[Lounge #378] »« Quantum

Philosophers and determining the meaning of life with a multiple choice test

It’s a weird, interesting, frustrating Survey on the Good and Meaningful Life. There were bits that made me think, and lots of bits where I thought, “my answer isn’t one of these multiple choice options!”

Go get provoked by it anyway. Now I just hope there is a follow up where Jean Kazez answers the question, “What was the meaning of that survey?”

Comments

  1. Brownian says

    There were bits that made me think, and lots of bits where I thought, “my answer isn’t one of these multiple choice options!”

    And a lot where I thought, “Whatever. Either option has the same outcome.” For the demographics part at the end, should I just calculate the age of the coin I flipped, or what?*

    *Kidding. I answered everything myself, even if I didn’t see any meaningful difference between some of the options.

  2. says

    Well, they got close. The meaning of life should be usually determined through a “choose-you’re-own-adventure” story. So we should give the philosophers some leftover halloween candy, pat them on the head, and ignore them for another year.

    Higgs Bisons

  3. Sastra says

    Aw, the survey didn’t give a personal evaluation at the end. I was expecting something like “You are a Wanderer: hopelessly confused and self-contradictory.”

    Maybe someone with a strong philosophical background would refuse to take the survey on the grounds that all the answers should be “well, it all depends on what you mean…”

  4. Tony–Queer Duck Overlord of The Bronze– says

    PZ:
    Yes to “what’s the meaning of the survey”.

  5. says

    In keeping with most of my answers the point of that was what ever you and the author take away from it.

    Presumably the author is interested in how people perceive some of the choices during the test (magic pills/ vs gambling etc) and is interested in how people look at these questions.

  6. says

    I was very irritated by the implied right answers on all of the 2 parters.

    If you think you’re on Mars when there’s enough meds, but backing off causes you pain, is it worth it?

    Yes
    No

    If backing off allows you to know you’re not on Mars, but not know where on Earth you are, is it worth having double the pain to know the specifics of your location?

    Yes
    No

    What if I *like* thinking I’m on Mars? What if I don’t think ANY pain is okay, especially if I’m sedated to deal with any anxiety? In that case doesn’t the second option become… moot?

    This seriously seems more like a student created survey than a professorial one… A lot of places where they didn’t consider that respondents wouldn’t want either of the options given.

  7. Die Anyway says

    10 years on the experience machine and your body would be atrophied. Coming out at that point might not be good, I chose to stay. On the other hand, a real trip or a fake trip… I chose the real trip. Having a few things go wrong and overcoming them can add to the memorableness of an experience. Having it go perfectly is kind of dull.

  8. robro says

    Perhaps it’s a study on how people answer questions if there’s one question on the page, two questions, or more.

  9. Holms says

    I’d never heard of this Simeon Stylites, but he sounds like a terrible bore and/or cockhead, with a healthy slice of liar re. his ‘miraculous’ fast survuval.

    As for the survey, I found several answers came down almost to a coin toss, and others that required thought. Interesting enough.

  10. Holms says

    @8
    I thought the point of several of those questions were to provide you with minimal information for the first part, modify or add to that information and see if anything in your response changed and perhaps why it did. Just my speculation.

  11. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    But, but, but, do magic pills have any side effects? And is the family going to go bankrupt thanks to her gambling? Does the fact that we aren’t told any of these things mean that the answers are “no” or that the questions are simplistic?

    Uh, I’m overthinking this.

  12. says

    @13

    And do real trips to Antarctica lead to the continued pollution of the continent?

    And what’s powering the mind experience machine? Solar? Coal? Human sacrifices?

  13. Roy G says

    Does completing this survey make any sense?

    a) No
    b) No

    I was especially frustrated by the choice between the man living virtuously and the chef and I had to pick which one had the most meaningful life; the answer should have been both. The most important thing in that case is that both did what they wanted to, not what they did.

