Logical Gal and Equivocation

27 Nov

Equivocal terms such as fall – meaning autumn and fall – meaning to tumble down refer to concepts that are completely different.

So in essence, you might be tricking your listeners by pretending to be consistent when all along you are taking advantage of them.  My dad used to accuse me of equivocating when I was being an argumentative little brat.  Since I had not enjoyed any formal training in equivocation, this skill of obfuscation must come naturally, even to middle-schoolers!

Here are a couple of cartoon examples:  This first one actually plays on analogical terms – terms that are similar.  Stealing a material good versus stealing a base to advance in a game.

Yes, much humor and plenty of puns rely on equivocal terms.  But sometimes, disingenuous use of terms are employed as a shortcut o advance one’s point of view.

I’ve heard scientists argue that the universe came into being out of NOTHING.  But they don’t mean the kind of nothing that is NO THING.  They actually mean something existent, that they call a quantum vacuum.  Do you see how they are playing 2 differing concepts off of each other?  One term ‘nothing’ refers to the concept of  NO THING.  The other term ‘nothing’ refers to the very different concept of ‘quantum vacuum’.   Here’s an article that explains this deliberate obfuscation – Something from nothing?

 Does THIS book cover look like a book about nothing? 

So what’s our take away?  Watch out lest WE  be caught in the equivocal trap.  We must strive to say what we mean, ourselves.  Language demands precise thinking!

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