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Hagmaier At first I thought he was trying to lay out some cracked Kierkegaardian koan or sideways Rawlsian veil of ignorance demonstration, but then I realized I was overthinking it, and this is going to be some danged “everyone is the hero of their own story” metaphor about how nobody except goofy emo-goth teenagers think of themselves as villains. Jerden The thing is, I’m pretty sure that I’m just a side character in lots of other people’s stories. I’m just not a compelling enough character to warrant my own narrative. I wouldn’t watch it, and I’d be the main character! Nathanaël François A perfectly competitive market only reaches a Nash equilibrium, whic may be less than the social optimum. It’s called the price of anarchy. See for example the prisoner’s dilemna. Markus Yup. You need at least some form of social planner to compensate for tragedy of the commons issues. Nathanaël François I’m pretty sure professors are not allowed to do that, and students know that. Therefore his experiment is worthless from the start. chaosvii Perhaps that’s his game then, doing so many things that they don’t expect a professor to do, so they might believe that he’s tenured and would thus make arrangements so that it looks like they were given high marks on all the tests & papers he only requires to put a name on, or so drunk that he’d do crazy things like this and would fail a student for the lulz? Plants a seed of doubt in some of them, heh. Might just be enough for one student to play his game, and that could encourage some more. Not a good plan, mind, but it is a dramatic one! Deliverance You might very well think that, but in real life professors trying out the prisoner’s dilemma on students is reported in the press every few years, while there are no reports of professors being punished for doing so. The most recent I could find was this one from 2015, where the reward was extra course credits. (Amusingly enough this particular example is a case where the students were not acting on false or incomplete information as is the norm: They [i]did[/i] receive the reward.) http://uk.businessinsider.com/professor-tests-prisoners-dilemma-on-his-students-2015-7 Jerden Students would believe anyone that told them that they could avoid work. Tylikcat I think he’s doing the opposite of what he did with Alison’s comment about bullying. There, she accused him of being a bully, and he laid out a scenario in which she, in fact, was (at least potentially) much more of a bully. Here, she has asserted an axiom that sounds great. But she’s asserted it from a position of having an awful lot more power than the people who are supposed to be coming together with her. So once again, he’s using his position of authority in the class to draw a parallel between her and himself. This time, he’s setting up a situation in which the whole class is given a disproportionate incentive to unite and do exactly what the authority figure wants*. So, sure, why would anyone not go along with it – there are only bad outcomes on the table, right? But it’s a unity that is based in his position of disproportionate power. Or to put it another way, it’s a really fucked up sort of unity. Now, let’s assume Alison’s axiom has some real potential, and this isn’t just a “it’s good” or “it’s bad” situation. How can she work it so any unity she helps create isn’t just based on people being afraid not to go along with her? (I’m, uh, totally not really here. Ugh. This project was annoying enough before I slept badly.) * I say the authority figure here, because this is clearly a hypothetical class exercise, and not something he actually wants from his class. GreatWyrmGold Ah, I see now. Hm. How could I reword Allison’s axiom to remove that loophole…something like “what’s bad for one person is bad for the world,” maybe? But that’s too full of exceptions (e.g, the death penalty is bad for the criminals being killed but arguably good for the rest of us). Johan “But she’s asserted it from a position of having an awful lot more power than the people who are supposed to be coming together with her” ==> I don’t understand this. She never said she would lead this unity, or that she had the solution. All she said is that people are better when they unite. If I missed something I would love an explanation 🙂 Maybe I’m not seeing as much in his speech as other people, but he hasn’t made any strong points so far, in my opinion. Lysiuj Since she’s superhuman, she has a great deal more power than anyone around her, just by virtue of her abilities. This gives her an unfair advantage in pretty much any issue. Now, an effectively indestructible and unbeatable person, expressing what she thinks is best for all humanity? And what she believes to be best, is everyone uniting? I wouldn’t fault anyone for being worried about what she might do, and how far she might go, to achieve her utopia. Even if she thinks she’d never do that, she’s not limited by what she can do, only by what she will do. (By coincidence I’m right now watching the Justice League episode “A Better