Thursday, May 16, 2013

Entry #18: A Philosophical Lexicon for Perfumistas

Non-contradiction, the Law of Non-contradiction

I have an uncanny knack for eliciting people's capacity to contradict themselves. This tendency goes way back. In sixth grade, I corrected my English teacher's grammar, and she slapped my face in response. That put a real damper on my motivation to do any school work or to participate in any way in any intellectual activity. By the time I reached high school, I was doing no homework whatsoever, having diverted my energies to "other priorities," as former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney would say. It took me quite a few years to muster up the wherewithal to begin applying my intellect to the world once again. What I have found since then, repeatedly, is that lots of people contradict themselves, and the more power they have, the worse their behavior tends to be upon being confronted with their contradictions. My sixth grade English teacher does not hold a candle to some of what I have seen.

Socrates did a lot of this sort of thing, and look where it got him: a goblet of hemlock! To be honest, I believe that Socrates committed suicide, since there is no historical evidence that anyone forced his mouth open and poured the liquid down his throat. We know that he could have simply departed, moved to a different place, but I think that by that stage of his life, he probably realized that his legacy would be best served by a small act of martyrdom: all in the name of the law of noncontradiction.

It cannot be the case both that p and that not-p 
at the same time and in the same way.

or for those who prefer symbols:

~(p &~p)

The law of non-contradiction is the skeptic's bestand only!theoretical friend. The skeptic can question everything under the sun, but the law of non-contradiction is the basis for all criticism, so it cannot be abandoned without lapsing into complete and utter dysfunctional insanity. No, I have not tried. The law of non-contradiction is an article of faith which I am proud to hold high, as the sole irrefutable proposition in all of space and time.

What are the perfume applications of the law of noncontradiction? Every single act of criticism depends upon this law, and while we may not know whether p or not-p is true, we can be sure that both of them cannot be at the same time.

Has Mitsouko been reformulated or has it not? p or not-p? Since this is an exclusive and exhaustive disjunction, one or the other must be the case. Guerlain and most other companies have not denied that they reformulated their perfumes, but when they claim at one point in time that they reformulated as a result of the need to comply with the restrictions placed on the perfume industry by the IFRA, and then, later on down the line, that they will soon be restoring the former classic to its original state, something has to give. 

I've encountered other self-contradictions in the perfume world as well. The Holey[sic] Book is marketed as a work of criticism, so presumably its authors value criticism, no? The answer, I'm afraid, is "no." Their goons travel to the ends of the internet to quash criticism of criticism wherever it may appear, what on its face is a flagrant contradiction. 

Not so fast, sherapop. Perhaps the authors are not really critics after all. Perhaps they are only masquerading as critics, which resolves the apparent contradiction in one fell swoop! They do not value criticism in the first place, so it is not a contradiction for them to revile criticism of criticism, since they probably think that it is twice as bad!

A third example: a fragrance community website claims to uphold freedom of expression, but then arbitrarily censors at the caprice of some of its members. This would seem to be a genuine contradiction. In order fully and truly to uphold freedom of expression, you have to accept what you take to be the good, the bad, and, yes, the ugly. To claim that one upholds freedom of expression, provided that the expression reflects one's own values and beliefs, does not demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression. The real test of one's commitment to freedom of expression is how one reacts to expressions of ideas and values with which one disagrees...


  1. Since your [strike]statement[/strike] post doesn't contain enough factual materials to support it I can't say if it's p or ^p ;)

    (BTW, why doesn't your blog allow strike or del tags? Isn't it run on one of the common engines? I thought those support simple html tags)

  2. Hello, Undina, and thank you for your cryptic comment! Could you please elaborate on your concern? I'm sorry to be obtuse, but I did not "get it". ;-)

    1. That's easy! :)

      I have no idea what "book" and what "author" you're referring to in your post. So since I don't know what you are talking about, I can't either agree or disagree with your post. Hence I don't know if it's p or not p (NOT p = ~p = ^p = !p - the same thing just different notation systems).

      Since you were talking about logical statements I played on "misspoking" - which is usually achieved by striking through the "wrong" word ("statement") and substituting it with the "correct" one ("post"). But your blog doesn't allow either [strike] or [del] tags used for the striking through effect. Most other blogs that run on either Wordpress or Blogger engines allow those - that's why I was curious if you were using some other blog engine or used some settings to prevent using html.

      (laughing) Don't you wish now you had pretended to understand the previous comment?

    2. Thank you for these clarifications, Undina! Sorry for the lack of clarity in my post above! My nickname for "Perfumes: The A-Z Guide" is "The Holey[sic] Book", for reasons which are stated in the reviews of it and "The Little Book" (they can be found under the "Reviews and Reflections" tab, above. I wrote those more than a year ago, so I probably should not be so cryptic in new posts--apologies again! I'll add links to the above entry so that new people to the salon will be able to figure out what I am talking about. Thank you!!!!!

      As for the HTML: I have done nothing to tweak the Blogger givens, so I have no idea why you are unable to strike words out! I've seen you do that at your place, for example, "Does size [strike that] bottle matter?" ;-)

    3. I checked it: you were correct - Blogger doesn't allow "strike" tag in comments (though it can be used in a post itself). WordPress allows it both in the post and in comments.

      As to the example you've mentioned - it was a special case: none of the engines allows tags in titles, so I had to use a work-around.


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