  14. neuroturtle says

    Yeah, for about half the questions my answer is “ask the person in the scenario, not me!” If I had the chance to go to Mars on painkillers, I’d totally take it… not everyone would agree. =)

  15. davem says

    I was very irritated by the implied right answers on all of the 2 parters.

    I didn’t see any questions where there was an implied right answer. Just read the question again, but concentrate this time. for some of them, I found it helped to imagine a dog rather than a human – it fetches sticks, and enjoys doing it, but the action itself is pointless in terms of a goal – except happiness. I found the survey quite thought-provoking.

  16. timothya1956 says

    Most of the questions seem to be dichotomies between “unconsciously controlled” and “knowledgeably autonomous”, so I didn’t have much trouble being consistent, if not correct.

    I’m not sure what level of philosophical aptitude one needs to choose between being a vegetable and a sentient human (obviously excepting some of the weirder worlds of woo). Interesting moral choices tend to be a little more complex than the ones offered in the survey, though the glowworms probably disagree.

  17. says

    Those were interesting questions. But the available answers were stupid and limited. Maybe deliberatly so. In fact, I couldn’t choose any because they were all shit, and I had a million questions to ask that might lead to better answers. So yeah, I guess it was “thought-provoking”, but it isn’t like it was mindblowing. It’s a funnel-for-dumbasses test, I guess.

  18. says

    and really, I refuse to answer questions about the meaning of Sisyphus “life” of pushing a rock up the hill. If he’s pushing a rock up the hill, he’s dead and in Hades, m’kay? [/pedant]

  19. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    Yeah, I gave up too.
    I started choosing answers randomly, so continuing would have been useless anyway.

  20. Daniel Craven says

    I find this sort of multiple-choice test very frustrating.
    If you ask me
    a) is A true?
    b) is B true?
    What about if neither or both is true?

    If I am only given a partial set of the possible truth values to choose from, my answer will perforce be a lie a sizable fraction of the time.

  21. says

    I made it through 20 questions, which seemed like enough for me to continue leading a life filled with whatever meaning I give it.

  22. Cuttlefish says

    Made it through 10 and decided my life is better without finishing a quiz that annoys me.

  23. Michael says

    @Die Anyway I considered the atrophy aspect as well, but assumed for the sake of the question that it wasn’t relevant (the machine exercises your body).

    Real vs. Fake trip? A disadvantage of the “real trip” is that you could slip, break some bones or worse, and be crippled for life. However if you have always wanted to go to Antarctica, how can you know that the fake experience will be like you had actually gone there? What if some liberties had been taken to make the experience “perfect”. If I’d always wanted to go, then I’d want to actually go, even with the risk of injury.

    Yes, Sisyphus is dead. Can his after-life have meaning?

    I think a better survey would have you select an answer then explain your reasoning behind your choice.

  24. John Kruger says

    Got too annoyed to get more than half way through. There was never the “I can’t realistically make that kind of judgment on so little information” option.

  25. xerxescalamari says

    Q1. Impossible premise X. Non-sequitur A or B?

    Q2. Irrelevant information Y. Ill-defined condition C or D?

    Q3. In addition to Y, also contradictory Z. Now C or D?

  26. davem says

    There was never the “I can’t realistically make that kind of judgment on so little information” option.

    That’s the whole point, if the questioner has got it right. The questions aren’t there to elicit several responses; they are supposed to force you to one side or another of the fence you’re desperately trying to sit on. Often psychological questionnaires ask you to choose from two extremes, neither of which you agree with, in order to find out what you consider more important.

  27. Matt Penfold says

    That’s the whole point, if the questioner has got it right. The questions aren’t there to elicit several responses; they are supposed to force you to one side or another of the fence you’re desperately trying to sit on. Often psychological questionnaires ask you to choose from two extremes, neither of which you agree with, in order to find out what you consider more important.

