Here is one of my favorite examples of a postmodern, circular, and self-refuting proposition. It tries to emotionally inspires us with wordplay and a false premise. I am not sure that the marketers did this intentionally but this was a swing and a miss logically.
The premise is that persons are not meant to be pigeon-holed into a conformed society. We are individuals. We are unique and one of a kind. There is a call for each of us should throw off conformity, depicted here as corporate america (he was carrying a briefcase, wearing a suit, and commuting on the subway) at least in pretext.
For the Record, I am not surprised, dismayed, upset, or fretting because Postmodernism is prevalent in our Media and TV. I am merely pointing it out so you know exactly what you are imbibing or partaking. Now you can know whether you are tyring to believe in something that is in opposition to your declared worldview. This one of my “Men without Chest” moments. (see CS Lewis, “Abolition of Man”) This commercial violates Linear Thought: Law of Identity, Law of Excluded Middle, and Law of Noncontradiction. And Conformity is a Relative term and not an objective term; Conformity is defined by the prevailing culture and taboos. When culture shifts, the taboos can become accepted and the previously accepted behaviors can become taboo;an infinite loop. The value of his nonconformity last only a few seconds until his behavior becomes normative and his previous behaviors taboo or rejected.
Let’s look at Linear Logic and see if we can deduce why this TV ad is a destructive logical failure and self-refuting ideology. The are 3 main areas to linear logic. Linear logic simply put is point A leads to point B, then to C, and so on. It is the core of Western Philosophy and Objective thinking.
Law of Identity – “A” has defined and identifying properties that are specific to “A”. It can not have any properties that are “not A”. “A” can not be both “A” and “Not A” in the same respects at the exact same time. A car cannot be a bird, or a tree in the same respect at the exact same time.
Law of Excluded Middle – There can be no third option in regard to the truth of a proposition or statement; a statement (proposition) is either true or it is false. The statement cannot be both true and false. Life can not be both and illusion and real. It must be real or an illusion.
Law of Noncontradiction – A statement cannot both affirm its conclusion and negate its conclusion at the same time. (See the Law of Excluded Middle and Law of Identity.) Any statement that purports to be both True and False, or if the statement is affirmed it negates its own conclusion, then the statement has violated the law of noncontradiction. For example, “There are no absolute truths.” If this statement is “absolute true”, then it’s affirmation negates the “truth claim” is declares about there being not truths. If this statement is false, then the conclusion of its “truth claim” is false.
There are several issues with the premise and conclusion. It appears to violate the Excluded Middle and Noncontradiction laws. Let’s see what laws of logic have been violated or misrepresented.
- None of the t-shirts indicated a nonconforming vocation or “job” that the nonconformists was going to perform after they made the “conscious” choice to go “rogue”. It only implies or infers self-defined characteristics, or relative perceptions of their personal identities. This implies that people who actually want to have jobs or currently have jobs in corporate america are not unique or individuals who made “conscious” choices to be a part of a corporation. Rather they are rats or lemmings (take your pick on what analogy you want to use), just following the Pied Piper wherever he wants them go. There is a false dichotomy that suggests one can’y be a “dreamer” or “a pepper” and choose to behave in a “conformed” manner.
- Where are they grounding that nonconformity is the “right” path and something to be aspired? Is it in the fact the main character appears melancholy or depressed in his suit but happy in his t-shirt. The premise of happiness seems to be purported here as a “conscious” destination. “Do what makes you happy”! This line of reasoning is subjective, relative, and possibly detrimental to a person’s financial, physical, and emotional well-being. His “conscious” choice could cause hunger, disease, stress, strive, and loss of relationships that could affected his emotional happiness or endorphins that were released during synaptic activity that caused brief interludes of emotional elation that are being physically expressed by smiling and walking fast (A paraphrased definition of “happiness” on naturalism and determinism). His affinity for “happiness” – drinking soda – could lead to onset of diabetes and massive weight gain. That would diminish his endorphins drastically upon hearing that news.
- The commercial ends with the unsustainable fruition of the circular conclusion: The nonconformist is now leading a mob of nonconformist whom all conformed to their nonconformity to break free from conformity; everyone is wearing the same uniform, walking the same way, and drinking the same soda! Then the girl in the white “I’m a Rebel” t-shirt is simply breaking free from the nonconformists. She is a neo-nonconformist who is going against the stream and color palette of the non-conformist, and she is not drinking any soda of the nonconformists.
- The concept of unique-ness and nonconformity is trivial and relative. One minute you are nonconforming and the next minute you become conformity. It is very plausible that somewhere in the progress a person drinks a Dr. Pepper and puts on a suit or business attire, they very antithesis of the premises stated in the beginning. Their t-shirt could read “World Leader” and they “suit up”. So, the “change” is perception only, the conformity and the nonconformity behavior is exactly the same and the outcome is/will be the same. A person has an idea, it resonates with others, and they follow, until there is another idea that resonates with them and then they change course. It is hardly iconoclastic or revelatory.
The reason it is important to break this commercial down and discuss ti, is to unwrap this unlivable expectation hoisted around viewers neck. It is impossible and exhausting to try to live a life consistent with the premises and conclusions propositioned by this commercial. One can not continually non conform to every perceived conformity without creating an “non conformed” conformity that others will follow, or that one will encourage or try to persuade others to follow. Which is exactly what he does at the end of the commercial. He offers a Dr. Pepper to the girl in the leather jacket (which could also have been another version of nonconformity to the previous conformity) to offer her the chance to “join” the t-shirt, soda drinking, smiling and walking fast revolution.
It also breeds relativistic elitism and prejudice. The irony here is that those who are nonconformists begin to look like evolved thinkers and the conformists as uninformed and less creative, or less “special” than the conformists. The viewer is supposed to desire the genius and freedom (however short-lived and relative it may be). In fact, the neo-nonconformists movement factioned from the nonconformists movement in less time than it would take a person to drink a 16 ounce soda. So the viewer is actually swept away from the nonconformity to the neo-nonconformity in a matter of seconds. How can one sustain such a tide change or perceptions and have any certainty that they have made the “right” choice? It may be there is no “right” choice. If that is true then the advertisers have both lied and swindled the viewer. Whether you drink the soda or not, or any other choice you make in life is exactly as unique as any other choice any one else makes. It is the same as the Robert Frost poem, “A Road Diverged in a Yellow Wood”. In the end Frost uses satire to say that it didn’t really matter what path he had taken he was going to wind up somewhere, and when he arrived, he would be there.
I can hear skeptics retorting, “It’s just a soda commercial! Get over yourself!” It is in fact what you say it is, yet the presuppositional layers make it so much more…unless language is just words, and behaviors are just perchance activities that have no affect on human life, and existence is just chance and dumb luck. Be careful, you may just argue yourself out of any usefulness and render your opinion on the matter moot. If you want your opinion to have objective value then it can not just be a soda commercial. It uses philosophy, schemes, sociology, visual stimulation, and language. All of these presuppositional layers combined to present an argument that Dr. Pepper is life changing. You can accept their premise or deny, but you can’t be indifferent. The law of Excluded middle disallows such lazy and disengaged thinking.
In closing this commercial can best be summed up by this circular, patronage of praise given by most parents at sometime or another in a child’s life, “You’re special…just like everyone else.”
Is the commercial’s premise and conclusion true, or rather truth? Or is it false?
I leave you to wrestle it out and curse at me as you begin to analyze every commercial from now on…you’re welcome!
Now going to go enjoy an ice cold Dr. Pepper!
Because it is the King of Sodas, and that’s the truth!
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