whole host of possible things of people that she can effortlessly expect of herself.

      I have been pissed that people act in such ridiculous ways when I have standards that would never allow me to do such things. But what made me even more pissed was to know that I was a egotistical punk for presuming that they don’t have a host of pressures & reasons to act foolishly. I just wrote them off as idiots, and then I faced the fact that I would be an idiot to keep writing them off without a second thought. Sometimes the standards we have for ourselves cannot be universally applied, or at least not in a humane way.

  • Johan

    I hope we’ll get more of the other students in the next page. That explanation right here would be a welcome addition 🙂

  • Dean

    Knowing something and understanding it aren’t always the same thing.

  • Khlovia

    He’s definitely someone who has been through the wars. Things have happened to him. Things have certainly happened to his *face*. The person behind that face unquestionably has a story to tell. Maybe our heroine should hear it.

  • Dean

    It’s basically a con trick. Gurwara knows that if he talks fast enough, no-one will stop and think about what he’s saying. It’s like the shell game – the trick lies in getting the mark to accept that the rules of the game really are being followed. Get them thinking about how to win, rather than the game itself.

  • Rumble in the Tumble

    “Not a tyrant, though! Seriously, I’m a nice gal! Now if you’d kindly turn all your stones to black, that would be appreciated. I’m not a tyrant. And you, professor, consider yourself fired. I’m not a tyrant.

    Not a tyrant (◡‿◡✿)”

  • Khlovia


  • Rumble in the Tumble

    Uh, question here: is it okay to hate such people, even if you’re 100% sure that without them, there would be noone at all to participate?

    Perhaps we should set for “mildly annoyed” :s

  • Khlovia

    Yeah, I think the Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting after the debacle of that one prof who got fired after tangling with Alison Green, and Prof. Gurwara here is what they came up with to deal with her. 😀

  • RemoteScholar

    I think he’s in devil’s advocate mode here to show how there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than what you see up front. His sarcasm isn’t to be mean, it’s to make the real point that “self-less cooperation” for most people means risking losing it all, because people don’t/can’t see the big picture, they only know what risks/rewards they themselves are dealing with and have to make decisions based on that limited information.
    I suspect he’ll soon explain himself here, and that we haven’t gotten far enough in this plot arc to get the explanation yet.

    Either way, Al is learning how the the world naturally encourages people NOT to cooperate in the way her axiom proposes. Her anger is partially at herself (she thinks she made herself fail, and doesn’t like how the results of her decision caused that failure as opposed to the cooperating solution she expected). Also she’s probably mad at the entire situation for putting her and the other student in this weird moral dilemma.

    Financial aid student does her risk calculation: “chance of everyone working together to help out 1 student=low; risk to me if it doesn’t work=high. Chance of everyone acting on their own benefit=high, risk to me=low;” so the financial aid student chooses low-risk situation. This is how most people behave.

    Al made her decision without even doing a risk-calculation: “everyone can win if I choose the black bean? Let’s do that, because working together can provide the best solution.” She acted quick, basically without thinking, and now she’s seeing the results. (Side note: in the real world, this is how children/naive/foolish people make decisions, which is without considering the consequences. Al’s risk level in life is a LOT lower than the average person’s thanks to her invulnerability and public status of “someone you don’t want to mess with”, and it seems like she doesn’t usually consider risk the way most people do. This is very scary, because you don’t want The Hulk making your country’s/classrooms decisions for you. The Hulk also acts on his whims without thinking about risk. Thankfully, Allison doesn’t have to be like The Hulk).

    The professor’s axiom-of-a-tyrant comment hasn’t been explained YET, but I’m sure the comic will get there. It may boil down to this: to get people to work together, you have to control them so they make decisions that are not in their own best interest (i.e. high-risk to self situations, like the financial aid student’s one above). If you take away choices from people, make decisions for them, or set up systems that do these things, you’re oppressing them the way the a tyrant does.

  • Khlovia

    Yep, his comment in panel 5 is clearly sardonic, since a less “fiendish” face than the one in panels 2 and 4 could scarcely be imagined.

  • 3-I

    Not John, the student in the hijab.

  • Elaine Lee

    Life is chock-full of situations in which a powerful person or institution lays down a law, or creates a set of circumstances, that people are forced to react to. That’s pretty much the constant state of things. When I was a young woman, thinking about the Nazis in Germany, I would think, “How could the German people let that happen? I would never have let my fellow humans suffer that way, even if I had to sacrifice myself.” Then I became a mother and thought, “I would do anything to protect this child. I would sit down and shut up in the face of evil to protect this child. I might even commit an evil act, if that was the only way to save my child.” Keeping that child safe was my reason for being and nothing could interfere with that mission. Now, the child is 28 years old and making his own way in the world. Now, I can be sure, once again, that I would sacrifice myself for the good of others (she says, metaphorically patting herself on the back). That’s the point the writer was making with Allison’s classmate, the girl who was more concerned with fairness to her family, than fairness to her classmate. What would Allison do if her Dad’s life hung in the balance of the exercise, instead of her classmate’s grade? Human beings run into these situations every single day. The teacher is right to question Allison’s simplistic worldview. You can’t punch empathy into people.

  • Elaine Lee

    The other students learn by watching the interaction. In fact, the whole thing may have been more for their benefit, than for Alison’s.

  • Loranna

    When I first “discovered” the world of message boards, I had the notion in my head that writing posts was somewhat like writing letters. So, I would sign my posts, thinking it the polite thing to do. Kind of like the students in the current comic strips, I . . . ah, didn’t think things through as well as I might have.

    By the time someone else pointed out to me that my signing posts was weird, well, I’d gotten so used to doing it that I decided not to stop. It had become my “thing.” I *do* occasionally omit my signature on really short posts . . . but, ah, I tend not to write *really* short posts too much. Case in point. ^_^

    (Heck, I used to always preface my signatures with “Hope this helps.” It took the better part of a decade for me to wean myself off of THAT habit.)

    So . . . hope that . . . answered your question? ^_^ (Bad Loranna, bad.)


