Monday, October 21, 2013
Entry #23: A Philosophical Lexicon for Perfumistas
reductio ad absurdum
One Latin expression leads to another... I was replying to a comment on the non sequitur lexicon entry post, and I used the expression reductio ad absurdum, so it occurred to me that I should define it. Basically the phrase means that the assumption of a certain idea leads to absurdity. The example in my comment had to do with perfume, so why not simply repeat it here?
Some have claimed that it is artificiality which makes perfume art. Scents occur in nature, but perfumes are composed, bringing together combinations of scents in new ways which do not exist in that combination in nature untouched by human beings. By this definition, every scrap of clothing, every rag worn by any human being throughout the history of our desire not to run around naked, is a work of art.
My favorite reductio ad absurdum of that idea is the manmade, artificial creation known as "dryer sheets". Are dryer sheets works of art? Presumably not. So the assumption that what makes perfume art is its artificiality has been reduced to absurdity, since it would imply, too, that dryer sheets are art!
Perhaps some will play the devil's advocate and retort that dryer sheets and loin cloths and leaves worn to cover private parts really are works of art. In that case, the original assumption is simply reduced to vacuity. If everything is art, then nothing is art!