    So they are designed to produce bad data ? Dividing people into falling to two extreme categories seems a rather pointless thing to do when in fact the overwhelming majority of respondents will fall between the two.

  28. Rodney Nelson says

    If the person in the question seemed to be content or happy, then I voted they continue doing whatever they were doing. For instance, both the moral man and the chef were happy being moral or chefing, so I said they were equally well off.

  29. consciousness razor says

    I said I would take the blue pill. (Or maybe the red pill. I haven’t looked it up. Whichever one keeps me in touch with reality, even though it’s painful.) I wonder how many religious people would say the opposite. Certainly not all of them, but is it a much larger proportion than atheists?

    I don’t know what kind of pattern to expect from the questions about what is best in life…. I bet those are all over the map for the different groups asked about at the end. (As much as they can be, when there are only two options most of the time.)

    and really, I refuse to answer questions about the meaning of Sisyphus “life” of pushing a rock up the hill. If he’s pushing a rock up the hill, he’s dead and in Hades {Tartarus}, m’kay? [/pedant]

    Heh. Well… if he’s doing something, he’d be alive in some way, because dead people don’t do things. Right? Of course, if the afterlife existed, it wouldn’t be a “life” in any normal sense of the word. But since we’re talking about mythical people, they aren’t literally alive or dead (or undead or whatever) anyway*…. so those questions are more than a little confusing.

    I figure the mythological reference is pretty well-known, which is supposed to make it easier to get everyone to paint the same (fairly vivid) mental picture so they have a similar response to the questions, but obviously that backfires for some people. To me, it doesn’t seem like it makes answering the questions about real people’s lives any easier.

    I don’t know the point of the survey; but if it’s about what people think of meaningfulness, I would’ve preferred (what I think are) more meaningful questions with meaningful options for the answers.

    *Maybe we need lots of quantums. That would probably fix it.

  30. John Morales says

    Rodney @36, so you’d have advised Jeffrey Dahmer to continue doing whatever he was doing if it made him happy, eh?

    (You sure you’ve thought this through?)

    davem:

    Often psychological questionnaires ask you to choose from two extremes, neither of which you agree with, in order to find out what you consider more important.

    But if neither is more important, how does one indicate this on such a flawed questionnaire?

  31. Rodney Nelson says

    John Morales #38

    Rodney @36, so you’d have advised Jeffrey Dahmer to continue doing whatever he was doing if it made him happy, eh?

    Since none of the people in the questions appeared to be hurting other people (except possibly the compulsive gambler), then why not? Dahmer was hurting others, so for other peoples’ safety he needed to be stopped, but someone thinking they are on Mars is not hurting anyone including themselves.

  32. consciousness razor says

    If the person in the question seemed to be content or happy, then I voted they continue doing whatever they were doing. For instance, both the moral man and the chef were happy being moral or chefing, so I said they were equally well off.

    But that wasn’t the question, and you didn’t get the option of saying they were equal. It was “Who is taking the best approach to life?” If you think that’s the same as “which one is more content or happier,” I don’t know how you’d come up with an answer.

  33. Trebuchet says

    It’s a very useful survey. It’s allowed me to confirm my long-held belief that philosophy is utterly useless and people who get paid for doing it are parasites on society.

    Disclaimer: I’m an engineer. Make of that what you will.

  34. John Morales says

    Rodney @39, already you have had to retrofit your claim with a caveat.

    (Easy enough it would be, to make you append others)

  35. says

    The funny thing for me was all of the questions about plugging into the experience machine. I think “you won’t remember being plugged in/unplugging” is supposed to be a bonus there, like reassuring you that it will feel real?

    Except for me the idea of having my memory erased even in a minor way is so horrifying I don’t care what the alternative is. Stay in the machine for the rest of my life, stay out of it and never have the adventure. Whatever I have to so I keep my memory. I’d be totally okay with fake experiences so long as my fucking memory of the decision wasn’t being erased in the process.

