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Yeah studying human behaviour and nature is sooooo bloody simple we’d have it all figured out if those dastardly professors weren’t overcomplicating things -__- Charles M. Hagmaier Well, there’s a political case to be made that complexity is a plot by the clever against the simple and distracted, but that’s part of a critique of the regulatory state, not really what Max is talking about. I think he’s making a different argument – that both the social sciences and the humanities have been colonized by folks looking to wall off fiefdoms defended by ramparts built out of obscure cant and shibboleths. Being able to master deliberately obscure, incoherent, and awkward jargon demonstrates a) a tribal affiliation and b) the willingness to be unclear in the service of career and said affiliation. JeffH His statement is flippant, but it’s put a point on something that has sat in the back of my head for a long time. When I was in college, my Math and Engineering professors tended to spend much of their time taking complex ideas and breaking them down to simpler, easier to handle ones As I remember it, my Humanities and Social Science professors tended to focus on teasing out the complexities of things that might otherwise be simple. I’m not intending to criticize any of those professors or their subjects, or even suggest that what they were doing was bad or wrong — I learned a ton in those classes! But it’s an insight I didn’t have before into at least one of the reasons I had some level of resentment toward some of those professors. I love how this comic makes me think! Rens … Not really, Max. I’m sure that there are some professors who like tenure more than they like actually teaching their subject, but social studies are the study of human nature and interaction and civilization and the question, ultimately, “can we do better than we currently are?” This is an *incredibly* complex set of interlinked concepts, and anyone who says he’s got a simple solution has almost certainly arrived at that “simple” solution by never ever thinking about people whose past experiences and current situation diverge significantly from his own. Weatherheight “Anyone who says he’s got a simple solution has almost certainly arrived at that “simple” solution by never ever thinking about people whose past experiences and current situation diverge significantly from his own.” Or he’s selling something or someone. Josh Jasper “This is an *incredibly* complex set of interlinked concepts” This is bullshit. I’ve read large numbers of major philosophers and they obfuscate like breathing. I’m not saying it’s not complicated, but I am saying that philosophers as a whole are crap at explaining themselves in simple terms. NCD While this is a problem with philosophy in particular, it also badly affects academia at large. I’m not sure that picking it out in particular is very helpful, or that it invalidates actual the complexity of the topic. Christopher Brooks I see both points. On the one hand, the process of defining your terms precisely, dealing with possible counter-arguments in order to strengthen your own argument, teasing out the varying wide-ranging implications of even simple concepts etc is absolutely necessary for philosophy. On the other hand, something like “Being and Nothingness”could have been a lot shorter without losing any precision leading me to the conclusion that Sartre probably just liked the patterns of words he made or the sight of his own writing. persephone_the_wanderer Did you tell that to your math professors too? Jeremy I’m not sure that the goal of all philosophers is to explain themselves in simple terms. Often philosophers are actually trying to explore the full complexity of issues, which can make things harder to understand, not easier. Also, many writings in Philosophy are intended for people already familiar with that approach, rather than people looking for simpler explanations. podian “anyone who says he’s got a simple solution has almost certainly arrived at that “simple” solution by never ever thinking about people whose past experiences and current situation diverge significantly from his own.” This very much. When you look at any radical movement in the history, they always, in the core, believe they have a simple solution – and act aggressively to execute their “solution” no matter what. Shjade I think it’s fair to say this conversation has restored my faith in Max. Not that he’s a perfect person, obviously, but I don’t get the impression he’s trying to hide his motives or otherwise scheming to get into Al’s pants, or her secret headquarters, or any other such shenanigans. Seems like he’s pretty much happy to speak his mind, whether or not that might be the best thing at the time. Joshua Taylor Okay I like this Max guy. ∫Clémens×ds Man is Alison bitter about realizing she actually has still to learn about ethics. That she doesn’t have the knowledge and experience of a philosophy Professor of university. Weatherheight She does seem to be fighting very hard to not admit that maybe, just maybe, the professor had a point, his ever-so-slightly cruel style of teaching notwithstanding. Math_Mage I think she’s more specifically bitter about that one class experience. And really, who wouldn’t be, at least temporarily (remember, it’s been hardly a day since then)? Even knowing there was a point behind it. ∫Clémens×ds She said fuck you to a professor. She gets no sympathy from me, and everybody who does give her some gets my contempt. FlashNeko To be fair, that professor had more than earned his “fuck you” with his demeaning, degrading and borderline misogynistic