Sunday, April 25, 2004

How to Tell Your Ass from a Hole in the Ground

When I started this blog, I said that I'd occasionally like to do something silly. Well, here you go!

Since time immemorial, mankind has pondered the question of how to tell its ass from a hole in the ground.

Among the first people to tackle this subject in a rigorous and philosophical manner (meaning one guaranteed to ensure tenure) was Sophocles who suggested that holes were distinct from asses in as much as people tended to put things into holes. Unfortunately, most of Sophocles' compatriots were Greeks and, thus, did not find this a useful distinction.

Socrates, on the other hand, suggested the following syllogism:

  1. All mortals have asses.
  2. Socrates has an ass.
  3. Therefore, Socrates is the only person who knows his ass from a hole in the ground.

Tragically, this argument upset the authorities of the day who forced Socrates to commit suicide with a hemlock enema.

Plato, the arch-student of Socrates, disagreed with his mentor by suggesting that there exists an Ideal Ass and an Ideal Hole and that we are like people trapped in a restroom who can only see the shadows of these Ideal forms being cast upon the stall.

Aristotle had a great many things to say on the subject including such observations as that man is the only animal that has an ass and that nature abhors a hole. Although Aristotle's work on the subject held sway for centuries, modern philosophers now realize that nearly everything Aristotle said about this was wrong and only continue to read him so that they can enjoy the sensation of smug amusement.

It was not until the Enlightenment that philosophers once again began to ponder the question.

Descartes conceived of reality as an infinitely dark hole and insisted that the only thing that we could be sure of was that we had an ass. Pascal, much impressed with this, took Descartes' observations and recodified it into his famous "You Bet Your Ass" Wager.

Hegel, on the other hand, suggested that one could view the problem as a dialectic:
  • Thesis: Ass
  • Antithesis: Hole
  • Synthesis: Asshole
Berkeley, by contrast, took the extremely solipsistic perspective of denying the existence of either asses or holes. The great English philosopher, Samuel Johnson, countered Berkeley by saying, "I refute you, thus!"

He then proceeded to kick Berkeley in the ass and shoved him down a hole.

Kant believed that it was the hole that made the ass possible and not the ass that made the hole possible and was preparing to construct an elaborate system of ethics from this contention when he abruptly ceased work on the project after Hegel called him an asshole.

Perhaps the bleakest view on the subject came from Nietzsche who wrote, in Thus Spake My Buttocks, "The Ass is dead and we have killed it!"

He also warned that if we gaze into the Hole, the Hole also gazes into us.

Spinoza proclaimed that asses and holes were one and the same but most of his fellow philosophers believed that he only reached this conclusion because he always had his head up his ass.

Freud did not offer any means to tell one's ass from a hole in the ground but did insist that it was this very confusion that was the genesis of all neurosis and that one should, therefore, talk about it in excruciatingly graphic detail. Jung, however, disagreed, claiming that the Ass and the Hole were primal archetypes and that it was the descent of the Ass into the Hole that formed the basis for all societies, religions and governments.

The advent of quantum mechanics has, like all other things it has affected, deeply confused the issue. Bohr claimed that asses and holes only exist when there is someone to observe them to which Einstein famously replied, "God isn't that kind of asshole, you schmuck!"

Heisenberg proclaimed that the matter was fundamentally indeterminable and that it was impossible, even in principle, to truly tell one's ass from a hole in the ground. At best, we could only say that we probably know one from the other.

Schrodinger provided the interesting paradox of "Schrodinger's Butt," in which it is imagined that he has accidentally got his ass stuck in a hole after being administered a Barium enema. According to the dictates of this thought experiment, so long as no one actually looks in the hole, the ass and the hole would exist in a mixed "eigenstate" in which neither is distinct from the other. Since most people have better things to do with their time then to look at the nether regions of physicists, it follows that this would be a permanent state.

Hugh Everett has proposed an even more radical theory known as the "Many Asses" interpretation of Quantum Mechanics which claims that the universe is the product of an infinite number of "ass-events" and that every "ass-event" causes a "flushing" in the time stream. Although this theory provides one of the more interesting and mind stretching solutions to the problem, Everett's detractors claim that it is actually full of holes.

The current set of Postmodernists have, for the most part, decided to unask the question. They believe that every culture has a unique and valid perspective on the question of asses and holes but that only White European Males are really assholes.

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