1. Funnier if you’ve at least taken Intro to Philosophy, I guess. It’s just a lot of philosophical terms / concepts used in puns / wordplay.

  2. I can report, modal fabric is not necessarily comfortable for sheets.
    (But “not necessarily” is still a modality!)

  3. I guess I would prefer a continental breakfast over an analytic breakfast, but mostly because I don’t know quite what the latter would be. Nor an ontological lunch!

  4. This comic seems to have an impractically narrow audience. Worse than xkcd or Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

  5. “Nor an ontological lunch!”

    An ontological lunch would be served at midday. If it were served in the morning it’d be an ontological lunch. I had to look up Continental vs. Analytical. But it’s a free continental breakfast because it’s what you eat in the morning, it’d be an analytical breakfast if it consists of breakfast food. You have to check the hours because you can’t eat it at lunch time or else it’d be a free lunch. And everyone knows there is no such thing.

    “This comic seems to have an impractically narrow audience. Worse than xkcd or Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.”

    Presumably it is professional in-joke targetted at academic philosophers and intended for philosophical instruction. I wouldn’t call that “impractical” if the goal was never meant to be widely read.

    Without googling I sort of know what modal logic is (but never heard of modal fabric). The Sommelier of Finest Distinction seems to make some sense of the word distinction. The Fake Barn dance wrings a bell but I don’t know what it means. And the constitution and sculpture… no idea.

  6. Woozy say: Presumably it is professional in-joke targetted at academic philosophers and intended for philosophical instruction.

    Thanks for noting that. I might say amusement more than instruction. But the source is The Daily Nous, a news-and-notes blog which is indeed aimed at academic philosophy. (A lot of who’s getting what job, and what’s getting published.) I don’t read much of it, nor regularly, but it is on my “follow these blogs” settings in Word Press Reader and I noticed when they recently posted a new “to phi or not to phi” and checked it out.

  7. Please don’t take offense if I’m explaining something everybody already knows! But “continental breakfast” is a well-established term for travelers and hotels.

  8. But “continental breakfast” is a well-established term for travelers and hotels.

    And in fact very often “Free continental breakfast” just as advertised in the cartoon. (Though “Complimentary” gets used in this or many places where someone thinks “Free” sounds too direct or crass.)

  9. Okay… my amateur take (probably wrong).

    Modal Logic as the formal logic between what is “necessary” and what is “possible”. So as “modal sheets” seem to be a thing this is a joke and the shield are necessarily (can not not be) comfortable.

    So far as I can tell “finest distinctions” is just what it sounds like. I guess colloquially “finest distinction” means of high quality but here is simply means the can make distinctions between very similar things.

    The “fake barn” is the idea that one may know a true statement, may be justified in the belief, but none the less, the justification for one’s knowing the true belief is not why it is true. The idea being that if you see a real barn in Pennsylvania you may reasonably assume it is a real barn as you had never heard of a fake barn and were not aware that Pennsylvania actually has many fake barns that outnumber real barns. As it turns out you were correct; this was one of the few real barns, and your reason for believing it was a real barn was reasonable (it looks like a barn and the only things in your experience that look like barns are barns), but that is how you know it was a barn. It was a barn by blind luck.

    Constitution Theory is the idea that some concepts are defined by other concepts that express relations between experiences. I guess the joke is sculptures, whose sole purpose is to represent things is an example of that. I guess…..

    Continental vs. Analytic philosophy. Kind of confusing but apparently the classic question of analytic philosophy is whether the name of thing represents the thing. Thus if you ate breakfast at noon would it be lunch…. I guess. That apparently is not a concern in continental philosophy.

  10. I’m familiar with at least some of these philosophical concepts, but I don’t really see this as funny. It’s just taking the names of some philosophical concepts or examples, and using those names in some other context. That seems easy to do – e.g. “Ship of Theseus” becomes “take a cruise on the Ship of Theseus – but make sure you’re on the right ship!” but it doesn’t seem particularly funny unless you relate the philosophical issue to the other context in some interesting way. e.g. is any mention of a “fake barn” supposed to be humorous just by virtue of referring to the philosophical example?

  11. “. is any mention of a “fake barn” supposed to be humorous just by virtue of referring to the philosophical example?”


    That’s on aspect of argot humor. Simply knowing the argot and seeing that it “made it” as a subject of a joke is enough to really lower one’s standard. You are soo proud of (or so determined to fake it) being on the in crowd that you are inclined to want to find it hilarious.

    But yeah, you are right. If it weren’t for the argot the humor is fairly weak.