behavior. Also… uhhh… no offense but you realize the inherit hypocrisy in what you’re saying there, right? Insanenoodlyguy Misogynistic? That guy seemed to be pretty ready to tear down anybody. I haven’t seen anything to make me think he targeted based on gender. And no, he hadn’t earned a fuck you. ∫Clémens×ds Borderline misogynistic? I’m curious as to your reasoning for that one. FlashNeko Mostly on the way he mansplained about what she was ACTUALLY feeling multiple times and using that to imply she was a hysterical female who didn’t understand what she was “really” thinking and what she “really” wanted. And note the difference in tone to how he treats the student who he took the white stone away from literally and Alison, who he took the white stone away from figuratively. It’s all pretty classic manipulative misogyny that I’ve seen all too often over the years. ∫Clémens×ds That’s a stretch. Until we happen to see more of it, I’d say he was going to impress his contempt on anybody trying to play smart in a class they’re here to be taught to, no matter the gender. Likewise, it’s not really mansplaining in the context of “professor teaching student they don’t know shit by showing them their beliefs are stupid”, unless we decide to add it to what mansplaining entails, and I would argue against. masterofbones She is a girl. He hurt her feelings. Therefore he must hate women. Izo Thank you for saying what I was going to say 🙂 chaosvii I don’t see the hypocrisy, I see the bizarre standard for disapproval, and possibly an excessive respect for authority, but no hypocrisy. Also, borderline misogyny really ought to be made clear here, are you on about that unfounded gaslighting accusation again? If you are, please support it with something of substance this time. FlashNeko It’s not unfounded though. It’s right there in the text and I have supported it multiple times by pointing out those parts of the text and how it could be taken as gaslighting/mansplaning. You apparently have decided that those parts of the text are somehow invalid or have somehow interpreted them differently due to your own life experiences and y’know, okay. It’s obvious this is a subject where a consensus cannot be reached and at this point, all we can really do is move on or we’ll be going in circles forever. chaosvii I’ve concluded that it hasn’t. I’m not sure if you understand the implications associated with the word chosen In this context, but they are neither flattering not accurate. When exactly did you choose to feel the feelings you felt when you read those pages?! When did you choose to interpret the meaning from that which evoked such feelings?! When did you choose to disagree with me?! I am keen to speculate that it is your use of language, which is in stark contrast to how I use language, which leads to your words not having much of any persuasive rhetorical effect on me. You have indeed structured an argument with premises & conclusions that what is observed in the comic is gaslighting. I won’t say that you left it at a mere asserting of your interpretation. But what I will charge you with is failing to defend your premises against criticism. One of your premises was specious, as there is nothing said by the Professor which is to be necessarily taken as sending the message “be angry at that student with the headscarf” Further, his mocking evaluation of Alison’s unflattering claim of selfishness being evoked by the nature of the exercise indicates how nakedly clear the flaws in Alison’s stated criticisms towards the exercise really are. I’m offering up the alternative narrative that what was done was criticism of the words that Alison used to make her points. This is a counterpoint from which you are free to debunk if you have time, but more importantly, it is the explicit paradigm from which I argue that the gaslighting narrative fails to account for at least one of the many events which take place between those two characters. If Alison is being gaslit, then why do the things the professor appear to fit the definition of criticism? Is criticism gaslighting? Or were those events distinct from criticism while having the facade of criticism? These are basic separations between your argument and mine, and it’s pretty obvious to me that if you can bridge these gaps or otherwise grant me the tools to bridge them myself then I would be in agreement with much of what you’ve argued. This isn’t inherently insurmountable. Don’t insult yourself & me by claiming that the divide is impossible, as that implies either a cognitive problem which precludes agreement of terms, an impressive amount of sloth, or that your argument cannot ever be good enough simply because I have shown why I think it’s not good enough yet. KatherineMW He failed her after one day of the class. It’s legitimate for her to be upset. ∫Clémens×ds Yeaaah that’s not what she was angry about at the time. It was being questioned. Caliban Wrong. She may not like being questioned, but she doesn’t usually get angry about it. It’s about how he was treating her and the rest of the class. He’d get a hearty “Fuck You” from me as well. EpsilonRose Eh. In this case, it might be warranted. The lesson might have been important, but if he actually failed her for that it’s pretty bad. ∫Clémens×ds I still can’t believe people are taking this seriously. I know it’s a webcomic and there are pretty wacky things in it (the hero has super strength, isn’t that crazy) but I won’t believe the universe’s inherent logic is so wildly different from our own she can’t complain to the administration about this if it’s for real, which I still think it’s Gurwara being dramatic instead. Christopher Brooks Please give