"Patently" in this context is synonymous with "obvious" so this essentially translates to "obviously obvious". I've heard this particular turn of phrase crop up fairly often - ironically often in academic circles - to the point where I've become baffled at how and why people seem to consider it a perfectly valid expression when it's patently redundant. (Sorry couldn't resist!) Could someone please explain?
Old post, but thought I'd join in. For info: I work in Intellectual Property as a Patent Examiner.
The term patently obvious may stem from original intellectual property discussions.
When someone applies for a Patent one of the hurdles they must get over in order for the Patent application to be granted is that it must be inventive, i.e. whatever the supposed invention is must not be obvious to a person skilled in the art compared to what is already known.
In patent examination reports of present and presumably of old, the term 'obvious' is therefore used with a fair amount of frequency when objecting to a claim for an invention in the application.
As such if something were 'patently obvious', it is a particular type of obvious that would not overcome the 'obvious test' used by Patent examiners in assessing an invention. In other words something that is patently obvious is something that is very much within sight given everything else around.
There does not seem to be a logical flaw with the statement "the truth of x is obviously obvious." Let us suppose that the properties of x are, in fact, obvious. Suppose that you are having a conversation with John Doe, who is suffering from no mental deficiencies. Mr. Doe, for whatever reason, does not understand the properties of x, even after analyzing x for days. We can tell Mr. Doe that "the properties of x are obviously obvious." There is no logical flaw in this case. One of the truths about x is that its properties are obvious. So, the obviousness of obvious is, in fact, obvious. The sky obviously appears blue at times, and the obviousness of this truth is itself obvious.
People like the sound of it so much they don't bother about the meaning. So much so that it actually has become one word: patentliobvious. Wait, I've got proof!
The phrase "It's just too patently obvious" doesn't make the least bit of sense. Too patently? What? But they still use it, don't they.
ACADEMIC CIRCLES. It's too patently obvious.
SKEPTIC. Are you saying that if if it were less patently but more, say, vaguely, obvious, it would be acceptable?
ACADEMIC CIRCLES. Huh? What are you talking about, my lad?
It has ceased to occur to people that "patently obvious" is actually two words, not one.
I used the term obvious as a math student in college to mean that the truth was evident to anyone who thought about. I learned later in life that what what was obvious to one person may be questionable to another. I don’t use the term obvious any more for reason. I will on rare occasion use the term patently because it seems to Imply there is some evidence.