"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.
This week, the "Rodin's Thinker" of Nashville writes in with a real brain-twister, and someone from Boston doesn't even understand the basic conceit of what this column is about.
An older gentleman asked my father-in-law, Steve, a coin collector, to evaluate a gold coin. Steve gave an off-the-cuff evaluation of $80, then offered to buy it. The gentleman accepted. Some days later, Steve discovered that the coin could be worth five or six times his original estimate. Must he seek out the former owner and renegotiate? — James S. A. Brown Ill., Nashville
Are you really asking this question? You've examined the situation from every angle and just can't figure out what the right thing to do is? Stumped? Totally fucking stumped?
Your father-in-law, Steve, should not seek out the former owner and renegotiate. What happens between two old men and their arcane, insufferably boring hobbies is of no matter to the world. They are like dust in the wind, dust arguing over a coin (or the sexual love of Ann-Margret). Besides, with the $320-$400 Steve just made (I've adjusted for the $80 he spent on the coin in the first place. Surprise! I'm not a total idiot), Steve can buy so much oatmeal that with Steve's pleasurably regular B.M.s, you won't even notice the disturbing onset of Alzheimer's. In Steve.
Seriously though, James, you (and Steve) are a shining spokesman for Nashville, a city in the heart of the south, a region that has no history whatsoever of being stereotyped as full of unwashed masses of uneducated mongoloids. Your ethical question posed an outstanding conundrum that would confound even the most rigorous of thinkers. They're going to rename the Socratic Method the Brown III Method. That's what they're going to do.
My wife and I bought a condominium and were dismayed to learn that our downstairs neighbor's snoring is so loud that our entire bedroom shakes. Earplugs and noise machines do not help. I have debated approaching him but doubt that any solution will arise through confrontation. Now we are debating whether to sell our apartment.
Please help. — D.K., Boston
At first I thought that I would not help you because of all the lies in your question. For example, no one has been "dismayed" about anything since the end of the 19th century. And, unless you are living in a Mr. Bean movie, your neighbor's snoring is not so loud that it causes your entire bedroom to shake. Not to mention the fact that I find it impossible to believe that earplugs do not help. Are you sure they are earplugs and not tampons? (That was some kind of attempt at a joke about how you are a pussy, because tampons are for pussies.)
But then I realized that I wasn't going to help you because I couldn't help you. Because you have not posed an ethical dilemma. You haven't even asked a question.
Help what? Sell your apartment? Fuck you, I won't even help you move. Seriously, I don't know what you are asking. You want me to help you be mad at your neighbor who snores? Fuck you, I snore. Seriously, what do you want? What is the problem? Besides the sensitive vaginas where your ears should be?