The Opposite of an Apple

An Exercise in Human Reason

By Tim Brough, Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

On November 17, 2014, the New York Times’ T magazine published what could possibly be the most elucidating interview of our generation. Here’s a link: Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.

Over eight delicious pages of babbling pseudo-philosophy, the Fresh Prince’s heirs take us on a journey through quantum physics, Pranic energy, and “chemicals and things.” The pretension is palpable, as the inner workings of teenagers that can only be described as “Hollywood” are bared for all to see in an interview so bizarre that it could be straight out of Saturday Night Live. One of the finest moments is an assertion Jaden makes: “when you think of an apple, you also think about the opposite of an apple.” Admittedly, it’s not quite on par with, “I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist,” or “this is a fragment of a holographic reality that a higher consciousness made,” but it’s still an interesting idea, and I don’t really know what those other ones mean. After having a good hearty chuckle, I decided that I owe Captain Steven Hiller USMC/Hitch/Oscar the Shark Slayer as much as to put his son’s ideas to the test. So yes, in a sense I am defending Jaden Smith’s blabbering, but just hang with me here for a little while guys, we’ll get through this.

The question is this: does the opposite of an even apple exist, what is it, and do we think of it when we think of an apple? Breaking from Platonic convention, I’ve organized the dialogue between me and my fellow philosophers: Gabe Shemeth (’16), Stephen Bruno (’15), and Zack Martin aka DJ Rukus (’15) into plain prose. It should be noted that the deliberating was performed between 12:46 and 1:36 a.m. on a Friday night. Why we weren’t out cutting the rug at the sock hop, or whatever the cool kids do on a Friday night, should be painfully apparent by the end of this article. It should also be noted that Tim Morris aka DJ Downpour (’15) was present for these discussions, but had fallen asleep and was justifiably livid when he woke up to hundreds of text messages about anti-apples and negative realities. Without further ado, let’s get started.

First, does the opposite of an apple even exist? I argue it does. It is part of human nature to organize things into opposites, in our own minds we have God and Satan, black and white, cat and dog, even the Red Sox and the Yankees. The same motif is echoed throughout the world. Take, for example, the Yin and Yang of Chinese natural philosophy, or Descartes’ dualism of the human body, or the fact that almost the entire Iranian cultural narrative revolves around opposites and dualities. We do this, not only because we need an organizing sentiment for our feeble human minds, but also because we realize that it is true. If something exits, the antithesis of this thing also exists. Thus, let us say that the opposite of an apple does in fact exist. For convenience sake, let’s call it the anti-apple, or the negative apple in cases where that would apply.

To continue past here, we need to define the parameters of our discussion: 1) the conceptual apple exists, we don’t care about any of its qualitative measurements (color, diameter, taste, etc.). It’s just an apple, that’s all that matters. 2) All things have an opposite (without this our discussion would be…fruitless) 3) the anti-apple (opposite of the conceptual apple) exists. 4) The opposite of the conceptual apple exists somewhere in this world (so as to discount the position that the anti-apple exists only in an alternate or negative reality in which things are made of their opposites).

Next we set out to define the anti-apple. I’m going to break from popular assumption here and say it’s not an orange. I refuse to believe that human reason is only powerful enough to define the opposite of the apple’s qualities, so I say that the opposite of the apple must be the anti-apple, and that we are able to identify it. A real apple can be assigned physical parameters, like red, round, tasty, and soft. These things do not define the apple, they could just as well describe a red, soft, round, and tasty piece of meat, and thus the opposites of these things do not define its opposite. An apple has appleyness, it is more than the sum of its parts. There is an intangible quality that makes an apple an apple. But what if—imagine this—we attempted to define an apple as what it is not? So that everything that is not an apple is the opposite of an apple.   To which you might say something along the lines of, “Just because something is not the apple, it is not necessarily the apple’s opposite.” To which I would respond yes that’s absolutely true, good catch. But also that everything that isn’t an apple can be defined, in a very limited sense, by the fact that it is not an apple, it is other things too, but it’s definitely not an apple. A baseball glove is a baseball glove, it might be soft, abstractly rounded, and to some, even tasty, but it’s certainly not an apple. Going from this knowledge, I posit that the opposite of an apple isn’t every individual thing that is not an apple, it’s the sum total of everything that is not an apple. Or it is at least the opposite of the conceptual apple, which is a construction of Jaden Smith’s mind and our own.