    Gah.

  36. John Morales says

    Well, I had a look. The first seven were easy: I could choose between certitude and incertitude, so (b) is the correct answer in every case, since there is insufficient information provided for a determination.

    (Me, I think they’re testing how long it takes a sensible person to give up on the task, and how many persevere with the nonsense)

  37. sharkjack says

    I didn’t really care about the questions, I figured they were meant for people to disagree with both but not equally with both. With the medicine, I figured if the only side effect is that a person doesn’t know where they are and they’re on Mars, then obviously they’re still lucid enough to make a decision themselves and so I’d first remove pain, then ask them if they’d like it to stay that way.

    On the other hand knowing you’re not on Mars but not knowing where you are is pretty useless, so I figured it would be better to have 10% pain and know the location than 5% pain and not know. If you think the current planet you live on is Mars, that’s not really a problem by itself anyway.

    I think this survey is trying to get at how judgemental you are, how much difference between ideal solutions vs practical solutions you see and how much you value truth vs desires.

    I’m more annoyed by the fact that the survey only had the genders male and female and nothing else. I guess we’ll see what comes out of it, I can’t wait to find out. Sigh.

  38. Sili says

    I’m more annoyed by the fact that the survey only had the genders male and female and nothing else. I guess we’ll see what comes out of it, I can’t wait to find out. Sigh.

    Were there really enough questions to make any of the alternatives proportionally likely?

  39. says

    “Maggie’s life can’t be going entirely well.”

    Since it’s impossible for any person’s life to be going ENTIRELY well, this is always the correct answer. Why even read the set-up question?

    I’m sure Maggie has the occasional bit of stomach upset or something.

  40. joey says

    John Morales:

    Rodney @36, so you’d have advised Jeffrey Dahmer to continue doing whatever he was doing if it made him happy, eh?

    But given that there is no such thing as objective meaning, why should a Jeffrey Dahmer not choose to continue doing whatever makes him happy? If he finds that life is meaningful committing atrocities, why should it matter how others view his life (unless the opinions of others affect how he views his own life)?

    More generically, why should any person be compelled to live his life the way that others want it lived?

  41. says

    Because dangerous people who enjoy killing others are a threat to the rest of us, and he’ll either end up imprisoned or dead.

    More generically, why should any person be compelled to live his life the way that others want it lived?

    They shouldn’t, provided the way they want to live causes no harm.

  42. Lofty says

    Trebuchet @42:
    Philosophers claim to be useful but that bridge I’m about to cross was designed by an engineer. ;-)

  43. chigau (棒や石) says

    joey

    More generically, why should any person be compelled to live his life the way that others want it lived?

    If you are living alone you may live any way you want.
    If you live with other people “compulsion” will always be a factor.

  44. joey says

    Rutee:

    Because dangerous people who enjoy killing others are a threat to the rest of us…

    But that’s a reason why we feel he shouldn’t be living the life he lives. But if killing gives him personal fulfillment, why should he choose not to continue doing so?

    …and he’ll either end up imprisoned or dead.

    But if that happens, he may view himself as a martyr for his cause (whatever that may be). It may not detract his own view of his life but can actually enhance it.

    They shouldn’t, provided the way they want to live causes no harm.

    Why? Should this rule be universally followed by everyone…just because? Sounds like an absolute moral.

  45. says

    It’s a very useful survey. It’s allowed me to confirm my long-held belief that philosophy is utterly useless and people who get paid for doing it are parasites on society.

    But that’s a reason why we feel he shouldn’t be living the life he lives. But if killing gives him personal fulfillment, why should he choose not to continue doing so?
    Because he’s not going to live a free life for a lot longer if he doesn’t.

    Why? Should this rule be universally followed by everyone…just because?

    What grounds for interference would there be? And ‘just because’ fails to recognize the utility inherent. If we both agree to not interfere with each other’s happiness, provided neither harms the other, we can both do as we will.