    • AFB

      I can see a practical reason– to preserve attribution across XML syndication, web-scrapers, people copy-pasting into Facebook, and who knows what else. Kind of how rappers and old-time folk musicians would embed their names and sometimes dates into the lyrics of their songs.

      • Ah, but that only works if you make it into an acronym or something
        really hard to eliminate without damaging the message. After all,
        if I’m a scraper (what’s a scraper?) I can omit the end signature
        as easily as I cut out the username. Not that Lorena’s alone in putting a
        name at the end of her message: when I make anonymous posts I
        will usually sign them -LLH, which defeats the point of anonymity
        even as it’s useless for identifying me. But on the internet, what’s in a

        • Loranna

          Intellectually, I understand that there’s not really much in a name on the internet. But, having thought about this topic some more, I feel it still carries some weight for me emotionally. By signing my posts, I am telling myself that yes, I wrote those words, and I own them — even if two posts down the page someone proves my points to be utter bollocks.

          Weird, I know, but that’s who I’ve become. 🙂


  • Loranna

    In regards to your first point, I have seen other people in other webcomic forums lament the fact that the serial nature of the genre causes everyone to micro-analyze every page, often going off on huge rants about how the comic was clearly heading down irredeemable paths and that they were fed up with the authors. Only to be reminded by other posters that their predictions may be a bit . . . premature.

    I myself haven’t seen as many such doom-predicting comments on this forum though, which heartens me, because I agree, it’s great fun to be able to pick apart these scenes page-by-page. It’s like picking apart a movie frame-by-frame, catching all the small details that one might skim over when watching the movie as a whole. And, when all’s said and done, we can go back and re-read the whole book in one go, and see how the whole thing works as one cohesive piece!

    . . . Though now that you bring it up, it occurs to me: Is there much forum discussion for the *completed* sections of a webcomic? I don’t recall seeing any other discussions about, say, the points about the completed “Order Of The Stick” storyarcs, nor many comments about the early acrs in “The Challenges Of Zona.” I wonder how webcomic arts feel about that apparent dearth of comment on their work as a whole from their dedicated forum posters . . .

    Something to think about, at least. ^_^


  • Random832

    I think a someone who both has his particular teaching style *and* thin enough skin to not be able to deal with the fact that he will inevitably make his students angry sometimes is not likely to be a professor for very long.

  • Random832

    Yeah, but isn’t openly refusing to debate the thought experiment on its own terms far *more* disrespectful than even Alison’s “fuck you”?

  • Peter

    Yeah, like the last time she had a problem with one of her teachers. Oh, wait…

  • Lysiuj

    We haven’t yet, but we will. The only way for everyone to make the same choice she did, is if she forces them to… otherwise there are too many differences for everyone to be united.

  • Peter

    There are worlds between knowing something and feeling it yourself. That class actually sounds pretty amazing, it’s creative, you learn something (maybe not on an intelectual level, but on an emotional one) and you will definitly remember it. I experienced something like this myself and it’s definitly more interesting than 90% of the normal classes.

  • Giacomo Bandini

    My point is not that Allison have an advantage “playing the game”, is that for.her the stakes of the game are different from the ones of most of the uther players. Allison is upset because she lost.a game, because her way of thinking have been proven wrong, or maybe because she feels bad for.John; on the.other hand, John is upset… Because he got an F.

    • Tylikcat

      I suspect it’s not random that John is (other than Alison) the most obviously white guy in the room (or one of them, not going to page back right at the moment). But yeah, he was arbitrarily pulled into this thing, and then most of his classmates didn’t help him, which sucks, and one tried to and failed and doomed herself (at least within the bounds of the game), which sucks. Meanwhile, an awful lot of attention is being called to him, and he’s the kind of guy who chooses to sit in the back of the class – no fading into the background for you today, John!

      There is still part of me that is still pretty shocked by Alison’s inability to put arguments together on the fly… but I probably shouldn’t be. My students struggle with this, especially at first. I’m a lot more gentle with them at first – and I’m thinking mostly of my research students, not my classroom students – though they do spend a lot of time being confused and disoriented. Being able to martial an argument on the fly was one of those skills that I latched onto early and *hard* – I’m guessing Alison’s interactions with her father were more soft squishy ethics rather than hard edged debate. (Hell, I probably could have benefited from more of that. Thank heavens for the neighbors.)

  • Peter

    I think she didn’t do that because she assumed every student would put down a black stone anyways, because it’s the best choice for everyone, and therefore playing the guilt game is unnecissary. She was really surprised when the others didn’t put down black, so that supports my theory.

    Also, she had no time to think through this. The Professor really rushed the whole matter, it were probably a few seconds from explaining it to commanding them to choose. If the students had time they could think of shenanigans like this, or discuss, or see through his bluff. I don’t think it’s fair to expect the characters to come to the same conclusions as we do.

    • Christophe2314

      Note that there’s a reason the teacher didn’t give them time. In a prisoner’s dilemma, which is the scenario this thought experiment closely emulates, the two people involved are locked in separate rooms and given no opportunity to communicate. Obviously, Gurwara can’t just lock every student in a separate room, so he has to rush things so as to not let them talk to each other. The entire point of the experiment is to see if, on their own, people will act towards the good of the whole group. It falls apart if one person is given the opportunity to convince everyone else.

  • ∫Clémens×ds

    The choice she’s given isn’t between failing her grade and making someone else fail his– I’m not sure which word would apply best there, but with no alternative I don’t see selfishness in basic self-preservation (if that’s the case then let’s all kill ourselves so that our organs be given to people in need)

    Her selfishness is revealed only by the rejection of the risky path, the one where everybody can win, at a huge gamble. And I’m not saying it’s bad, in her situation I’d have done the same because this hobo professor in a dragon cane carrying stones around is hilarious, I’m just saying Alison’s reaction is completely over the top.

    You can be an idealist about altruism and not revile people who don’t follow, y’know Al. You can always be sad that people don’t follow your moral values, or be optimistic it’ll happen one day by force of perseverance. Saying “fuck you” to a Professor? No. You don’t get a pass.