World”, where an alternate history League become dictators when they decide to go to any lengths for peace). ZBass ‘But if even a single person puts down a white stone, putting their interest ahead of the group’ Unless he introduces more rules, I don’t see how someone putting down a white stone affects the rest of the group. Unless I misread the rules? Christophe2314 You didn’t, the rules haven’t been established yet. That said, in a Prisoner’s Dilemma situation, there’s usually one more rule that Bobo Chipman hasn’t mentioned: there’s a downside if everyone puts down the white stone. It would go something like this: – If even one person plays differently from the rest, everyone who puts down a white stone passes the class, while everyone who puts down a black stone fails. – If everyone plays a white stone, the whole class fails. – If everyone plays a black stone, the whole class passes. The only way for the entire class to succeed is if they all agree to put down the black stone, but do you take that chance? What if one asshole plays white? In case that happens, you might as well play white too. So what if everyone plays white? Well, that’s where the game gets super cynical: you’re assuming there will be at least a few idealists who choose to act for the common good and play black, and you let those guys shoot themselves in the foot while you play it safe. entirelyuseless If these are the rules, he’s hoping Alison will threaten to beat up anyone who doesn’t play black, proving his point about tyranny. StClair He’s not talking. “Yes, why indeed…” chaosvii Well clearly I was incorrect about a direct clarification of for that cliffhanger last page, but I’m glad to see that class participation has arrived. Johan …That seems like a stupid move. I’d keep both stones, or not take them at all. I hope one student will do that. It’s weird that Alison is the only one reacting. Sergio Le Roux So, put neither stone and stay in the course and learn something? Kate Blackwell You can still attend all the classes voluntary though, you just don’t have to and pass regardless. Johan He’s not. Not in my country actually, that kind of talk would get him into trouble. Walter So…a mixed white/black response would not disprove her axiom. Are you saying that an all black or all white response would disprove it? This is a more important question than it seems. Richard Griffith All one color is “we are all in it together and are aligned”. All one color shows unity and clearly fits her statement. What I am saying is is that mixed black and white they are still together in getting a mark for the course and are all together in being manipulated by the prof. We will have to wait for the next installment, but I think he is trying to attack her statement as “we all think alike” (we are all in the same solution space). What I think she is saying is we are all in this class, in this country, on this planet together (in the same common problem space together). To disprove that he is going to have to display some alien or extra-dimensional powers. Although a mixed display will show some people are looking for different things which is sort of like a different problem space, but as they are in the same class I am reading it as a different solution. Lots of wiggle room still to argue. Walter Um. If something can’t be falsified it’s not for realsies. If “all in this together” means, like, “all carbon based” or what have you, then its just A equals A again. Like, if your model of Alison is someone who’d claim rhetorical victory no matter what the outcome is, why did she speak up in the first place? Alternately, why not fly up and take his tongue out? The point of the axiom is that you can build off it. It is something that life has taught her. Somethings that she actually believes in. Real, hard earned belief. Poetically speaking, a piece of her soul. Something that doesn’t constrain your expectations isn’t worth building off of. You know before you said it what you know after you said it. You haven’t gained anything. When Alison says that we are all in it together, stronger jointly than separately, and also intrinsically better than separately, she’s making a much stronger statement than “humans all occupy planet three”. It’s a predictive statement. It is a gutsy axiom. Presumably the prof says that her axiom isn’t correct (meaning, isn’t useful), or (more likely) is only correct if she coerces the class (his tyrant comment). That is, he is saying that its predictions will not hold true. There’s no need to disprove an axiom that doesn’t predict. You’d gain nothing by doing so. Richard Griffith “We are all in this together” does apply to some things. Global warming. Ozone. DDT. General biosphere health. Global Thermonuclear War. Also overall social contract, how we live with our differences and manage the commons. Consider peanut butter allergies. Some would say that only affects some people. But we are all in the social contract that modifies behavior around “weaker” individuals. For all sorts of different definitions of weaker and stronger. While there might be weaker