Imagine a world where Conan, Xena, and Blackadder were real people while Hitler, Mussolini, and Churchill werent. A world where the Battle of Helms Deep really happened but the Battle of Hastings didnt.
Sounds like a better world than the real one until we add in that its also a world in which humanity has been conquered and enslaved by some combination of Martians, Cylons, and damn dirty apes.
What world is this? According to a substantial percentage of the British public, its the one we live in.
So cheer up, fellow Americans we are not alone.
Admittedly some of those percentages (like the ones for Xena, Cylons, and apes) are low enough to dismiss — and I defend King Arthur in the comments section. But the numbers for Mussolini and Hitler are surprising.
I’m always wary when I see a study that confirms many people’s existing bias that the great, unwashed masses are dumb. I’d have to see more information about how the study was conducted. For example, if they just stopped people in the street, Jay Leno-style, and asked these questions quickly people might say anything just to get rid of them. And I’m sure there’s a statistically significant section of the population who’d say Blackadder was real just for a laugh. Other answers are just ambiguous — there are several historical figures that may have served as models for the King Arthur of legend, some of whom might even have been named “Arthur” or something like it, so your answer to “Was King Arthur real?” might depend on your exact take on rigid designators.
Yes, that was my comment on King Arthur that I just referred to above.
Without having read your comment on King Arthur, might I venture to say that whether “yes” is a true answer to the question of “whether King Arthur existed” could end up turning on the sorts of arcane philosophical issues hashed out in Kripke’s Naming and Necessity?
I just saw the bit in Charles H.’s prior comment referencing ‘rigid designators’ (which was just the piece of Kripkean jargon that I was grasping for), which means that my own comment was more or less rendundant. My apologies….
But the answer was yes.
I agree with most of the points made above, and don’t take the poll too seriously. Still, I got a short story out of it, ‘Wilson at Woking’.