After only a year on campus, I was rather taken aback to hear a lot of my friends throw around some of the following phrases that I thought very clearly contradicted themselves. As a Creative Writing major, I’m faced with the dilemma of being a word activist of sorts but without a sufficient background in logic and philosophy to know if the words I’m hearing are actually being misused and mistreated.
Therefore, I’m appealing to my readers to look into the issue and give feedback. If, on the off chance, my assumptions of the worst are correct, I invite you to attend a candlelight vigil for words everywhere sacrificed to unreason and illogic.
1) Everything is gray. There is no black and white.
This is a statement that’s a little harder to combat. On the surface, it seems logical and very true.
It can be very difficult (but this statement claims it is impossible) to break events in the world into a binary grouping of black and white, good and evil, positive and negative, right and wrong.
Also, it is important to note that such groupings, when done hastily, can be very damaging and prevent an accurate perception of the world.
Although a subscriber to the “only gray” worldview would argue that there are different shades of gray, ultimately it must still be our perception of what is black and what is white that will inform us of which shades to strive for, or else they become meaningless – vectors with magnitude but no direction, to borrow from physics. So, what does one say to such a claim? Is it really so black and white as that?
2) There are no absolutes.
This view is absolutely ridiculous. Notice that the statement is itself an absolute statement; it actually reads “there are absolutely no absolutes.”
But just because there are absolutes does not mean that everyone should go around claiming their beliefs are absolute.
Wait, did you catch that?
I just claimed my views on claiming absolutes were absolute. So, how do you respond to such a claim? Are you absolutely sure about that?
3) Human thought is meaningless.
It kind of makes sense, encapsulating the nihilism and abject relativism that society has tended to embrace in this post-modernist age. But when evaluated critically, it doesn’t hold water.
For instance, we have to believe that words have meaning even to understand what is trying to be said.
If the assertion that human thought is meaningless is actually true, then the very idea that human thought is meaningless is itself meaningless and no assertion has actually been made.
So what is to be offered in reply to such a statement? You don’t mean that.
4) I don’t believe in anything. And I’m really glad you don’t believe that.
5) There are always exceptions. Except when?
6) Don’t make generalizations.
“An idea is always a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize means to think.” So says Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
The fact is, generalizations are inescapable if one is to function logically and/or at all. Stereotypes are what should be avoided, which are generalizations that are inflexible toward the individual or else founded on anecdote, not statistics. So how should one reply to such a statement? With Mark Twain’s words: All generalizations are false, including this one.
7) You shouldn’t impose anything on anyone. That’s quite the imposition.
8) Miley Cyrus respects herself.
9) Everything is subjective; there is no such thing as objectivity.
This assertion becomes problematic when it is applied to itself (which really should be the first test of every assertion). The person asserting this is assuming that his or her assertion is outside the subjectivity he or she says is ubiquitous.
Sure, some claim that all “truth” is processed by (and so is slightly or largely colored by) human faculties.
This, however, does not change the fact that objective truth can exist, regardless of our perception of it.
Some will go so far as to say that it only exists in human faculties, but that is another issue.
The last argument attempting to validate this statement admits that it is indeed a subjective statement, but that its subjectivity does not affect its validity.
This is rather silly. If you can’t safely apply this statement to anyone but yourself (and indeed, not always even that), why would you bother to make the statement? So a good response to this third statement?
Well, I’m just glad I can trust your objective sizing of the situation.
10) The material world is all there is. Well, that’s quite a concept.
11) Don’t listen to a word I say. But you haven’t said anything.
Jonathan Warkentine is a College sophomore from Almaty, Kazakhstan. He is a well-known hypocrite and liar, and you can’t believe a word of this article.