I used the term tautology recently, in an exchange with my perfume pal Bryan Ross (From Pyrgos) in the comments on a recent post. He had invoked "The Law of Aspen", and I attempted to offer counterexamples, which he indicated were also covered, which led me to retort that the "law" sounded more like a tautology to me. So what is a tautology?
It is a statement which is logically true. It cannot be false. Here are a couple of examples:
Perfume is perfume.
Either a liquid is perfume, or it is not perfume.
P = P
P v ~P
I doubt that anyone will take issue with the first of the two statements, but one might wonder whether something could be "neither-nor". Maybe a liquid is neither perfume nor not-perfume. Most terms which we use do however work, since the two choices are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. There is no logical "sort of". The important point is just to decide what you mean by "perfume", then see whether a proposed liquid is subsumed by that definition or not. Either it is, or it is not.
There are plenty of truisms, which seem in reality to be true, but it is not a matter of their logical form. It's instead a contingent matter, having to do with the way the world happens to be.
Perfume should smell good.
Perfume is to be worn.
When examples of unwearable juice are adduced, usually they are still considered to be perfume, just bad perfume, but they do seem to conflict with the truism that "Perfume is to be worn," which should perhaps be modified to read:
Good perfume is to be worn.
That sounds like a truism, but even that might be false. Some people may prefer to hoard their perfume to sell at a later date, or perhaps they don't want to squander it on less-lofty occasions, so they wear it only to special events or around certain people.
Getting back to "The Law of Aspen", the idea, as I understand it, is that a cheap-o perfume such as Aspen survives only because it smells good. My problem with that statement was that there could be other reasons why such a perfume survives, and if it is true that every perfume at the drugstore which continues to sell does so because some people think that it smells good, then the "law" starts to sound more like a tautology to me. Are there really no counterexamples? Perhaps I've misunderstood the explanatory work done by this alleged law?
I recently saw a line-up of "Smells Like" knock-offs at the drugstore, and I noticed that all of the testers were empty. I smelled a couple of the nozzles and found that they did smack of the famous perfume which they were explicitly mimicking: Angel, Chanel no 5, Euphoria, and others. Then I started to think about why those perfumes continue to sell, especially in an era where online perfume discounters abound, and most mainstream perfumes can now be found for a fraction of MSRP. Does "The Law of Aspen" apply to this case? Or is the explanation for the success of the drugstore knock-offs instead simple human ignorance?