Meaningless statement

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This article is about meaningless rhetoric. For the literary use, see Nonsense verse.

A meaningless statement posits nothing of substance with which one could agree or disagree. In the context of logical arguments, the inclusion of a meaningless statement in the premises will undermine the validity of the argument since that premise can neither be true nor false.

There are many classes of meaningless statement:

  • A statement may be considered meaningless if it asserts that two categories are disjoint without proposing a criterion to distinguish between them. For example, the claim, "I wouldn't know how pornography differs from erotica" is a distinction without a difference.
  • A statement may be meaningless if its terms are undefined, or if it contains unbound variables. For instance, the sentence "All X have Y" is meaningless unless the terms X and Y are defined (or bound).
  • A grammatically correct sentence may be meaningless if it ascribes properties to particulars which admit of no such properties. For example, the famous sentence "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" cannot be taken literally.
  • An ungrammatical sentence admits of no meaning. For instance, the string of words "deities Olympus Greek reside The. upon" offers no information regarding the Greek deities, or their whereabouts.
  • Lewis Carrol's poem Jabberwocky is a famous example of the nonsensical as literature.

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