Hot if and only if Fly

By Sean Carroll | January 12, 2008 7:36 pm

Matthew Yglesias invokes interpretive charity to suggest that MIMS, in the nation’s number one single “This is Why I’m Hot,” is not guilty of affirming the consequent.

In a follow-up analysis, Rob Harvilla in the Village Voice analyzes the logical structure of the song’s argument.


Don’t pass up the chance to click through; there are Venn diagrams.

  • Mark S.

    Not sure I agree. It could be that being “fly” could be the cause of “hot”ness, in some but not all cases. In that case, one could say “I’m hot ’cause I’m fly” and “You aren’t ’cause you’re not”, but “fly” and “hot” would not be synonymous.

  • Sean

    If being not fly implies that you ain’t hot (“You ain’t ’cause you not”), I think that excludes the possibility of independently existing causes of hotness. Although it could be that being fly is a symptom of hotness, and there is a third cause that always leads to both.

  • spyder

    Whatever happened to cool???

  • Neil B.

    OK, here’s what Huckabee said, and it really isn’t illogical in context:

    Mr. Huckabee, for his part, responded with trademark humor. “The Air Force has a saying that says if you’re not catching flak, you’re not over the target,” he said. “I’m catching the flak; I must be over the target.”

    Sure, in general it could be there’s a world where flak can come from far away, so you wouldn’t have to be over the target to get it, but being over the target would always bring you flak too – thereby deriving the USAF saying. But I think it isn’t right to judge statements on pure logic, because realistically they are based on experience and not just pure symbolic logic. So Huckabee is implying, in our experience flak can’t come from far away, hence it is OK to work that data into the inference. I’ll pass on the fly and hot and not business since the semantics is too subtle, and the above experiential assist is not so helpful (to someone like me, at least.)

  • Ellipsis

    This is why Sean’s not
    This is why Sean’s not
    It’s because he’s white
    Color he ain’t got

    He is just a nerd
    Physics is his thing
    Although he likes to dream
    Hip hop he can’t sing

  • Carl Brannen

    This was far too amusing a waste of time. And Huckabee could catch flack from being over a target that is not “the” target, so the logical inference does not obtain even in the rigors of wartime where only targets are defended.

  • janko

    He says he’s hot because he’s fly, so being fly is a necessary condition for hotness, but he doesn’t say it’s a sufficient condition. There could be other conditions which, together with flyness are sufficient for being hot.
    That way, not being fly implies not being hot, but being fly doesn’t imply being hot, if the other conditions aren’t met. He doens’t mention the other conditions, but they could be there…

    That way too, fly and hot aren’t synonimous. (but, indeed there aren’t any cases of hotness without the flyness)

  • jim

    Being fly implies feasting on a pile of shit. The shit is generally hot and, more often than not, steamy. So being fly implies being full of hot steamy shit, which, of course, makes one hot, but not, as is frequently assumed, hotter than shit (Second Law). So I see nothing wrong with the song’s logic.

    The singer is, however, making a less than seminal claim: he is full of shit, albeit hot shit. But poetic license argues in favor of cutting him some slack. After all, it is inadvisable for him to fly off the handle, as it were.


  • Scott Aaronson

    Sean, I heard that song playing once (even I get out occasionally…), and was also puzzled about the structure of the rapper’s argument. After a bit of reflection, though, the resolution hit me: by offering such a manifestly circular hotness argument, the rapper is, in effect, claiming that his hotness is so self-evident that it does not require external justification.

  • Odani of the Streets

    That song is so last year. Is Mims even like, still alive?

  • fh

    So Huckabee is on the offensive trying to destroy something worth defending and is getting to close for comfort?

    sounds about right.

  • Neil B.

    Hey, just a reminder dig at logical positivism: It’s founding statements (best put as “Every statement is either synthetic or analytical” and “Statements that aren’t experimentally/operationally verifiable [if not analytically verifiable from those that are, and which allows mathematics and not just physical references] are meaningless” effectively violate their own premises. (Reflect on it, I can tell you why if asked.) Being a circular statement is better than being self-contradictory, and how could such “bright people” not see the irony in their formulations? I love to throw this up at the militant skeptiwanks agitating at oft strident outfits like Pharyngula.

  • Huh?

    The only argument I know of that shows that the statements “A implies B” and “not A implies not B” together imply “A is equivalent to B” uses the Law of the Excluded Middle. Perhaps Mr. MIMS is working in a non-classical logic, in which case Mr. Harvilla’s analysis is off the mark.

  • Neil B.

    Huh?, I am interested in non-classical logic/s, if you know any good links/experts/books etc. pls. LMK, tx

  • Huh?

    Sorry, not really. I’m actually all hat and not much cattle. For a sophisticated point of view on these things, you might try some introductions to topos theory.

  • B

    “and that frankly will not fly
    you will hear the shrillest highs
    and lowest lows with the windows down”

    ~ The Postal Service

  • Dylan

    I think much can be shed on the circular nature of the rappers argument, the poor grammar and the lack of details by realising that he is in fact and american rapper, and while he does purport to be fly he does not and in fact cannot boast being as smart as one.

  • Pingback: It's Not Really a Party... | Cosmic Variance()


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


See More

Collapse bottom bar