Son Of Sun Tzu blog

Son Of Sun Tzu blog

They keep saying my audience will find me…

03 Apr 2022

Gossamer Aphorisms

There’s a lot of “thought leadership” online, especially on Twitter. Much of this consists of what I tend to call “gossamer aphorisms”.

They are aphorisms because they are usually stated plainly without explanation, with an implication of the presenter nodding sagely as they type, as if bringing the wisdom of the ages to this particular situation, or a heaped dose of good old fashioned common sense.

They are gossamer because they’re beautiful when you look at them, but flimsy - and dissolve under even the gentlest examination. Usually they are far too binary or linear in their analysis, don’t fit this circumstance, or a moment’s thought reveals numerous examples where they don’t apply as universally as is implied.

This is the most forgiving view of course. Self-help peddlers particularly, with the widest meaning of that term, often use them to imply a failure on the part of the reader, rather than a failure in the theory behind the aphorism. This has interesting links to cons and scams through the ages, but that’s a discussion for another time.

( They are close to, but are not, deepities - I think )

I’ve considered highlighting this phenomenon more intently and intensely online, but there’s nothing to gain by arguing on the Internet with their purveyors. But I might have dropped the phrase “gossamer aphorism” into a conversation, and pointed you at this post to explain what I meant, rather than divert the conversation to a side quest. If that’s the case then feel free to ask for further explanation, but I hope neither of us will be disappointed if the conversation doesn’t go any further.

A gossamer winged butterfly