Logical Gal and The Law of Identity

30 Sep

If in a game of trivia,  you were put on the spot to offer ONE quote associated with Bill Clinton, most of you would shout, “It depends on what IS is!”

Words do matter.  And terms are verbal or written words that describe the essence of a concept.

The Law of Identity is useful because it removes wiggle room when people start playing loose with terms.

Considered one of  3 foundational Laws of classical thought, the Law of Identity goes like this.

A = A

A ≠ non-A

An apple is an apple….an apple is not a non-apple.

So…..?(the best 2-letter word in the dictionary!) what’s so deep about that?

The Law of Identity can help us think about very current and controversial topics.

Take marriage

At its most basic level,

Marriage    =/is     a contractual relationship between one man and one woman that is consummated by sexual intercourse

The Law of Identity stipulates that what is on the left of the =/is  (the Subject)  is the same as what is on the right of the =/is   (the Predicate)

So if we take away or add or change any part of the description (the predicate), then we don’t have marriage.  We have described a DIFFERENT concept and we need to use a different term.

Here’s another example:

A bachelor is an unmarried man

Change the predicate and you don’t have a bachelor.  You have something else.

So before you engage in endless debates, clarify the terms.  The Law of Identity prevents the Fallacy of Equivocation, which is playing loose and fancy with terms.   It’s a way to start untangling difficult issues.

3 Responses to “Logical Gal and The Law of Identity”

  1. Michael Cochrane September 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    The only problem with the marriage example for the law of identity, is that there is no universal agreement on the predicate. It’s pretty hard to equivocate when you’re talking about the notion of an unmarried man – there’s nothing controversial there, regardless of one’s definition of marriage!

  2. roblazar October 1, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    Except when that man is married to his job.

    • Maria October 1, 2013 at 7:59 am #

      Touché! And that’s a good example of using a term analogically!

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