Anyone who’s been in enough heated discussions at the dinner table over a controversial topic like, say, politics knows that a given situation can be interpreted in many different ways.
That’s precisely the idea behind this mind-bending riddle that we have labored to produce for you, our reader, to ponder over.
There is no absolute “right” or “wrong” answer to this. Yet, applying logic and philosophy may reveal some interesting conclusions, which may even teach you a thing or two.
There are at least two conclusions to this puzzle (although there are probably more than that)—each of which are based on two completely different premises. And here’s where it gets interesting: the premise that you tend to gravitate to probably reveals something about what kind of thinker you are! So, give it a whirl and see how your conclusion matches ours.
Take a look at the illustration below. Then, answer the question: “Who is the dumbest person sitting in the tree?”
A few pointers: Compare each person, where they are sitting, and what they are doing. Their actions and facial expressions may come into play. Also, note that falling from the tree is likely to cause injury—so, risks are involved. And, consider the exact meaning of the word “dumb” when deciding. Once you have chosen your answer, check below and see how it compares to ours. We will explain our premises and what they may say about you!
Or, if you arrived at an entirely different answer than ours, please share what you came up with!
Answer 1: Person 1 is the Dumbest
Answer 1 Premise: Survival of the Fittest
Simple logic tells us that the best position is whoever is closest to the tree trunk. He has the advantage over the others sitting on the branches. By that logic, we may infer that the persons in the weakest positions are the least smart by virtue that they chose the least logical positions (assuming that everything else is equal). Therefore, persons 1 and 4 are candidates for being the dumbest.
Yet, by virtue of the fact that person 4 appears to be under duress—perhaps suicidal—we infer that he is at least aware of his poor position and the consequences.
On the other hand, person 1 appears calm as he watches the danger that is unfolding but seems oblivious of what is going to happen, which leads to the conclusion that person 1 is the dumbest.
This premise reflects the idea of selection: that those who are the smartest survive by virtue of their sharp wits.
If You Gravitate Toward This Answer …
… You are likely a believer in scientific progress and questioning old ideas with reason and logic. Science provides new ways of understanding the world and society and you believe that we can reshape the future to achieve the outcomes that we desire. You may regard old institutions as dogmatic or superstitious.
Answer 2: Person 3 is the Dumbest
Answer 2 Premise: Metaphysical Justice
While logic reveals who is in the better position in terms of the here and now, there are also broader ramifications, which are no less logical, that offset the conclusion, based on moral and metaphysical consequences.
The idea of justice opens up a larger field of possibilities for punishment in the future. That could mean jail time or other forms of payback. On a metaphysical level, that may mean accruing “bad karma,” reincarnation as a lower life form, or going to hell for eternity after death. Then, the perceived advantage of the previous logic shrinks, and all future consequences of the acts also need to be taken into account.
The dumbest person would be whoever got the worst retribution in the end.
Ideally, person 1 should try to prevent the malicious actions taking place, though it might be too late and pointless to resist. It’s also possible that he’s too dull to realize the danger he’s in. Yet, we can say by virtue of his inaction that he’s smart enough to avoid committing any transgressions against anyone else.
Meanwhile, person 4 is in the act of endangering himself, which if intentional, is not a good thing. Yet, because he appears to be under duress, his actions may not determine how sensible he normally would be. At the very least, his actions are aimed at only one individual.
Now persons 2 and 3 appear to be maliciously committing a crime. They may go to jail, face vigilante justice, or suffer in the afterlife. They are knowingly attempting to harm others, and the results will be the most serious of all. Person 3 is likely to face the worst punishment, as he is attempting to harm two individuals, as opposed to just one, and therefore he is the dumbest.
If You Gravitate Toward This Answer …
… You are likely supportive of time-honored moral or civil institutions and traditions (including metaphysical beliefs and ideas) as opposed to newer, more ground-breaking theories that stem from science. You believe they haven’t proven themselves over the test of time, and more caution is warranted in making so-called “progress.”
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It looks so simple—but this puzzle takes more than a simple solution