  • Peter

    Still, kinda sad that there was exactly one person that understood what the fuck was going on and actually made a choice based on understandable reasons.

    • chaosvii

      Well, one person that was willing to share anyway. Though I personally would count the gal in the hijab as a second person that understood.

  • Peter

    Maybe somebody realized but didn’t said anything to don’t crush the lesson? At least that’s what i would do. The teacher want’s to play a game, so let him play his game, even if you see through it, and participate in the discussion afterwards.

  • Peter

    Really? I don’t think he is a complete asshole. Yes, he’s definitly walking the line, but then again, he is creative, he knows how to capture the attention of his audience and he does a pretty good job in setting of an interesting lesson.

    The only things that let him look unsympathic are his constant superior-ironic way of speaking, like he’s telling a joke only he understands, and that he lies to his students. Which is a totally legitimate way of teaching, i know plenty of real life examples.

  • Peter

    Actually, the only person he belittles is Allison. He started mocking her for her believes since she stood up to him for insulting the class, and his comment about Financial Aid Girl’s selfishness is adressed at Allison too. He never said anything about the character of a anybody other Allison, because she is the only one that actually participates in his class. Without her taking all the baits he wouldn’t have a point to prove.

  • Peter

    Nah man, it’s not that kind of comic.

  • Cartheon

    I didn’t say that being calm makes him right. I said that she is lashing out and he is rolling with it calmly, making me think he is treating this as just another day at the office, rather than specifically focusing on her. She spoke up, so he is engaging her. If someone else had spoken up before her, they would be getting the same treatment.

  • Peter

    I really doubt her cursing would be enough to let her fail. The university made it clear that they would rather loose a professor than Mega Girl.

  • Peter

    Burn down the building and blame it on gas leaks!

  • UnsettlingIdeologies

    Interrupting her in the middle of her rebuttal to argue semantics isn’t exactly giving her opportunity for rebuttal.

  • Peter

    Remain silent, you’re keeping the plot from unfolding!

  • Peter

    Dunno, his lesson seems more memorable to me than most of the lessons i have to take.

  • Mitchell Lord

    Actually, I think he ‘proved’ something, at least to an extent…He proved that, in THEORY…cooperation can work, but it relies on something very, very, VERY important.

    That everyone ELSE is rational. Or, that everyone else shares the same person’s worldview. That’s what he’s trying to get across to her…but, I’m thinking he’s trying to knock her down to build her BACK up.

  • Mitchell Lord

    Hm…I think I’m going to look at this from a new angle…would the lesson that “The world isn’t just black and white”, and “You need to question your own viewpoints”, and “Not everyone will pick the ‘right’ option”…have helped her in previous incidents?

    Like, for instance, in her incident with Patrick/Menace. Wonder how it would have changed if she had a more ‘mature’ axiom. (Assuming that her current axioms are more mature). Or just, if she was better prepared to question her own viewpoints…WITHOUT ABANDONING THEM WHOLESALE.

    That last part is important. As, note that Patrick’s quick questioning of her….was directly responsible for making her quit superheroing.

  • Peter

    Uhm, what? She is the only one that actually participates. Without her the whole lesson wouldn’t work. She doesn’t “take over the class”, she is just the only one that actually cares about the lesson.

  • Ben Posin

    That’s a fair question…what is a teacher to do who shows up and finds Mega Girl in your class? If you teach calculus, you try to get over freaking out over a celebrity and get back to teaching normally. But if you teach ethics, maybe it does seem reasonable to focus a bit more on the young woman who could decide to knock down the Capitol if the legislation she wants isn’t passed…

  • Christophe2314

    I think his point is very clear. He has not admitted that his demonstration is flawed. He has admitted that, if he’d spent more time explaining it, the results would have been different. Note that he has in fact made the rules very clear; if you go back and read his explanation, you won’t find it all that complicated. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill Prisonner’s Dilemma. The issue wasn’t that the professor didn’t explain it well enough, it’s that he didn’t wait for those who weren’t paying attention to catch up.

    I don’t see that as a flaw. He’s trying to make a point about the real world, and in the real world, no one waits for you to understand what’s going on. No one will clearly explain all the rules to you. His demonstration is actually quite flawless in that way.

    Alison claims that everyone will work together to achieve the greater good. Gurwara has proven that, due to a combination of confusion, cynicism and selfishness, it is impossible to get everyone to work together, which leads into the next point: that the only way to get everyone to work together towards the greater good, as Alison believes should be the case, is to take free will out of the equation. If, say, Gurwara took every student’s white stone away, it would be incredibly easy to get them all to play the black stone. However, they wouldn’t really have a choice in the matter. Hence, only tyranny can get everyone to work together towards a same goal.

  • Christophe2314

    Calm does not make right, but there is a correlation. It’s undeniable that being angry results in one being more close-minded, less rational and more likely to rely on logically fallacious arguments. To clarify: being angry in itself does not make your arguments invalid, but it does make you more likely to use invalid arguments. For that reason, I’d say being calm is conducive to intelligent debate, while being angry is not.

  • MrSing

    She’s angry because she voted black to get the “perfect solution” not because it was the right thing to do.

  • Carla

    I doubt that non-black high schoolers know that. Why would they? Even if they know something about the history (most students HATE history), what in their brief personal experience would give them that knowledge?

  • Evan Dark

    I think the only point he “proved” was that people are stupid, and he’s a dick.

    Of course Alison shouldn’t be surprised, the “all black” solution isn’t possible if even one of them is an idiot, so this is what she should have expected.

    Still, I don’t think that using petty tricks is a good way to earn your student’s respect, especially not in a philosophy class.

    • Balthazar

      But it did show Alison wasn’t thinking about everyone, no? Even though she talked so much about “We’re all in this together.”

      And on the subject of “idiot” I think it’s better to say that even with “idiots” the perfect solution is very possible. It involves communication. Something which Alison didn’t think to do.

      Not once did the professor say “But no talking.” Alison could’ve saved him by rallying the group to work together.

