I finally finished grading for the semester, and after sleeping only three hours I haven't wanted to expend the effort to write anything I have to think much about. I do have two more student quotes from the last batch of exams and papers. One student in my Issues in Ethics class presented me with the following gem:
Democratic socialism calls for the abolition of a classless society in which the upper class rule the lower class.
Read that sentence over again, and think about what it says. First off, it's ambiguous. On one reading (the more natural one, I would say), democratic socialism (a) calls for the abolition of a classless society and (b) has the upper class ruling the lower class. This is a consistent definition but wrong on both counts. On the other reading, democratic socialism calls for the abolition of a classless society, and the classless society has the upper class ruling the lower class. This is the more natural reading, but it's also wrong on both counts and even has the additional problem of being flat-out contradictory!
I have another one from a dialogue. I believe it was actually Barack Obama's mouth that this was supposed to be coming out of (in a discussion between Obama and McCain):
I believe that there are three factors to determine the justness of war and terrorism. One would be that bad consequences are not intended. Next, the action should be a side-effect rather than a blunt end. The action can't be justifiable to victims.
The final sentence says the opposite of what it's supposed to say, but that's not what's especially funny about this quote. The second factor is an attempt to say that the bad consequence should be (a) a side-effect, as opposed to either (b) the goal of the action (i.e. the end) or (c) a means to that end. How did the idea of an end as in a goal or purpose somehow get turned into a blunt end, presumably of a weapon? And how is that a contrast to a side-effect? Is there some way to read this that I'm missing?