and stronger individuals, there are some things we must face together and some things we must make allowances for the differences between people. In all cases we are together. It is an Axiom in that it controls all behavior of “those in the group” there behavior is defined by the commonality. Richard Griffith Axioms are simply statements that are taken to be true for that system. There is no proving or disproving them. They are foundations of the system that is constructed from them. “Parallel lines will never meet” in standard Euclidean geometry. “Parallel lines will always meet at infinity” in projected Euclidean geometry. The quoted statements are both valid Axioms. They are each valid in different geometries. Richard Griffith Here the prof did not claim he would disprove her. He said her Axiom was one of a tyrant. What he will do is use her Axiom to show that it dictates actions on others. He is going to be overly dramatic. If we are on a boat. “We are all in it together” because if you open flood locks it sinks. The prof will argue that “we are all in together” is restricting others from the free action of open the flood locks and sinking the boat. Because others are restricted from free action the axiom results is that of a tyrant. The corollary to Alison’s axiom is “do what ye will, regardless of the harm you do to others”. Clearly not tyrannical as it does not restrict others. Richard Griffith Adding “We are all in this together” does not imply unity of action or unity of thought. “We are all in this together” means our actions and decisions affect each other. Tylor Does it need to be a group action problem? While the Prisoner’s Dilemma is interesting, it feels like it would be a tangent to the point that’s being argued, which is that having everyone work together is tyranny. I’m leaning more towards there being no downside at all to everyone choosing white, but that there will still be disagreement as to which stone to put down anyways. And using that as a launching point to a discussion about how even with such black and white choices, not everyone will work to the same end. Christophe2314 Or an even simpler point about how, when a leader decides to reward one option and punish another, no one actually has a choice. In this scenario, the teacher is successful in getting everyone to work together toward the same goal (putting down the white stone) at the expense of the freedom to choose which of the stones to put down. leoboiko “Because I’m in love with Goldtooth-sensei and want to take this class again ♥” chaosvii I know the feeling. dragonus45 Its a thought experiment. Kid Chaos Its a crappy thought experiment. Why can’t this guy just have them read Descartes, like a normal philosophy professor? 😜 Kevin Thomsen Thought experiments have to be rigorously formulated to be meaningful. hwfross Of course students don’t usually think that way at a morning class. He’s free to lie to them to teach a lesson so long as it doesn’t violate school policy. hwfross My guess. There’s a ‘community’ component to the stones. i.e. if anyone chooses the blackstone then everyone fails. Again I’m still taking a wait and see approach, but he might be trying to put Allison on the spot as it were. Weatherheight Now that I have your attention, I will now begin teaching. I will now provide a thought experiment in which I am not attacking your values (thank you for volunteering, Alison), but rather I am providing a scenario that gives a vested interest in the outcome without making you feel like an idiot and thus defensive… This is the good stuff we’ve been waiting for… Islington I did consider the Prisoner’s Dilemma here, but there’s a rather – well, underhanded option for it – if anyone puts down the black stone, no one gets the benefit of the white stone. We already strongly suspect Alison would happily sacrifice her own grade to make a point or to allow the others to pass with distinction (Oh, Alison, you’ve got chronic hero syndrome), but would she sacrifice someone else’s? If yes, it’s tyranny of the one over the many – one person can choose not to step in line, and ruin everyone else’s chances. If no, it’s tyranny of the many over the one; she’s willing to compromise her own ideals for the greater good. And neither, of course, allows for people coming together to lead to a stronger, more fruitful result. (also, hi, first post, absolutely loving this storyline, been reading since …. far too long back *eep*) Weatherheight Seriously, listen to this poster, woman, you might learn something. And may I add, “Amen dat.” noctuatacita I think you’re absolutely right. Class-wide version of the prisoner’s dilemma (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma). noctuatacita Even if that’s not where the comic goes, it’s an interesting idea! Psile Probably going to be the standard teacher group test. There will be some way that you will be able to put your needs ahead of the group. How do you make everyone work together, even to the self detriment of the individual? You set up a system or rules forcing them to, but how far do you go… Allison’s axiom