      Why didn’t she?

      Arrogance that she knew what everyone was thinking? Or maybe she didn’t want to prove the professors point about “tyrants”.

    • Scott

      Man, I wish we could be in a philosophy class together right now. This conversation would be great.
      The teacher didn’t prove that people are stupid. In the reveal shot, nearly the entire class had played the white stones. Admittedly, one person said they had played it out of confusion but another gave a very valid reason. In fact, to rebut some other comments, I firmly believe that if they were to do the experiment again right now, at least one student would still play the white stone. It’s not that the all black solution isn’t possible in the case of idiots, it’s that the all black solution isn’t possible in the case where even one person isn’t willing to risk everything they’ve worked for in the hope that it will benefit a total stranger.
      Gurawara might be a dick. In fact, he probably is. However, that is irrelevant. Dick or not, he’s fairly brilliant.

      • The_Rippy_One

        We are in a philosophy class right now – it’s just a demi-lead by a non-participatory instructor, and it’s class-majority-structured. The thing about philosophy is, that you are engaged in it any time you speak more deeply than “how’s the weather” – and this comment section is nothing but “here’s what I think” “here’s what I think they think” and “I agree/disagree because” – we are bashing out meaning through collective synthesis. Lessons work best when the students find their own, very often. XD

  • Katie RL

    So glad someone else thought of that! Been reading through this whole classroom exchange thinking, Allison could really do with some lessons in rationality…

  • Jonathan Shaver

    I have been loving this arc so far. I especially like the background colors – red/orange for antagonism, black for mortification/despair, and green for teaching.

    At least, until I realized that the green for teaching was because Mr. Guwara was standing in front of a chalkboard (which explains some of the stranger green panels I was trying to analyze).

    As it is, I find the entire situation a setup. Mr. Guwara has kept the class off balance all from the beginning through the Dilemma, and is only now slowing down to let people process things. The fancy entrance, the statements about Dr. Karapovsky, the drinks from the hip flask, turning Alison’s comments back on her, not allowing discussion before the vote – all designed to get an instinctual reaction from people. To make them think “This guy is crazy enough to actually go through with this”, and keep an organized response from forming.

    And I have a good reason I think this is a setup. Mr. Guwara has apparently come in to sub for a teacher suddenly out, it is the first day of an introductory class, no one seems to recognize him, and he definitely did not call roll. He refers to Alison as “Ms. Greene”. That makes sense, she is a national celebrity and has caused changes within the school itself. He also referred to John as “Mr. Davenport”. How does he know that name, despite never speaking to John at any point prior (unless John is the one who asks “Why would anyone put up a black stone?”)?

    The only thing that makes sense to me is if John is a plant. Go in, see if Alison would cover for him (the lack of notebook), and then act as the fall man. John’s also had no reaction to the fact that he has been forced to fail.

    Which leads to the current situation. Alison is mad – at herself. My interpretation of Page 37 was that she was hoping for validation of her recently stated axiom. She then tries to rationalize why it failed, to which ignorance and cynicism are the first reactions. Her reaction is to attribute the fault to the situation not being clear enough – she is not blaming her fellow students. In fact, she states that if they had time to think they would not have gone a “selfish” route. Which Mr. Guwara and the financial aid girl disproves. It is my interpretation that Alison sees nothing morally wrong about the girl’s choice, other than it not being the optimal choice for everyone in the room. The girl’s “we” was a different “we” than Alison’s, Alison has realized this, and drops the f-bomb because she’s mad that she cannot figure out a way to resolve this. I believe that Mr. Guwara has recognized that by his statement in the last panel, will start the denouement at this point, and reveal the reasoning for the setup.

    If I had to predict the coming plot, I foresee either another vote without consequences, a forced vote change for Alison, or Mr. Guwara ending the discussion by pointing out he’s not their teacher and cannot assign grades.

    So the question is: Why? And I think it is to humanize Alison. One of the most powerful supers on the planet, and can enforce her will in person to just about anyone. She can, supported by her beliefs, become a tyrant. And everyone knows that, except maybe Alison herself. I think Mr. Guwara is engineering a situation where Alison could be a tytrant, but will not elect to do so. Which will show to the other teachers and the students that Alison can make mistakes, and can accept that she has made a mistake without destroying the person who pointed it out. Otherwise, every class with her in it will kowtow to her to avoid her wrath, ruining it for her fellow students, teachers, and herself.

    • chaosvii

      Shame she’s not exactly showing herself to be all that far away from being a tyrant on the next page there 🙁

  • Seer of Trope

    While it’s certainly not necessary, DHeidal has a point about the potential implication of his scars and cane and how it could reinforce his argument. Also, it wouldn’t be an ad hominem fallacy because his argument is already sound and it wouldn’t have been used to compensate for failure of providing a reasonable argument. But it is treading a fine line because even reinforcing might mean convincing the other that there is no more room for argument. The reason why it would mightbe an insult to the reader is that it would be a bit contrived that a philosophy professor has the specific set of experiences that exactly counters Alison’s recently adopted philosophy.

    • Christophe2314

      Nah, that wouldn’t be a problem. Storytelling relies on this sort of coincidences all the time. In fact, it’s a hallmark of good character design to have an antagonist mirror the protagonist. For example, look at how Lex Luthor is the exact opposite of Superman, not just in terms of morality, but in his skillset.

      No, the part that would bother me is the blatant lack of subtlety. This guy’s introduction has actually been perfect up to now: from his physical appearance, we can tell he’s seen some shit; from his dialogue, which is delivered in a context that makes perfect sense in the story, we know his ideology; by putting two and two together, we can get a sense of what his background is. Actually telling us would just be a waste.

  • The game didn’t put all the students on the same level. She had “no more power than anyone else” except for poor Mr. Davenport. He didn’t get to make a choice.

  • 3-I

    Not John. He’s trying to turn her against the other student who understood what was happening and took the other option, for making her decision. He’s trying to get them to argue so she’ll learn something rather than admitting that he is intentionally framing the discussion this way. I’ve seen professors do it before, thinking that it’s a valid teaching style. It is not.

