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  • Writer's picturegarysjordan

Is the Glass Half-empty or Half-full?

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

2022-11-15 [updated 2023-03-30]


"Is the glass half empty or half full?" is a proverbial phrase, used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for pessimism (half empty) or optimism (half full), but there are other view points too, like realism (if poured out, half empty; if filled up, half full, but it is only a point of view), or as a litmus test to simply determine an individual's worldview. The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that a situation may be seen in different ways depending on one's point of view.

The question calls for a binary response while the situation is not at all binary. For example, the correct answers are not "Half Full" nor "Half Empty." The correct answers are either "Yes, the glass is half-full or half-empty" or "No, the glass is neither half-full nor half-empty," For one thing, you have to know what is meant by "full." Are we talking about the level at which addinfg a drop overflows the glass, or are we allowing some lesser volume to be designated as full? I own some "12-ounce mugs" and some "12-ounce" Styrofoam cups, and they each and severally accommodate twelve ounces of liquid with a bit of room to spare.

Although you can certainly drink from a measuring cup or a graduated cylinder or even a pipette, people don't routinely do that. (I am not people. I used to drink from a two-cup Pyrex measuring cup all the time, until I broke it.) The point is that unless you measure the amount of water, you're just guessing whether it's half of capacity. It's that guesswork that permits people to ascribe optimistic or pessimistic attitudes. Note that the wiki speaks of vector quantities as well as scalars. If the level is going down to empty, it's halfway there. If going up to full, it's halfway to that goal.

Humor sites will have other points of view. About other POV:

“This is the most important lesson you must learn about magic,” Miss Ochiba went on. “There are many ways of seeing. Each has an element of truth, but none is the whole truth. If you limit yourselves to one way of seeing, one truth, you will limit your power. You will also place limits on the kinds of spells you can cast, as well as their strength. To be a good magician, you must see in many ways. You must be flexible. You must be willing to learn from different sources. And you must always remember that the truths you see are incomplete.” - Wrede, Patricia C.. Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic Book 1)

They say that a realist will simply note that it is half a glass of liquid. A curmudgeon will complain that he ordered tea or cola, not water. A bureaucrat will state that the glass is too large for the amount of liquid and the glass budget is being wasted. Scientists (chemists, physicists, and so on) will tell you that the glass is full - 1/2 liquid, 1/2 gas (air), 100% fluid. Don't tell them it's in a vacuum. You'll get an explanation that water will evaporate (so will the glass), and the glass is still full, though the density of the vapor in the gaseous region is extremely low.

The pragmatist, of course, drinks whatever's there and says it's empty and can he have some more? And those are all valid ways to look at it. There are others.

Some years back, I wrote a humor piece called Gary's Three-Step Process. I thought I put it on LiveJournal. I can't find it there. It's possible I posted it to FaceBook. I've long since deleted that account. It was in the form of an infomercial, and it promised that if you followed my patented three-step process, you'd never again worry about how much water was in that glass. It ended by telling you not to look for quick fixes and please pass it on. Maybe I'll re-write it someday.


2023-03-29 - Someday has arrived

Looking through my LiveJournal archives for “coffee cup”, because as everyone knows, those porcelain coffee cups that come with saucers are actually five ounce containers, I came across something I wrote years ago, inspired by a debate about the cup-half-full/half empty conundrum, and no, a conundrum is NOT a forty-eight ounce coffee cup from 7-eleven but yes, this WAS a run-on sentence.


Filling The Glass

an “Infomercial”

Friends, do you worry about whether your cup is half full or half empty? Well, don’t. I mean it, don’t. Follow my patented Three Step Process and you’ll never have to worry about the state of your container again!

You see, many of you out there are concerned that your mug is running dry, that there won’t be enough for you when the time comes. Others are concerned that the tumbler holds too much and you won’t be able to lift it. But follow my Three Step Process and you’ll come to realize it’s not about the glass! It’s about the process!

That’s right, friends, it isn’t whether you’re a winner or a loser, it’s whether you’re game to try my patented Three Step Process. If you are, your stein will always be filling, and you’ll never have to worry again. Before we talk about the absurdly low price of my Three Step Process, let’s talk to Gloria and hear her unsolicited testimonial.

Thank you, Gary. Before I used Gary’s Three Step Process, I was the kind of person who not only thought the cup was half empty, but the cup was too small to begin with! Now, I don’t worry about the size of the glass. My cup overfloweth, and it’s the size of a jug! Back to you, Gary.

Thank you, Gloria! Ladies, you too can be like Gloria. If you want big jugs and cups that are full to bursting, just try my patented Three Step Process. And I’ll let you know just how inexpensive it is after we talk to Bruce. Bruce?

Hi, Gary. I was always one of those guys concerned about the size of my glass. Now, after using your amazing Three Step Process, well, you know those movies where the peasant has two huge water skins made from animal hide, balanced on a curvy wooden thing on his shoulders to make it easy to walk? Well, that’s me. Thank you so much, Gary, for your Three Step Process – it’s made all the difference in my life.

You’re welcome, Bruce. Guys, if you want to be well hung with big hairy sacks, just follow my Three Step Process and the yoke will be on you.

So, how much would you expect to pay for my Three Step Process?




Well, I have incredible news for you!

Step 1 – if you thought there really was a three step process and you wanted to buy into it, stop being so gullible.

Step 2 – if you’re laughing now, don’t stop. Laughter really is good medicine.

Step 3 – Share this entry with someone else. Maybe they’ll laugh, and laughter shared is multiplied.

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Nov 16, 2022

I've always though that it doesn't matter whether the glass is half full, half empty, or any other variation. The glass is refillable!

Nov 16, 2022
Replying to

Another pragmatist! ;-)

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