The Truth-value of Tautologies in Real Life

There is something very interesting about tautologies in real life, rather than in academic logic, that tells us something deep about the way we experience things, the nature of definitions, and how to take advice wisely.


Take the statement: "She is a successful woman." A follow up question from someone who would like to be successful also might go something like "What makes her successful?" Someone could give many answers to this question: she was persistent, she always kept learning even when it was difficult, she was fortunate to know people who could help her, etc. But do all of those things make success? No, there are people who have done or had all of those things who did not become successful. Likewise, there are people who have become successful through other means. This lack of a guarantee will be true of anything you say about success.  In fact, it is true about every particular quality, thing, or way of being.  "Why is he a boy?" "What makes her happy?" Any question that asks for references between two different things will always include some ambiguity in it, some non-equivalence, some non-guarantee. The only way to answer completely and accurately "What makes her successful" is to say "Because she is successful." While (I think) tautologies are generally treated as meaningless and inappropriate in formal logic, in real life tautologies are really at the heart of all of our definition-making. Things are only what they are because they are what they are, without further justification. We can give further explanations about how that thing came to be the way it is, or why we call it that. But the definition itself will always be unique and unjustified.

Of course, there is a practical way in which the question "What makes her successful?" simply means "What did she do to become successful?" That's a more meaningful question and there will be many answers to it as well. But it's essential not to take anything that's said about that as necessary for determining success. There are probably always more ways to be anything than what anyone else has already shown or done. And even if you try to emulate someone else, you must always reinvent it in your own terms, in your own concrete time, place, and way, inside of a new and different set of circumstances. The genuinely tautological nature of all definitions, and things, all qualities, in all their unitary simplicity, is also the reason there are infinite number of ways to do or be that way. The actual nature of tautologies in real life points to the deep paradoxical relatedness of unity and infinity. I don't know whether this would make sense in an academic discussion of logic or what consequence it would have there, but it does seem to say something about the way we actually experience things.