Sound confusing? Let’s try and keep it simple. Think of an apple as the number “5” on a number line. The opposite of “5” is obviously “-5”. That “-5” is the negative apple. Now, if we add up all numbers from -∞ to ∞, excluding “5”, we would get “-5”. Don’t believe me? Let’s try it, but let’s pretend the only numbers in the universe are between -10 and 10, you might want to get a calculator out for this one:

-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1+0+1+2+3+4+6+7+8+9+10= -5

The anti (or negative) apple is defined by all things that are not an apple, just as the sum of all numbers not “5” equals “-5”. At this point one might ask, if you were a DJ whose name starts with an “R” and ends with an “ukus”, if 5.1 starts as an opposite. In and of itself no, but it is part of a larger truth of opposition, and thus can be considered in some part opposite to 5, simply because it is not 5. But what about how , or how also = -5, and these values obviously are not everything that isn’t “5”, so how come these things still make the opposite of 5. Why do baseball mitt + super PAC = -apple? How can two things that “apple”  is not be the same as an infinite amount of things that “apple” is not?

Let’s go back to our idea of our analogy of “apple” as “5”, just because it’s easier to work in numbers than it is to work in apples and baseball gloves and super PACs. We’ve established that , the same that is made when we combine the infinite quantities that are not “5”. Here’s how: contained within and are all the things that are not “2” and not “3”. “2+3” makes “5”, so the opposite of these things make “-5”. By adding “-2” and “-3” we aren’t dodging every other number, we’re just finding a shortcut through them. is simply an abbreviated version of the combination of all numbers except “5”. It’s a shorthand way to 5’s opposite.

So, we’ve stated that the opposite of an apple does exist, and we’ve decided that it is the sum total of all things that are not apple. But do we think of this when we think of an apple? Do we think of all colors “not-blue” when we think of the color blue? I guess that’s more of a question of human psychology than of philosophy. I, personally, think that yes we do subconsciously think of the opposite of an apple when we think of the apple, because we subconsciously define an apple by  everything that it’s not, and thus define it an apple. Jack O’Hara (’15) believes my Jungian notions of an active and universal subconscious are silly and uncorroborated by science. So this one could go either way. I have no doubt that if the Administration ramped up their funding of the students’ source for news and sports, we would be able to buy an fMRI machine, and we could get to the bottom of this mystery with a simple battery of tests involving apples, opposites, and DJ’s, but as long as the Grass-picking team keeps winning state championships, I don’t see that happening any time soon. Why any of this matters, you ask? I’m not sure. It could matter simply because this whole discussion serves as an insight into the ability of humans to apply reason and logic to the most abstract of situations. It could matter because it brings us, dear reader, closer to realizing Truth. It could matter just because it finally convinced you, cynical reader, that all this pointless philosophizing really is stupid. It could have something to do with “After Earth.” But it definitely proves one of two things: either everybody who laughed at Jaden Smith was justified, and I wasted almost three hours composing and writing a chronicle of his ideas, OR, perhaps even more terrifyingly, the JV Karate Kid was right.

Tim Brough is Editor of The Kestrel, and a member of the Jazz Band, Principal’s Advisory Council, and the Crew Team/Clash of Clans Club. If you have any questions about the Kestrel, the Crew team, or the status of the Crew team as the Clash of Clans Club, or if you were just wondering how apple sauce fits into all of this, feel free to send an email to [email protected]