My weekends
A completely different philosophy | 811

On pretending that we know what we’re talking about

[ 2 min read ]

Leo Tolstoy wrote:

As is always the case, the more cloudy and confused the conception conveyed by a word, with the more aplomb and self-assurance do people use that word, pretending that what is understood by it is so simple and clear that it is not worth while even to discuss what it actually means.

I guess today the top 5 words are:

  1. Love
  2. Success
  3. Happiness
  4. Adulthood
  5. Passion

I would change that sentence a little bit though. I think it would be even better (more precise) if we said:

As is always the case, the more potential the conception conveyed by a word has to be cloudy and confused, with the more aplomb and self-assurance do people use that word, pretending that what is understood by it is so simple and clear that it is not worth while even to discuss what it means.

I mean, if people use a certain word with aplomb and self-assurance, pretending that what is understood by it is so simple and clear that it is not worth while even to discuss what it actually means, to them that word must mean something specific (otherwise we couldn’t say it’s simple and clear). Thus they do have their understanding of that word, although this understanding may not have been thought through by them. But it always means something to them.

Leo Tolstoy used the word ‘accurate’ suggesting that a certain word has its true meaning. Of course, the next question would be Who and why decides what a word actually means? That’s why I didn’t use the word ‘actually’ in my version of this statement.

What do people usually mean (without giving it a thought) when they use the top 5 words?

  1. Love (fascination / desire — I have lost my head over you, importance — you are important to me)
  2. Success (being perceived as a success by others, conventional success)
  3. Happiness (having no troubles, obstacles, having luck)
  4. Adulthood (being serious, being like other adults, behaving)
  5. Passion (fascination, strong interest, dream).

Some meaning is always there. However, I guess most people would have a hard time explaining to somebody what they mean — if this person asked them if they could elaborate on it, and also explain to them why they have this definition, and not a different one (if this person dug deeper). Why would they have a hard time doing it? Because they never really thought about it. Why they never thought about it? Because they assumed (and still assume) that it’s not necessary. It’s too obvious.