Although we have emphasized how large-scale ideologies can become self-sealing, small-scale claims in everyday life are also often sealed against any possible refutation. In fact, a number of common words are used to this end. If someone says, “All true conservatives support school prayer,” and a critic points out a conservative who opposes school prayer, then the original claim might be defended by saying, “He is not truly (or really) a conservative.” If this response is trotted out in every case, it turns out that the original claim does not exclude anything. Similarly, the claim that “some students need to work harder than others, but if any student works hard enough, he or she will get good grades” can be protected sim- ply by declaring that any student who works hard but does not get good grades does not work hard enough. Finally, someone who says, “If you think it over thoroughly, you will agree with me” can dismiss anyone who disagrees simply by denying that he thought it over thoroughly. Of course, these terms—“true,” “real,” “thorough(ly),” and “enough“—do not always make positions self-sealing. Nonetheless, these and other com- mon terms are often used to seal positions against any possible criticism. When these terms are used in these ways, the resulting positions are empty and can be criticized in the same ways as self-sealing ideologies.
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