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ir/rational redux

Why Ask Why?

ir/rational redux makes a game of Logic 101 class.

By John Teti • July 11, 2012

Basic philosophical logic, the type you might encounter in an entry-level Western philosophy course, can seem more obtuse than sophisticated. The rigorous, step-by-step justifications—IF this THEN that, THEREFORE the other thing—have a certain childish ring to them. It’s like that brilliant Louis C.K. routine where his kid’s one repeated question of “Why?” eventually finds him angrily explaining the metaphysical underpinnings of being.

The Philosophy 101 logic puzzles in ir/rational redux capture this mind-bending mix of high-minded intellectual acumen and “isn’t that obvious?” simplicity. You’re trapped in a featureless room with a “perfect” machine that can read your mind—the type of contraption that often features in philosophers’ thought experiments. The machine feeds you certain questions and propositions for you to reason out with deliberate arguments. At one point, for instance, you have to prove, given a set of assumptions, whether it is rational for you to attempt escape from your prison.

The conclusions you have to reach are sometimes obvious, but the challenge of the game is figuring out how to reach them. While the game does take a brief, stupid side turn into the politics of video game censorship, most of the puzzles are amusingly high-minded. The game’s brevity means that the fun is over before a truly tough challenge can get underway. I’d ask why creator Tom Jubert ended the game so soon, but if we start going down that road, we could be here all day.

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378 Responses to “Why Ask Why?”

  1. Limeade Youth says:

    One will find his game fun IF AND ONLY IF One has not had a basic logic course.
    I have had a basic logic course.
    THEREFORE _______.

  2. duwease says:

    I learned something.. political statements are only tasteless if it’s the politics of my country.  An aside to trash a political movement in another country is just hilarious.

  3. Brainstrain91 says:

    Very easy until the last puzzle, which doesn’t make any sense.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       The way I understand it, that two-ways arrow symbol is probably just a If-then statement that works both ways, which seems odd, but I guess if you can’t handle the propositional calculus, stay out of the propositional calculus kitchen.

      Actually, stripped of all  distracting real-life context, I found the last one pretty easy.  Although such fine detailed rational thinking is not something I would choose to study.  I took a course on Semantics once and I just couldn’t hack it.  I just couldn’t go down that rabbit-hole.  It’s a bit like if you were to  figure out all the discrete processes inherent in a procedurally-learned activity, like riding a bike.  You don’t think about riding a bike; You just do it.

      Mind you, I’m not against the idea of rational thought or thinking things through.  It would just drive me a little batty to  do this kind of thing all the time.

      • Idran says:

         The reason it goes both ways is because “IF A THEN B” only says “A is true means B is true” and “B is false means A is false”.  It doesn’t tell you anything about what it means if B is true or if A is false. (For example, “IF it is raining THEN the ground will get wet” doesn’t mean that the ground is wet means that it is raining, since there are other ways for the ground to get wet too.)  Putting it both ways means that if one is true then the other has to be, and if one is false then the other has to be.  It’s called “if and only if” or “iff” for short.

  4. Aaron Riccio says:

    Any game that asks you to “Prove you are breathing oxygen” is OK in my book. I wish they’d substituted some US politician in for Michael Atkinson, but that’s just my US-centric attitude. And look, although the whole “AI Testing” scenario has been run dozens of times, it’s still enjoyable to play through — especially since the logic is more-or-less sound — so as a classroom-like game, or a taste of something different, it’s great.

  5. The_Misanthrope says:

    There is extra content that can be unlocked if you donate to the guy.  I haven’t done that, so I can’t really tell you how much extra content there is.

  6. caspiancomic says:

    ARGGGGGH, I was pulling my fucking hair out over level 7, reeling in self-doubt about my total inability to formulate a logical argument, and was so annoyed I looked up a fucking walkthrough. Imagine my disgust when the one line I didn’t know how to fill was filled with an option not even in my drop down menu, and I had to use the arrow keys to scroll through options I didn’t even know were there. What kills me is that I knew exactly what phrase I needed to make the argument logical, it just wasn’t in my fucking list! My anger is without limit!

    Anyway brb, finishing game.

    • caspiancomic says:

      Alright yeah the rest of the game went down smooth. I’ve always been interested in games that are opaque teaching tools: tricking people into learning or thinking can be the most effective way of getting them to learn. It’s like how the old Carmen Sandiego games were basically unwinnable if you didn’t know anything about geography. I used to play “Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego” with my mom, because you have to use context clues to follow her trail, and I didn’t know anything about history since I was like eight years old. When I played it by myself I just jumped backwards and forwards in time getting nowhere.

      Small confession: For the final conclusion in puzzle ten, I sorta guessed. I had a one in six chance, and I nailed it! I guess that’s in some way indicative of what sort of person I am.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        The old Carmen Sandiego games came with encyclopedias and dictionaries and atlases and stuff like that. They were actual educational tools. I suppose if you were pirating all the way back then, somehow, you wouldn’t have gotten that stuff, but man, what’s the point? Sandiego taught me the importance of research, and I’m surprised Facebook hasn’t brought that back in some capacity. 

        • caspiancomic says:

          They would have been little help to me because I was then, as now, a high functioning illiterate. I make all my posts by dictation!

          (Seriously though I didn’t know that. I was too young to know which way was up back then, but the more I think about it, the more I realize we had a lot of games on that old DOS shitbox, but I don’t think we ever actually bought any… hmm…)

        • Girard says:

           I think a lot of us first experienced edutainment in school computer labs, where the in-box documentation and so on wasn’t available to us. I remember being totally baffled by Carmen Sandiego games on our school’s computer in elementary school.

          I think we had one of the games at home, but it was on an ancient DOS Box we inherited with my uncle, and while he was pretty good about handing over the documentation for most of the installed programs (really important, since a lot of the games had that “find THIS word on THIS page” copy protection), we weren’t given any sort of reference material for Carmen Sandiego.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          I loved the Carmen Sandiego games.  With World I could usually find the info I needed for locations, but was thrown off by more direct clues about the suspects.

          For example, ten-year-old me didn’t know what color “auburn” hair was.

    • Mike Ferraro says:

      Ran into the same problem. I can’t come up with a repro where 7’s pulldowns work correctly. But the review mentions that puzzle specifically, so it must work for some people/browsers? I can’t imagine the creator didn’t playtest his game at least once and see that bug…

  7. Girard says:

    While I’ve never taken a formal logic philosophy course, I’ve taken a “Concepts on Mathematics” course that was basically piles and piles of proofs, and a few CS courses that required a degree of rigorous causal thinking and so on, which both mapped pretty much perfectly onto this game’s required skill set. It was surprising how familiar it all felt, even (especially?) the symbols in the last problem.

    I got to breeze through it and feel smug for a bit, rather than the typical mild embarrassment I feel around better-read friends who have actually studied philosophy…

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      I read David Foster Wallace’s philosophical “proof” of Fatalism just because I like the dude that much. There was some crazy shit in there, but it made me glad to have taken an intro-level logic class as my “maths” in college.

      • Girard says:

         Yeah, at the time I was taking it, I never really thought of proofs and logic and set theory and so on as having any relevance to philosophy – it was just math class. It wasn’t until after school – really, not until reading Logicomix, probably, years after the fact, that I realized the philosophic roots of logical positivism were so entwined in math, science, and computer stuff.