Recently, a dear friend of mine was enjoying a bit of a rant:

‘Everyone’s out for themselves’ he yelled, ‘no-one gives a damn anymore’ and although I admired my friend’s passion I knew that Aristotle had proven him almost certainly wrong, some 25 centuries earlier.

Aristotle suggested that almost anything anyone might ever say is likely take one of four basic forms:

4 propositions

The top two (‘Universal Affirmative’ and ‘Universal Negative’) claim something to be true in ALL cases, which means a single exception is enough to disprove either statement: find someone who ISN’T out for themselves and you dismantle proposition #1, find someone who IS and you’ve destroyed proposition #2.

Of course, some universal propositions are true by definition; all bachelors are unmarried and absolutely no reptiles are xylophones… because (no matter how hard you look) there really are no exceptions to be found.

But whenever you hear people say things like ‘everyone’s out for themselves’ or ‘nobody gives a damn’ it’s important to note they are making a very specific claim, one that is actually impossible to prove and ridiculously simple to disprove.

That’s why it’s good to keep Aristotle’s ‘Particular Affirmative’ and ‘Particular Negative’ in mind; because, despite what you might hear, only some of us are out for themselves and only some of us are not.

And (believe it or not) some of us actually give a damn.

Avatar photo

Written by Jason Clarke

Twitter LinkedIn

Celebrated author, adventurer, gold medal Olympian and popular TV chef; Jason is none of these things. He is, however, one of the most sought-after creative minds in the country. As founder of Minds at Work, he’s helped people ‘think again’ since the end of the last century, working with clients across Australia in virtually every industry and government sector on issues ranging from creativity and trouble shooting to culture change and leadership.