    • Iarei

      Huh. I don’t get that impression from what he said at all. He seemed more flippantly ironic than anything in panel 5 because of how excessively dramatic his phrasing is, but if he was being completely serious there I would agree with you. I guess that comes down to our respective interpretations of his tone.

    • MrSing

      I don’t see where you’re getting all this from.

  • John Robie

    If anything, he’s proven her point. She never said that people will always act in the best interest of all (or even in their own best interests) or that they will always be able to see the optimal solution to every game posed.

    Her claim was “people are better together. That when one of us is hurt, all of us are hurt.” Assuming the stated consequences of this game are real, having everyone receive A’s is clearly a better outcome than having two failures. Hence, it would have been better if they acted together. Conversely having failed to act together, two classmembers suffer the hurt of a failing grade and the rest have varying degrees of shame at their selfish, stupid, or merely unengaged decisions. All are harmed.

    Professor is probably going to try to make the jump from this point to the notion of enforcing unity, but that should rightly be considered a separate question.

    [Also I’m late to the party here, I just discovered this comic yesterday and binge read it today, so apologies if I’ve stepped on anyone’s toes]

  • Carl Stevenson

    Well, that’s philosophy teachers for you. Though while he may not have proven anything (if this was a psych experiment you would need tons of extra studies, control testing, and so forth) but he made a decent argument that people don’t always take the quote “moral choice” for reasons ranging from those mentioned in the comic. She said her axiom was “we are all in this together” and so here’s a very generous prisoner’s dilema. If the axiom holds then everyone should be considering the black as a valid option. While her griefs about fairness, properly explaining the rules, and so forth are probably valid… so is every philosophical experiment ever. Have you head of the trolley problem? They are kind of rediculous.
    Do agree that there should be at least one other overachiver in the class. but that’s college for you (know from experience)

  • “Well, that’s about it for the game theory part of the module, so we’ll talk a bit more about Nash equilibria and Pareto optima next time, but then it’s back to philosophy!”

  • Tylikcat

    I doubt high school students know that already. I suspect most high school students (certainly non-PoC high school students) are so wrapped up in their certainty that they already know it that it’s pretty hard for them to learn it.

  • It doesn’t matter that the demonstration is flawed, that’s in fact one of his points. He’s showing we live in a flawed world and don’t always respond logically. That pure philosophy/ethics has to be leavened with an understanding of flawed humanity.

    It’s not that he’s missing Allison’s points, the whole lecture is predicated on showing they’re wrong, or at least inadequate.

  • Tylikcat

    Oh, c’mon, that’s totally unfair to Gurwara. Even if you think he’s a total asshole, Socrates was *so* much more of an asshole.

  • +1 for the “clueless self important twit!” 😉

  • Tylikcat

    “Honor” – that must have been a fun one, considering how variously that one can be defined.

  • Aha, I thought it would be there if I went back and looked: First panel, page http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-6/page-36-5/

    Gurwara: Please, I am teaching. All will be revealed in good time.

    He actually told them the whole thing is a thought experiment, they didn’t notice.

    And that was provoked by Allison on http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-6/page-35-4/ panel 6 stating “people uniting as one is not only the means to a better world, but the description of that better world”, which Gurwara described as “The axiom of a true tyrant.” And he’s right. We have this distressing tendency to define who counts as people, and who doesn’t, and then to unite against the outsider. Ubermensch-untermensch; Bolshevik-Menshevik; white-black; straight-gay; able-disabled; the list goes on.

    He’s laying that out in white and black.

  • Walter

    Uh? You do as I say or I punish you? How do you get that out of anything that’s happened? I don’t think he’s given one person a choice between compliance and punishment since he’s shown up, and this is his first appearance in the comic.

  • Walter


    He seems to take a bit more glee in his role than one might prefer, but everything he’s told Alison she needs to hear.

    That’s not the same as condemning her, btw, Alison is unusually put together for a person. It’s just that since she’s so powerful it is more than usually important that her beliefs reflect reality.

  • Walter

    I’m kind of expecting their real teacher to walk in and be like “Who is this random guy?” and him to be like “hehe, just a joke, see you around.”

    Like, he’s a supervillain antag to Alison who is just doing a foreplay bit here.

  • ukulady7

    Yes! She literally made a public announcement that she was going to college to learn how to think and change the world that way.

  • ukulady7

    Why are so many people against teachers teaching?

  • chaosvii

    A) The previous prof is on paternity leave (supposedly)
    B) This stunt would be really nasty publicity if sent to the press and Alison doesn’t flip out. It only makes sense for the administration to choose to pass/fail students as a way to guilt Alison into dropping out when she looks bad on record.
    C) Paternity leave would be hilarious to fake convincingly, like what do they kidnap a baby and hand it over to the other professor as an alibi?! Photoshop a bunch of pregnancy-related posts/screenshots on his wife’s Facebook?! Hire a superhacker to actually insert all those doctored posts on her timeline retroactively?! I’m laughing the more I think about how they’re basically faking the moon landing here.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    I think where many of us disagree with you Johan, is that we fell the professor has done exactly what he set out to do. The demonstration worked perfectly by our standards. He challenged her belief that people are always better together by making a situation where everybody could pull together, but in fact did not. He then demonstrated that it was not pure selfishness (or ignorance) or any one thing that caused the group to fail to work as one. His demonstration allowed for everybody to pull together. They failed to. A good philosophy class will poke holes in your preconceived notions. That is what he is doing.

    • Rens

      No one is questioning that he accomplished exactly what he set out to do.

      We just think he’s an asshole for doing it.

