Thursday, April 16, 2015

Counting my blessings

Any given statement has more than one reason for being made. Some of these reasons might be readily apparent - such as "could you pass the salt" - while others might be more opaque. Most of the time, it's not so much what is said but the fact that it is said at all.

Such as this:

This tells you many things. Such as that I'm soon gonna move (yay!), that I've done some preliminary scouting around the new place, and that I've found no less than seven pizza places near it.

Good news all around, as you can see. Until we encounter these followup statements:

You might think that the first tweet would cover the last one - eight is in fact also not less than seven. Six would be wrong, eight is just one more than advertised. From a position of pure formal logic, they are identical.

Thing is, though, that the statement is not a logical proposition. The words "no less than" do more that simply state a minimum, and the number is more than just an amount. There's more going on here than just a simple statement of fact.

What reason could I have for retracting the seven and restating the eight? Of all the possible things I could have said, I said these things in particular. Why?

There could be all sorts of reasons, and we could speculate endlessly about it. Which is the position we find ourselves in most of the time when pondering why people say what they say. Sometimes, we have nothing but the statement itself to go on, leaving us free and/or forced to invent any number of fanciful reasons for why it was said. Sometimes, these speculations lead us down paths that are less than spectacular.

This time, though, we have me around. And I can tell you what's what. Shed some light on this pizza mystery.

I the first tweet, what I say is this: there are seven pizza places near my new place of residence, AND IT'S GOING TO BE AWESOME!

In the second tweet, what I say is this: IT'S GOING TO BE EVEN MORE AWESOME THAN I THOUGHT!

This has implications. Both for how to read and understand what people are saying, and for my continual well-being.

I predict good things in the future.

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