cupcakes.jpgI read this bit on wikipedia this morning:

Aristotle wrote that ambiguity can arise from the use of ambiguous names, but cannot exist in the “facts” themselves:

It is impossible, then, that ‘being a man’ should mean precisely ‘not being a man’, if ‘man’ not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance. …

And it will not be possible to be and not to be the same thing, except in virtue of an ambiguity, just as if one whom we call ‘man’, and others were to call ‘not-man’; but the point in question is not this, whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be a man in name, but whether it can be in fact. (Metaphysics 4.4, W.D. Ross (trans.), GBWW 8, 525–526).

It reminds me of a road trip I took years ago with my friend Liz in which we were en route to Charleston to visit my friend Tony. Liz told me she knew how to drive a standard. So we set out in my non-automatic, or, manual transmission, Nissan Sentra (it was greyness -silver and had seats, blinkers and dents).

After 6 hours of driving we switched seats and I thankfully settled into the passenger seat. But halfway up the ramp to get back onto the Jersey Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway or perhaps it was the Autobahn, I realized that she knew how to drive a standard and yet did not know how to drive a standard which seemed to be the same thing but clearly could not be the same thing. As the car lugged up the on-ramp in 5th gear I realized that she knew how to change gears, with alarming frequency, yet also did not know how (how being when) to change gears.

So, according to Aristotle, it was possible for her to both know how to drive a standard and not know how to drive a standard in name but not in fact and thus we had an operational ambiguity. And while I felt the deep wisdom of this ambiguity there was not time to ponder its deep philosophical depths once we were on the highway as she drove at 45 MPH in the left hand lane while tractor trailers alternately flew up into view in the rear view mirror and then suddenly receded from view (slamming on their brakes and changing lanes, passing us with meaningful gestural critiques).

So for the rest of the gazillion hours that we drove to Charleston Liz sat happily in the passenger seat and pointed out things of interest along the way while I struggled to stay awake. Perhaps born of the “is, is not” Artistotlean philosophy of ambiguity and fact, we invented a word game called ‘adage, counter-adage’. It went something like this:

When the cat’s away the mice will play
Curiosity killed the cat

Look before you leap
He who hesitates is lost

The best things in life are free
There’s no such thing as a free lunch

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink
Discretion is the better part of valor

Don’t change horses in mid stream
Beauty is only skin-deep

A rolling stone gathers no moss
People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
You can’t have your cake and eat it too

He deserves Paradise who makes his companions laugh
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

Time flies when you’re having fun
Measure twice, cut once

Where there is smoke, there will be fire
Here today gone tomorrow

Beggars can’t be choosers
Out of site out of mind

The grass is greener on the other side of the fence
The best things in life are free

It is equally a mistake to hold one’s self too high, or to rate one’s self too cheap. ~Goethe
Variety is the spice of life. ~Montaigne


  1. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    A Bush in the hand is worth nothing.
    Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

    love this blog.
    dwight smith

  2. What I love most about kitties is that they read your emotions so precisely.Then the fluff-balls invariably make you feel so good:)Go Kitties!

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