Search Results for “Prophecy”

November 17, 2014


ironic by Lindsay Mound

Irony is when something happens that is opposite from what is expected. In literature, it is sometimes used for comedic effect, but it is also used in tragedies. There are many types of irony, such as ‘dramatic irony’ (when the audience knows something is going to happen on stage that the characters on stage do not), ‘Socratic irony’ (when a teacher feigns ignorance to his students), ‘cosmic irony’ (when something that everyone thinks will happen actually happens very differently — as opposed to ‘situational irony’ that only affects a small group or individual), ‘verbal irony’ (an absence of expression and intention or the use of sarcasm), and ‘ironic fate’ (misfortune as the result of fate or chance).

The word ‘irony’ comes from Ancient Greek (‘eironeia’: ‘dissimulation, feigned ignorance’), in specific terms it is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or event characterized by an incongruity, or contrast, between what the expectations of a situation are and what is really the case, with a third element, that defines that what is really the case is ironic because of the situation that led to it. Verbal, dramatic, and situational irony are often used to underscore the assertion of a truth. The ironic form of simile, used in sarcasm, and some forms of litotes (understatement used to emphasize a point by denying the opposite) can highlight one’s meaning by the deliberate use of language which states the opposite of the truth, denies the contrary of the truth, or drastically and obviously understates a factual connection.

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June 30, 2014

Cassandra Complex

martha mitchell effect

cassandra and apollo

The Cassandra complex occurs when valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved. The term originates in Greek mythology. Cassandra was a daughter of Priam, the King of Troy. Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy, but when Cassandra refused Apollo’s romantic advances, he placed a curse ensuring that nobody would believe her warnings. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions.

The metaphor has been applied in a variety of contexts such as psychology, environmentalism, politics, science, cinema, the corporate world, and in philosophy, and has been in circulation since at least 1949 when French philosopher Gaston Bachelard coined the term to refer to a belief that things could be known in advance. The Cassandra metaphor is applied by some psychologists to individuals who experience physical and emotional suffering as a result of distressing personal perceptions, and who are disbelieved when they attempt to share the cause of their suffering with others, and they feel like they are being ignored.

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June 17, 2014

Letter and Spirit of the Law


pound of flesh

The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis (a common expression where two opposites are introduced for contrasting effect): When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the ‘letter’) of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording.

‘Law’ originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule. Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language.

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September 17, 2012

Osborne Effect


The Osborne effect is a term referring to the unintended consequence of the announcement of a future product ahead of its availability and its impact upon the sales of the current product.

Pre-announcement is done for several reasons: to reassure current customers that there is improvement or lower cost coming, to increase the interest of the media and investors in the company’s future prospects, and to intimidate or confuse competitors. When done correctly, the sales or cash flow impact to the company is minimal, as the revenue drop for the current product is replaced by orders or completed sales of the new product as it becomes available.

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July 30, 2012

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

mistakes were made

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) is a non-fiction book by social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, first published in 2007. It deals with cognitive dissonance (discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously), self-serving bias (attributing successes to internal factors and failures to external factors), and other cognitive biases (deviations in judgment), using these psychological theories to illustrate how the perpetrators of hurtful acts justify and rationalize their behavior.

It describes a positive feedback loop of action and self-deception by which slight differences between people’s attitudes become polarized. Topics covered include: the doomsday cult described in ‘When Prophecy Fails’; the MMR vaccine controversy and Andrew Wakefield; marriage; day care sex abuse hysteria and false memory syndrome, confabulation of autobiographical memory; George W. Bush and the Iraq War; Criminal interrogations, trials, and capital punishment; Mel Gibson; and Oprah Winfrey and her involvement in the James Frey controversy.

July 23, 2012

Helter Skelter

Helter Skelter by Sam Gibbons

The murders perpetrated by members of Charles Manson’s ‘Family’ were inspired in part by Manson’s prediction of Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise from tension over racial relations between blacks and whites. This ‘chimerical vision’—as it was termed by the court that heard Manson’s appeal from his conviction for the Tate/LaBianca killings—involved reference to music of The Beatles (particularly songs from ‘The White Album’ of 1968) and to the New Testament’s Book of Revelation.

In its final form, which was reached by 1969, the scenario had Manson as not only the war’s ultimate beneficiary but its musical cause. He and the Family would create an album with songs whose messages concerning the war would be as subtle as those he had heard in songs of The Beatles. More than merely foretell the conflict, this would trigger it; for, in instructing ‘the young love,’ America’s white youth, to join the Family, it would draw the young, white female hippies out of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury.

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July 5, 2012

Labeling Theory

Howard Becker

Labeling theory holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from standard cultural norms. It was developed by sociologists during the 1960s; Howard Saul Becker’s book ‘Outsiders’ was particularly influential. The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them.

