10.07.2008

On the Nature of Sweet: The Perfect Case Study

See other posts in the "Is this sweet?" series.
See other posts in the "On the Nature of Sweet" series (more focused on the philosophy of sweetness).

Today's case study is based off of a hypothetical situation that Mr. Sherrill cooked up in his last dialogue. I call it, "the Sherrill chain reaction." For anyone whose memory is fuzzy on the details, here is the example as it originally appeared:

Bentham: "What if an act that is patently not sweet in isolation could lead to greater sweetness? Surely you can recognize the morality of such an act. For example, smashing a bottle of Dogfish Head 90 Minute in the middle of the street is not sweet. But what if this is done so that the glass might pierce the tire of a passing gasoline tanker, sending it careening into a gas station and setting off a totally sweet chain of explosions?
Kant: Hmm...that would be pretty sweet....But do you mean to say that the bottle was broken with this intention? Then perhaps I could permit it. But if the crash were inadvertent, I'm afraid it could not be condoned, or labeled as sweet.

Here we have a perfect case study for students of Sweetness. Upon hearing this example, my initial impulse was to say, "No, of course the bottle smashing STILL isn't sweet." And Kant makes a great point about the importance of intent. The only way the smashing could become sweet is if the final result had been anticipated. For this argument to work, however, it demands the ability to make individual judgments for each constituent element of the chain reaction. Is that possible? Can we look at each small thing -- for instance, the smashing of the bottle -- in isolation, or should we evaluate the series of events as a single unit with a single set of aggregated effects?

There's a problem with judging each element individually:
the sweet chain reaction would have never occurred (well, was astronomically less likely to occur) were it not for the smashed bottle. In some sense, the bottlesmashing birthed the entire sweet explosion. The explosion is indebted, then, to the unsweet smashing of the bottle. On the other hand, the whole question of causality is a slippery slope, since we could technically make all sorts of wacky arguments about what eventually caused what. I mean, none of this would even be possible if dogfishhead didn't make bottles of 90 minute, or if the truck's driver decided to take a different route on that fateful day.

So then I convinced myself that the smashing of the bottle did, in fact, become sweet, and here was my logic: I imagined that the entire situation was caught on videotape by a friend of the bottlesmasher -- let's call him Steve. Later that night, after they cleaned their post-explosion puncture wounds and changed out of their soot-covered clothes, they invite some friends over to watch what happened. Even though Steve ardently disapproved of the bottle smashing at the time of the incident, he now shows the entire video with enthusiasm, anticipating the extreme sweetness to follow -- "Oh my god, guys, check this out, it's so sweet." The consequences of this are as follows:
- This whole chain reaction of events is evaluated as a single unit, with one set of sweet or not sweet effects
- It means that sweetness is something that can be historically revised, retroactively, given the knowledge of the "big picture" -- reinforcing the subjective, socially constructed nature of sweet

Of course, there are problems with this line of thinking, too. Since we regard the entire chain of events as a single unit that produces a single outcome of sweetness, then we inevitably engage in a sort of "equation of sweetness."
Either consciously or unconsciously, we weigh the sweet constituent elements against the unsweet constituent elements to determine if these events are sweet as a whole . In other words: smashing of the bottle = not sweet, but chain reaction = TOTALLY SWEET, thus overall event = totally sweet.

This equation, however, demands value judgments of sweetness. Who's to say that the
unsweetness of the bottlesmashing is overshadowed by the sweetness of the tanker explosion? Comparing a smashed bottle to a chain reaction explosion is almost too easy, though. Let's complicate things. For example, what if the smashed Dogfishhead 90 minute happened to be the last bottle of 90 minute on Earth, and the driver of the truck was Axl Rose, who was belting out "Welcome to the Jungle" as he sped towards his imminent death? Surely the world would lament the loss of these two things. How then do we make a meaningful evaluation of the sweetness of the event as a whole?

:: Editor's note: I just realized that Axl Rose actually might become sweeter if he was exploding while screaming "SHA NA NA NA NIIII NIIII" as opposed to simply being alive -- but let's disregard that for the sake of argument.


IS this sweet?
Please weigh in,
yall.

6 comments:

al;ec said...

you lost me at dogfish head 90 minute.

the only reaction to that is:

http://gallery.photo.net/photo/5968463-lg.jpg

q.e.d.

http://www.fotosearch.com/comp/LIF/LIF115/open-mouth-tongue_~SA402057.jpg

)( !!

Hot Eatz said...

All decisions should be made based on units of sweetness.

The ideal solution to a problem will always be that which yields the most units of sweetness as illustrated on the "Scale of Sweeticity."

Andy said...

Eddie, I think we're on to something here

Andy said...

in fact, can someone who's really good at photoshop please make an actual "scale of sweeticity?"

8bit said...

dude you can do it in word...
just change the numeric values on the y-axis to ... degrees of sweet (like, totally sweet, effin' sweet, redicu-sweet et al) with each degree being marked off incrementally and then each bar (assuming you're using a bar graph) can represent an example of a sweet occurence, ie bottle smashing or axl-rose-explosion.

Anonymous said...

Who do I have to blow to contribute?

-Newman

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