16 The Invisible Therefore by Squidocto.
I feel like there’s got to be a name for this, but I can’t find a name for this. So if there’s a name for this let me know. I call it “the invisible therefore”.
It’s the unspoken implications during a conversation. Consciously or not, it’s what is both silently implied by the speaker and silently understood by the listener. It’s a messy part of our conversational habits. The invisible therefore is when, in your head, you follow a statement with “therefore x.”
So, If you’re speaking, you might say “I don’t like that singer,” which is a simple statement of musical taste. Subjective.
But in the real-time flow of conversation, both you and the listener are likely to mentally fill in the blank, without saying anything out loud.
So you say “I don’t like that singer,” but perhaps you’re also thinking “that singer is not just terrible, they represent what’s wrong with the entire music industry,” or perhaps “their music isn’t even music, it’s just a corporate carrot on a stick,” or perhaps you’re not thinking either.
But also, if the person you’re talking to actually likes that singer, and hears you say “I don’t like that singer,” perhaps they think your invisible therefore is “therefore you have terrible taste in music.”
Ouch. You didn’t say that. But it’s what they heard.
And yes, I hear you. I hear you thinking “Squidocto, where’s your evidence? Are you riffing on a study, or…?” No, I’m not, I’m speculating. But allow me to explain why I think the invisible therefore is not only prevalent and the cause of many headaches, but also a useful idea.
Instead of music, pick any more serious subject. Religion, politics, whatever. In such discussions people famously respond not to what was actually said, but what they think was actually meant… and we have names for this: straw man, slippery slope, any of those logical fallacies. I like to group them as ‘the invisible therefore’ because it links it back to the speaker.
Think about it, the speaker probably *does* have a ‘therefore’ in mind. When talking about a serious topic, I bet you do tend to have an opinion on what the next step should be, what “therefore” should happen. But you almost never say it, because it’s a whole different kettle of fish, it’s a different conversation entirely.
Unlike a logical fallacy, which is always committed by someone, by one participant, the invisible therefore is a shared confusion.
The speaker makes a point, but stops short of spelling out what they think the implications should be, because that would just complicate the point, and likely derail the argument. And the listener, not wanting to be caught or argued into a corner, quickly runs through the implications of the point made, and, to be safe, assumes that the worst implication is what the speaker has in mind — but, of course, assumes it silently.
I know none of this is new or anything, but I think it’s important to keep it in mind. Cuz you know, straw men and slippery slopes aren’t necessarily the tools of a weak mind, they are defense tactics — if someone gives you an inch, are you going to take a mile? They want to know.
So if you’re making a point, consider making your ‘invisible therefore’ visible. Or at minimum, take a moment to notice whether you have one. If you don’t, that’s important information too.
For example, I think some of my neighbors are so strictly religious that it’s reasonable to say that their children are oppressed, denied liberty and knowledge that is rightfully theirs.
Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure what to do, if anything. But if I didn’t reveal my therefore, even my uncertain therefore, there are hundreds of possible therefores you could have thought I meant, and, brains being what they are, you might have picked one and concluded that, in fact, that’s what I meant.
I’m telling you, it happens all the time. We’re all assuming things about each other, about our beliefs and intentions. We couldn’t stop doing it if we wanted to.
We speak with invisible therefores, and we hear invisible therefores. Be careful out there.