1

When a character replies to "Are you smart?" as:

"I am as smart as I am humble."

Is there a logical explanation as to whether the character means that he/she is smart or not smart, or it could mean either way?

  • 2
    Welcome to ELU. I don't think this has much to do with the English language, I'm afraid, because the reasoning and answer is the same in any language. It's a logic problem, not a language problem, and certainly not an English language problem. – Andrew Leach Aug 19 '20 at 12:25
  • @AndrewLeach Do you know where I should ask a logic problem? – re you here Aug 19 '20 at 12:31
  • 1
    The character probably means that s/he is smart and not humble. This would be a humblebrag (i.e., I'm smart and humble, but while bragging about being humble, you and I both recognize that I'm not really humble.) – rajah9 Aug 19 '20 at 13:06
  • @AndrewLeach Logic is a language; it's a formal language. As it stands today, logical propositions were built on non-logical propositions mainly by the work of two individuals: Frege (German-speaking) & Russell (English speaking). Nevertheless, I don't see any reason to suppose other languages would necessarily generate the same sort of confusion with such sentences. – touchstone Aug 22 '20 at 6:12
  • If this "character" is from a published story, you could ask the question on Literature and we'll try to answer it using any context from the story or character analysis. – Rand al'Thor Aug 22 '20 at 10:52
1

I think that the character is smart, but doesn't want to appear boastful by admitting it. So he humbles himself by declining to give a direct "yes" answer, but by answering as he does he indirectly makes himself out to be smart (since he is as smart as he is humble).

If his answer demonstrated conclusively that he was smart, however, then he could no longer be considered humble, since his demonstration of smartness would lack humility. But his answer does not conclusively entail smartness, since he might be not smart but not humble enough to admit it.

Nevertheless he comes across, paradoxically, as a smartass who is not particularly humble.

  • 1
    Ehh, I don't think any interpretation of this phrase other than it being a joke is valid. No one would say this while being 100% serious. – user91988 Aug 19 '20 at 17:04

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.