Author’s Note: I’m sort of on hiatus at the moment for various reasons – the main being that I’m in a writing slump. In the meantime, enjoy this tidbit of logic and language.
Recently, I taught my sophomores about qualification – the practice of using certain words to qualify generalizations, such as probably, generally, perhaps, etc. Qualifiers, in my opinion, are eminently important since they are the best way to avoid error (such as suggesting that all swans are white) and still make strong evidentiary claims.
But today I ran into an example of overqualification – that is, qualification where none is needed:
Very few of you [in the audience] has [sic] a coin in your pocket with only one side.
Cases such as this where qualifying a claim would indicate that a logical contradiction is possible show how qualification can sometimes end up in absurdity. No one needs to qualify claims about one-sided coins anymore than claims about being able to draw square circles or be married bachelors. If a statement is tautologous, then there is clearly no reason to qualify it.