Nov 30, 2009

“A Tidy Desk is a Sign of a Tidy Mind”

I guess it’s a common enough aphorism. It turned up yesterday in John Grisham’s “King of Torts” and it made me feel a bit queasy about my mental condition.

However, I have since realised that even if it were an absolute truth that wherever one finds a tidy desk, there is a Tidy Mind lurking behind its design, this doesn’t necessarily entail that a lack of desk tidiness (e.g. w.r.t. my desk) can be said, in even a single case, to be a result of mental chaos. As tempting as it might be to draw the conclusion, we simply wouldn’t know. Non-tidiness could in fact be another sign of a Tidy Mind, a sign of a Genius Mind, no sign whatsoever, or various other possibilities. I even checked it and can now assure you that denying the antecedent is a logical fallacy. So; boys and girls; don’t do it!


  1. Tidy mind = freakin' boring, imho.

  2. Unless of course he was implying there was some sort of positive correlation between desk tidiness and mind tidiness – in which case we would be justified in assuming the converse statement (and hence its contrapositive). Though that would have unfortunate consequences for my mental condition also.

  3. I don't know what a contrapositive is. But, not so much 'consequences' as 'implications', I suppose - no need to attempt to add yet another causal link in here! I vaguely considered this statistical possibility I suppose, but I was thinking in terms of deductive reasoning rather than that staple of science, inductive stuff. Nevertheless, as impressed as I am with your use of long words and statistics to stump me, I'm guessing there would need to be a certain type of positive correlation, i.e. a decent-sized one; no? Just a hint of positive-ness doesn't seem quite enough to my in-recent-times-stats-avoiding brain.

  4. Contrapositive is just maths-logic speak (you might know it by another name). I think it's a neat idea, so I'll share it with the world:
    Given a statement "A implies B", the contrapositive of that statement is "not B implies not A". My lecturer tells me any statement is 100% logically equivalent to its contrapositive. At first I didn't believe him, but then I thought about it and decided it was probably true. You're right though - it would need to be a decent sized correlation otherwise a large variation in desk tidiness wouldn't imply much.