Assumptions are the bane of my existence. Many fields of scholarship have alluded to the inherent weakness of calcified shared assumptions, such as education and business (see below). Although shared assumptions can be a very healthy way of maintaining balanced social interactions, once they cease to evolve freely they become rhetorically and functionally tautological (see definition below).
We all have our faults and weaknesses. One of mine is “jumping the gun”. Occasionally I make a superficial assessment of something I read or see, based on false assumptions, then base a conclusion on incomplete information. Usually this goes unnoticed even by myself, because I seldom, if ever, leave any assessment as superficial. I am driven by some internal force to find out more, look at possible meanings, find the context. The superficial assessment serves only as a starting point in my process of education. I am, for the most part, a self-correcting system, in a constant state of intellectual flux.
There are times though, when I venture an initial statement on a subject before moving into the research stage. Usually these false statements happen in a conversation where I am feeling some pressure to participate, which is usually but not always a self-generated pressure. This invariably leads to miscommunication at best, embarrassment and/or hard feelings at worst.
Not to confuse this with my “off the wall” statements, and in particular “off the wall” questions. These statements/questions are usually based on a solid core of understanding, a seemingly unique perspective on a subject. This unusual perspective sounds ridiculous to other people (colleagues, professors at university while I was a student etc.) at first, until they hear the context of the statement/question. My questions are frequently regarded as irrelevant, crazy or “off the wall”, based on the conversant’s assumptions about why I am asking the question. Almost invariably though, once they answer the seemingly silly question, and listen to my response, they can abandon their own assumptions about what the statement/question must mean. Then they are free follow my subsequent logic and understand the point I am making. That is not to say that they will agree with my point, it is merely that they cease to regard the statement/question as crazy, and assess it on its own merit.
SNOW SQUALL WATCH IN EFFECT
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.5 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Humidity: 79 %
Wind: SSE 4 km/h
Wind Chill: -31
“Our achievements speak for themselves. What we have to keep track of are our failures, discouragements and doubts. We tend to forget the past difficulties, the many false starts, and the painful groping. We see our past achievements as the end results of a clean forward thrust, and our present difficulties as signs of decline and decay.”
1902 – 1983
Jumping the Gun
“to do something too soon, before the right time”
Off the Wall
“(informal) unusual and amusing; slightly crazy”
“a belief or feeling that something is true or that something will happen, although there is no proof”
The normalization of social interaction: When shared assumptions cannot be assumed
Marilyn A. Rumelhart
QUALITATIVE SOCIOLOGY Volume 6, Number 2, 149-162, DOI: 10.1007/BF00987085
How One Center of Innovation Lost its Spark
July 23, 2001, Donald Sull, Faculty
Harvard Business School
“A rhetorical tautology can also be defined as a series of statements that comprise an argument, whereby the statements are constructed in such a way that the truth of the proposition is guaranteed or that the truth of the proposition cannot be disputed by defining a term in terms of another self-referentially”