The experience of transition1 requires negotiation between sacrifice and opportunity

I asked this on philosophy.SE a while ago.

Most agreed that the statement is nonsensical: You cannot negotiate between sacrifice and opportunity, as these are not mutually exclusive as implied by the conceptually linking 'and'.

1(Transition: To enter new social or academic contexts or phases of life, etc.)

  • 1
    There have been a number of good answers but these all appear to be based on conjecture. Can you please edit this in such a way as to tell us more about the nature and origin of this question. – Yeshe Aug 16 '15 at 14:15

The experience of transition requires negotiation between sacrifice and opportunity.

Firstly the sentence is clearly grammatical,

The experience ... requires ... negotiation.

Let's see if that shorter version can make sense.

Can a specified experience require something?



a : to claim or ask for by right and authority

b archaic : request


a : to call for as suitable or appropriate

b : to demand as necessary or essential : have a compelling need for


: to impose a compulsion or command on : compel


chiefly British : to feel or be obliged —used with a following infinitive


Gong by those definitions, I think the answer is no. An experience cannot require something.

How can we modify the sentence? I suggest,

Transition requires negotiation between sacrifice and opportunity.

Finally does that make any sense?

It is here that we leave the realms of language and usage and are heading towards philosophy once more.

  • Ahh, your sentence pivots on the word "require". If that was the intended nexus I very much like your suggestion. Because they provided a definition of "transition" that is where I focused. Very nice :) – Yeshe Aug 16 '15 at 14:10

Actually, it makes a certain amount of sense, if you assume some context.

It appears to be predicated on the belief that "sacrifice" and "opportunity" are two poles of a continuum, where "sacrifice" is allowing oneself to be swept along by circumstances, while "opportunity" is recognizing (and reacting to) the possibilities that circumstances may offer for worthwhile change.

"Negotiation", then, is the act of picking those things in your life that you will just let happen, and those things that you will make an effort to change. The author implies that making these decisions correctly helps you to better experience and control "transition" -- the progression between one physical/mental/social state and the next as you go through life. (Ie, "growth.)

Note that "negotiation" is a better choice here than, say "navigation", since "negotiation" implies that the individual must, in effect, have some conversations with himself -- conscious thought and decision-making (with trade-offs considered) is required. "Navigation" implies that one can simply follow a map or street signs or whatever, and this is clearly not the case.

One could offer further arguments against his choice of words, but presumably those words somehow tie into discussion in the larger context.

There are a number of somewhat more trite sayings (such as "Don't sweat the small stuff") that also address this concept.

  • How can a continuum have two poles? Navigation is the control of a ship or other craft through a terrain, it's not willy nilly following. So, are you saying that the OP's original statement is the same as "Don;t sweat the small stuff?" Sorry to be critical, I just don't understand your answer. – michael_timofeev Aug 17 '15 at 2:21
  • @michael_timofeev - By "continuum" I mean a range of possibilities, and the "poles" are the extremes of the possible values of that range. And with "navigation" you usually have a specific goal in mind, while in life the goals are far less clear and often change. Thus one must "negotiate" with oneself and the environment to decide which course to take at every step along the way. And, no, I'm not saying that the above means "Don't sweat the small stuff" -- it's far more nuanced than that. – Hot Licks Aug 17 '15 at 12:22
  • I understand what you mean. Spectrum is the word used to describe what you mean, not continuum, which is an unbroken whole not having polar opposites. – michael_timofeev Aug 17 '15 at 14:18
  • @michael_timofeev - Continuum: a coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees <“good” and “bad”…stand at opposite ends of a continuum instead of describing the two halves of a line — Wayne Shumaker>. (A spectrum, on the other hand, does not have distinct endpoints.) – Hot Licks Aug 17 '15 at 18:41
  • it would seem that in digging around on the Internet each dictionary has its own way of defining either spectrum or continuum that either supports or disproves my position or yours. Some say continuum is a range that can be broken up, others say it cannot. Most dictionaries define spectrum from the physics point of view, and ignore the "range" perspective. Continuum comes from Latin, meaning continuous, meaning something that you can't divide. Because we're arguing about these two words, there is probably a better word to use in this situation...I can't think of one. – michael_timofeev Aug 18 '15 at 0:21

Well the other answer is still correct, this doesn't work as a sentence. My suggestion would be:

The experience of transition is the negotiation between familiarity and change.

  • I disagree. I don't think your version is equivalent to the original. I'll give my own answer. – chasly from UK Aug 16 '15 at 10:09
  • I am curious to see your answer, but as far as meaning I must admit without more context my interpretation of what is being lost in the alleged "sacrifice" is a little shakey. Figuratively I was interpreting familiarity as the thing being sacrificed while opportunities are only opportunities is they allow change and that was the "transition" I read into this. – Yeshe Aug 16 '15 at 10:15

The sentence isn't nonsensical, it's just bad writing.

The writer feels that transition is like walking a path beset by dangers / obstacles on either side.

The word "negotiate" usually is used when two parties need to come to an agreement about something. The word can also be used in the sense, "negotiate your way through a dangerous situation, group of people, traffic, etc.". The idea is that you must negotiate with the obstacle so that you can pass. The word "navigate" could also be used here, in the sense "navigate the treacherous waters of opportunity and sacrifice." That might be better, but it is still possibly confusing. If the tone of the article were "transition as a difficult journey" that might make sense. Without seeing the original source, I can't say.

The idea would probably be better conveyed thus, "A transition requires one to balance between sacrifice and opportunity," the idea being that when one goes through a transition one must balance between giving up comfort (make a sacrifice) and new opportunity.

Because this is "philosophy" the writer feels that the sentence requires flowery language, such as "experience of" and "negotiate."

There are probably some other succinct ways to express this idea. You could also say "a successful transition requires..." but I think it's obvious that that the reader wants a successful transition.

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