assumes that people want the group to succeed more than they want themselves to succeed. Many don’t, even those who want the group to succeed. How many would sacrifice something meaningful for the benefit of strangers? I can’t say I would, not something truly meaningful. Tsapki Thus the reason the plot of God’s Not Dead is so preposterous. Christophe2314 Well, one of the reason. There’s also how the movie hilariously seems to not believe atheists are real. Tsapki Dangit, who mistagged the napalm? Christophe2314 Nah, I think it’s implied that every student gets two stones. My guess is there’s a caveat. If everyone puts down a white stone, everyone fails. If everyone puts down a black stone, you all pass. The previous rules only apply if at least one person plays differently. Christophe2314 It’s hypothetical. Christophe2314 I’d assume semantic games like that don’t impress Professor Gurwara either. The meaning of words changes over time. Trying to prove someone wrong by using outdated definitions that they clearly did not intend to use is a blatant logical fallacy. Philip Bourque Who said anything about proving him wrong? Since he pulls out this stunt, were I in his class, I’d no longer have a reason to take him seriously, since the threat of pass or fail becomes meaningless. I’d be talking back just to see how he responds. And given what he’s doing and how he’s acting, he would respond. Christophe2314 Pretty sure he’s not actually allowed to do that, and the rewards are hypothetical. Christophe2314 Or, and I know this is crazy here, but just hear me out: he’s just a regular if a little eccentric philosophy teacher. chaosvii Get off the Internet Chritophe2314, you’re drunk! OmnipotentEntity Sure, that’s a possibility. I admitted I might being a bit paranoid. But hey, fan theories, right? Christophe2314 Just thought of this, but maybe the stones have significance beyond the results of which stone you choose. Say the stones represent opinions, independent of getting an easy A or failing the class. What the teacher is saying here is “it doesn’t matter which stone you prefer, I only accept the white one.” Basically, he’s forcing everyone to choose his preferred stone. He’s demonstrating what you need to do to get everyone to support the same ideas: reward an opinion and punish the other. Tyranny in a nutshell. Lillian Zhang He’s clearly not going to enforce those rules – he’d have been fired ages ago if he did. The question is, do any of the students believe he’s going to? Because if those college students come to the same conclusion that a lot of people in the comments have, someone might put down a black stone just for the heck of it, knowing that he can’t penalize them. Iarei “Sir? I accidentally on purpose crushed your goofy weirding stones into a fine gray powder. I have to pass on my own merits now, right?” Scholiast Yes. This. Exactly this. Johan I’m hoping a student other than Alison will react and maybe do something like that. masterofbones Well that’s just rude. How am I going to play go now? You could have just chosen to not place any. Balthazar Agreed. Go just makes you look smart and decisive. The way they snap the pieces onto the board in such a fluid manner. Very sexy. Compare that to the “I still have my finger on the piece” with chess. The pulling back from the table examining, mulling and chin scratching and lightly placing back down with the muffled thump of the felt bottom hitting the board, finalized with a smug “Check, your move.” That’s evil. Still, sexy none the less, but definitely more evil. Christophe2314 Besides, we all know the most evil game in existence is actually Mario Kart. The_Rippy_One not to mention, running your fingers seductively over your pieces is just fun! Mechwarrior A strange game. The only winning move is not to play… LaChatSayWha Internal exile. In the USSR, Perón’s Argentina, etc, etc. Markus Nah. Perfect information games are prettymuch by definition less analytically villainous than hidden information and probabilistic games with an equal number of moving parts. Once you start breaking out the nash equilibriums and combinatorics things get a lot harder. Mistress Dizzy Help, I’m lost. TG Social rebellion against injustice! i don’t think the kind of person who would take this kind of course to be insensible to that. (does that makes sense? sorry i’m drunk) Graeme Sutton That’s an overly permissive definition of tyranny. Graeme Sutton If I had to guess he’s going to show that the only way to ‘solve’ the prisoner’s dilemma with the optimal result is to have an outside force (“Mob boss” or whatever) that will punish anyone who defects so that both prisoners can trust each other not to defect and therefore they can get the optimal solution. Presumable he thinks that would be a form of ‘tyranny’. chaosvii “Come take two stones, one of each…” is the bit that contradicts your proposal. Grason Cheydleur This is absolutely what it will be. It would be a direct counter example to Allison’s Axiom that a group is always better if it sticks together. Kevin Thomsen Not really ’cause the teacher’d get