A presupposition is an underlying unexpressed assumption that supports the logic of a behavior. I often ask myself, “What are the presuppositions (assumption defenses) s/he’s using that I’m perceiving and not perceiving?!” I like to follow that up with, “What do these assumptions tell me about who I believe am?” and, “Who am I that would presuppose these things?”
I wonder what my presuppositions might mean in a world of my own creation – my waking dream. First things first – investigating what I might presuppose in this “wonder” statement, I assume that:
- there may be no such thing as an objective observation or report because I filter (taint) everything through my biases, prejudices, and beliefs. I give Fox News less credibility than I do CNN, for example. Thus…
- there are presuppositions and they hold meaning for me.
- I create my perceptions of my world.
- I am awake and that which I am perceiving is a dream alike in nature to the experience I have in a sleeping dream state.
- there are even more presuppositions that I missed!
That’s a helluva lot of information extracted from a simple sentence!
Exploring my presuppositions and those of others, I can gain some insight into that which is hidden from me – my real beliefs! Let’s take a look at the shiny defensive surface of the bubble.
How I Use Presuppositions in Defense
I use positive and negative reinforcement to manipulate me and those around me. Sometimes I don’t wish to be confrontive, so I disguise my attempts at manipulation in back-handed compliments, innuendo, and deceit. Manipulation is clearly a Second Degree defensive move intended to keep me solidly and safely inside the bubble. Any question I ask that masks a hidden agenda is Second Degree defense that is unlikely to provide access to higher degrees of illumination.
I’m so accustomed to defending my position that I presuppose my position into everything I communicate and is communicated to me. I may not recognize, understand, or appreciate objectivity if it bit me in the behind. Everything must pass through my beliefs – coming in and going out.
Good news! That means I can milk everything I perceive for information about ME!
Easier said than done, though, as I’m pretty adept at keeping secrets from myself. Thus the value of questioning my underlying assumptions, “What would I have to suppose in order to say/do that?” – questioning my presuppositions to unravel the secrets I’m keeping from my awareness.
For example, let’s say I just told someone, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Rather than elicit defense by asking myself, “Why did you say that?” I might inquire, “What would a person have to suppose in order to make that statement?” or “What does that statement suppose?” For one, I’d have to suppose that MY position, which I hold as true, is better than their position, which differs from mine and so is, therefore, false. Other presuppositions in this example are less obvious, yet are nevertheless useful information about me.
Why not just ask why?
Why questions are often loaded with presuppositions that justify/defend a position. And although such information is useful, it’s a bit more obtuse than looking at the assumptions underlying the behavior.
“Why did you say that?” Even when asked with real intent to understand self, my supposition machinery will fly into action on my question and supply me with an answer that satisfies my need to validate (defend) my current belief. A presupposition behind this particular WHY question might very well be, “…because you’re justified! That’s why!” End of inquiry!
I wonder if there is a why question that does not presuppose a defense by justification? “Why do you hate your mother?” presupposes that you hate your mother – justifying my bad behaviors towards her or someone else. “Why don’t you love me anymore?” presupposes that you don’t love me and that you did before – justifying my suspicions and judgments against you. “Why do you want to hurt me?” presupposes a fight I’ve blamed on you – justifying my defense against you.
Loaded (with presuppositions) questions are not Third Degree questions. Such questions:
- Impose a limitation on answers.
- Avoid further questions.
- Assume facts not in evidence.
How about those times when I don’t hear a presupposition? Does that mean the communication is “pure” – free of presuppositions? When firmly entranced in my First-Second Degree bubble, I acknowledge that I include presuppositions in everything I perceive – and assume I’ve just missed them in the communication when I accept a communication “as is”.
Ask and Learn
Instead of denying their existence, I might investigate them. I so want to milk as much as I can from this rich source of information. Besides, looking at presuppositions often exposes lies I tell myself and others – and offers insight into the real meaning of a communication.
I find that a resource of immense value.