Fortune Cookies and Essay Prompts: the Expansion of the “In Bed” Heuristic

This post is meant to lay the groundwork for an argument, to be presented in summary on a portion of my GRE, that the popular “in bed” fortune cookie game can be usefully applied to any generic pronouncement on the subject of wisdom, success, or human nature. Therefore, essays which respond to a prompt by justifying and applying the “in bed” heuristic should not be given null points – off topic, but rather should be taken as a serious effort to unite pop culture with the philosophical tradition of silly gedankenexperiments.

I know some of you pretend to be philosophers, historians, and sundry liberal artists on a regular basis, and a few of you aren’t even pretending. So if all y’all would help me out with some possible examples or analogies, and idiot-check what I’ve got already, I’d be much obliged.

0. For the Record

For those of you not familiar with this particular commercialized hurdle into higher education: roughly one-third of my score, which is somehow important to admissions committees, depends on my analytical writing abilities as demonstrated by two briefly jotted essays. One of these is supposed to be a 45 minute persuasive argument in response to an “issue topic”.

In the pool of issue topics, there’s an awful lot of vapid bullshit masquerading as thought-provoking nuggets of wisdom. What am I supposed to do with such statements as:

“Spending time alone makes one a better companion to others.”
“The increasingly rapid pace of life today causes more problems than it solves.”
“The absence of choice is a circumstance that is very, very rare.”

Explaining why these prompts are not worth even 5 minutes of my attention would take far longer than the 45 minutes allotted. Anyway, I’ve already made a substantial ($120) statement that my attention is worthless in comparison to the judgment of the all-seeing, all-knowing GRE overlords, so the effectiveness of any such explanation would be severly compromised.

I write more-or-less competently, but not quickly. The time required to swallow my scruples and find an innocuous entry-angle to these topics that won’t make my eyeballs fall out is time I can’t afford to lose, not if I want to post acceptance letters to my cubicle with a post-it reading “HA HA FUCK ALL Y’ALLS”. I need an instant fallback.

1. Philosophers on the Original Sin Position

Fortunately, there’s a glorious tradition designed specifically for this kind of bullshit. Turning nonsense into meaning by adding in a nonsensical vantage point from which to consider it has been the bread and butter of philosophy since Plato went into the Cave. Rousseau did it with the evolution of social contracts; John Rawls did it with the Original Position. It’s a type of exercise that harnesses our imagination and uncovers our moral and metaphysical intuition.

Meanwhile, Freud began the process of bringing sexual motives into other areas of human thought. More recently, feminist theory has brought sexual activity and abuse to the forefront of social consciousness, while popular magazines (e.g., Cosmopolitan) frame personal/romantic desireability as primarily a function of sexual attractiveness and technique.

Something something popular culture used as a lens for history, stuff.

2. Sex as Ethos

In the interests of not having this post hang around in draft mode any longer, and getting some sleep tonight, I’ll leave this unwritten. Imagine some very enthusiastic hand-waving.


  1. Godspeed wrote:

    I am an engineering student and other than taking some undergrad electives in social science, I have never gone too deep into any of those social problems researches. These GRE topics really made me think that those social workers, their taxpayer funded researches are indeed waste of money.

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