12 Helpful Distinctions

1. Correlation and causation.

2. Probability and possibility/necessity. The language of possibility and necessity can obfuscate matters of probability, and the language of probability can understate what is actually a matter of possibility, impossibility, or necessity.

3. Weak inference (greater than 50%) and strong inference (much more). Some things have or need merely greater than 50% probability (to simply be more likely than not), other things have or need even more burden of proof (for example, evidence beyond a “reasonable doubt”).

4. Generalization (what is usually the case) and stereotype (what is always the case). Adding confusion, sometimes generalization is rhetorically emphasized with the language of stereotype, or stereotype obfuscated with the language of generalization.

5. Distinct qualities (particular, but perhaps shared) and unique qualities. It doesn’t need to be peculiar in order for it to be particular.

6. Distinct but connected vs. different and separate.

7. Complement and dichotomy — both/and vs or.

8. Entitlement and obligation. For example, I am not necessarily entitled to receive what others are obligated to give.

9. Value-neutral and value-ridden. Superficially neutral language can obfuscate what is fundamentally about ethical and aesthetic values.

10. Affirmation/denial and emphasis. What is described as “more” and “less” may actually be about “is” and “is not.” The language of emphasis can obfuscate what is fundamentally about the affirmation and denial of truth-claims, and the language of affirmation and denial can obfuscate what is actually a matter of emphasis.

11. Accuracy and precision/exhaustion (HT: Rob B). Approximations can be accurate within a margin, and true claims can describe something without describing everything.

12. Epistemic possibility and ontological possibility. Something may be entertained or considered as a possibility yet be actually impossible.