Glanton’s Law

I like to think that I run a rather elite operation around here. I write with readers of a certain minimum level of intelligence (and I agree completely with Neal Stephenson’s statement that intelligence can be defined as the ability to comprehend subtlety) in mind, and thus what I shall say in this posting will be obvious to most of you, but it still bears saying anyhow.

Anyone who can comprehend subtlety and is not caught in the clutches of Totalism (either from lack of intelligence or for ideological reasons) understands that almost nothing in this world is an absolute. Such people all understand that degrees and exceptions exist for virtually everything. They all understand that there is some statistically rare edge case, theoretical or not, in which anyone would do, or countenance doing, that which they would normally find foolhardy or immoral. They also all understand that in any population of people about whom a certain thing is generally true, there are a statistical few outliers about whom it is not true. Furthermore, they all understand that the existence of such degrees, exceptions, and statistically rare edge cases in no way invalidates general statements that are true the overwhelmingly vast majority of the time.

Having accepted this, I should hope we all find it unnecessary for a writer to qualify everything he may write with statements that explicitly spell all of it out. Unless there is some strong reason to suspect otherwise, we should – and here in this space, we will – presume that the writer and the reader are both smart enough to understand it without it having to be stated, restated, and re-restated, at every single turn. This is for the benefit of everyone. First because, as John Glanton of Social Matter recently pointed out, exhaustively qualified prose is a chore to read (it is also a chore to write). Second because this is not a “lowest common denominator” sort of place, and I have no desire to burden myself with the necessity of having to endlessly explain the obvious to people who are either unable to understand it or feign the inability to do so.

In honor of Mr. Glanton, I propose that this concept be called Glanton’s Law, a shorter formulation of which might be: “When making general statements, it goes without saying that degrees, exceptions, outliers, and edge cases exist. It also goes without saying that the existence of these in no way invalidates statements that are true the overwhelming majority of the time. As such, when making general statements, there’s normally no real reason to bother bringing those things up.”

It shall be the policy of this space (and my Twitter account as well) to conform closely to Glanton’s Law, and any readers who express unfamiliarity with the concept will be directed to this post for a full explanation. If, for some reason, they are still unable to grasp it, then I can safely say that my writing isn’t for them.

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