  • Scott

    I think that my last paragraph is most pertinent to your point. I agree that his demonstration here is not perfect. I agree that he is coming across as intentionally antagonistic. However, I believe it is all for a purpose and not just because he’s an asshole.
    He asked the class as a whole to provide an axiom. He was fishing for someone who was both certain and assertive. His speculation was probably that such a person would have a belief that they had not fully considered. It appears that he is right. While I am not saying that Allison is a bad person and I do not believe her to be unintelligent, the professor has shown that she has not fully considered her own axiom. Even if she doesn’t change her mind because of this class, I do believe that she will have learned something before all of this is over.
    I don’t think he isn’t listening to her. If anything, I would say he has listened very well and is doing an excellent job of rebutting those points. Her axiom reveals not only a utilitarian attitude but that she also believes everyone around her has the same utilitarian attitude. That all people will, in general, act for the betterment of the group. The professor provided a succinct example of when others may act out of self interest, yet not immorally.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    I’m sure his axiom would be more along the lines of “everything can be questions, everything should (yes including this).” he might not have been able to use the prisoner’s dilemma as a tool immediately, but I’m sure he would have poked a hole in any axiom anybody had. Not out of disdain to his students, but because he wants to make them think.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    I’m really disappointed that there is still divide on weather he will do this or not.

  • Insanenoodlyguy

    But he says it kinda sarcastically so they tase him a few times before he goes back to working the coal mines. Supreme Sister Allison was very clear he should work with black stones.

  • Hawthorne

    What you did was wrong.

  • chaosvii

    See, I respond to his sense of humor differently. In Alison’s shoes, I would have been forced to laugh at myself for being an ass.
    I see this sort of stuff being a “check your assumptions before you wreck yourself on your conclusions” form of criticism with a touch of levity. But then again I come from a family that is heavy on the ribbing each other for sport.
    Obviously this is not the typical experience, and even if it were, it wouldn’t necessarily make his teaching style effective for most students who take his class.

    As for her axiom being that of a tyrant, it is fair to say that Alison doesn’t think of it as such because it isn’t actually an axiom of hers so much as a guiding principle which requires justification in order to apply it.
    What the Professor has actually done has shown Alison that she doesn’t apply the professed view of hers axiomatically, but moderately (as any sane person would). If she were to apply it axiomatically, then she’d probably do something like knock down the capitol building, force them to pass Universal Health Care, stuff every Ayn Rand fanatic into a big mason jar and hurl them into the sun.
    She could do it, you know, but she doesn’t try to unite humanity like a dictator because she doesn’t consider unity to be a thing to be pursued for the sake of a self-evidently better world. None of that is what Alison actually believes. Yet when asked for an axiom, she presented one of which she thought she held simply because it is very similar to a deep conviction of hers which she rarely compromises on.
    She believes something else, but isn’t sure how to express it all yet. And what is being taught for now is how to successfully avoid saying things you don’t actually mean.

  • chaosvii

    It’s not about lacking understanding in the abstract, it’s about internalizing that sensation of powerlessness in the fact of injustice that is so hard to teach.

    By the way, Alison has only had a few moments of everyday human powerlessness in the face of injustice, this scene right here is one of them. And she wrestles with the sight of how undignified it is for everyone involved to make the smart, yet cynical choice. How horrid it must be for several of those people to feel that the heroic choice can’t possibly work out and thus conclude.what the proper stone to lay is.

    It is disgusting, but only Alison has managed to maintain that level of disgust for so long in her life when most people are coping with the fact that it is a dreadfully common occurrence. Because she is rarely in such a position where doing the heroic thing will result in a meaningful setback. She is on her way to understanding it, and I think that Valkyrie will do wonders for her perspective, but she hasn’t quite internalized it the same way that most people are forced to internalize it relatively early in life.

    • Christophe2314

      It’s interesting that you bring up Valkyrie here, because Alison really needs that class if she wants her pet project to succeed. Alison seems to expect this to be a fairly black and white issue. Extract battered woman from home, keep violent boyfriend/husband at bay, everyone is happy. What will she do when she realizes that it’s often far more complicated than that? How does she react when faced with a case where a battered woman won’t act in her own self-interest and keeps returning to her violent husband? What about when kids are involved? What about when the wife and husband are both equally violent to each other? She’s about to face a wide variety of scenarios that she has probably not anticipated, and she will need a more nuanced understanding of morality than she currently has if she wants to handle those scenarios.

      • chaosvii

        I hope that the montage’d class about effective social worker stuff early in the issue will cover a lot of that. But whatever it doesn’t cover, we can look forward to popping up in a dramatic un-punchable way!

  • chaosvii

    The people gasping are all the fans who are anticipating that Alison is about to throw down and hand out scars.

  • feli

    2. I am not talking about “uuuh bad people why don’t they think of the others”, cause people are selfish. BUT I have been to philosphie courses and those guys are really … unprepared.
    3. You think nobody will complain if they fail first lesson cause of a stone gamble? He wouldn’t get away with it.
    4. I’m not sure if people are so interested in Alisons opinion. It seems a lot of people don’t like her much cause of the Megagirl-thing which makes them rather disagree with her if anything. I don’t think any of those cares if Alison looks stupid.

    • chaosvii

      2) Agreed. I think that they need to step it up or they’ll fade into the background hard.
      3) Not at all, and indeed it’s silly to really expect those grades to hinge on one game. But he’s running a con on enough of the students by using a ton of anti-contemplation tricks: Big Reward, Blatantly Clear Choice, Rushed Explanation. Distracting Them With Something Pretty & Nice to Hold
      If he gave them the opportunity to call his bluff then somebody probably would. so he’s minimizing that risk with fast talk. And whoever happens to see through his bluff sees the benefit in not calling him out. He won’t fail anyone, but he could get smashed and pass everyone that continues to play his philosophy games so long as nobody calls his games stupid.
      4) Sure but that’s not what I’m getting at. When she can demolish the entire building. the prospect of unintentionally pissing off the demigoddess becomes a terrifying prospect. And the other side of it is that some folks would take the Professor seriously for the dumb reason that a celebrity is also taking him seriously.

  • Lance Allen

    If she did doubt that, she was almost certainly correct. Humans as a rule, unless they’ve experienced real institutional suffering themselves, are rarely ever aware of the suffering of others.

    If you are referring to a particular suffering that literally no one in the class was alive to have experienced, then it goes from “almost certainly” to “guaranteed”.

