Sunday, 12 June 2011

My Own Personal Deepity

As I've explained on the blog before, a deepity (coined by philosopher Dan Dennett) is a statement that is true in the trivial sense, but profoundly wrong in its implication. The classic example being "love is a four letter word" which of course is true but profoundly wrong about the nature of love.

My wife recently reminded me of a deepity I had said many years ago, not quite so obvious as the love example, but still absurd in retrospect. My deepity?
Everyone is shallow.
Not quite so poetic nor bearing a superficial profundity, but nonetheless a clumsy attempt at saying something insightful that borders on the meaningless.

What I meant by the statement was that everyone has things they look for in a partner; that some people go for particular looks or personality traits seemed to me no different than someone who preferred a great conversationalist or someone with the same interests or political views.

I really couldn't see what made mate choice on looks any more or less desirable than mate choice on personality or political attitudes or whatever else people use. The view I was arguing against, in retrospect, was not to defend aesthetically-attracted people but to deflate what I saw as some sort of inherent superiority from the notion of being able to look beyond looks.

My redefinition of shallow put me very much in deepity territory; the underlying truism that we all have standards and desires in mate choice doesn't mean that there's no problem in being shallow in the proper use of the word. Whether or not being shallow is a good thing shouldn't be settled by such trivial statements. The best that could be said for it is that it might get people to think in a different way, but really adds nothing in terms of understanding the problem it was trying to shed light on.

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