Thursday, 9 April 2015

Sum of the Parts: Omelettes and Eggs


The adage 'you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' has been used as an analogy for sometimes having to destroy to build. It could also be said to be a whole (omelette) made which is more than the sum of its parts (the eggs). It could also mean that an omelette can only exist in the future because of the past existence of chickens and their eggs. Or that the independence of an individual has to be cracked to form the bonds of a group or team. Or it can just be an observation on a recipe regarding the key ingredients for an omelette.

Whatever way the omelette and eggs analogy works it is dependent on context. Aristotle saw how language provided some of this context and provided us with some definitions to aid our thinking, as I mentioned in Sum of the Parts: Bricks and Walls.

Language, of course is another example of the eggs and bricks that go to make our omelettes and walls. Words are put together, organised and shaped into structures, from sentences, to paragraphs to prose, to poetry and lyrics. They are written and spoken and thought. 

The whole of language is more than the sum of its parts.That is the point. It would not communicate if it wasn't. If it did not become more than its component parts it would not serve its purpose. 

So eggs may be cracked for an omelette to illustrate:
  • Building needs destruction
  • A whole can have parts
  • The future is built on the past
  • Individuals bond in teams
  • An omelette recipe
Whatever the reason, nobody will care without the context, which language provides as content and product ie. the eggs and the omelette. And we certainly, in this situation, can answer the age-old question: Which came first the chicken or the egg? If there is a first, then the chicken had to come first because the egg became part of an omelette which meant it didn't have the opportunity to become a chicken.

Such is the power of the components of language that it can put forward the most ridiculous of arguments.

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