me my helping of contempt for the fact that I give no one automatic respect due to position and so don’t see the difference between saying “fuck you” to a professor and saying it to anyone else who treats you in a similar manner. ∫Clémens×ds You get two servings of contempt. First, he was being a jerkwad from the beginning and Alison clearly didn’t mind, what *infuriated* her was being made wrong. Second, it’s Alison. She’s the most dangerous human on Earth. She doesn’t get to express her anger. Ever. Either she learns to be the most complacent and patient person anyone has ever been or the people who are afraid of her are right. And we need to lock her up/get rid of her before the inevitable. Caliban And you get my contempt. Professors aren’t perfect bastions of authority and knowledge. Some of them are assholes who sleep with their students and steal credit whenever they can get away with it. ∫Clémens×ds Well that is wildly irrelevant to what we’re on Spectacles “Sophists?” …Alison, stop. You’re so frickin’ adorable. :I D. Schwartz Of course the other side of complexity in the social sciences is that the world is that complex. Humans are not really reducible, life is full of small and significant forces, and the world has over 7 billion individuals each with their own unique perspective. Sure discussing the world in the terms of postmodern and Marxist (economic) identity politics both feel leaden and frustrating but someone has to do it. Only via those lenses can we have an idea of how humans work in their environments. Weatherheight The key to getting better is understanding what you just did and why you did it. Down side of the social sciences is that “what you just did and why you did it” is sort of a moving target, and it’s getting more and more agile as time progresses. That, and humans hardly ever seem to implement what we’ve learned about ourselves from these sciences – urban planning gives it a shot, I suppose. Rich The Bluegeek Okay, now I’m starting to warm up to Max… 🙂 Peter “You know what they call guys who are good at winning arguments? Assholes.” Looks like somebody is a sore loser. Oren Leifer Huh, and yet keeping things oversimplified helps those in power retain power because “That’s the way things are” or “You can make it if you try”. It’s simple myths and narratives about how societies work that cause people to buy into the existing power structures that oppress them (hegemony). Mechwarrior Never trust a government that has the words “democratic”, “hegemony”, “people’s”, or “republic” in its proper name. DGillon “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” – we’re good. Um, hang on… Eric Johnson As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man — There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: — That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire, And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire; And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins, As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn, The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return! Weatherheight “My dear lady, do you like Kipling?” “I don’t know, you naughty boy, I’ve never kippled.” Hey, you quote Kipling and don’t source it, you get the oldest joke there is about him. 😀 Stephanie Gertsch Source Plz ? 🙂 CityFace I’m starting to like this guy. I don’t necessarily agree with him 100%, but I’m really enjoying this conversation. John This guy gets it. LordErnie As a former philosophy major I both am annoyed by and totally understand and appreciate Max’s point. shink ^ This guy knows what he’s talking about. scarvesandcelery “It’s always easier to kick a sandcastle over than it is to build one.” Beautifully put, and I think it sums up the ethos of this comic so far perfectly. It’s important to question and deconstruct the systems that drive the world we live in, and the value systems that we hold. But it’s easy to get stuck in that, and therefore vital to ask how we respond to the nature of the mess of the world we live in. How do we build a better world? What value systems and moralities can we build that respect and give worth to the lives of the people that live in that world? Weatherheight Very much like this comment. Some people knock over sandcastles because, other knock over sandcastles to better understand how ones makes sandcastles and thereby make a better one. Coming from some time spent in the construction inspection industry, your comment has a particular cogency to me. chaosvii Exactly, not just stop the stuff we don’t like, but start things worth keeping around. Which entails knowing why any given thing we like is worth investing in, making more influential, more a part of other’s lives. Even if we know why we would like something to happen to us, we have to know why others would want it to happen to them too. Lysiuj Fair enough, but i think it doesn’t fully work as a metaphor here. Someone criticising social issues isn’t so much trying to tear down the sancastle as find the problems in it and how to fix it, or build a better one. Tylikcat Ideally, yes. In practice… it depends a lot on the problems. I do think this comic, generally, has been good from the start at pointing towards many of the really important problems having either difficult answers, horrifying answers, or answers that threaten the status quo in ways that make them difficult to accept. (The obvious narrative for the last is “…to the people in power.” But big changes to the status quo are scary for most people, not just the people in power. Gods, that would be the most depressing outcome for the missing biodynamics story line! I disbelieve.) I think generally people