‘Should’ Presupposes ‘Can’

You: “I think we should swim across the ocean.”

Me: “What?”

You: “Yeah, there’s lots of great stuff over there. We should swim over and get it.”

Me: “Um, I don’t think–“

You: “Do you not want the stuff?”

Me: “The stuff would be great, sure. It’s just–“

You: “I think you don’t want the stuff. Or maybe you just don’t want ME to have the stuff. Is that it? You don’t want me to be happy?”

Me: “What? Of course I want you to be happy. I just don’t think you attempting to swim across the ocean is the way to make that happen.”

You: “So you admit that you don’t want me to swim across the ocean.”

Me: “I didn’t say I don’t want it. I don’t think it will happen.”

You: “So you don’t support it.”

Me: “I think you’re being deliberately obtuse. Something being impossible is different from me not wanting it. I would love gold to spontaneously appear in my house, but that doesn’t mean I expect it.”

You: “Then why not voice your support for it, at least? It might not happen, but you send the right message.”

Me: “Well for one, I don’t necessarily think that loudly wishing for gold to appear in my house ‘sends the right message,’ whatever that means. But in your case, there are more than just empty platitudes at stake. You can’t swim across the ocean, and if you try, you’ll probably drown. I don’t want you to drown, and that’s a pretty big unintended consequence of ‘sending the right message,’ don’t you think?”

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