    Sounds like an absolute moral.

    Sounds like you don’t understand conditionals.

  46. says

    But if that happens, he may view himself as a martyr for his cause (whatever that may be). It may not detract his own view of his life but can actually enhance it.

    And I care so much about his own personal views about himself, believe you me.

  47. Ichthyic says

    More generically, why should any person be compelled to live his life the way that others want it lived?

    Joey is either trolling, or an utter quantum wanker.

  48. John Morales says

    joey:

    But given that there is no such thing as objective meaning, why should a Jeffrey Dahmer not choose to continue doing whatever makes him happy?

    Leaving aside that what you quoted related to whether Rodney would have advised Dahmer to continue doing it rather than whether Dahmer should choose to do so, the answer is very simple: Because there certainly is such a thing as subjective meaning.

    (Duh)

  49. anteprepro says

    Fuck off joey. No one wants to play “Ask a Sophist” with you. Your Socrates costume is piss-poor, and your hand-wringing “but WHY” and “what IF” sputterings are just as annoying here as they are in any of the abortion threads you’ve shat all over.

  50. Brownian says

    Rodney @39, already you have had to retrofit your claim with a caveat.

    (Easy enough it would be, to make you append others)

    Fuck me, but you’re a dishonest prick, Morales.

    Sure he added a caveat, because you added new information not available in the original situation. Are you sure you thought this through? you ask, like you’re fucking Socrates. Give us a goddamn break.

    What is it about these little games that turn you on, John?

    You feel like a big, smart man?

    So go ahead, Yoda. Append others, make him. By adding information that wasn’t in the original situation as described.

    What a clever trick!

  51. John Morales says

    Brownian:

    Fuck me, but you’re a dishonest prick, Morales.
    Sure he added a caveat, because you added new information not available in the original situation. Are you sure you thought this through? you ask, like you’re fucking Socrates.

    The stated basis for advising to carry on was the seeming happiness or contentment of that person and nothing more.

    [1] What is it about these little games that turn you on, John?

    [2] You feel like a big, smart man?

    1. To what little games do you refer?

    2. You feel like a bigger, smarter one?

    So go ahead, Yoda. Append others, make him. By adding information that wasn’t in the original situation as described.

    Perhaps one should not make confident determinations based upon extremely limited information, but rather include caveats upfront. :)

    What a clever trick!

    What a pointless exclamation!

  52. Brownian says

    Fuck RIGHT off, John.

    If you think I’m going to indulge your bullshit, then you’re a much fucking stupider man than you actually play.

  53. garyyoung says

    I thought philosophy would be interesting, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just a front for religion. After 2500 years, you’d think that they’d have something to show for it.

  54. LeftSidePositive says

    Am I the only one who’s bothered by the fact that “x’s life can’t be going entirely well” and “it is quite possible that X’s life is going very well” can be simultaneously true?! How am I supposed to pick between two not-mutually-exclusive options that are probably both true the vast majority of the time? I mean, whose life is going “entirely” well?! Doesn’t the fact that you’ve listed a negative situation in question stem mean, by definition, that zir life is not “entirely” good, because simply by being in the exact same life situation but with that one little detail changed they would be doing better? Furthermore, just how possible is “quite possible”? How good is a life that is going “very well”? Are we supposed to determine “very well” in the short term or in the long term? Does a life that is going “well” necessarily imply a full, well-examined life, or is it any life that gives a subjective impression of enjoyment?

    Throughout the questionnaire, I kept getting the feeling that whatever I put, they’d interpret my answer wrong, because if they were approaching the question in a way that even conceived of my objections to it, they never would have phrased the thing that way in the first place!

  55. mildlymagnificent says

    I may be raising my grumpy-old-lady hackles unnecessarily here, but I am also hoping that this doesn’t lead into some time-warped 1970’s dissertation on direct, unfiltered personal experience being valued, honest, authentic and empowered in some profoundly deep and meaningful way.

