On Christmas this year, I read one of the most famous Christmas novels of all time: Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. This book is so powerful, it constituted a master’s thesis in anthropology in the eyes of the University of Chicago. Countless experts have analyzed this book throughout the past 59 years. Following behind 59 years of thorough analysis, I do not believe I can meaningfully contribute to the discussion of this novel’s themes.
So I won’t.
Instead, it’s the typography of this book allures me. Between each of the 127 chapters are three dots, arranged in a triangle, left aligned with the body of text that follows. The symbol is called an “asterism”, named after the astronomical term for a pattern of stars. Typographers use asterisms to visually cue a break in the text to the reader.
Except, the symbol in the book isn’t really an asterism. Asterisms are constructed with asterisks, and dots are not asterisks. Therefore, this symbol is not an asterism. The symbol is therefore.
No, I did not forget to finish that sentence. The symbol is therefore. In formal logic, three dots in the form of a triangle represent logical conclusion. Read aloud, they are pronounced, “therefore.” For example, “All humans are mortal. I am human. ∴ I am mortal.”
Unlike most conclusions, logical conclusions are absolutely true. If you accept the premises (the statements before the ∴), then you must accept the conclusion (the statement after the ∴) to be true without exception. If there are no premises, the conclusion is always true, no matter what.
At the beginning of each chapter is empty space, followed by the three dots, followed by the entire chapter. As a student of logic, I read each chapter like a logical conclusion. It must necessarily be true, despite the book being fiction. The book that uses lies to comment on lies with more lies, must necessarily be true.
It’s not just the text. The table of contents must necessarily be true. The title, written alone on the fourth page, must necessarily be true. Even the list of Vonnegut’s other works on page three begins with the three dots. Therefore, they must be true. It is all true. We can conclude every statement in this novel without premise.
If I wasn’t a student of logic, then I wouldn’t have noticed this. If I wasn’t a student of logic, then I wouldn’t have dug down a rabbit hole of asterisms and typography. If I wasn’t a student of logic, then I wouldn’t have written this archive, and you wouldn’t have read it. As it happens—“As it was supposed to happen,” Bokonon would say—I am.
The rest are Wikipedia links.