Blargh Blog

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Island of Truth and Lies, Part II

(See Part I before reading on)

Part II: All the Right Questions

We left our traveling logician at a decisive moment on the Island of Truth and Lies, face to face with the first native who he had met, and ready to ask just the right question in order to find his way to the village that he could trust.

Gesturing with both arms, he asked the native "Which of these two paths leads to your village?"

The native responded so casually and helpfully that, for a moment, our anthropologist felt that he must be one of the truthtellers. "My village is right down this path," said the native, as he made a half-turn and gestured down the path to the right.

Our anthropologist friend begin to walk along the trail that had been pointed out. As soon as he lost sight of the native, he realized how ridiculous his trusting intuition had been. The lying natives were just as calm and unassuming as the honest ones, just as likely to seem to make a sincere connection with him. Fortunately, he had not been counting on his ability to spot sincerity in the eyes and mannerisms of a member of a strange culture. He had been relying on pure, hard logic. An truthful native would point towards his own village, the honest one, and a dishonest native would point towards the honest village as well, claiming it for his own.

So the logical anthropologist made his way towards the village that he was sure to find honest and welcoming. He felt proud and excited, and just a little bit of dread. As the village came into sight in the distance, the proportion of emotions began to shift. The thought that it was possible that, somehow, something had gone wrong steadfastly grew more threatening as that possibility came nearer.

He saw one native at the forest's edge, but the native disappeared before they could speak. He tried to convince himself that it was ridiculous for his foreboding to grow while the risk that he had always acknowledged remained unchanged. But he still scanned the woods continuously as he walked, hoping to get a chance to verify that he was on the right path.

Suddenly another native appeared among the trees, and the anthropologist shouted for him to wait and answer a question. The native shouted back, "Why bother? You will never believe that I am one of the honest islanders." The poor logician fell momentarily dumbfounded, and before he could form a question the native had vanished.

The native had done nothing to assuage the doubts of our anthropologist friend, but at first, he at least proved to be an excellent distracter. The amateur logician felt puzzlement rather than dread as he wondered, "Was that man honest? What should I have asked him to figure that out?"

Continue to Part III: To the Village

Continue to Part IV: An Honest Chief

Continue to Part V: Out of the Boiling Pot, Out of the Fire


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