Kettle logic

by Neil

There’s a poem I see periodically on social media, usually called the Narcissist’s Prayer:

That didn’t happen.
And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
And if it is, that’s not my fault.
And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
And if I did…
You deserved it.

You may find it interesting to know that there’s a term for the kind of argumentation depicted in the poem, where multiple inconsistent lines of reasoning are deployed in parallel. Derrida called it kettle logic,” after a story related in Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams:

The whole plea […] reminded one vividly of the defence put forward by the man who was charged by one of his neighbours with having given him back a borrowed kettle in a damaged condition. The defendant asserted first, that he had given it back undamaged; secondly, that the kettle had a hole in it when he borrowed it; and thirdly, that he had never borrowed a kettle from his neighbour at all.

This mode of reasoning is taken by Freud to be a characteristic of thought in the dream state; but I think it can be taken more broadly as a strand of self-deception.