1042: "Never"

This forum is for the individual discussion thread that goes with each new comic.

Moderators: Moderators General, Prelates, Magistrates

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5487
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: #1042: "Never"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:08 am UTC

philip1201 wrote:First you say the tautology is a correct answer and then you say a statement which I've shown has no more reason to be true than the answer "five" is "'correct'" anyway because it has a similar logical shape as the question, and that no answer can possibly correct because the answer is unknowable (when defining tautologies to not be answers). Both those lines of reasoning are just logically unsound. The mathematical equivalent of puns is not a sound substitute for informal logic, and it's intellectually dishonest to propose an answer rather than admit unknowability (whether temporary or fundamental).

[A tautology]is the correct answer to every question [...] My answer cannot actually be the answer to any question, but the question cannot actually have any answer anyway.


This is a contradiction.


I said the tautology you proposed is a pointer to the correct answer, given that it specifies the referent of the definite descriptor "the correct answer" to be the correct answer.

But if the correct answer to a given question is null -- that is, if there is no correct answer -- then your tautology is a pointer to null. There is no correct answer, so "the correct answer" has no referent, and your tautology becomes a pointer to a sentence with an empty subject... which is what my sentence is.

The question is "What is the answer to this question?"

You respond "The answer to that question is the answer to that question".

The noun phrase "this question" in the question refers to the sentence "What is the answer to this question?", so the question fleshes out to "What is the answer to "What is the answer to "What is the answer to "[...]"?"?"?" -- a question that can never finish being asked, and so which can ask nothing at all, and thus cannot have an answer. (Not that the answer is unknowable, but that there is no answer, no more than there is an answer to silence, as the question asks nothing more than silence does).

In which case, "the answer to that question" in your response refers to nothing, so your response fleshes out to """"[...]""" is the answer to that question", a sentence which cannot even be begun, and which thus has no meaning.

My response to the question was "This is the answer to that question", wherein "this" refers to the sentence "This is the answer to that question." My sentence thus fleshes out to """"[...]" is the answer to that question" is the answer to that question" is the answer to that question", another sentence which cannot even be begun, and which thus has no meaning.

Your tautology and my sentence are thus equivalent and equally meaningless answers to the meaningless question. Your tautology remains a pointer to "the correct answer" -- there is no correct answer and it points to nothing -- and my response fleshes out to nothing, and is thus the correct, null answer to the null question.

"Five" is a meaningful response to the meaningless question and thus cannot be the correct answer. Any meaningful response to the question is not the correct answer. The question is meaningless, it is a non-question, and so has no correct answer -- so the only thing which could be called "the correct answer" is a non-answer, which my sentence is, and which your tautology, in this case, refers to.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

J Thomas
Everyone's a jerk. You. Me. This Jerk.^
Posts: 1190
Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:18 pm UTC

Re: #1042: "Never"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:05 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:....

Your tautology and my sentence are thus equivalent and equally meaningless answers to the meaningless question. Your tautology remains a pointer to "the correct answer" -- there is no correct answer and it points to nothing -- and my response fleshes out to nothing, and is thus the correct, null answer to the null question.

"Five" is a meaningful response to the meaningless question and thus cannot be the correct answer. Any meaningful response to the question is not the correct answer. The question is meaningless, it is a non-question, and so has no correct answer -- so the only thing which could be called "the correct answer" is a non-answer, which my sentence is, and which your tautology, in this case, refers to.


This is a logical snarl and how it should be handled will settle to some convention. I don't know what convention is currently in favor among the people who claim to answer such things.

When you say the question has no correct answer, it might make sense to say that no statement should be called "the correct answer". Perhaps the statement "This question has no correct answer" is a true statement which is not an answer to the question.

Perhaps a meaningless response is not a correct answer to a meaningless question.

Maybe the important thing is to agree on which questions are meaningful and what it means for an answer to a meaningful question to be correct. The proper response to meaningless questions looks to me less important.
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.

Daimon
Posts: 189
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2012 10:24 pm UTC

Re: 1042: "Never"

Postby Daimon » Sat May 05, 2012 10:29 pm UTC

With whom I build a life. Geez.


Return to “Individual XKCD Comic Threads”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 81 guests