are better at figuring out what they don’t like than figuring out effective solutions for it. And a real problem is one thing, whereas a untried and untested solution might seem like a much better idea in your head than it ever will in practice. I suppose the most obvious case of this is Marx – he could lay out a pretty stunning ethical basis for why a communist state was needed, and what (again, ethically) it should look like – but on the useful pragmatics of running it? Not so much. (And, of course, later communists contributed a lot to the study of revolution, but less impressively to practical governance in accordance with their supposed principles. Not that they’re unique in this regard.) I’m pretty all in with being a radical, with the exception of having studied too much political economics – I’m not quite radical enough to want to rack up a multi-million body count in the pursuit of my ideals. Lysiuj Wow, thanks for the thought provoking reply! On reflection I do see what you’re getting at, and i suppose what Max is getting at. I still think it’s important to be critical of the way things are, but i have met enough cases where people don’t want to offer solutions, or offer solutions without thinking them through. (And i think more people can just admit it if they think something is wrong but don’t know what the solution is, because it’s perfectly fine to criticise without knowing the answer). Tylikcat I think people are *often* overly cautious and that it’s really important to look at problems and be wiling to take action. For many people there’s a bias that any action we take is likely to make things worse, which I find not particularly helpful. So I think in that sense we’re basically in agreement. For me the counter-examples are less ones of cynicism than heartbreak. I did a lot of my undergrad work1 in international political economics – mostly focused on the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and in China and Central Asia, though, y’know, one reads broadly. This time period is full of idealogical movements with massive, massive body counts. And for that matter, what was presented as progressive pragmatic political policies inside of totalitarian governments that had massive body counts2 – and the two aren’t independent. (I also have some good friends who had some pretty awful experiences, but… that’s kind of a sidebar to the whole thing.) I guess my takeaway is that we have a lot of history to learn from, and that if we *are* going to be kicking over sandcastles, we should be focusing far more effort and energy on what we are going to put in their place, and whether the people designing that replacement have the skills required to make of a job of it. The most recent, and painful, example of this was the series of conversations I had with a few friends, one quite close, who were involved in a couple of different parts of the Arab Spring. It all started out with me feeling like the most grumpy old conservative person around – and I hate that – but I was terrified for them, and how frequently, in historical examples, all the idealism of revolution just turns into creating a power vacuum that the revolutionaries aren’t equipped to fill. I can not tell you how much I wish had been wrong. (It was also, generally, a really hard few years for that part of my community, and there were a few suicides and it was generally just awful. Meanwhile, here I am, living in a zendo and doing neurobiology, and kind of pondering my life choices, y’know?) 1 Did I mention my education was fucked? I will say it again – my education was fucked. But I got a lot out of it. 2 This is orthogonal to my point, but I have to recommend Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone: China’s Great Famine as an absolutely amazing book, both to read, and that he managed to write it. (It is also incredibly hard going – well written and readable, but difficult subject matter. The recommended approach is to read one chapter, and then a nice fluffy novel. Repeat, taking breaks as necessary.) I very much wish this book had been written when I was an undergrad… Tylikcat …I suppose there’s a list, somewhere, of what html tags are supported? chaosvii Here’s a link https://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/466253-what-html-tags-are-allowed-within-comments- Dartangn We Must Do Something. My Plan Is Something. We Must Do My Plan. That’s a sandcastle that needs to be kicked over. In fact, they’re not kicking over sandcastles, they’re point out that your specific plan for sandcastle construction has major problems. The fact that some sort of beach related structure is needed doesn’t mean your particularly plan, and particular paradigm is right. Mitchell Lord *nods* The only reason to deconstruct something…is if you’re trying to RECONSTRUCT it, as well. It’s been pointed out to be something that is missed in anyone who tries to imitate Watchmen, or Dark Knight Returns. Hell…it was a big deal in the Batman Begins series. (And lost in BvS). Kurt Busiek did a nice essay on this. It’s one of the main things he does in Astro City. try to reconstruct things. It’s why DC’s “New 52” didn’t work. Snorkels http://www.avclub.com/article/iastro-city-ivs-iplanetaryi-superhero-reconstructi-41795 masterofbones But if you built your sandcastle with the intention of being “kick-proof” you should maybe rethink your choices when someone knocks it over on their first try. Philip Bourque It’s funny, I was just reading a tv tropes entry about acceptable targets. Intellectuals, students, virgins; there were a lot of entries for both ‘sides’ of a subject. Basically, anyone who is not on your side is an acceptable target for