Chicken Lit (7)

By: Lisa Jane Persky
May 19, 2017

One in a series of ten posts reprinted from our friend Lisa Jane Persky’s blog Chickens in Literature.

Illustration by Bernard Buffet

… and so now what exactly is it that justifies our confidence in the P. I. (Principle of Induction) ? This latest thought may or may not be accompanied by a concrete memory of several weeks spent on a relative’s farm in childhood (long story). There were four chickens in a wire coop off the garage, the brightest of whom was called Mr. Chicken. Every morning, the farm’s hired man’s appearance in the coop area with a certain burlap sack caused Mr. Chicken to get excited and start doing warmup-pecks at the ground, because he knew it was feeding time. It was always around the same time t every morning, and Mr. Chicken had figured out that t (man + sack) = food, and thus was confidently doing his warmup-pecks on that last Sunday morning when the hired man suddenly reached out and grabbed Mr. Chicken and in one smooth motion wrung his neck and put him in the burlap sack and bore him off to the kitchen. Memories like this tend to be remain quite vivid, if you have any. But with the thrust, lying here, being that Mr. Chicken appears now actually to have been correct—according to the Principle of Induction—in expecting nothing but breakfast from that (n+1)th appearance of man + sack at t. Something about the fact that Mr. Chicken not only didn’t suspect a thing but was apparently wholly justified in not suspecting a thing—this seems concretely creepy and upsetting. Finding some higher-level justification for your confidence in the P. I. seems much more urgent when you realize that, without this justification, our own situation is basically indistinguishable from that of Mr. Chicken. But the conclusion, abstract as it is, seems inescapable: What justifies our confidence in the Principle of Induction is that it has always worked so well in the past, at least up to now. Which would seem to mean that our only real justification for the Principle of Induction is the Principle of Induction, which seems shaky and question-begging in the extreme.

— from David Foster Wallace’s Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity

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CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE by Significant Objects | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE by Significant Objects | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE AGAIN by Significant Objects | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators

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