  • Lance Allen

    I think it might be what it takes to shock Alison out of her self-righteous stance, though. I happen to agree with her stance, but having a few more turns around the sun, I’m not surprised along with her.

    And yes, an appeal to emotions serves a great purpose. You can be factually correct all day long and twice on Thursday, but if you can’t get someone to listen, you accomplish nothing.

    • Christophe2314

      I’m conflicted here. Out in real life, I’m inclined to agree with you. You can complain about logical fallacies all you want, it doesn’t matter if you’re arguing against someone who doesn’t think logically. However, this is a philosophy class. It is the one place where rationality is everything.

  • Lance Allen

    It’s the first day of class, well within the withdrawal period of any class I’ve ever heard of. No one loses anything but a little time, and personally I think anyone who decides not to show up to a class they paid deserves what they get.

    But you’re right. There are at least a few reasons why it’s not realistic.

  • Preacher John

    I don’t see this obvious sarcasm as “mockery”, but then I’m British, and we’re generally comfortable with sarcasm and irreverence.
    He *has* demonstrated that Allison’s axiom is”the axiom of a tyrant” – her axiom of “we’re all in this together” omitted that the consequences of solidarity are (much) harsher for some people (like the “I did” girl) than for others (like very wealthy, super-powered Alison).
    There’s a direct comparison with the politics of my country right now. It is currently run by a government of millionaires who preach and practice economic “austerity” in the claimed (but utterly failed) aim of national deficit & debt reduction. Our current PM’s slogan in the 2010 election was “We’re all in this together”, his gov’t has gone on to take punitive economic measures against the most vulnerable in society – e.g. the unemployed and the disabled. Child poverty, the use of food banks and suicide have all increased for those at the bottom end of society, meanwhile those at the top are, of course, doing very nicely indeed. Clearly, one size does not fit all.
    Many people see the enforcement of the same economic rules (lower taxes, less gov’t, rampant privatisation, less benefits paid out to the poor & needy) that suit those at the top, but harm those at the bottom, as draconian.

  • Preacher John

    The addendum to Bernard Shaw’s “Most people would rather die than think. Many do.” is: “And some will kill to avoid having to think.”

  • Mechwarrior

    I’m sure he’s really concerned about political correctness and poor journalistic ethics in video games.

  • AFB

    > only way to ensure that everyone makes the correct choice is through tyranny

    No, there are also self-enforcing laws. For example stop-signs. I suspect most drivers choose obey them to avoid being injured in an auto-accident rather than because they are afraid of being punished by the police.

    But coming up with plans that have this emergent resiliency is far harder work than just identifying ways things could be better.

    • Christophe2314

      And yet, thousands of accidents happen because, even if you obey the stop sign rules, some other asshole doesn’t and rams into you. Look, I’m not stupid: I am perfectly aware that most people will at least follow the rules, if only for their own continued survival. That doesn’t change the fact that many don’t, and those people screw things up for the ones who try to do things right.

  • Balthazar

    Actually, that one girl chose the black stone not because of misinterpretation but fear of failing.

    However, her reason far from being selfish was “it wouldn’t be fair to my family”

    Now, Alsion can afford to go to college on her parents/her own money so of course she couldn’t understand that girls view until it was spelt out to her.

    What was Alison’s point “We’re all in this together.”

    What did she prove, “We aren’t” cause she didn’t bother to connect with others, to talk with other to communicate.

    She could’ve said “Hey guys why don’t we all pick a black stone. That way we’ll all pass!” She could’ve tried to convince the girl that everyone was going to help each other together and she had nothing to worry about.

    But she didn’t. She sat back smiling smugly thinking everyone was thing and understood the exact same thing as her.

    Isn’t that the point the professor was trying to make?

  • Balthazar

    Yeah, but what would the point of a black stone be? What would it gain you?

    Scenario 1: The professor is not serious
    That kid is not failing the class and you feel no guilt. Who cares?

    Scenario 2: The professor is serious
    That kid fails.
    You feel some guilt but seeing mostly everyone picked a white stone you know you choosing not a black stone wouldn’t have changed anything so guilt significantly lessened. Good thing you chose that white stone.

    The only minus I see on choosing a white stone is that now a super powered adolescent is disappointed in you.

    Is it slightly Machiavellian of me? Yes. But there is no benifit in choosing a black stone at all (besides angry “tyrant” Alison) so why not play it safe?

    Or does the satisfaction of going “Pfff you’re all idiots! You actually believed this guy?” Really outweigh the risk?

    • I’ve always been the “Pfff you’re all idiots” sort of person – at least in class – so yes, I would probably put down a black stone just because the opposite is expected. Then again, I might be really into roleplaying that day so I might equally play it straight, and pick the rational, real-world choice….
      I doubt I’m the only person in my classes to have had this attitude, and even in this small room there should be one joker who feels like messing with the system, right?

      I know it would interfere with the story, but this is my axiom: I have faith in trolls. Or at least, faith that they will inevitably show up in a classroom.

  • Balthazar

    This comment seems a little out of place after all the philosophical discussions about what the prof is doing (thought assessments on thought experiments?! Thought-ception?!) but I just wanted to say…

    Anyone else love the little white “Gasp!”s when Alison tells the professor “Fuck you.”


    No just me?

    Sorry bout that. Continue your intellectual comments.

  • Masala Nilsson

    I wish I could like your comment twice. This is exactly what everyone who’s been saying “what, he isn’t mocking anyone, he’s just poking holes in her arguments and she’s being overly sensitive” is missing.

    Even appearing reasonable, and having (apparently) logical arguments, can be mocking if you do it just so.

    • Loranna

      He’s poking holes in her argument, yes. There’s going to be a connotation that believing in said argument was less than wise, no matter how gentle he is about it — and if he’s *too* gentle, then he risks his student missing the point, assuming that the argument is basically sound, just with some mild problems that need watching for, which they’ll not actually watch for, because there’s been no real weight attached to said problems.

