Friday, August 29, 2003

Phrasing and significance

Consider this: "Persistance is the triumph over skepticism"

It's one of those 'pearls of wisdom' - from some day-by-day calendar or diary (I'm not exactly sure - it was supplied to me by my dad, who shares a similar view on it as I do).

Then answer this question: what does it mean?

It seems a bit iffy to me. You can see what they're trying to get at: persitance will eventually overcome skepticism to whatever it is. I guess "Persistance will triumph over skepticism" sounds a bit too plain, so they've tried to make it sound more impressive, more significant.

Phrasing things to create a sense of signifance is fine, as long as there's substance to it - as long as the idea has some substance and the sense of significance doesn't come solely from the phrasing. I think this example is a case, though, of something that's not much more than an attempt at "significant" phrasing.

One way to create the effect of "significance" is to say something is something else, where that something else is of a very different nature. For example, "Channel X is sport" (which might be a sports tv channel's slogan), or "communication is the quality of brightness", or "resentment is the escalator of authority". It's the same kind of thing when they say "Persistance is the triumph over skepticism". More often than not, this kind of thing is simply a hollow rhetorical trick.

Another thing about that line -- it seems to give the impression that skepticism is somehow bad (it's certainly inviting people to see skepticism in a negative light, at least). I shouldn't need to say it, but skepticism is good -- it means only taking things on board if you're sure they're right. If you're not skeptical about things, then you are, by definition, simply accepting things because people say they are true or simply because your emotions tell you it's true, both of which are recipes for bad things to happen.

Got to go now -- I feel inspired to go out and wreak some persistance over those evil skepticism doers!

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