derision. Weatherheight Hmm.. so, everyone is an acceptable target for derision? ::trots briskly off stage before the tomatoes ruin his fur:: Charles M. Hagmaier Nngh! Philosophy is *not* a social science! Humanities! They still exist, dagnabit! Hellfire, most social sciences aren’t really sciences anyways, they’re politics cosplaying in goggles, activism tarted up in white labcoats looking to get lucky at the empirical club. Except maybe psychology, insofar as it’s just neuroscience slumming it on the wrong side of the tracks. Weatherheight Psychology, at least my experience as a psych major (BA accomplishment unlocked! Hmm, not as many options as I’d thought), has two camps – the “let’s look at the brain and how it works” camp and the “let’s look at people and see what they do and why they’re doing it” camp. The cognitive psychologists tend toward more hard science, while the various forms of behavioral psychologist and clinical psychologists are quite a bit more on the squishy science side of the line. The confusion about social sciences and humanities is understandable, however – neither one’s going to net you real money in the workplace with just a BA. ::trots briskly off stage before the tomatoes ruin his fur:: Ryan B It’s almost impressive how you managed to dismiss half a dozen major fields of study in two sentences, as well as both politics and activism. Let me pose a question to you, someone who is so interested in “hard science”: how high exactly is the horse you’re riding on? In metric, please. MrSing Activism and politics are fine and have their place in society. They aren’t hard science though and shouldn’t pretend to be or treated like they are. DGillon Computer scientist here, so definitely on the hard side of the divide, but if you dismiss the social sciences, you’re ruling out applying the scientific method to a huge part of understanding the human condition. And there is no clear boundary between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. Consider queueing theory (the understanding of how queues of humans behave, not the computer algorithmic kind), hard or soft science? It’s technically a branch of Operational Research, which is one of the applied mathematics disciplines, just like stats. It’s got practical applications, you can run experiments, there are established theories of design, on one level it’s maths meets architecture, but at its most fundamental it’s still modelling a guess at the squishy stuff happening in people’s heads when they’re forced to queue. Or there’s linguistics, with its models for the evolution of language, and ability to run them backwards to tease out historical interactions that aren’t always clear from the historical or archaeological record. Or economics. Technically a social science, but you aren’t going to get far without reaching for your maths. You can look at a lot of the social sciences as simply specific areas of applied zoology (or ethology if you want to narrow it down a bit), where the species under observation happens to be Homo Sapien Sapiens. And ultimately most of us accept zoology as a ‘real’ science. Izo I don’t see what’s wrong with what he said. Philosophy really isnt a hard science by any metric. It’s more of a belief structure (or study of belief structures)…. sort of like religion (or theology – study of religion). Science tends to be based on empirical evidence, repeatable experimentation, and actively trying to disprove rather than prove something. Philosophy tends to not meet at least one of these criteria (usually the third, often the second, and sometimes the first). It’s sort of as if you’re in an english lit course and are analyzing Huckleberry Finn and using all sorts of language to describe the book, the meanings in the book, the symbolism, etc – but I wouldn’t call Huckleberry Finn science. Please no one flame, thanks. MrSing Depends on the branch. Structuring an argument and logic almost can’t be distinguished from math and those two are very much in the realm of philosophy. One could easily argue that all science and pseudoscience finds its roots in philosophy. Eavan I want a framed print of the fifth panel. bta I don’t like Gurwara, but I really don’t like the “lol, social sciences are about making simple things needlessly complex, why do we even need them?” argument. If that’s what Allison get out of her college courses, she might as well stop everything and just start an angry blog. MrSing It’s always easier to complain than to build a sturdy sandcastle. Anna Has anyone else noticed that this man is basically Patrick plus colloquialisms? He has the same face shape and the same formality and the same smile and he loves to talk about things and debate ethics. I think our Allison has a SERIOUS type. Weatherheight I think it’s important to note that Patrick, a telepath megalomaniac super villain, has assured Alison that he does NOT, no sir, have Mind Control. This leaves Telepathy, Ego Attack, Mind Scan, Mind Link, and Mental Illusions that he has declined to affirm he does not have. ::coughs:: Sorry, Hero System again…. It’s a sickness, I admit I need help… Insanenoodlyguy Oh hell… Patrick’s sexual drive has been reawakened by the danger of shit thrown at him! IT’S HIM IN A WIG! Arkone Axon Y’know, this page just helped me crystalize my thoughts regarding Max and Alison here. We’ve got a lot of readers who think he’s scum, he’s a creep, he’s planning to date rape her (and HOW is he even going to do that? Let alone survive the aftermath?), and finding plenty of things to nitpick over and say “this is proof of why he’s no good,” etc. It does indeed make me think of the pessimists who insist “this is why you can’t ever ever