Out of Context

Out of Context


It has happened to many a teacher. You are up there speaking in front of the class and the words escape your lips. And then you realize it: how awful they will sound if repeated on their own, out of context, by your students somewhere… to a friend, on social media, to an administrator, to a reporter. There is no “undo” on speech. (Yet.) All we have is the humor of it, if there is humor in it, and with luck, a good, if short, story to tell.

(image: detail of “Shocked Crowd” by Sarah McIntyre)

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Mark Alfano
6 years ago

While working through a long list of truth tables… “Let’s try 69.”Report

Aaron W
Aaron W
6 years ago

“It follows, then, that you shouldn’t blame Hitler for the holocaust.”

.The topic of course was the problem of free will and moral responsibility, ….and couple students actually did complain, because they didn’t get the idea of hypothetical reasoning.Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

“ha penis”
My errant spelling with unfortunate spacing of “happiness” on the board , right after asking students “What does Aristotle say we all want?”
(NB: this was shortly after my son was born, when I was getting no sleep. In my sleep-deprived state, I found myself spelling things phonetically, rather than correctly).Report

Carnap
Carnap
6 years ago

I assume such situations are the source most of the tweets retweeted by the @myphilprof twitter account.Report

Alan White
6 years ago

Just last week, to a young woman who gave an answer that was just about right, but not quite: “You’re hot!” In the sense of being hot or cold in responding. I immediately explained and apologized to her and the class. Sigh.Report

McCarthy
McCarthy
6 years ago

Climate problem? What climate problem?Report

Doesn'tMatter
Doesn'tMatter
6 years ago

The number 69 should be left out of all problem sets, kind of like the 13th floor used to be left out of buildings.Report

Eddy Nahmias
6 years ago

“OK now, spread your legs.”
It gets worse. The students were 8th grade Orthodox Jewish girls. I was teaching at Yeshiva High School and trying to ask them to spread their desks farther apart to take a quiz, but I’d said the offending phrase daily during stretches for the boys soccer team I coached and I was damn tired (because I was teaching, coaching, running the school newspaper, etc.), so I slipped up.
I typically have at least one student taping my classes, and I always fear the day when they edit out of context some crazy philosophical example and share it with the state legislature.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

“If I go down to the morgue and slap a corpse, it’s not going to feel any pain.”

We were going over an article defending Epicurus’s claim that death is nothing to us, and a key premise is that we can’t be harmed by something we can’t experience. I shouldn’t have used such an insensitive example, so I’m a little embarrassed by that.Report

Mike Titelbaum
Mike Titelbaum
6 years ago

“Of course, it may not wear its A-ness on its face.”

Said while discussing induction, and pointing out that it may be difficult to detect whether an object possesses property A.Report

Jeff Heikkinen
Jeff Heikkinen
6 years ago

In my first intro class, the prof, trying to explain the concept of “everything that lacks the property P”, said something like “it lacks P-ness”. Everyone knew what he meant but it was still a good 90 seconds before the laughter died down.Report

Peter Alward
Peter Alward
6 years ago

“It’s like pornography: I know it when I see it”

Said while discussing some hard to define notion (I can’t remember what), referencing Justice Potter Stewart’s threshold test for obscenity which I had not previously mentioned to the class and with which (it turns out) they were entirely unfamiliar.Report

Matt Weiner
6 years ago

Trying to explain an argument for the completeness of predicate logic that finished with an induction on premises, showing that the last premise was always redundant, I said “So then we whack off one premise at a time.” Except I realized what I was saying halfway through the sentence, and the awkward pause happened immediately after “off.”Report

Nathan
Nathan
6 years ago

My semantics teacher, wanting to represent the unsaturated form of kratzer’s dyadic conditional on the board: ( . )( . )Report

Jon Trerise
Jon Trerise
5 years ago

Going over Thomson’s famous paper, moving past the violinist case, working on reasons my students think the violinist case is not analogous to the case of pregnancy via consensual sex, we turned to one of her other examples–that of the burglar and the open window.
After I asked if the students thought this was analogous, and the heads predictably shook, I asked for reasons. After a couple failed attempts, here is what transpired:
Student: The difference is that, with the burglar, one never invited him to come into your house.
Me: That’s not going to work. When you have sex, you’re not asking another person to come inside you.Report