One of my pet peeves in academic prose of the more pretentious kind is the double-false conditional statement. Here’s one that I’ve made up.
“If the adoption of bronze casting can be seen as a sign of increasing preoccupation with eschatology, then it follows that we must be continually vigilant against any appropriation of the era’s heritage by the extreme right.”
What I’m doing here is first putting forward a probably false or untestable statement as a condition, and then asserting baldly that one can infer something else from it, which is in fact completely unrelated. This is quite common in some quarters. Apparently, what these writers do is take opinion A and the unrelated opinion B, and just slot them blindly into an IF A THEN B statement.
The double-false conditional. Watch for it when you read academic prose in the humanities and social sciences. Do share your findings with us here! And don’t let them fool you.
Update 29 October: Here’s one from David Wengrow’s new book, What Makes Civilization?, p. xvi:
“If the effect of such displays and substitutions [the display of Egyptian mummies in the Louvre, which had been a royal palace during the ancien regime] is to reassure us that we have passed beyond the threshold of ‘early civilization’ into some more ‘modern’ condition, then it becomes all the more important to go beneath the surface, and examine the true nature of those societies we have come to regard as so distant from our own.”
What Wengrow really says here is:
1. I think that when mummies replaced kings in the Louvre, the [intended?] effect was to reassure us that we have passed beyond the threshold of ‘early civilization’ into some more ‘modern’ condition.
2. I also think that it is important to examine the true nature [!] of ancient societies.