International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture » Ethics and Aesthetics of Architecture and the Environment
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
THE SAN PELLIGRINO PROBLEM
We were having these caffeinated fruit juice beverages that cost $2.50 at B'Natural Cafe, and my dad, who has a PhD from Yale, eloped on what gradually amounted to a monologue on the subject.
"I think I just swallowed a maggot. I don't know what else it could be!"
"Did you have any SmartFood recently?" my brother chimed in.
"Hey, that's a genius explanation. I DID in fact have some SmartFood! That must be it!"
Then, the next time he visited, I ordered a smoothie, and he ordered a Pelligrino, but he wouldn't drink his (neither time did he finish it).
After I finished my smoothie, I took a drink of the Pelligrino.
I said: "Hey, I think I swallowed a maggot. It must be a maggot this time!"
"That's really disgusting. Maybe it's eating your brain!" Michael said. Then he said: "I'll tell you what I think: first I think: it's okay, it's probably not a maggot. Then, I think, what else could it be? Then I think: it's not worth investigating whether its a maggot. What would I do, pour it into a bowl? Then I think: the maggots are eating my brain! Then I think, they wouldn't really kill me, at least not immediately. Then I think that they do sort of kill me, but it happens gradually. Then I think, well, if they kill me, it's okay, because I don't die immediately... But then I just get depressed."
"Yuck, maggnots" I said.
"Let's pour it into a bowl" he said.
"No, let's just throw it away!" I said.
"You're still drinking it!" he said.
"I don't think it's maggots" I said.
The San Pelligrino Problem as I define it is the idea that something is bad, but you don't know its bad unless you test it. And the thing is just good or tempting enough to convince you that it is not quite worth testing. Thus, you are held in suspense as something continues to go wrong.
It possibly has already been described similarly as the Quality Testing Paradox, which is typically defined to mean that you can't test the good food without destroying it, and then the bad food never gets tested. But this problem is slightly different, since it has to do with tasting the food, and the food might be bad, but you never know.