Given the right premises, any desired conclusion can be reached, automatic as addition. This is plain to most of mankind after a few years of experiment. Jumping to conclusions is an easy process, akin to cooking, which in fact it rivals in age. Pick your premises, follow the rules, and apple pie.

Jumping to conclusions is not without value. It is the core of art. But it is a dangerous business. Man entertained himself for years with notions of divinity and superiority -- easy conclusions from a hundred sets of premises. The result was greater suffering than life makes necessary.

It didn't occur at first that there was a problem. Artists of the actual were too busy messing around, experimenting, to realize the results of what they did -- much as a careless chef might poison thirty banquet guests through experiment gone awry. Recipes in final form are easy to follow. It is harder to invent them, and it is commonplace for men to be too close to their own work for others' safety.

Once men realized the danger in false conclusions, of course they instantly reformed themselves, and as everybody knows have ever since been far more sparing in the making of them. We should all be congratulated, but the job is not yet done. Far more serious than jumping to conclusions is its antecedent -- jumping to premises. The ideal man is not only sparing of conclusions, but careful about the premises to which he commits himself. Few of us are ideal, but many strive. It is another human pastime.

Every day it is possible to see the bravest and best among us reviewing their premises. We should be heartened.

-- Alexei Panshin
from Masque World

        More Panshin         John Lawler