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Abraham (4) vs. Jane Austen

Yesterday’s is a super-tough call. I’d much rather hear Stewart Lee than Aristotle. I read one of Lee’s books, and he’s a fascinating explicator of performance. Lee gives off a charming David Owen vibe—Phil, you know what I’m saying here—he’s an everyman, nothing special, he’s just been thinking really hard lately and wants to share his insights with all of us.

Aristotle, though, I could care less.

But the commenters mostly favored Aristotle, basically on the grounds that he invented science. And, as Keith put it, “being scientific is absolutely no defense again being wrong, but rather just an acceleration of the process of getting less wrong.” And Aristotle is probably a good seminar speaker—seminars are what they did all day back then, right?

Ultimately I’ll have to go with Patrick:

Stewart Lee.

I can’t see Aristotle presenting a seminar on his biggest philosophical mistakes.

But I can see Lee spending a seminar on his least funny jokes, and getting a few laughs at the same time.

And today’s match is a forfeit. Abraham (listed as #4 in the Founders of Religions category) does not belong in this contest. The other 63 people in the bracket are real people, Abraham is the only fictional character here, he just doesn’t belong. So Jane will advance, uncontested, to the next round.

P.S. As always, here’s the background, and here are the rules.


  1. jonathan says:

    Jane Austen was witty and cuttingly bright in her private letters – those that survived her sister’s culling. I opened a book of her letters, hit the scroll button for a while without looking – trying to be reasonably random – and picked this from the first letter I saw. I think this is from the late 1790’s but I didn’t bother to check: “Yesterday came a letter to my mother from Edward Cooper to announce, not the birth of a child, but of a living; for Mrs. Leigh has begged his acceptance of the Rectory of Hamstall-Ridware in Staffordshire, vacant by Mr. Johnson’s death. We collect from his letter that he means to reside there, in which he shows his wisdom. Staffordshire is a good way off; so we shall see nothing more of them till, some fifteen years hence, the Miss Coopers are presented to us, fine, jolly, handsome, ignorant girls. The living is valued at 140l. a year, but perhaps it may be improvable. How will they be able to convey the furniture of the dressing-room so far in safety?

    Our first cousins seem all dropping off very fast. One is incorporated into the family, another dies,[54] and a third goes into Staffordshire. We can learn nothing of the disposal of the other living. I have not the smallest notion of Fulwar’s having it. Lord Craven has probably other connections and more intimate ones, in that line, than he now has with the Kintbury family.”

    I’d rather talk with Jane than with a guy who circumcised himself and his teenage kid.

  2. Ethan Bolker says:

    I didn’t know Abraham was a fiction. I was looking forward to voting against him – no way could he explain the Akedah (to my satisfaction) and I wouldn’t even want to hear him try.

    So not only don’t I get to vote against Abraham, I don’t get to vote for Jane Austen (in this round at least.)

  3. Bill Jefferys says:

    …unless Jesus is a fiction, in which case there are two fictional characters in the lineup.


  4. Ralph Hartley says:

    Now wait just a cotton pick’n minute!

    Most of your candidates are dead. In the *real* world, that would tend to make them pretty dull speakers. Now you are going to eliminate one (who you nominated) just for not existing?

    What about Jesus? He probably isn’t any more real than Abraham. The only evidence for either one is a single book, and it’s the same book for them both.

  5. Speaking of non-existence and existence, how about a bot category?

    We could have Eliza for old-times sake along with Alan Sokal’s program for generating po-mo articles. Or better yet, Sokal’s program updated with Eliza-like properties:

    “You said, ‘Every discourse, even a poetic or oracular sentence, carries with it a system of rules for producing analogous things and thus an outline of methodology.’ Tell me more about analogous things.”

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