On the Inability of Convincing Anyone of Anything

Dear Angry Philosopher:

Can you convince anyone of anything?

Troubled in Toledo

Dear Troubled:



Dear Angry Philosopher:

Can you convince someone of something?

Bedazzled in Brownsville

Dear Bedazzled:


I suppose.

What is it exactly that you want to hear?  Do you want to be convinced that I know the answer to this question?  The answer to all of your problems?

Would you believe me if I told you that I knew your real name?  That I knew where you lived?  That I know what you do before breakfast every morning and that you’d be most ashamed of it I blabbed it to the whole world in this column even though no one would know it was you except through your reaction when someone else mentions what I’ve written here and how strange it is, in or out of context?

Or perhaps you are interested in whether I can convince a certain someone?  Can you give me their names, what exactly you want them convinced of, what proof I would need to give you that they have been convinced, and three thousand dollars?  You do realize that successful convincings are non-binding and do not preclude oppositional convincing arguments from being equally (or unequally, case may be, some restrictions apply) effective in the future?

The truth is, no matter how much you would like someone else to see the truth, you cannot make them see the truth, accept the truth into their home, or give the truth presents on the truth’s birthday.

You cannot convince someone that they are wrong or that they are right.  This is solipsism.  This is the world we live in.

Have I convinced you yet?


Dear Angry Philosopher:

What can you convince yourself of?

Unknown in Utica

Dear Unknown, if that is your real name, which I sincerely doubt:

If you, in this case, are talking about you and not me, then the truth is that I can only convince you of what you wish to already be convinced of.  We live in a closed circuit world where nothing gets in but what we allow.  In order for you to be convinced of something, you need to already have the seed of the convincing buried somewhere deep in your mind, somewhere rich in nitrogen and where water will flow to regularly so that, when the convincing is needed, suddenly conviction will flower from your soul.

If you are talking about you in the way that means me, then the answer is quite different.

I can convince myself of nothing.

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