Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Cueball finds himself presented with an offer in the form of a circular argument. Because he's an honorable person, he should join an honor society; honorable people are in honor societies and people who are in honor societies are supposedly honorable. He decides that he might as well be in a tautology club, which would be another type of society that depends solely on its own premises: People who are in tautology clubs are in tautology clubs. Thus Randall mocks honor society clubs for being pointless.
Tautology is an unnecessary repetition of meaning, using dissimilar words that effectively say the same thing. "The first rule of _ Club" is a reference to Fight Club (see also Fight Club comic).
The answer to the title text would be a tautology. Thus, he gets to be the president because he is the president.
- [Cueball sits at a desk, while a teacher or counselor out of frame advises]
- Cueball: Wait. I should join this honor society to show colleges I'm honorable, and I'm honorable because I'm in an honor society?
- Teacher: Basically, yes.
- [Tighter shot of Cueball.]
- Cueball: Sounds like I could save time by joining the Tautology Club directly.
- Teacher: That's not a real club.
- Cueball: Then I'm starting it.
- TAUTOLOGY CLUB
- [Seven individuals appear: Ponytail, a man, a shorter male with glasses that bears a striking resemblance to Jason Fox, a taller man with a buzz cut, a brunette woman with curly hair in a ponytail, Megan and Cueball standing on a box.]
- Ponytail: So how'd you learn about us?
- Man: From your Facebook group, "If 1,000,000 People Join This Group, It Will Have 1,000,000 People In It."
- Cueball: LISTEN UP! The first rule of Tautology Club is the first rule of Tautology Club.
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A tautology is a statement that is always true and that doesn't convey any information. A classic example is 'A or not A', which is true if A is true, but also if A isn't true. 'Either it rains or it doesn't rain' is true, no matter what weather it is.
"If 1.000.000 people join this group, it will have 1.000.000 people in it" is, strictly speaking, not a tautology, since it wouldn't be true if - somehow - 1.000.000 people were able to join the group without it having 1.000.000 people in it (I don't know - maybe if people leave the group before the counter hit 1.000.000?). It would also be true if there were somehow 1.000.000 members of the group without 1.000.000 people joining it. It is of the form 'if A then A' which is pretty much a much longer version of just 'A'. It's true if it's true, and it isn't if it isn't - so it isn't a tautology.
The same goes for 'The first rule of the tautology club is the first rule of the tautology club' - It's just a long way of saying "This is the first rule of the tautology club' - which can be true or false.
- No, it's saying that, whatever the first rule of the club is at any given moment, that's the first rule of the club. Which cannot be false. 126.96.36.199 16:39, 11 February 2014 (UTC)
Granted; the statements hold enough implied information that we will agree that they are true in a trivial sense, and they are much more fun than 'either there are 1.000.000 people in this group or there aren't 1.000.000 people in this group' and 'either this is the first rule of the tautology club or it isn't' 188.8.131.52 22:15, 2 September 2013 (UTC)
- While I do understand what you're getting at, you are surprisingly wrong on a few accounts. First, A or not A (i.e. A V ~A) is not always a tautology. I've spent enough painful time around intuitionists to say this whenever I can.
- How is that not a tautology? For any proposition A, if the proposition is true, then A; if not, then ~A. Logic doesn't allow for a proposition to be both true AND false, nor does it allow for a proposition to be neither true NOR false, so the only remaining possibilities are A and ~A; ergo, A v ~A. 184.108.40.206 16:44, 11 February 2014 (UTC)
- Unnecessary nitpick aside, then, there are more serious things. I presume the sentence, "It would also be true if there were somehow 1.000.000 members of the group without 1.000.000 people joining it," should be, "It would also not be true if there were somehow 1.000.000 members of the group without 1.000.000 people joining it." (Otherwise, the "also" is used incorrectly, and the sentence is useless.) Unfortunately, this would make it wrong; a statement of the form "if A then B" is not false if B is true and A isn't. (This is the difficulty of making formal logic: the traditional conditional leads to bizarre, vacuous truths.) Also, more seriously, you say that "if A then A" is a longer way of saying "A", or, more formally, that "A → A" is logically equivalent to "A." Unfortunately, this is not the case. The statement "if A then A" is always true, and hence a tautology. You also assert that "A = A" (or "A ↔ A") is logically equivalent to "A", where "A" is "The first rule of tautology club." This is even more obviously false. Even if "The first rule of tautology club" yields falsehood, it is still equivalent to itself.
- Serious issues aside, I do agree with your sentiment that "[i]f 1.000.000 people join this group, it will have 1.000.000 people in it" is not necessarily a tautology, but removing the ambiguities (did they all join at the same time? did anyone leave?), which would necessarily be done in any formalization of the statement, would yield the tautological "A → A." -- Quicksilver (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Why does this comic have the Philosophy category? Am I missing something? GameZone (talk) 08:27, 6 September 2013 (UTC)
- Logic is technically philosophy, or at least they're closely connected. Sciepsilon (talk) 20:23, 30 December 2013 (UTC)
It is worth noting that this comic is Randall's commentary on certain honor societies, who don't do anything except for selecting new members. Feynman once made a remark to that effect, and may be Randall's influence on the matter. (Or not.) Regardless, this explanation is missing the viewpoint. 220.127.116.11 20:53, 28 November 2013 (UTC)
I see that nobody's pointed out that the third figure from the left in the third panel appears to be Jason Fox (see 824: Guest Week: Bill Amend (FoxTrot))- known to be one of those nerdy types who would join a tautology club. He is (to my knowledge) perpetually in the fifth grade, though, which does make me a little suspicious. --18.104.22.168 00:03, 2 January 2014 (UTC)
The official transcript actually identifies him as "a shorter male with glasses that bears a striking resemblance to Jason Fox". I'd say the chances of it being him are a little more than "could be". 22.214.171.124 07:02, 15 February 2016 (UTC)