As fulfilling as it is to make fun of people for stating the obvious, you should at least be aware that doing so properly can be (and is) an integral part of many noble endeavours. Most proofs in philosophy and mathematics start out by stating facts that are widely known/considered to be true (ie, obvious), both to lay the foundation for inferences later on, and to orient the reader to the writer's progression of thought. You and I both know that an odd number n can be represented in the form 2k+1 (k an integer), but if I don't come out and say so at the beginning of my proof, you'll scratch your head when I tell you that n squared is 4k^2+4k+1. And you'll either take longer to infer my meaning (reinventing the wheel in the process), or just lose interest. The Socratic method is structurally little more than stating the obvious and asking your pupil whether a series of seemingly obvious consequences do or do not follow logically.

But outside the realm of argument, stating the obvious is one of the most basic elements of small talk, which is almost always the first step towards having meaningful conversation with another human. Unfortunately, we can't just walk up to strangers and ask them about their thoughts on the nature of the soul... it's socially unaccepted, but for a good reason. Subjective issues (religion, politics, musical taste, etc) are the most touchy, and when conflict and disagreement erupt around them, people become upset. A new person you're interested in starting a conversation with has no interest in getting into an argument with a stranger. Conversation based around deep thoughts and strong opinions and radical ideas doesn't occur until after you're fairly well acquainted with someone (unless you're part of a society similar to E2). Prior to this, you're confined to asking innocuous questions ("What's your major?" and "Have you seen such-and-such movie?", once you've been talking for a few minutes), and stating the obvious ("It's a scorcher out here today" or "That's a cool shirt") to show that you're willing to engage in verbal communication and exchange a little vulnerability for the possibility that the other will respond with something interesting ("Yeah, I was born in such-and-such, where the weather is...", "Thanks, I bought it from NORML, which meets the first Tuesday of...").

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-- George Bernard Shaw

I keep running into people who just don't get these things:


is about transferring thoughts from one brain to another.


mean something.

Communication works when two people attach the same meaning to the same word.

How you string the words together can affect the meaning.

Poetry that rhymes should have line breaks in the correct places.


when something is made different.

The word does not imply what kind of difference is made.


one type of change. Positive change.

Change does not automatically become progress just because you're the person behind it.


another type of change. Negative change.

Progress and deterioration are not the only kinds of change.

The same change can be described as "progress" by one person and as "deterioration" by another. That does not have to mean that one of them is wrong.


how smart somebody is.

There are different kinds of intelligence.

A good memory is not the same thing as intelligence.


what should be the result of going to school.

Can also happen without going to school.


one result of going to school.

Education is not the same thing as intelligence.

Education is not the same thing as knowledge.

Reader's note:
The maps found
in the print edition
are not included
in this recording.



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