Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bill Gates poster

I'm proctoring comprehensive exams (wish them luck, folks), and a poster grabbed my attention: here it is, as sold by the American Library Association. Look carefully at the "R E A D" at the top, and the "Open/Learn/Close/Never Quit" menu on the left. What font is this?

Yes, it's very clearly a version of Chicago--the standard classic Macintosh menu font, with that distinctive thick diagonal in the "N" and that "v" curving on the right. It's a Mac menu!

The blurb on the ALA page says: "Microsoft mogul knows that reading opens windows to the world." Or, perhaps, the real message is: "Bill Gates likes reading as much as he likes Macs." Ooops. I wonder if it's an accident. I kind of imagine a catty Mac user at the design agency having a bit of fun. The copyright date on the poster is 1997. Chicago was used by default for Mac menus through MacOS 7.6, and OS 8 was released mid-1997, so at the time the poster was made, that would have been quite recognizable. And graphical designers (typically) don't pick fonts at random.

In case anybody is curious, I use Windows and Linux most of the time, though I also have a working Powerbook 190 with MacOS 7.6.


Alex said...


Pardon the off-topic nature of my comment, I'd like to know your thoughts on this question, and I don't know where else to ask.
I'm pretty sure someone has thought about this before, but I can't find where.

Let S be a proposition that many would regard as subjectively true e.g. "Steve Martin is funnier than Bill Cosby" or "coffee tastes better than tea". Would God hold beliefs like S? Does he have "opinions"?

So here's a 'trilemma' -

(a) God holds beliefs like S, and they're objectively true. But these types of propositions seem inherently subjective.

(b) God holds beliefs like S, but they're only subjectively true. But it seems to me that if God has such beliefs, they must be objectively true in light of being held by God.

(c) God has no beliefs like S, because he only believes objective propositions. But it seems a bit strange to think that God shouldn't also have such opinions, since we do.

Would you be so kind as to share your thoughts? Thanks.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Good question. How about this? There are at least two things I might be saying when I say "Tea tastes better than coffee." I could be making a confused objective claim. Given that people do sometimes argue about matters of taste, it does kind of seem that sometimes they are making objective claims. But these claims, then, are false. For it is false that objectively tea tastes better than coffee, or that objectively coffee tastes better than tea. If they are false, then God does not believe any of them.

Or I might be clearheadedly making a subjective claim. In that case, what I am really saying is, perhaps, something like:
(*) Tea tastes better than coffee to me.

Now, if (*) is true, then God knows that tea tastes better than coffee to me (if it's true; I last had a cup of coffee when I was 13, and I hated it; perhaps my tastes have changed, but since that experience I've never tried coffee again, though of course I like coffee-flavored ice cream). So God believes what (*) is saying, though of course he wouldn't put it in those words (first, because his knowledge is not linguistic; second, because even if it were, he'd say "him" instead of "me").

Now, there is still the question--does tea taste better than coffee to God? Well, taste depends on an Incarnation, perhaps. So maybe the question doesn't make sense as it stands, but we can ask whether tea tastes better than coffee to Jesus. But that question raises no paradox.

The funniness case is a little different, actually, to me. I am tempted to say that funnineness is an objective property. Some jokes are objectively funnier than others. Go to Choose any of the Top 10 Rated Jokes. Then choose any joke whose rating is below 2.0. I bet you will agree that the top-10 joke is objectively funnier.

However, it is often hard to compare the funniness of people. One person may be funnier in one respect, while another in another. This may be a case of incommensurability. So while it is objectively true that both of Messrs Cosby and Martin are funnier than a typical federal politician, it might be that neither of Cosby and Martin is funnier than the other. In that case, God will know that:
Cosby is funnier than Obama.
Martin is funnier than Obama.
Cosby is not funnier than Martin.
Martin is not funnier than Cosby.
Cosby is funnier than Martin in respect R1.
Martin is funnier than Cosby in respect R2.

Alex said...


Thanks for your reply. Most helpful. If I may follow up to clarify something, suppose the answer to "does tea taste better than coffee to God" is the same as "does tea taste better than coffee to Jesus".

If these are subjective claims, then are you saying that even if tea tasted better than coffee to Jesus (and thus to God), it is not the case that it's an objective truth that tea tastes better than coffee? For cases like this, are you affirming (b) of my original question?