It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping. Unwanted descriptors or categorizations – including terms related to deviance, disability, or diagnosis of a mental disorder – may be rejected on the basis that they are merely ‘labels,’ often with attempts to adopt a more constructive language in its place. A stigma is defined as a powerfully negative label that changes a person’s self-concept and social identity.

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April 23, 2012

The Force

star wars day

The Force is a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the ‘Star Wars’ galaxy created by George Lucas. Mentioned in the first film in the series, it is integral to all subsequent incarnations of Star Wars, including the expanded universe of comic books, novels, and video games. Within the franchise, it is the object of the Jedi and Sith monastic orders. Lucas has attributed the origins of ‘The Force’ to a 1963 abstract film by Arthur Lipsett, called ’21-87,’ which sampled from many sources. One of the audio sources Lipsett sampled was a conversation between artificial intelligence pioneer Warren S. McCulloch and Roman Kroitor, a cinematographer who went on to develop IMAX.

In the face of McCulloch’s arguments that living beings are nothing but highly complex machines, Kroitor insists that there is something more: ‘Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God.’ When asked if this was the source of ‘the Force,’ Lucas confirms that his use of the term in ‘Star Wars’ was ‘an echo of that phrase in ’21-87.’ The idea behind it, however, was universal: ‘Similar phrases have been used extensively by many different people for the last 13,000 years to describe the ‘life force,” he says.

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March 23, 2012

Confirmation Bias

uriah heep

Confirmation bias is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. For example, in reading about gun control, people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing attitudes. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.

Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series), and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).

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March 6, 2012

Poetic Justice

divine comedy by seymour chwast

Poetic justice is a literary device in which virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished, often in modern literature by an ironic twist of fate intimately related to the character’s own conduct. English drama critic Thomas Rymer coined the phrase in ‘The Tragedies of the Last Age Considere’d’ (1678) to describe how a work should inspire proper moral behavior in its audience by illustrating the triumph of good over evil.

The demand for poetic justice is consistent in Classical authorities and shows up in Horace, Plutarch, and Quintillian, so Rymer’s phrasing is a reflection of a commonplace. Philip Sidney, in ‘Defense of Poetry,’ argued that poetic justice was, in fact, the reason that fiction should be allowed in a civilized nation.

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February 28, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance

sour grapes

Cognitive dissonance [dis-uh-nuhs] is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting thoughts or feelings at the same time. In this state, people may feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. An example is the conflict between wanting to smoke and knowing that smoking is unhealthy. Reacting to this unpleasant state, people often change their feelings, thoughts or memories so they are less in conflict. For instance, a smoker might change their belief about the likelihood that smoking will make them ill, or they might introduce the idea that there are other benefits that make smoking worth it.

The phrase was coined by American psychologist Leon Festinger in his 1956 book ‘When Prophecy Fails,’ which chronicled the followers of a UFO cult as reality clashed with their fervent belief in an impending apocalypse. The believers met at a predetermined place and time, believing they alone would survive the Earth’s destruction. The appointed time came and passed without incident. They faced acute cognitive dissonance: had they been the victim of a hoax? Had they donated their worldly possessions in vain? Most members chose to believe something less dissonant: the aliens had given earth a second chance, and the group was now empowered to spread the word: earth-spoiling must stop. The group dramatically increased their proselytism despite the failed prophecy.

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February 7, 2012


hegel and marx

Historicism is doctrine that emphasizes the importance of history. It is a mode of thinking that assigns a central and basic significance to a specific context, such as historical period, geographical place and local culture. As such it is in contrast to individualist theories of knowledge such as empiricism and rationalism, which often discount the role of traditions. Historicism therefore tends to be hermeneutical (investigative of interpretations), because it places great importance on cautious, rigorous and contextualized interpretation of information and/or relativist (in support of the theory that knowledge is always relative to limitations of the mind), because it rejects notions of universal, fundamental and immutable interpretations.

The term has developed different and divergent, though loosely related, meanings. Elements of historicism appear in the writings of Italian philosopher G. B. Vico and French essayist Michel de Montaigne, and became fully developed with the dialectic of G. W. F. Hegel, influential in 19th-century Europe. The writings of Karl Marx, influenced by Hegel, also contain historicism. The term is also associated with the empirical social sciences and the work of Franz Boas. Historicism may be contrasted with reductionist theories, which suppose that all developments can be explained by fundamental principles (such as in economic determinism), or theories that posit historical changes as result of random chance. The theological use of the word denotes the interpretation of biblical prophecy as being related to church history. Post-structuralism uses the term New Historicism, which has some connections to both anthropology and Hegelianism.