    I’ll wait.

  56. says

    Yeah, most of the time there wasn’t enough information to make a meaningful choice, and in the case of pain vs. Mars there was no option: decrease pain medication until she knows where she is and then let her choose herself.
    I mean, if I’m happy on Mars until I am fully healed, why not?
    If I’m having a good dream while my body rests at night nobody thinks I should be woken up and horribly tire just so I can know where I am. If I were having a nightmare, I would quite like to be woken up, thank you.

  57. left0ver1under says

    johnmarley (#5):

    I agree. What was the point of all that?

    It was written To allow the “writer” to justify his/her own biases and pre-supposed views. The person had already reached a conclusion and just wants to pigeonhole people.

    You know a survey is garbage when it’s choice of answers are loaded, when they contain multiple statements into one “answer”. I looked at it, and I didn’t even answer the first question because it was crap.

  58. davem says

    and in the case of pain vs. Mars there was no option: decrease pain medication until she knows where she is and then let her choose herself.

    But the survey isn’t asking you “What would you do in this situation?”, which might elicit dozens of different responses, none of which are analysable in any meaningful way. Rather it’s asking you “Which is better – deluded and happy, or aware and in some pain?”. The kicker is the final set of questions, asking you about your religiosity. I imagine that the question setter has some hypothesis about the attitudes of the religious vs non-religious.

  59. esmith4102 says

    “What is the meaning of life”, is the shallowest of questions and is usually followed by definitive, yet unsubstantiated answers. Better questions, “what will we make of our life” and “how do we apply self-control to make our lives best” are by far more meaningful ones.

  60. Matt Penfold says

    But the survey isn’t asking you “What would you do in this situation?”, which might elicit dozens of different responses, none of which are analysable in any meaningful way. Rather it’s asking you “Which is better – deluded and happy, or aware and in some pain?”. The kicker is the final set of questions, asking you about your religiosity. I imagine that the question setter has some hypothesis about the attitudes of the religious vs non-religious.

    Again, you seem to be arguing that the intention is to produce bad data. If the reality is that the overwhelming majority of people faced with such a question will say “it depends”, then forcing them into one of two categories renders any data useless.

  61. anteprepro says

    “What is the meaning of life”, is the shallowest of questions and is usually followed by definitive, yet unsubstantiated answers.

    I’m pretty sure “42” is fairly well substantiated.

  62. joed says

    Well, I couldn’t figure out what John Morales was trying to do except to confuse what Rodney @36 said.
    Brownian saw through Morales’ bull crap.
    Why is it so important for some folks to create a false fubar.

  63. anteprepro says

    The stated basis for advising to carry on was the seeming happiness or contentment of that person and nothing more.

    Yes, because the issue of harm wasn’t in the scope of those scenarios . You introduced the issue of harm and Rodney said that causing harm trumps providing happiness for the harmer. And then you guffaw about how he didn’t say so originally, in a two-sentence blog comment, and pat yourself on the back for being So Right. You really are the King Philosopher, aren’t you?

  64. says

    Most of the questions required the reader to make a bunch of assumptions about which the survey drafter can would know nothing. How then, can the answers have any meaning to the one analyzing the survey?

    Also, the first several questions made you choose between an absolute answer,”SoAndSo’s live cannot be better than WhatHisNames”, and a answer that is probabilistic, “SoAndSo’s life may very well be as good as WhatHisName’s”. Given all of the unknowns, the probabilistic answer is the only reasonable one to choose.

  65. says

    @joey
    You might want to consider the fact that ethics and meaning are not synonyms. With that in mind, there’s no contradiction. Furthermore, “should” means different things depending on whether we’re talking about law, ethics or personal fulfillment.

    As you many be aware, clarity of communication is a good thing, especially if you’re going to discuss philosophy, where even the greatest minds often talk shit.