    “What’s purple and swings from vines in the jungle” “I dunno” “Tarzan of the Grapes!” “ugh… that’s terrible”

    “What’s purple and commutes” “I dunno” “Abelian Grapes!” “OMG! ‘Cause in Abstract Algebra a set structure with an operation is called a Group, and if the operation is commutative its called an Abelian Group! I know that! I’m on the in-group! That’s hilarious!”


    Actually, I do think the “Zorn’s Lemon” joke is silly enough in its own right to be funny.

  12. “In case anyone is still in doubt about “modal” as a material:”

    Why one anyone doubt it? Why would anyone think anyone else would lie about it?

  13. Bed linens – Until the end of the 18th century when the mechanical cotton gin was perfected by Eli Whitney, cotton was not commonly grown in the US as it was too hard and time consuming to do. Cotton was mostly grown and the processing of it into fabric done in India. Here my information will divide –

    1 – What I have learned as a reenactor – In the British North American colonies (us) cotton was on the expensive side – more so than linen or wool as the cotton fabric had to travel from India to GB and then shipped from GB to the colonies – taxed on each trip. So bedding was more likely to be made to of linen than of cotton – same as tablecloths are still called table linens, even though they are often cotton or cotton/poly these days. The linen may have also been a much smoother fabric to sleep on.

    2 – Within the last decade there was an exhibition at one of the Colonial Williamsburg museums on the London Foundlings Hospital. This was a facility where those who could not care for their children could leave them to be taken of and educated to be take care of themselves of themselves when they older. Since the child would be given a new name the person leaving them at the Hospital could/would leave a token by which if they were able to return to reclaim the child by describing the token which had been left. Since the exhibition was part of CW’s textile exhibition many of the tokens shown were fabric (though there were also ones of other materials) – and most of them were not only cotton,but printed cotton (hand printed with wooden blocks repeated to repeat the design and cover the fabric) which should have been – from what I had learned previously – too expensive for the “lower sorts” who were leaving the children. Very few children were reclaimed. One mother REALLY planned to reclaim her child. She sewed several scraps of fabric together and then cut across them so the piece she left and the piece she had consisted of stripes of the fabric – if she came back there would be no question at all that she was the mother of that child. In doing some research I found out that the cotton which was so expensive in the colonies was rather less so in the GB itself.

    Basically the terms “bed linens” and “table linens” have stayed in use no matter what fabric is actually used for the items made in our modern times.

    BTW – when the cotton fabric was shipped out to merchants it would be listed on their books as “Calcutta cotton” which was shortened to “Cali co” hence the fabric which was originally cotton (now also blends or just polyester) which we call calico. In the US generally calico is a certain type of printed fabric. In the UK it is currently any cotton fabric. (This has led to some interesting conversations with online friends in the UK in a needlework group.)

    Prior to the perfection of the mechanical cotton gin the basic crop grown for sale was tobacco – which had to be shipped to GB for processing as they would not allow the colonists to find out what to do with it to make it a usable product.

  14. Meryl, thanks for the discussion of calico. I am pasting below the entry from Etymonline, which is very close. In the account you reported, the city was changed to the more familiar Calcutta. My main interest is thru the detail they mention of using the term for colorings of some animals. Many of my cats over the years have been calicos, and that kind of tricolor patches is what I enjoy seeing!

    Paste from Etymonline:

    calico (n.)
    1530s, kalyko cloth, “white cotton cloth,” from an alternative form of Calicut (modern Kozhikode), name of the seaport on the Malabar coast of India where Europeans first obtained it. In U.S. use from c. 1800, “printed cotton cloth coarser than muslin;” extended to animal colorings suggestive of printed calicos in 1807, originally of horses, of cats from 1882. The place-name (mentioned by Ptolemy as kalaikaris) is Tamil, said to mean “fort of Kalliai.”

  15. I vaguely remember from grammar school history that there were different kinds of cotton plants. Most of the cotton that grew elsewhere had seeds that were easy to remove. But that kind did not grow well in the U.S. and so cotton farmers had to grow the kind with the difficult seeds. So England had cheap cotton and, at least for a while, the ability to levy taxes so that the colonies could not get cheap cotton. Until Eli Whitney.

  16. Mitch 4 – Thank you. My research had come up with Calcutta as the city of origin of the name.

  17. Hit send too soon!

    I know in the UK calico is still white cotton fabric from some UK friends in an embroidery group I am in online.

  18. The recently famous 3D billboard in Japan featuring a giant cat on a shelf used a calico cat:

  19. I follow a YouTube channel call The Hockey Guy, and the unintentional stars are his cats. One of them “Bear” is a Calico. You can see her in this video. The black/brindle one is her brother “Shadow”.

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