fired, and they’d all get As. fairportfan In the next comic he’s going to set conditions… VariableNature I want to like this guy. I REALLY REALLY want to like this guy. But dear God if he isn’t making it hard. Page after page after page of being an incredibly intelligent, interesting and thorough jerk is starting to test my patience. And I know that some of it is due to the fact that this series only publishes one page every few days, instead of releasing a full issue every so often, so that means we have to keep starting and stopping and starting and stopping, but Prof. Gurwara keeps coming off as someone who is too interested in showing off knowledge than imparting it. He’s an interesting character, extremely well-written, I want him to stick around for a long time, and I want to know where this goes, but if this is what a “good” Philosophy professor is supposed to be like, as I’ve seen it stated in the comments of both previous pages and this page, then thank God I didn’t pursue that Philosophy minor in college or else I would have been MISERABLE. chaosvii He’s taking a route to teaching philosophy that is both dramatic & uncommon. Challenging students is the part of what he’s doing that is a “good” thing for a Philosophy Professor to do, but everything else is ambiguous. He could be pulling something very egotistical and not very conducive to learning or he could be pulling something very egotistical and conducive to learning. Or he could be pulling something that is not all that egotistical but very much appears to be egotistical due to the way that this style of teaching is performed. He might not even be that much of a jerk but likes to play one in front of a class. That’s how ambiguous this comes off. That’s a taste of how difficult it is to ensure clarity within philosophy and how easy it is to muddy the waters. But this instructor probably should know all this, and yet he chooses to teach this way. Why he does this is what has hooked me. I want so bad to know every layer of this character’s ethos. I’d be content to only know his pathos! Jared Rosenberg I agree. I think there will not be enough white stones. Let’s see if Alison can clobber this stiuation. Kid Chaos He just called her axiom to be “of a true tyrant”; that’s not something you can just let go. 😯 Johan Well maybe if he would stop trolling her she would stop interrupting. Johan I’m hoping that will happen too 🙂 Johan … I don’t get it. How is putting down the white stone cheating? If the rest still get something good anyway, why is it a big deal? Bobo Chimpan Hmm yeah… there probably needs to be another “If everybody puts down a white stone, you all get a C-” rule… which would actually make the whole thing a lot nastier– then they’d need to convince at least one person “oh yeah, we’re all gonna put down black” in order to get a personal advantage. You couldn’t be sure if the person saying “everyone put down a black stone!” was actually working in everyone’s best interest or just trying to get themselves ahead. It also makes it more similar to the Prisoner’s Dilemma… MisterTeatime At first I was like “but why do you have a bag of stones prepared for your philosophy class?” and then “hmm, what other interesting props might he have handy, just in case?” And then the comments pointed out that they’re almost certainly Go pieces. Excellent work, everybody. ^^; Random832 It’s not PD because their choice doesn’t (overtly, anyway) affect anyone else. Sakurasleaf It might end up some variation of it, since he obviously wants to show Alison the flaws of her statement. “We got this, We are in this together”, she said – and what could undermine her spirits more, than a demonstration of how selfish people could be and how easily group falls apart, when there is any kind of personal gain included? My bet is that he either makes it so that if anyone puts the black stone, then there will be no reward for everyone who put up white ones (thus making Alison a tyrant indeed, one, who consideres herself able to make decisions for others), or that there has to be a certain amount of people with one colored stones, еtc Demonlogan Assuming he waited until they all picked up 2 stones to provide the rule, and that he put the same amount of both up, it’s (maybe?) prejudice math; if even one person picked 2 of one color, they’ve screwed someone else or themselves over by either bias or accident. Alternately, it’s to figure out who goes out of the way to challenge authority in a simple test, again assuming there was the same amount of both, which may tie back to whether they’re all mindless automatons or not. One the other hand, this could instead have all been a dastardly plot and those are actually all recolored candies. But that would be a bit too evil. chaosvii Panel 2 specifies that everyone is supposed to take one of each color. But I agree that recolored candies would be be exceedingly evil. Charles M. Hagmaier Tyrant means “illegitimate ruler”, at least in English. That is, a ruler without sanction of constitution, tradition, or consent; usually someone who has seized power by ruse or main