  66. anteprepro says

    As you many be aware, clarity of communication is a good thing, especially if you’re going to discuss philosophy, where even the greatest minds often talk shit.

    Good advice given to someone who is dishonest enough that they are guaranteed to not actually use it.

  67. davem says

    Again, you seem to be arguing that the intention is to produce bad data. If the reality is that the overwhelming majority of people faced with such a question will say “it depends”, then forcing them into one of two categories renders any data useless.

    No, the intention is to provide data that agrees/disagrees with the hypothesis, whatever it is. If you want a yes/no answer, you provide two alternatives, not the chance to write an essay on what you would do. The idea is not to provide you with two easy alternatives; it’s forcing you to think hard, then jump one side of the fence or the other. Your choice tells the researcher more than if s/he had asked you a straight question.

    Asking “should I beat my wife?” probably tells you nothing about your subjects; it will likely get a 100% negative response. If one of your subjects was a wife-beater, he will still answer ‘no’.

    Ask them “Should I continue to beat my wife, as she really enjoys being beaten, and keeps asking me to beat her?” will provide a subtler response. It will separate the wife-beater out for starters.

    The ideal question obfuscates its real intent, so that you don’t answer it in a biased way.

    As ’42’ got mentioned: should we eat the Ameglian major cow or not? It’s not an easy question.

  68. Matt Penfold says

    No, the intention is to provide data that agrees/disagrees with the hypothesis, whatever it is. If you want a yes/no answer, you provide two alternatives, not the chance to write an essay on what you would do.

    Forcing people to make a choice when doing so does not reflect their true opinion will produce bad data. It may then allow a hypothesis to be tested, but so would tossing a coin.

    The idea is not to provide you with two easy alternatives; it’s forcing you to think hard, then jump one side of the fence or the other. Your choice tells the researcher more than if s/he had asked you a straight question.

    It tells them that on the particular occasion they made certain unknown (to the researcher) assumptions. The person may well not make those same assumptions if tested later the same day, let alone the next day or week.

  69. Beatrice, anti-imperialist anti-racist Islamophobiaphobic leftist says

    Your choice tells the researcher more than if s/he had asked you a straight question.

    Good point, in general. The problem is that in this particular test available answers were simply not good. Take the super virtuous vs. master chef question. I’m supposed to say which one has a better approach to life. I can’t answer that question honestly.

  70. says

    I had the same concern. A simplified question can provoke someone to “jump one side of the fence”, but the questions/answers were poorly designed. My answers to several were so arbitrary that I might answer differently after a big meal, or if I had taken it earlier in the day with my toddler hanging off my arm instead of late at night. Since the researcher has no way of knowing what influenced my decision, the data is tainted.
    Speaking of offspring, there were several questions that I certainly would have answered differently before I became a parent. Not that reproducing suddenly gave me a moral high ground or that my child-less life was meaningless, but (since so many answers were arbitrary and could be argued either way) the added responsibility has altered my priorities. Many of the “reality vs fantasy” answers would have struck me differently three years ago. Yet my answers to the demographic questions at the end haven’t changed at all.
    Since I would have answered differently at one time but still fit the same demographic, all the data I gave them is pretty much rubbish.

  71. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    But if killing gives him personal fulfillment, why should he choose not to continue doing so? – joey

    I see joey the liar is playing psychopath again.

  72. unclefrogy says

    many of the choices were like trying to compare which is better a mountain side or a fish sandwich or which is better a green apple or a red apple.
    if they are really interested in anything it is how many people can they get to answer all the questions, or the one real question was hidden the rest were just window dressing.

    uncle frogy

  73. says

    many of the choices were like trying to compare which is better a mountain side or a fish sandwich or which is better a green apple or a red apple.
    if they are really interested in anything it is how many people can they get to answer all the questions, or the one real question was hidden the rest were just window dressing.

    Yeah, it wasn’t even apples and oranges. It was moonrocks and garbagetrucks.

