This classic Toast post originally ran on December 17, 2013.
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize if you were offended by my recent behavior. Sadly, there is no way to determine whether you have in fact been offended at this time, as the science just isn’t there yet. We may never know if you were offended or not — in fact, can it truly be said that we can ever know anything? What is truth, and how can we, limited and finite beings that we are, ever make legitimate claims upon it? Who is to say that what we perceive as “the real world” is not in fact an elaborate delusion? Can we not just as easily say that my latest remarks are the work of some unknowable force governing us as we sit in a sea of brain-vats as they were words I chose to say with my actual mouth? The answer, of course, is that there is no answer; we dare not philosophize further.
If I could somehow be certain that you were offended, of course, then I would be the very first person to apologize to you. I am the last person on this planet who would put off a necessary apology in order to save face or avoid self-recrimination, as you well know (at least to whatever degree you can be said to know anything). Were I convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that offense was given, an apology would certainly be forthcoming.
Yet such is my commitment to truth and honesty — insofar as “truth” and “honesty” can be said to exist, that is — that I could not possibly in good conscience deliver an unconditional apology and risk making restitution where no offense had been given.
At this very moment, teams of experienced researchers are hard at work, attempting to determine whether of not you have been offended by me, or possibly someone else. Should they arrive at a successful conclusion, you will undoubtedly be notified immediately about their findings. Whether or not you were offended, who you were offended by, the degree to which you were offended, whether or not an apology would ameliorate said offense or whether everyone should just let bygones be bygones, whether that apology would best be delivered by me or if you would prefer it to come from some third party who may have been the ones really at fault here: all of these questions are being carefully investigated by experts in their field. I ask for your patience during this trying time.
Please be assured that determining whether or not you have been offended is of the utmost importance to me, and I shall not rest until I have determined if you were (figuratively speaking, of course; I have every intention of getting a full eight hours’ tonight). How sorry I would be, if I were sure that you had been offended by the behavior and actions and also words that have transpired of late. But is it better to give an apology where none is needed, or to refrain from taking positive action in the lack of justifiable belief? Surely we must refrain from taking unnecessary action, lest we descend into anarchy and chaos.
What is an apology, anyway, when you really get down to it?
We live in a world filled with uncertainty and doubt; it is entirely possible that, despite our best efforts, we will not be able to determine whether or not you have been offended, in which case I trust you will understand that an apology will not be forthcoming from me. This sort of thing is out of my hands; I am only trying to be sure before doing anything rash. You understand.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.