Logic Games

I can’t not write about this.

This may be one of the stupidest ways I’ve ever spent any night of my life. And it began with a nonsensical text.  One of many that I get.

My friend sent me a text.  This text offered a little puzzle, and a challenge to my ego.  It read (in Spanish):

“For those who are intelligent, the daughter of the husband of the sister of the mother-in-law of my sister’s boyfriend is my…  I await your response.”

Don’t think about it too long.  It’s bullshit

I was walking home while I got this message.  “How cool!  This will entertain me as I walk home and I get to prove to the sender that I am indeed intelligent.”

It sounds really tricky, so I try and take it piece by piece, moving backwards from my sister.  Very quickly I decide that it is entirely possible that I am of no relation to the child.  Simply put, the child only need be related to my sister’s boyfriend, and that’s the end of the story.  I am not necessarily related to the boyfriend, therefore not necessarily related to the child.  I send my answer.  We aren’t related at all.

“Jajaja!  You aren’t so smart after all.  She is your niece!”

Oh, ok.  So it’s like that?  Fine, smug texts beget smug texts. 

“Not a chance.  I hope it doesn’t you hurt to be so seriously mistaken.”

I explain my position and we go back and forth with friendly taunts.  I go so far as to draw a diagram on my whiteboard to be absolutely sure that I am right. 

Indeed I am. 

As I become more convinced of my superiority, she becomes more indignant. 

“It’s just that you don’t understand, John.” She tells me.  “Read it more closely.”  She says.  “It’s just that you’re confused about the way we say family members in Spanish.”

This is no longer just a friendly game.  Both my intellectual prowess and my Spanish skills have been contested.  This is tantamount to an attack on my very manhood and sense of self.  The gloves are coming off (someone recently pointed out to me that boxing gloves actually make boxing more dangerous for the boxers, albeit safer for their fists and the careers of fight promoters.  Despite the inaccuracy, I like the imagery). 

“Go ahead!  Explain to me how it could possibly be my niece.”

All of this has been through text.  Nevertheless, while reading the following response I swear that I could hear the slow condescension in how she would have spoken.

“Wellllll, you see.  it’s like this.  Let’s say my sister’s name is Francesca, and the mother-in-law’s sister’s name is Lucy.  I am married to Francesca’s boyfriend.  So the mother-in-law of my Francesca’s boyfriend is also the mother-in-law of my husband.  The daughter is the child of Francesca and Lucy’s husband!”

No way.  I’ve already gone too far.  I’ve been way too snide to be proven wrong here.  I had a diagram!  She isn’t smarter than me, there is something missing here.  A clever turn.  Nothing more.  This isn’t the answer.

I adjust my diagram to include her names and replace the placeholder I had for the boyfriend’s wife.  It was obvious from the start that the boyfriend was unfaithful by virtue of his having a mother-in-law.  This aspect of infidelity was easy to spot and is by definition true.    The other two infidelities (Francesca cheating on her boyfriend and Lucy’s husband cheating on her to bear the child), however, are of hot debate.  I pore over the diagram, there’s a hole here.  And I have to act fast.  Self-satisfied messages that further expound this absurd theory are flooding my inbox.  They can’t possibly be accurate.  Perhaps…

“Ok, fine.  That is a possible way that she could be your niece, but it isn’t the only logical answer.  There is nothing that necessitates that the Francesca is the mother.  In fact, there is no reference to a mother at all.  The whole riddle is one long description of the father.  There are an infinite number of responses, which is the same as saying there is no response.”

I am still right.  It was possible that the child is of no relation.  I’m simply now more right.  I’ve not only solved the riddle, but what’s more I’ve bested the riddle by dismantling it.

“No.  Read it carefully.  It tells you who the mother is at the end, where it says ‘the mother-in-law of my sister’s boyfriend’.”

She won’t be easily swayed.  This argument doesn’t even make any sense.  It barely even addresses my point.  I get to be smug again.

“Go ahead and repeat the phrase considering that any woman is the mother and you’ll see you’re wrong.  And honestly, it doesn’t even need to be this complicated.  The mere fact that my original answer is possible means your answer is nonsense…” 

Note: my first answer is not nonsense because it was reached under the assumption that the question indeed had an answer.  Her answer is nonsense because of her refusal to acquiesce in the face of my illumination. 

“…It’s entirely possible that Lucy and her husband are the parents of the child, and your only relation to the whole family surrounding the child is being the sister of the whore of an unfaithful man.”  (‘your’ being the subject of the riddle.  It hasn’t gotten so vicious yet) 

This goes back and forth for a while with increasingly aggravated language.  My diagram gets more elaborate.  I’m texting so fast my phone actually shuts itself off.  My inbox is teeming, and I’m constantly clearing it.  I have to connect my phone to its charger.  She has to realize just how absolutely wrong she is.  Neither one of us can understand how one is unable to comprehend the other.  The difference is that my argument is crushingly accurate whilst hers is painfully flawed.