      Better if he puts the weight on those problems so the student understands why said problems make the argument as-is untenable. And that’s going to feel like mockery — heck, by “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck,” logic, I suppose it IS mockery. But the mockery is important — and as others, myself included, have noted, he’s directing that mockery at Alison and her argument, rather than mocking the whole class.


  • I knew all about lack of privilege, I didn’t _understand_ lack of privilege until I actually became part of a victimised group as an adult (by becoming visibly disabled*). There’s a very real difference that it’s very hard to understand and internalise unless you’re on the inside looking out at all the micro-aggressions and systemic barriers that are happening every day of your life.

    * I think disability is about the only way to see both sides of this, even if you can pass as the majority you’ll still see and hear the micro-aggressions and barriers.

  • MisterTeatime

    Haha. Excellent point!

    (What made her unique, of course, is that her value of “satisfying” is everyone else’s value of “ramifications,” and vice versa- she considers the consequences for Mr. Davenport first and herself a distant second if at all, where the other students clearly prioritized themselves.)

  • it’s not her fault being the biggest* and the strongest, she doesn’t even exercise!

    *okay, so the quote isn’t entirely applicable, but I still couldn’t resist.

  • chaosvii

    This is about context. The challenge that Alison accepted was to express an axiom.
    She expressed a statement that is frequently true in an axiomatic fashion, mistakenly thinking that it was an axiom which she genuinely held. The mistake was basically in how she instinctively assumed that Mostly True = Always True.
    Prof joked about how the statement Alison presented as an axiom can only be a tyrannical axiom.
    He’s not deliberately misinterpreting a non-axiom as an axiom, he’s in the process of demonstrating why her statement can only be a tyrant’s axiom so long as anyone applies it axiomatically.
    A person can respond to this exercise of his with:
    1) Oh, I see, looks like this axiom is not one that I actually hold, even if it feels like I do
    2) My axiom is great and you suck at showing me what my axiom means in reality
    3) I don’t understand what you are doing
    There are other possibilities, but I think these categories should suffice for the purposes of this discussion. Alison’s reaction falls under #2.

    Alison doesn’t understand that she was wrong about her own beliefs by declaring that she thinks that one of her personal convictions (of which is generally true), is a belief which is held as ALWAYS TRUE AND DOESN’T REQUIRE JUSTIFICATION. Alison doesn’t yet grasp the implications of “always true,” which is why she made this mistake and contributed to why she didn’t really notice that her conflict between unifying the class & respecting the personal freedoms of the individuals necessarily disqualifies her from holding her previous statement as an axiom.

    The professor is (antagonistically & irreverently) providing the opportunity for Alison to realize that she doesn’t actually hold the axiom she claims to hold. And Alison is a few steps away from recognizing this is the case.

    • VariableNature

      Alright, that makes sense. I still think the professor is being TOO antagonistic and irreverent in proving his point, but I can understand it.

      But this also raises the question of what would be an axiom that Allison holds, though. I know you answered a question of mine in another thread about what a personal axiom even IS, but those are ones that I would assume apply to you personally, so it wouldn’t be fair to try to apply those to Allison (although the “no good idea all the time” one would probably be close, given her discussion with Pintsize back in chapter 5 when she was still looking for Moonshadow).

      And another question that could be raised: Is it possible for a person to not have a “personal” axiom? Like you said, the professor wants to show her that she doesn’t actually have “We got this” as a personal axiom, even though she said that she did. So once/if that point gets proven, and she’s given an opportunity to try another one, what happens if she says “I don’t have one, since the one I thought I had isn’t apparently one I truly did”. Would that be an “acceptable” answer? Because that seems very nihilistic.

  • chaosvii

    Oh man, that’s a tough one.

    I can think of one that I presume various people follow, ranging from the somewhat savory to the thoroughly unsavory: “Achieving my desires for as long as possible is to be arranged.”

    Another one, from a fairly old page: “There’s no such thing as a good idea all the time.”
    And one of mine: “Criticism of thought presumes improvement of thought.”

  • Lance Allen

    I imagine there was plenty of lecture on it too, but that feeling of being treated unfairly isn’t something you can communicate with a lecture. And you’re right, of course… a single instance in a classroom will never communicate the full scope of life long institutionalized discrimination, but it gave a tiny taste of it, at least.

    It’s the sort of demonstration you do once, maybe twice in a year, or else it loses it’s impact, but executed correctly, I imagine, like the OP, this is the sort of thing that stuck with her students for years afterward.

  • Peter

    I don’t follow the comment section very long, so i didn’t know of your comparison. I’m afraid i don’t really see your point. If i speak with somebody who has martial arts training/military training and could kill me without weapons, or a policeman with a pistol, i don’t really feel threatened. I know they won’t kill me, so i don’t need to spend a second thought on it.

    Actually, the last time the professor really wronged her. She was graded for who she is, not for the things she has written, and out of personal problems the professor had with her. Also, we don’t know yet what consequences her actions in this comic have. It could be that she gets punished for it. The only reason she doesn’t worries about this is that she is far too angry to even think about such things.

    For the bullying, i was under the impression she actually thought he would go through with letting her and Davenport fail, which would certainly qualify. At least parts of the class didn’t see through his bluff too. How is this “an aspect of her own privilege.”?

    • Pyre

      You’re altering the conditions. I didn’t say “martial arts training” because that isn’t a perceivable threat. I didn’t say “policeman” because they have a role in society that is supposed to prevent them from illegally firing the gun at you (although, if you were black, you might be considerably more nervous around a policeman).

      The point isn’t whether there are consequences. The point of her privilege is that she doesn’t really care about any potential consequences. Consciously or not, I’d even say that she knows there won’t be any consequences that she has to accept if she doesn’t want to. (Case in point: http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com/issue-3/page-75/)

  • Eric Betz

    Wouldn’t that be a teacher literally lying to the students about the course, and thus a punishable action itself, even in a philosophy class?

  • Eric Betz

    Wouldn’t that be a teacher literally lying to the students about the course, and thus a punishable action itself, even in a philosophy class?