possibly do something” that you see too often in academia. You know, the ones who get consistently proven wrong as science marches on. He’s done nothing to warrant suspicion thus far aside from be consistently funny and charming towards a young woman whose previous relationship was with a semi-retired supervillain too scared of his own feelings to admit them. It’s a good thing Alison can’t actually break the fourth wall to read these comments, because it’d be like having your friends along on a date and having to hear them constantly saying things like, “You see that? He ordered bleu cheese dressing on his salad! That’s proof! RUN girl, he ordered BLEU CHEESE!!” Philip Bourque It’s a matter of perspective. Some people see his words and actions as innately suspicious, you don’t. dragonus45 the problem is that there is literally no reason to believe that he is “innately” anything with how little we know about him. Izo It’s sort of the same way some people keep thinking Guavara is a great man despite all evidence to the contrary 🙂 Except they think Max is evil personified, despite evidence to the contrary. chaosvii He’s not a great man, he’s merely a very clever man with a style that appeals to others. The evidence doesn’t point towards greatness nor pettiness, merely well put together argumentation & potent antagonistic discussion style. Don’t confuse “he’s great at what he does” & “I enjoy what he does” for “he’s a great hero who has done nothing wrong” People can apply the non-contradictory views of generally correct & asshole & funny to him simultaneously you know. EpsilonRose Dismissing the entire field of philosophy and the fairly important lessons, particularly for someone in Alison’s position, is a pretty bad sign, even if his intentions are entirely pure. RobNiner It’s the nature of this comic. Anyone nice and charming has probably got a four year plan to manipulate Alison into blowing up Tumblr. Stephanie Gertsch He looks like Hans from Frozen. He seems nice and is kind to Allison. In Frozen, Anna trusted someone who treated her with kindness and the audience went “PHHHBBTH! What a dork! I mean, wanting to marry him after a day? Totally asking for it amirite??? FEMINIST MOVIE!” The anti-Maxxers are just following trying to follow the pattern of plot tropes. Weatherheight Or credit card companies… Actually, it’s the guys collecting student loans who make the money – worked on both side of that “service” for years (current/delinquent and defaulted). With federally backed loans, you repay the original loan amount to the lender – it’s the interest that is the real place where you get hurt and where they make the money. Working there was very much an eye opener about managing funds. Be *very* careful when you consolidate debt. Weatherheight “yeah, that whole trope about the world and people being complex is just a whitewash for their making a living…” “Keeping it simple” is a useful thing, but applying that blindly to human behavior and interaction can lead to some *real* mistakes that have real consequences. Some simple, easy-to-understand statements about people… “The Jews are responsible for our economic woes!” – Adolf Hitler “They’re not real people, like us!” – Every Slave Trader Ever “They supported the former evil government!” – Pol Pot “Commies! Don’t let the godless Commies win!” – Joseph McCarthy “Capitalists! Don’t let the heartless Capitalists win!” – Joseph Stalin ….. (Hmmm….. Maybe the lesson is “Never trust anyone named Joseph”? Nah) Not knowing enough about ourselves as a race tends to lead to our worst behavior. I do agree with Max in that sometimes the jargon and hyper-precision needed within the fields of study are used inappropriately when trying to disseminate the findings in a less technical setting, but that’s usually a product of habit or a desire to educate others who may not have the background to understand the subject in those terms (although I have had a few professors who made me *want* to believe Max’s point). But the argument “They’re lording their intelligence over the rest of us and making it hard so they can protect their jobs” isn’t fair nearly as often as Max is implying. And to be fair to Max, I *have* met those professors on an occasion or two. Izo …. are you seriously comparing Max saying that philosophers (or at least some philosophers and especially philosophy professors) intentionally overcomplicate simple notions in order to have job security with Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, and Stalin mass-killing millions because of bigotry, paranoia, and megalomania? Please tell me that I read that wrong. ∫Clémens×ds In the next issue, Alison goes back in time –thanks to Patrick’s efforts– and while she internally debates the moral quandaries of killing Hitler, he pleads to her: “Man, everybody is out to point the flaws in my white supremacy shtick, us Nazis can’t catch a break. We’re trying, you know? It’s so much harder to build a sandcastle than to destroy one.” bta It’s appropriate because one of the core components of fascism is that it fetishizes action for action’s sake, against the supposed weakness and complacency of intellectuals. RobNiner To which Alison responds by kicking over his underground bunker, somehow. KatherineMW I remember finishing a lengthy Anthro article, which was intended to be an introduction to the subject and its controversies, and realizing that 1) it had no discernable thesis, 2) it had no discernable arguments or supporting points; 3) numerous sentences appeared to be utterly meaningless; 4) it was full of jargon geared at obscuring rather than illuminating; and 5) I had gained no additional knowledge of the subject