I had the following text-based conversation with a friend, Matt Thornton (@aliveness_ape). The conversation resolves around the meaning and role of profundity. Comments and feedback would be appreciated. If my reasoning is in error, please let me know.
PB: Did you say this to me or did I make it up?: One’s thoughts can’t be profound unless they’re true.
MT: I’ve long believed that.
PB: The only way a thought could be profound is if it’s true, no?
MT: Yes. For something to be profound, it first has to be true.
PB: So what if one thinks a thought is profound, but it’s not true? What could we say about his epistemic predicament?
MT: It would still be alluding to something that was, and the part that was would be profound, no?
PB: But his predicament would have to be “worse” than just being wrong. If he was just wrong (about a complex math problem, for example) and didn’t think his answer was profound, it seems to me that’s not as bad as thinking his response is both correct and profound.
Does the feeling of profundity trap one into ways of thinking about the world?
MT: If one falsely thinks something is profound, when in reality it isn’t even true, then the consequences could be fatal, depending on the belief. That’s called “religion”.
PB: True. But let’s say there are no consequences because it’s about something that has no significance. For example, someone’s convinced Bigfoot died years ago, and they think that’s profound. Doesn’t the fact that they think it’s profound make it “worse”.
MT: Probably, yes. Profound then would be a subjective label.
PB: Does it follow from this that we should try not to think what we’re thinking is profound? Because we could always be mistaken. So profundity seems like a trap. A sinkhole. And a dangerous one.
MT: It might be.
PB: Is it that thinking a thought is profound makes it less likely that one will revise the thought?
PB: Thinking a thought is profound does nothing to improve one’s thinking. It’s a byproduct of thought. And it may be a dangerous one.
MT: Solid point. If you’re reasoning is correct, what does one do with this?
PB: I don’t know.