The Mechanics of Statements

This thought occurred to me on the subway yesterday: every declarative statement implies hundreds of opposites.

For example, if I say, “this chair is blue,” then the following statements have been implied:

The chair is not red.
The chair is not yellow.
The chair is not green.
The chair is not orange.
The chair is not purple.
The chair is not brown.
The chair is not black.
The chair is not white.

I found this peculiar, because while I’m acquainted with the notion that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the idea that every statement has hundreds, thousands, or even an infinity of opposite reactions to be mind-boggling.

In much the same way, a statement like “God Bless America” implies that God should favor us over others, that God should not bless France or Eritrea or every other nation in the world. Why would he do that? Why would we want him to, but out of selfishness and arrogance?

Another example: you sit down at a table of women, and you greet one of them by saying she looks beautiful. In doing so, you’ve effectively stated that the other women at the table are not beautiful.

Language is dangerous.

2 thoughts on “The Mechanics of Statements”

  1. well, i’m not sure the jump from the chairs to the other scenarios follows exactly (this is all amusing though).

    by saing “this chair is blue”, you are not saying, “the other chairs at the table are NOT blue”. much in the same way that when you say, “this woman is beautiful”, you are at the same time saying, “this woman is not ugly”. your statement about the particular woman says nothing one way or the other about the other women at the table.

    fun stuff colter – really makes one use the old brain. keep it up!

  2. Well but the insinuation is there and is often inferred by the other women at the table – “he didn’t say anything about me, so I must not be pretty.” It’s not logical but it certainly happens.

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