Monday, April 29, 2013

Off-Topic: A Few Words On Logic

The real reason to adhere to logical rules when engaging in discourse is respect. In any debate, there must be some rules, without them real discourse is impossible. Logic is, for me, those rules that help ensure that debate is morally grounded, as much as anything else. The either/or fallacy, for instance, makes it possible for someone to cut off debate from a great number of people by making a particular issue about one of two positions. "Religion is either about morality or it is about nothing." What about those who think religion is about happiness, or truth, or any other number of things? Are they just out in the cold now? Why is their position reduced to 'nothing'? Pointing out logical fallacies is not rude, it is a way to stop rudeness. If you speak in contradictions, then you have cut off my ability to respond. I cannot really say anything at all, in response to you.

Yet the world does not fit into nice logical little boxes, either. There may be times when our language cannot be used to express an ideal exactly, but must rather kind of 'point' to the idea behind the language. Sometimes I have to kick the ladder of logic aside, to paraphrase Wittgenstein. The important thing is to be up front about what game one is playing. If I have left logic aside, I cannot demand that I be taken with the same precision as when I am being strictly logical, nor can I expect my words to have the same air of authority or certainty. It is being honest about when one is dialoging and when one is pontificating. Sometimes no interlocutor is being addressed, or imagined. Yet even here, one must be careful. There are some fallacies that should never be committed, the example given of the either/or being one example. Not because they necessarily get one closer to the truth, but just because they are plain rude.


  1. Ok, the false dichotomy is rude. What does that matter if the facts are that people are looking at us and deciding whether or not to come and join us based upon our actions and affects in the world?

    Calling out the logical fallacy may be necessary between people, but I don't see it as helpful in the matter we were discussing.

    People are choosing to avoid denominations because of the affects they are having in the world. Yes they may be missing out on Truth and Life but the fact remains that they see the theology of a denomination having little impact on its affects on the world. Whether it is a poorly formed decision is not the point. The problem is that increasingly Christian denominations are being judged on their fruits in this world and found wanting.

    That seems to be the real issue, not whether or not they are using proper logic to set up the decision. If they are using faulty logic, fine, then how do we approach them?

  2. All stripes of people can commit logical fallacies. Scientists do it, atheists do it, theists do it. Everyone does it. They do it with impunity. They do it without care for the rules of logic at all. Logic as the rules of the discourse is dying. It's sad. Think about it like this: if people don't care about the rules of discourse, then you can't even get to the point where you can convince them of anything at all, either way. A critical thinking, basic logic, or basic philosophy course in high school would go a long way, I think, to helping society.

  3. Since you bring up the subject, I agree that helping people should be central to our community, in a way it is not now. Movements need to develop, like mission trip movements, adoption movements, and simple kindness movements. However, we need to be able to articulate the connection between our theory and our action. What difference does believing make? That's the central question. That is as much a theoretical as a practical question.