If all you have is a hammer …


… everything looks like a nail.

AKA “the law of the instrument” or “the golden hammer”, this saying or variants of it has been around a long time. Like many aphorisms, it’s instantly recognisable. But does it scale?

Taking it at the literal level, if the hammer you happen to be wielding is Mjolnir, is it really that limiting to categorise the entire world into two sets of problems: thumpable and not-thumpable? The numbers of actual things that are not thumpable are pretty small when your mighty instrument can level entire mountains. Of course, if everyone else has a Mjolnir, the world becomes more complicated.

On the other hand, what if the tool is pretty flexible, like a computer for example? Not everything can be reduced into something computable but as a supporting instrument, it seems that our computers have become quite the essential tool.

Going up a layer of abstraction, what if your tool happens to be an approach to life: it could be analytical, philosophical or even spiritual. It could be a mix of all three. On some levels, it seems that this is the most flexible tool you could have – after all, everything else springs from your approach. But if your viewpoint is locked down and rigid, then it can also be the least useful tool.

What happens if all you have is you? What does everything look like?

3 thoughts on “If all you have is a hammer …

  1. Matthias,

    Welcome to the site 🙂

    You know, I have no idea what you mean in your comment but it sounds very much like a koan.

    Lucky hit as in lucky socio-economical circumstances? Certainly our ideology is shaped by our circumstances and that we feed back into our circumstances in a sort of loop.

    Unless we can somehow break out of it.

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