In this post, the first in the new year, I’m talking about shortcuts to wisdom that are deceiving and limiting. There is a science (logic) examining and analysing errors in argumentation, and there is critical thinking dealing (also) with errors of real-life reasoning. One of them is exactly this: taking up “viral” slogans as a way out of trouble or dilemmas. Surrogates of own answers. What happens as a result is that such slogans, which were once spoken out in a meaningful context – perhaps – are taken at their face value and implanted in contexts that may be as similar to the original one as apples are to… pineAPPLES.
The damage is not the fact that in such a case one is wrong – being wrong is the prerogative of being human, after all. No, the damage is that such slogans prevent people from doing their own thinking, from going their own path towards a conclusion, a revelation, a discovery. Solutions need to be taken after a process of searching, not before. Ready-made solutions are not to replace the search itself. Slogans that advise us not to worry for example, if adopted anytime anywhere, mean that worrying comes to be seen as a bad thing in itself, but people who never worry are usually called assholes, in real life. The slogan don’t worry was, I suspect, originally said when people were already worrying, so they had done their share of worrying and now was the time for them to leave it behind.
So today I’m taking a few wisdom pills, as I call them, and discussing how they were understood in the context where they were pertinent, as well as how they are now used and abused, with the consequences. Bottom-line: beware of ready-made mottos. Life is not that simple as to be comprehended by means of a collection of do’s and dont’s. Each slogan contains a truth limited to a particular context. Other than the universals of physics, chemistry or mathematics, there are very few, if any, universals of human fate.