Philosophy Short and Tweet

This week I’ve been running a competition for the best Twitter tweet-length philosophical argument (that’s 140 characters or less), with the prize being kudos, respect and TAR airtime for the top tweet. It’s been so much fun reading the entries that I’m now sad it’s over.  There were 72 entries in total (and of course, I made my decision on idiosyncratic grounds such that nobody should feel offended in any way by not winning). 

I think the winner has to be Mark Steen (@marksteen), for making this great point with 57 characters to spare:

Ordinary objects are mereological sums. Objects can change parts, so sums can too.

I decided early on, given the nature of many of the entries, that I needed a separate category for comedy value, and in fact ended up with a number of other “special awards”.  I’ve put the full list of PSAT awards and the full list of entries online. Enjoy!

And of course, if you think you can do better …

13 Replies to “Philosophy Short and Tweet”

  1. I should point out that (while other people have noted this argument in passing) that this is inspired by shortening an argument from a recent paper by Peter van Inwagen—“Can Mereological Sums Change Their Parts?,” in the Journal of Philosophy. I actually believe the modus tollens version of this, however. Since sums cannot change parts, and ordinary objects can, then ordinary objects are not mereological sums.

  2. Yep, perhaps should’ve mentioned that. Most of the entries I shortlisted (in fact, most of the entries) were summaries of extant arguments. I guess originality is tough when you don’t even have space to define your terms!

  3. Feel free to give the honors to another if originality is a precondition. (although on the blog entry you say it is not). I can certainly live with the loss!

  4. The winner of the Cryptic Minimalism Prize is really nice:

    1 or 2? 1. EDT fail.

    But as it apparently is about Newcomb’s Problem, it seems that the answer to the question should actually be “2” (rather than “1”).

  5. Ooh, I’m sorry I missed this. My entry would’ve been:

    “Are all conversational implicatures cancelable? Yes they are, and I am the queen of Romania. I mean it.”

    which is actually the beginning of a paper I’ve published.

  6. As the author of the entry that won the cryptic minimalism prize, I should say that I was torn between putting ‘1’ and ‘2’. I put ‘1’ because typically when you see the word ‘fail’, it is describing what has just happened, or is happening (say, in a picture). Hence, ‘EDT fail’ is describing what has just happened: we asked the question ’1 or 2 boxes?’ and EDT theory responds by saying ‘1’. But the correct answer, of course, is ‘2’. Hence, EDT failed.

    That said, I suspected that some would take it the other way—-i.e., as saying that ‘1’ is the correct answer to the question. But that isn’t how I intended it, and how could I have won the cryptic minimalism prize if it were obvious what I intended?

    Anyway, lately I’ve been thinking that I should have used some of the 130 remaining characters to write something a bit longer:

    1 or 2? 1. EDT fail. 1 or 2? 2. CDT ftw!

    But I suspect that would have been a little less cryptic and yet not quite good enough to get any other prize. So I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out. Thanks, Carrie!

Leave a Reply