  74. Ogvorbis: broken and cynical says

    But if killing gives him personal fulfillment, why should he choose not to continue doing so?

    Because, oh dear Joey, the Old Testament of the Bible is not a valid instruction book for today’s society. It may have been acceptable at one time to be a murderous psychopath, but society has, for the most part, outgrown biblical morality such as killing whoever the outgroup is.

  75. Mal Adapted says

    The only thing I want to know is, why hasn’t Constance finished reading that Bible after 60 years?

  76. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I’m sorry. Wasn’t Joey confined to Quarantine? – Ing

    Hmm, I think you’re right. I’ll email PZ in my capacity as a monitor.

  77. says

    No, joey wasn’t…but he is now.

    JOEY: NO MORE WANKING ALL OVER MY BLOG. You are now restricted to posting only on Thunderdome. Any comments elsewhere will get you banned.

  78. says

    Often psychological questionnaires ask you to choose from two extremes, neither of which you agree with, in order to find out what you consider more important.

    but the way the questions are phrased, it’s not a matter of “sitting on the fence” or even asing what I consider important. they didn’t ask about whether I would find such things meaningful to my life, they asked whether other people’s lives were meaningful. plus, the answers can be simultaneously true, since even people with very happy lives are neve entirely happy. that bit of incompetence aside, without any hint either way, the most honest answer is always “sure, it might be a meaningful and entirely happy life”, regardless what the details in the question are, since the alternative is insisting you know something about these folks’ lives that you actually aren’t given information about (or, what John Morales said)

    “Who is taking the best approach to life?” If you think that’s the same as “which one is more content or happier,” I don’t know how you’d come up with an answer.

    exactly.

    The idea is not to provide you with two easy alternatives

    at this point, i’d be happy if what they’d provided were actual alternatives, not things that could be simultaneously true.

    Ask them “Should I continue to beat my wife, as she really enjoys being beaten, and keeps asking me to beat her?” will provide a subtler response. It will separate the wife-beater out for starters.

    well if that is the point of the question, it will fail horridly, since it would identify all S/M couples as wifebeaters, while the actual wifebeaters would still answer “no”. this is why these questions are shit.

  79. carbonbasedlifeform says

    I kept thinking, “Fascinating! A philosopher apparently unaware of the term ‘false dichotomy’.”

  80. says

    though, the question that made me give up on this survey was the one about Sisyphus having a desire to push rocks up a hill, and being happy when his desire is fulfilled, but not “identifying with” the desire or wanting to have that desire.

    This doesn’t correspond to anything in reality: when people in real reality don’t want a desire they do have, it’s because fulfilling that desire conflicts with fulfilling some other desire they have that they put greater weight on (eating that ice-cream vs.losing weight; going on vacation vs. saving for retirement; masturbating vs. going to heaven*). So they want to not have the desire so they can stop “being weak” and fulfilling it and sabotaging their larger goals. But Sysiphus’ (after-)life consists entirely of pushing that rock up the hill. imH not desiring to do that won’t stp him having to do it, and pushing the rock up the hill isn’t interfering with any larger goals, because pushing that rock up the hill is all there is.

    It was an entirely nonsensical question.

    – – – – – –
    *they don’t have to be rational conflicts

  81. lawmom says

    I guess I got something out of this. For me, real happiness > fake happiness > real unhappiness. I suppose others might have different priorities. I sort of felt this way the first time I saw the movie Brazil. One question I took issue with was the two men with the same lives, except that one worked hard to be a better chess player. Well, what was the other doing while the first guy was practicing? Was it something fulfulling? I need that information before I judge whose life is better.

  82. campbell says

    I’ll go with Adams (“42″) and Camus (“one must imagine Sisyphus happy”).

    Gotta say, as an Ohioan, this bizarre survey was at least more entertaining than the gazillion push polls from Rethuglicans I’ve been answering lately…