Tuesday, March 14, 2006

What the Tortoise said to a Lawyer

Lawyer: So, Mr. Tortoise, you admit that you signed the contract, which clearly states that by signing it, you bind yourself by its terms.

Tortoise: Yes. But I still don't see that I'm bound by its terms.

Lawyer: How so?

Tortoise: Well, I signed it all right, and I agree that it says that by signing it, I bind myself to its terms. But that's the thing, you see. It says that by signing it I agree to bind myself to its terms, but that's something I definitely don't agree to. What it says is a -- what do you call it?--that's right, a conditional. Logic teaches us that the consequent doesn't follow from the antecedent--not even a true antecedent-- unless the whole conditional is true, and in this case I don't think it is. The conditional, you see, is really just another term of the contract. To show I'm bound by the terms, you have to show not just that the contract has the conditional statement and that I signed it, but also that I agreed to the conditional statement, which is that by signing the contract I agreed to its terms. As I just showed, the signature doesn't prove I agreed to the conditional statement, since that would be arguing in a circle. Unless you can peer into the mind of my past self, you can't prove I agreed to anything.

Lawyer: Hmm. You may be slow, Tortoise, but I think you just might be fast enough to escape this one.