whatsoever. So I get Max’s point. A lot of academia is deliberately designed to be arcane without being in any way meaningful. (Technically philosophy is classified as humanities rather than social sciences, though both areas can be subject to that kind of thinking and writing.) Plus, there’s the always-great story of the folks who wrote a program that threw together complete word salad articles, and got one of them published in a peer-reviewed journal. chaosvii I’d also argue that in addition to those factors, nobody is required to take a technical writing class, so they never learn how to write in order to convey ideas concisely. That stuff you listed are all useful things for communication, but aren’t necessary in an environment where peer review is “hm this article seems all put together properly, I approve.” Which results in the hoax articles getting published. Lucy Was that the Sokal Hoax? The article about how gravity is a social construct? Or something else. Kid Chaos The next time I go to the beach, I’m building a badass sandcastle, and woe betide the asshole who tries to kick it over. 😎 Weatherheight Heh – liking the like. And to be technical, shouldn’t that be “woe betide the asshole who butts it over”? I used to have great fun building sandcastles in my childhood and then knocking them over Calvin-style. Rar! Don’t get bored and kick it over yourself. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m kicking my own ass!” ::scratches at a ear with a hind hoof:: DGillon Allison seems to be making a few breakthroughs here. Which makes me wonder if one of Gurwara’s objectives was to make her lose her temper as a teaching experience. DGillon “It’s always easier to kick sandcastles over” – or as we put it in my business: “Other engineers build targets” 😉 sad_fish I’m fairly sure that what Max means (what the authors mean, via Max) is that the social sciences are saturated in *unnecessarily complex jargon*. The subject matter is, of course, extraordinarily complex, but I think it is undeniable (speaking as a philosophy and sociology major) that many writers in these fields indulge in unjustified and unjustifiable *terminological* complexity, while exploring ideas that are *easier to understand* than ideas in the sciences. I think scholars of areas like critical theory, and perhaps even literary theory, largely perpetuate their fields, as Max says, through a deliberate obfuscation of their work. Rarely can a critical theorist explain their ideas in plain (technical) prose: there is *nothing* behind the veil of rhetorical complexity. Mistress Dizzy Am I the only one who likes this guy? Like, everyone seems to be hyper suspicious of him. I don’t see it. He doesn’t know Al like the readers do. I think this is a cute first date. Hermitage I feel like this relationship is going to go really well, right up to the point Moonshadow slits his throat or something. Psile I see Max’s point, but I also reflexively fear people who are concerned with simplifying things. I feel like the professor was unfair to Allison, but keeping things simple is not really a good goal. We come from simple times when you consider evolution and where humans were while the brain was being wired. Our brains yearn for a time when choices were “Kill the tiger or he will kill you” or “gather food or you will starve”. We’re stretching parts of our brain in modern society that evolution had no use for, and it hurts. That’s how I see it, anyway. In my experience, people who want to keep things simple and dismiss ‘higher thought’ as over complicating things are not going to accomplish good things. Gluten Tag Agreed. Or they have dealt with people who have deliberately or inadvertently sabotaged efforts to solve problems through obfuscation, rhetorical knot-tying and run-arounds, in which case they are justifiably a bit bitter and jaded with “higher thought.” Sounds like you’ve had the opposite experience. Just remember that not everyone who sees things simply, are malevolently trying to return to the days of yore. 😉 bta Hector/Pintsize is pretty much the living embodiment of this sentiment. You just need to replace the tiger with a supervillain. Mitchell Lord …Yeah…if your argument is “He’s an asshole, no reason to listen to him”…then you need to make sure he’s not saying the same thing about you. Mishyana I know Allison’s angry about having her argument torn down in class, but she does actually have a good point with that “it’s easier to kick a sandcastle over than it is to build one”. It’s certainly not to devalue debate over ideas and trying to improve them, but at a certain point you will start making the perfect the enemy of the good and end up accomplishing exactly nothing. Batty I’m still curious about how a sub can fail a student out of a class.. Izo I’m really liking Max the more I read what he says. masterofbones Also in the group of people who are good at winning arguments – people with all the facts. Its too bad that Alison is retreating like this. Instead of realizing the flaws in her philosophy, she just calls them a “dumb trap” and plugs her ears. He clearly showed that people aren’t guaranteed to act altruistically for the sake of altruism, so she really needs to rework her beliefs. masterofbones Oh yeah, I was being sarcastic. I don’t find anything he did to be particularly wrong, except *perhaps* for failing Alison. Though she has no reason to care about failing the class, so even that is a minor issue. masterofbones >aside from an additional semester of time studying a class that she’s already taken She is choosing her courses as she goes along. She doesn’t have to take it again unless she feels like it. She is either in college