We are all well acquainted with the age old query regarding the sound displacement of the proverbial felled tree in the forest that is lacking in witnesses. While Kant and the lumberjacks could doubtless talk for days about the empirical and epistemological implications of this hypothetical event, I am interested in it for reasons beyond sonic waves and auditory constructions of reality. I am interested in it for the form of the question and the myriad subjects it is capable of addressing. The question of “if x, but not y (wherein y is a normally occurring condition), then still z (wherein z is a necessary result of x in the presence of y)?” can be used to unearth deep and hidden truths of the human condition ranging from politics to pop culture to puppies. Observe.

  • If a Democrat presents a case for alternative fuels that is both well reasoned and clearly explicated, is she still less attractive than the average Republican?
  • If Paul Walker stars in a movie but no one ever sees it, does it still suck?
  • If a three-pound Yorkshire terrier is drop-kicked through football uprights but the no one takes a picture, is it still awesome?
  • If I am given a free membership to a gym that is luxurious, convenient, and guarantees great results, would I still rather be sitting on the couch?
  • If a rollerblader falls down on a suburban sidewalk and no one is there to help him up, is he still gay?
  • If my roommate drinks sixteen Coronas before noon, and no one is there to see him pass out, is he still a borderline alcoholic?
  • If a man reads the New Yorker but doesn’t laugh at any of the cartoons, is he still a pretentious ass?
  • If an SUV careens into a roadside ditch, but the roads were icy, and visibility was poor, and there’s really no way the accident could have been avoided, was it still driven by a woman?

These are only a few of the literally infinite possibilities. Consider this a conversation starter. I now invite you to join this age-old discourse by adding your own questions to the list. Really, I’m just trying to score some comments. Because let’s face it: if I write a post, but no one comments on it, can I still hate the Jonas Brothers?