“Well, I received this message with my friend, and we analyzed it and this is the correct answer that we got.  I guess you just don’t understand.” 

Garbage!  Nonsense.  How can I prove this any more clearly? 

“Ok, then tell me this.  Then tell me where the story fails if we say that La Chayo (first lady of Nicaragua) is the mother of the daughter in question.  Say the whole story to yourself, knowing that La Chayo is the mother and tell me where it fails.  Tell me what part doesn’t work with La Chayo as the mother.”

“You’ve confused it now by adding another person to the story.”

“It doesn’t matter!  Accepting the possibility of more than one acceptable answer means that all of the answers are irrelevant because there is insufficient information to answer the question.  This would be an interesting and tricky riddle if you only rephrased it as, ‘How is it possible that… is my niece?’  But as it stands, there is no answer, because every answer is valid.  If you can’t understand this, you’re beyond salvation.” 

I don’t know quite how to translate the last bits I got from her.  Punctuation would really help, but alas such are the pitfalls of grammarless text messaging.

“Acepto tu punto de vista que me hace dudar lo siento”

“Que me hace dudar aun lo siento haber que dia lo analizamos mejor”

The best way I can translate the first part is,

“I accept your point of view which makes me doubt myself.  I’m sorry.”

Vindication.  I am clearly the winner.  She has admitted defeat.  Although…

Although she didn’t actually say, ‘you’re right’; she said ‘I accept your point of view’.  This implies that she considers that her point of view is still valid.  It may sound like I am being stubborn, childish and vain to care about the difference (or about any aspect of this whole exchange), but this statement actually infuriates me more than had she continued to argue.  She’s being conciliatory and also a bit condescending.  She wants to brush me off without actually admitting that I’m right or that she’s wrong. 

Consider the following.  She is implying that both of our hypotheses are correct.  But that is in itself a fallacy.  It is not a possible proposition.  My idea is absolute.  It is mutually exclusive.  It accepts neither brothers nor competitors.  I claim that the question is flawed because multiple answers are equally valid and therefore any exact, single answer is unknowable.  This eliminates the value of the riddle.  She is implying that we are both correct and that more than one answer is valid.  This fundamentally contradicts what I’m saying, which means that I’m wrong.  Therefore by considering us both to be right, she undercuts my idea and denies the validity of my argument, which leaves only her to be right.  She is, very politely, still saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong!”, whether she knows it or not.

Then, the next part tricks me up even more because it seems like it is a rewriting of the last part of the last message.  It now says,

“…which makes me doubt myself.  I still feel that we need to analyze it better some day.”

Ok, definitively refusing to accept any stage of logic.  She accepts my point of view but feels that the situation requires further analysis.  See above for how she is being illogical in her inability to acknowledge her lack of logic.    

“Whenever you want.  For me, any day is a good day for you to tell me I’m right.”

To which she quickly responds,

“You’re consumed with being right, haha.  Good night.”

Indeed I am.  Because I am right. 

I’m right.  I’ve won.  I am completely, unequivocally correct in this case. 

I don’t think she will ever tell me that I’m right. 

I don’t think she will ever admit that there is no answer to this question.

I’m so frustrated by this exchange, by her inability to accept my arguments as I’ve presented them, that I can’t concentrate on anything besides writing about it.

This was completely, unequivocally, a waste of my time. 

I’ve lost. 

I’m wrong

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6 Responses to Logic Games

  1. John T. says:

    If this girls is as beautiful as the Norwegian girls who did not like von Hayek, you have not learned the basic lesson of logic–think ahead.

  2. rjdemaria says:

    You certainly are the loser in this to have spent all of your time and peace of mind over something that didn’t make any difference. Aren’t finance majors supposed to know when and where to invest? However you are the winner in that you have learned to watch yourself in this compulsive stance and hopefully will avoid it the next time.

    • Econ, not finance. But we should know that as well. Though, the opportunity cost wasn’t that high. I wasn’t going to do much of anything productive that night anyway, and it did entice me to write and post a blog much more quickly than I would have otherwise

  3. Joann Mulqueen says:

    Oh dear lord! I read every line with such intensity — both getting your logic, your frustration, your need to be right and, mostly, all of the flaws of trying to dialog via text! But, tell me again why you didn’t major in Philosophy? Anyway, Johno this is brilliant and you are so equivolcally right!!
    Love, Mom

  4. mike says:

    Its also possible that the daughter in question is in fact your friend herself and that her sister is having an affair with her cousins husband.

  5. Pingback: A Funny Thing Happened To Me When I Met A Pedophile « Tucos de Chunches

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