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Word of the Day: Deepity

Dictionary openA deepity is basically the opposite of a profundity.  A deepity is a statement that, to the extent that it’s true, is trivial, and to the extent that it’s profound, is false.

Daniel Dennett, one of the four horsemen of the atheist apocalypse, invented the word, and he defined it this way:

A deepity is a proposition that seems to be profound because it is actually logically ill-formed.  It has (at least) two readings and balances precariously between them.  On one reading it is true but trivial.  And on another reading it is false, but would be earth-shattering if true.

Here’s an example: “Evolution is only a theory.”  Yes, evolution is a theory.  This statement is trivially true.  But to the extent that it’s profound (evolution has a long way to go before it becomes truly accepted, say), it’s false.

A New Age-y sort of deepity might be “God is the universe” or “God is nature.”  Sure, we can redefine God to have the same meaning as anything we want.  Trivial.  But the profound implication (we’ve now explained God or proven his existence) is meaningless.

Slogans on church signs are a great source of deepities.  “Good without God becomes 0.”  It’s trivially true that removing all the letters except the third one from the word good gives you just the letter o (or a zero, if you prefer), but the profound implication (you can’t be good without God) is nonsense.

A deepity can deceive if the truth of the first (trivial) interpretation is allowed to rub off on the second.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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