No true value

How many continents are there?

7! Say most people.

  • North America
  • South America
  • Europe
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • Antarctica

Continents are generally “understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water.”
Asia, Africa and Europe aren’t separated by water. They’re only separated by political boundaries, cultural assumptions and historical reasons. Yes, only.
So one continent for the purposes of today.
North and South America? Just America for the same reasons.  Look at a map, North and South America are classed as different continents probably because there is only a really thin bit that connects them. Hello Panama! (I have readers there!).

So, 4 then?

  • America
  • Afro-EurAsia
  • Australia
  • Antarctica

Where did the other three go? They didn’t go anywhere, they’re still there. Look out your window, nothing’s really changed.  What has changed is the way we count them.

When did the Second World War start? Easy! 1939. If you’re British, French or Polish, as Germany invaded Poland then and there is a convenient “declaration” of war to kick things off.  But it really started in 1937. Or 1941. Or 1942.

Wait, what?

Yes! 1937, when Japan invaded China. Remember, it’s a world war. Or it started in 1942, if you’re American which is when it joined in. Or 1941, when the China-Japanese war and the  war in Europe and it’s overseas colonies merged.

So, 4 or 7 continents, 4 different start dates for WW2. 

What height are you? It depends, is it morning height or evening height? When you are measured in the morning you are taller as you unstretch during the night, and become smaller through-out the day.

What weight are you? It depends, have you eaten? Been the toilet?

This is just semantics isnt it? Nothing to worry about in the real world we all know what things mean.

Your boss tells you to clean the table. What is a clean table?

“If you are using the table as a workbench, then clean may only mean that it is free of clutter. On the other hand, if it is a lunch table, you would want some level of cleanliness which is achieved by using a mild detergent. If it is an operating room
table, it would have to be antiseptically clean to prevent the spread of infection. The Operational Definition of clean is quite different for each of these situations, so you can see that context is important. [from here]”

In the above examples the definition of “clean table” all come from the purpose it is being put to. If for lunch, just clear it. If to operate on, cleanse it thoroughly. If to sell it as an antique in an auction room, then you would clean it but not to disturb any aging on it.

All come from purpose. You can count or define in any permutation, but unless the measure comes from purpose, you’re not measuring what counts, just counting what can be measured.


This entry was posted in clarity of purpose, learning, purpose and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to No true value

  1. Charles Beauregard says:

    Another arbitrary measure which infuriates me is GDP. Politicians and mainstream economists are obsessed with it going up (i.e. economic growth). They think it is a good thing, but:

    – High oil and petrol prices are good for GDP
    – If we all start smoking and buying cigarettes, that’s good for GDP
    – If we start growing our own food organically, instead of buying industrially farmed food from supermarkets, that is bad for GDP
    – A tree has no value, in GDP terms, until it is chopped down
    – War is good for GDP
    – People getting in to debt to buy stuff they don’t really need is good for GDP

    The problem is, while people are still obsessed with this measure we will keep on doing the wrong things for society and the environment


  2. Pingback: How clean is my table? | thinkpurpose

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