force. Absolutism tends to *follow* from that fact, but it’s not a perfect correspondence. And tyrants generally do their best to legitimize themselves in some fashion – either by manufacturing consent, or laying claim to tradition (historically, by matrimonial means, see Henry of Richmond marrying Elizabeth of York to cement his claim to be Henry VII.) If I were in that course, I’d probably smart off about being there to learn something, not buy a credential, and his proffer was at best worthless to me, and implicitly an insult. I can see what people are saying about it being the beginnings of a Prisoner’s Dilemma, except he’s supposed to be teaching ethics and aesthetics, not amoral game theory. Philip Bourque Illegitimate? Last I heard it meant a ‘cruel and oppressive ruler’ in current English without mention as to whether the person in question was legitimate or not. I thought he was supposed to be teaching philosophy? Yeah, looks like a 201 class as well. That means all the actual learning of facts should have been done in the 101 class and this should be all about debate and exploration of ideas and thought. Well, depending on the teacher; some just dump information on you and hope you suck it up like a sponge. Deb I see everybody here saying this is a group experience, that everyone has to choose white or black stone in order for this to work… I wonder if that’s the case. I wonder if the trick is : “White stone makes you pass. You can follow that one simplistic rule and “win”. But you won’t actually have achieved anything. You won’t have learnt anything. You won’t have grown. A simple world creates simple people. Do you still want to shape the world around a simple idea?” I may be reading this wrong. Charles M. Hagmaier What makes the axiom, the underlying sentiment or the formulation? I offer you two “axioms” by the professor’s (loose) standards: 1) “One man with the truth makes a majority” 2) “If nine out of ten oppose me, I would put a sword in the tenth man’s hand” Both are anti-majoritorian sentiments, but the latter is the position of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector and bona fide tyrant. Are they synonymous? Or is one a premise and the other a conclusion, and not even one that can be derived from the first premise without reference to other premises, such as “public violence is illegitimate”, “monopoly of force invested in the sovereign is the basis of civil society”, or “politics should have limits”? Flimflamberge Yeah, I see where he’s going and it’s an absurd simplification that doesn’t relate to what Alison was talking about. My dislike of this guy is going through the roof. M. Alan Thomas II That proves the need for GOVERNMENT, not the need for a TYRANT. There are methods of choosing to enforce cooperation to solve the prisoner’s dilemma that have no dictator. Direct democracy, for example; a classic version is the players’ vote to implement a helmet rule in the NHL. Stephanie Gertsch Boooo! You never wanted to hear axioms from the class. You were looking for one that would lead into your next goofy exercise. Teaching FAIL. Jared Rosenberg I sometimes have the random thought that, in times like this, the author reads our posts before deciding what the outcome will be. It is of course ridiculous, but it does cross my mind. Glen Raphael Hang on: The specific class “Philosophy 201: Axiology” is a requirement for their major? I find it unlikely that *everybody in the room* needs to take this particular philosophy course and couldn’t take a different one in its stead. Unless the “you’ll have to take it again” part is a thought experiment premise. Or this is a class *only* taken by philosophy majors and they have a weirdly specific core curriculum set? Cake This isn’t the Prisoners Dilemma, yet. It’s a simple illustration of how her axiom of “we’ve got this” can be sidetracked or defeated by individuals acting towards short term self interest. A common way to “defeat” self interest is to be a Tyrant and punish the individuals who don’t work towards group goals. SpoonyViking I thought it was a mistake the first time, but this is the second time Gurwara has used “say”, in the present tense, when he should have used “said”. Maybe English is his second language? FlashNeko Oh boy, and now the Professor is making the logic fallacy of “people work together for a common interest = everyone must be a singularly thinking hive-mind to accomplish that”. I get he’s doing it to try and make Alison look like an idiot (because that’s what everyone else who’s monologued at Alison in the previous chapter has tried to do and, if you go by how things have ended up, succeeded to a degree) and discredit her axiom but goddamn this guy either got his degree through a fly-by-night institute or he really has nothing but contempt for his class that he’d use such a misleading and incorrect oversimplification. Mx Miki Because next semester will have a different teacher, one less inclined to putting students on the spot like that. Sorry, still stuck on my memories of teachers who would use ‘discussions’ to abuse their power.