The Answer to Everything

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From the beginning of human civilisation, we have been trying to come up with the ultimate Answer to Everything: the one statement that would put an end to all argument, debate, doubt and uncertainty. The old Greeks tried to find it. Aristotle, Plato, Socrates – all worked their brains to fever pitch, attempting to find the Answer. Through the centuries, other great minds have done the same: David Hume, John Stuart Mill, Augustine, the whole pantheon of philosophers, theologians, mathematicians, scientists of every stripe.

The Existentialists nearly succeeded. Good old Sartre, Camus and the lads came very near the Answer when they popularised the concept of relative truth: “That may be true for you, but not true for me”. People loved that one: they ran with it and it became the basis for doing away with all absolutes, common standards and any wild ideas about strict definitions of right and wrong and other outdated concepts in modern society.

But, lo and behold, the Answer to Everything has been found! I don’t know if it was actually developed in North Grenville, but it is true (if you don’t mind me using an outdated concept such as Truth) that the Answer has been embraced by many of its residents. It is simple and can be used in any discussion or debate. It doesn’t matter what the subject may be, or how much time one has to argue your point. The Answer to Everything is to simply state, once your interlocutor has finished presenting their case: “Well, that’s just your opinion”.

Genius! Not only does it end any rational discussion on any given topic, but it is, like the quality of Mercy, twice blessed: it blesseth him who gives and he who takes! On the one hand, the Answer to Everything means that you don’t have to come up with arguments, evidence, logic and rational thought of any kind in order to demolish the other’s argument. On the other hand, while it may seem, at first sight, to accept that the other is sincere and their argument respected, unlike the old Sartre/Camus approach, it actually demeans and dismisses your opponent.

It implies, quite clearly, that your opposite number’s belief or stance is less than credible, because it is only their “opinion”, which seems to say that it’s not based on anything solid or worth thinking about. As if an opinion cannot be true or correct, based on evidence, rational thought and logic. No, it is “just”, or even “only”, an opinion, and therefore needs no further rebuttal.

Imagine the situation: Shakespeare states: “The world is out of joint”, to which you reply: “Well, that’s just your opinion”. Descartes explains his foundational belief in his own existence by stating: “Je pense, donc je suis”, or “I think, therefore I am”. The reply is obvious and easy: “Well, that’s just your opinion”. Even stating the proposition in Latin: Cogito, ergo sum, does him no good.

You see the beauty of this Answer to Everything? It means we never have to think again. No need to provide evidence for our beliefs and positions. No need to find counter arguments against those ideas with which we disagree. No, we just trot out the Answer, and all debate ends. This is so much neater than the other popular way of dismissing rational thought and integrity in debate, which is by deriding ideas as “fake news”, using “alternative facts”. After a while, these answers can become tired and obvious; they indicate far too quickly and clearly that the speaker has no counter arguments, no standard of truth and evidence-based research upon which to base a position.

Far better, in actual practice, to simply use the Answer to Everything. That way, you dismiss all ideas, no matter how grounded in evidence, intelligent consideration of facts, or even common sense. Of course, in reality, you haven’t said anything at all. You have ended discussion without adding anything to it, and without having to think and weigh your opponent’s statements. And, indeed, why should you? It is enough, surely, that you don’t like their ideas and statements. It requires no effort on your part to think, to ponder, to imagine any other point of view than your own. It also has the advantage of making it seem that you have a point of view that you have come to through rational thought, instead of taking up whatever someone else says or writes or thinks.

The ultimate result of using the Answer to Everything is that we will all remain cosy and cocooned in our own little world, where nothing and no-one can ever threaten our world. No need to think about Life, Death, God, Existence, Politics, Poverty, the Environment, or any other disturbing concept. Instead, we can just dismiss anything that makes us uncomfortable, uneasy, or thoughtful. But, I know, that’s just my opinion.

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