Everybody's Doing it!
Is there anything we know everything about? Even the simplest thing, like a pen. Can you say you know everything about it? Do you know where every electron in every atom in that pen is located? Of course not. Even with the simplest thing we cannot say we know everything about it. But do we, or others act as if they do?
These are statements about the whole of something. Every person. Whoever makes this sort of statement is claiming that they know what everyone thinks or doesn't think. This is mind reading, and as we learned, we can ask, 'How do you know that?' The point we are making now is about the claim to know everything (although the person doesn't make this claim explicitly.)
We will mention three ways of dealing with statements about everything. First:
(As we know people believe all sorts of crazy things, it's so unlikely that no one will agree with our idea.)
Another approach we can use is simply to ask for an example:
The third method we will mention is a bit tricky. It is called using a double-bind. Whenever we say something about everything (or nothing) we are almost always being self contradictory, because there is nearly always a counter-example.
With a double-bind, the person can't avoid answering in a self contradictory way.
Every two or three decades, physicists tell us they have now completed the study of physics and now know everything about physics. Usually this lasts for a short time until they discover something else! If this is true of physics, it is certainly true of our everyday statements about everything (or nothing.)
Scientific statements are different from ordinary everyday ones. In science there is a lot of evidence to support statements and there is some interrelationship between the statements, so if they were wrong, then so would a vast body of knowledge be wrong. The world would be quite different from how we image it. Yet, even the most cherished theories of science are not completely certain. How much more uncertain are the everyday claims to know everything made by us ordinary mortals?
To make a statement about every man (or woman) is to claim to know about every man and woman. Therefore, we can often ask, 'How do you know that?'
People sometimes make 'all'statements with almost no evidence at all. So when we ask for an example, they often struggle to find one, let alone several.
Double-binds are often used in therapy. Although the person cannot handle a double-bind without being inconsistent, they might not realise this. So a double-bind is often used several times until the listener realises.
Above all, be wary about everything and nothing!
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