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Logic & Scientific Philosophy

I Think I’d do Well as a Part Time Pessimist

I saw this poster the other day.

Which, when broken down becomes T->W->A->H->C->D. This poster tries to assert the logic that your thoughts will become your destiny (T->D). Obviously this is not true because I thought about pancakes just now and it is Russell’s teapot crazy to assume my destiny will be a pancake.

This motivational poster (and many, many others) provide us with one premise (ex, your thoughts become your words), makes an invalidated argument (or several) to arrive at an unsound conclusion without a second premise required to validate the conclusion. The truth of the premise is questionable as well (just because I think “wow Aunt Laura, you look really old” doesn’t mean I’ll say it). Motivational posters (and fridge magnets and LOLcats and the like) that proudly display such faulty logic really irritate me. Am I alone on this?

But hey, at least its inspirational!



4 thoughts on “I Think I’d do Well as a Part Time Pessimist

  1. Words are the result of thoughts but not all thoughts (thankfully) have to be spoken. Doesn’t the poster simply suggest that a progression like this is possible – not that it must happen – hence the warning. Repeated actions can become habits and our habits do shape our character so it is worthwhile to pay attention to these things as the poster suggests, I would think. What I do in private is at the very least shaping who I’m becoming in public. It seems like pretty good advice even if it doesn’t come packaged in a syllogism that is valid.



    Posted by Chris Price | October 5, 2012, 6:35 pm
  2. You said: just because I think “wow Aunt Laura, you look really old” doesn’t mean I’ll say it.

    I think that’s why it was saying “watch your words” on the poster. I think that was the point. Some people are more careless then you, what the internet calls “trolls”. I see this more aimed at the culture of insults that exists in society than anyone with a brain.

    The thing that really catches me about the poster, though, is the last conclusion, that character becomes destiny. It’s something that I recently mentioned on your post about the Tim Minchin song, “If I Didn’t Have You”, that actions count over so-called pre-ordained history.

    However, if you take this poster as fact, you can come up with an entirely other definition of destiny, that your actions lead to some inevitable conclusion, cause and effect if you will. Is that an apt description of destiny, or is it a misuse of the word?

    Posted by littlewonder2 | October 6, 2012, 2:13 am
  3. Disclaimer: I wrote that post late at night and so it may not accurately reflect the effort and care not to offend people that I usually use.

    Chris, I don’t disagree that the poster may be offering good advice, and indeed what it says can come true but A can become B can become C can become D… means that there is quite a bit of uncertainty between A and whatever the end result is (in this case, destiny), especially when you factor in chance and the probability of unpredictable, significant events over time. I suppose the thing that bugs me the most is that these posters imply (or outright state) certainty both without properly justifying their statements (which, granted, is difficult to do on a poster) as well as not necessarily being true in the first place.

    Littlewonder2, I don’t disagree that the poster can offer up some useful advice to those who would otherwise be careless, but again, I still don’t like the certainty with which it presents its arguments. Even though “destiny” or “fate” are to a large part due to conscious actions, freak chance still plays a role in your life. I think that you should watch your words because they can influence your destiny, but I still believe that they are not one in the same. Hopefully that answers your question.

    Posted by nichoman321 | October 7, 2012, 8:06 pm
    • Nick,

      I do agree with you, on the points you made about certainty. This poster presents these statements as true, all of the time, when they are clearly not. As you said, it would be nice to have a little bit more explanation, as well as the uncertainties included. Though this would be nice, I don’t believe this was the purpose of the poster.

      Remember that they are forcefully telling you that this will happen. They are not suggesting, or proposing, they are telling you. They don’t really want you to questions whether these statements are true, rather, they’d like you to believe them without hesitation. I think that the certainty with which they state their argument is an intentional one.

      If the message they are trying to send is “watch your words, for they become your destiny”, then it is not important that they have soundness in their statement. Instead, it is important that you believe it. And stating a message in a confident, assured manner (as above) is exactly the way to do it.

      Therefore, I believe that they have faulty logic (as you said), but based on the purpose of this poster, sound logic isn’t important.

      Posted by JonathanToews | October 8, 2012, 10:11 pm

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