for kicks or to learn, and neither of those will be altered by getting a failing grade in this. chaosvii She has no unavoidable reason to take it again, yes. As for choosing her courses, I suppose that is actually implied by the text through the totally bananas guidance councilor, but I read Alison’s montage for figuring out who can help her learn about humanity (be they Russian writers or otherwise) as having the drive to declare philosophy as her major. Never thought about it the other way, hm. Anyway, I mentioned the prospect of a prerequisite class being something one of the few situations which could involve Alison making a choice that she’s probably not thrilled to make. Sure, this is not an insurmountable obstacle on the face of it, but I was of the view that an internal struggle against bending the rules would be a rather significant one for her. If she wants to take those hypothetical (possibly non-existent) classes, then she’d either have to obtain the passing grade with no smoke or mirrors, or she’s going to have to impress upon whoever is able to reapply the rules she’s currently following that indeed, she has earned her way through the gate. masterofbones Yeah, if this is a prerequisite class I will agree that it will have some negative effect on her. However, we have no real way to know whether that is the case, so I can’t comment further. Regardless, I have trouble caring about Alison’s plight, since IMO she has very little reason to go at all. ∫Clémens×ds You got which is genuine and which is a parody confused. (Also, this must be the fifth time you tell me “this is the funniest thing you’ve ever said”, either I’m hilarious or you need to come up more interesting ways to berate my comments) chaosvii You keep topping yourself , what can I say except to express how astounding it is that you keep saying increasingly ridiculous things such as this one that is almost a stock portrayal of a villainous attitude?! I speculate that this is some sort of linguistic error of some sort, but I suppose it is also possible that you do genuinely believe that expressing anger is a crime when the human who expresses it happens to be very skilled at killing people. Would this crime be something akin to the legal concept of strict liability, wherein the party that is engaged in something profoundly dangerous is held legally responsible for damages regardless of culpability? Are we going to have a functional & consistent legal system that protects citizens against people for being scary due to how potentially dangerous they are? Is everything uncouth that Alison might end up saying to be held up as illegal threats against a person’s well being? Or is she just so special that an entirely new precedent has to be set up just for her? These are the serious matters that you brush with broad strokes when you say goofy crap like the people who are afraid of her are right. and before the inevitable. It’s all well and good when you crack wise about how utterly banal and commonplace her mildly altruistic motives are (or fail to be when the punchline is that Alison is insincere), but when you spout off conditional fearmongering rhetoric, you begin to sound like a politician. Which we all know is ripe for mockery. ∫Clémens×ds So you want my actual policies if a real life Superman descended upon Earth to mingle with us humans? I just don’t think it falls somewhere in the legal system how threats to humanity should always be terminated. Same thought process that makes me hope we never contact alien civilizations. chaosvii You’ve got “want” & “willing to giggle at so long as the bush keeps being beat around” confused. But I do appreciate hearing your implied reasoning that Alison is a perpetual military matter or something. ∫Clémens×ds Do I hear implied reasoning that she’s not? Dave D I wanted to comment on this on the appropriate strip, but comments were closed. This strip at least refers to the issue, so I just wanted to toss this out. I don’t know that I can carry a discussion on it, but the Prisoner’s Dilemma example bugged me in that no one other than Alison put down a black stone. I read some of the comments, especially some about how Alison doesn’t understand risk and will go for the “greater good” option every time. But I don’t think that’s it – I think it’s more that she assumes/assumed *everyone else* would as well. It’s her nature to do it. It just seems unfortunate that you chose to paint the entire visible portion of the class (and presumably the entire non-visible portion as well) as basically… not exactly selfish, but uncaring and suspicious of each other, what with the reasons given by those students who were given dialogue in those scenes. It would’ve been nice to see other students placing black stones, showing they also shared the same belief. In fact, it’s downright odd that none of them did. I wonder what that class will look like if it’s ever revisited in the future. Will Alison be the only attendee? Will she even bother to show up again? Anyhow, I didn’t really mean to ignore this particular strip, but I just discovered this yesterday and just now finished catching up, and wanted to make a comment about that other strip. I was also wondering if you’d consider making a new shirt for sale? A plain white shirt with a black stone on the front, maybe the logo on the back, or Strong Female Protagonist printed across the top? I don’t know how well it would sell, but I’d be interested in buying one. I think that would sum up the central viewpoint of this strip fairly well – for those who understood the reference, at least. When I can, I’ll buy one of your current shirts too. Thanks for writing an interesting story!