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Presuppositions and discontent

3 Aug

Premise:

Most women at my age and stage in life have retired from full-time work

Conclusion

I should be retired from full-time work

Like most teachers who are relishing their summer sabbatical, I’ve been struggling with not wanting to go back to school in August. Turning 59 has added weight to my annual reluctance return to the classroom.

Here’s the problem:

Christians are called by God to be content in all the situations He places them. So on top of my longing for permanent summer, I recognize this grumbly attitude is sin. In essence, I’m saying to God: Your assignment for me is wrong!

As a logical gal, I’ve been working to reorder my thinking. This labor has borne fruit.

It dawned on me the other day that besides the missing first premise, I have an unspoken presupposition. Let me order my though process and fill in for you AND me what was just floating in the back of my mind:

Presupp: Retirement is both good and normal in America

Premise 1: Most workingwomen in their late 50s retire from full-time work

Premise 2: I am approaching 60

Conclusion: It would be both good and normal for me to retire NOW!

In articulating what lay behind my ‘unmet expectation’ I saw the problem!

Where did I get the idea:

  • that God’s plan for his people is to retire?
  • or that retirement is actually GOOD for me?

The point of this? Thinking through and pinning down just what grounds our feelings enables us to analyze whether what we believe is in fact TRUE.

Besides, I should know better than to indulge in that kind of discontent. God has built up a track record of meeting my needs. The most recent occasion when God came through was last winter when my husband dealt with some health issues. The verse I clung through some real suffering was Psalm 84:11:

 No good thing does the Lord withhold from those whose way is upright.

 That fact and promise allowed me to trust God’s character and plans for us when Mike was ill.

Startling, isn’t it, that until now I hadn’t transferred over God’s Word to my job as a 10-month schoolteacher.

If I am still ‘having to’ teach at age 59, then it must be because God considers it GOOD for me.

And with that, I can begin to anticipate with a lighter heart the good He has planned for this new school year.

How do you know you exist?

13 Jul

Penseur  The math whiz and philosopher, René Descartes, sought to clarify his doubt and his knowledge.  So he pushed back as far as he could to what he could know for sure.  Most people can quote part of his argument:

I think, therefore I am

As many of you know, he left out the major premise.  No ‘doubt’ that it resided in his mind, but seemed too obvious to mention.  That’s the nature of an enthymeme, an unspoken premise or conclusion.

For example:

Sally pipes up with enthusiasm: I invited our neighbors to join us this Saturday for a picnic in the park!

Sam responds sourly: Great, now we can count on it raining this Saturday!

What’s the unspoken premise?

  • It always rains when we plan a picnic in the park!

Back to Descartes and his implicit assumption supporting ‘I think, therefore I am’

It has to be: All creatures that think exist.  So the complete syllogism would look like this:

P1 – All who think are

P2 – I think

C – Therefore, I am

What brought to mind Descartes’ foundation for knowing or epistemological basis for knowledge was a different origin for the assurance of one’s existence.

While listening to a podcast, I heard an African Christian talk about what anchors him in life. He talked about community as being this source.  He explained:

  • Because the community is the primary building block of humanity, each of us derives his or her own sense of self

His enthymeme would go like this: We are, therefore I am!

And by fleshing it out with the implicit major premise, we have:

P1: If there is a communal unit, then individuals can fully have their being

P2: There is a community in which I a recognized member

C: Therefore, I exist as a full human being

Thinking about and contrasting Descartes’ individualistic enlightenment view with this African brother’s sense of himself as part of a larger group strengthened my growing view that it is not good for man or woman to be alone.  After all, the one true God is a community of 3-in-1, a Triune Happy Godhead.  And if we are made in His image, then to feel fully alive and to function with health, we need to anchor ourselves in community with other people.

I need not be intimidated by famous thinkers and learned philosophers.  The simplest of men and women often are the wisest.

 

Logical Gal – Our major premise affects our eternal destiny

1 Apr

The pastor employed tight logic to make his point about who gets to enjoy eternity with God after death.  A simple 3-component syllogism (2 reasons leading to an assertion or conclusion) could summarize his core teaching.

Eternal life with God

Here is the syllogism with just the minor premise. (When we don’t explicitly articulate any of the 3 parts of the syllogism, we have an enthymeme).

Premise 2 went like this:

P1

P2 – I’ve led a horrible life of evil that would shock you if you knew

C – Therefore, I …….

What I found interesting was that the conclusion would vary depending on the first or major premise!

What possibilities exist?  There might be more than these 2, but let’s look at the polar opposites:

  • All those whose performances and record on Earth meet God’s standard are ushered into heaven with God
  • All those who ‘call upon the name of the Lord’ (Romans 10:13) are ushered into heaven with God

Do you see what I mean?  The pastor’s point was that the one who despairs that his wicked, wasted past has totally disqualified him from a forever life of fellowship with God doesn’t understand the Biblical God.  And if he insists that his past is too dark and unworthy actually puts HIS despair and past in the sovereign place of God as being supreme.  It’s arrogant to insist on one’s ability to trump God.

God has so set up the ‘system’ that only those who accept His offer of mercy as a gift are welcome.  That way, no one can take credit for either

a) being sorry enough for one’s past

b) being good enough to qualify for Heaven

The pastor’s encouraging sermon grew out of this syllogism:

P1 – All those who call upon the name (the character) of the Lord, regardless of their past shall be saved

P2 – Even though I am wicked beyond measure, I am calling on God to save me.

C – Therefore, God will welcome me into His Eternal Kingdom

Easter

May you find rest for your soul this Easter, based on both his sinless life and the righteous work that Jesus did on the cross. He has paid for those evil thoughts and deeds of His children and God and met every standard of righteousness during his time on earth. Therefore, God is just to embrace those who take up His righteous offer of mercy.  Be at peace!

Logical Gal at the movies

13 Aug

AI the movie

We’re enjoying re-watching some ‘thinking’ movies from the past.  Once you’ve screened a film for the plot line, you can go back and catch the deeper layers. AI or Artificial Intelligence has some dialogue worth pondering.

David is a proto-type robot child who is programmed to ‘love’ after a bonding sequence his ‘Mommy’ (human who owns him) initiates and follows. He responds to her eyes, voice and actions with uncanny human-like qualities that mimic true affection.

In one scene David  is challenged by the family’s REAL son to cut off a locket of Mommy’s hair.  The guile-filled biological boy frames it as a game and orders David to play. We follow the innocent David sneaking into the parents’ bedroom, scissors in hand.  The suspense builds to the predictable moment when Mommy wakes up in horror to see David with sharp edges in hand hovering over her face.   But in momma-bear mode,  she attempts to soft-pedal the event when the horrified dad comes out with this logic:

If he can love, then he can hate!

And after one more innocent event that casts David in a false light, the dad makes the decision to rid themselves of this too-advanced tech addition to their family.

*

Let’s practice some clear logical thinking by taking the dad’s announcement above and analyzing it.  This exercise will reenforce what we should do ANY time we encounter someone’s position which doesn’t seem quite right.

So what do we have in the dad’s pronouncement?

  • a conditional major premise, what we call an ‘If, then’ statement.
  • an enthymeme – one explicit part of an argument or syllogism and 2 missing parts that our minds fill in easily.

Here’s the completed argument:

Premise 1 (the major premise):  If David can love, then he can hate

Premise 2 (the minor premise): David has shown that he can love

Conclusion: Therefore, it is logical to believe that David is also capable of hating

There’s a law in logic that goes like this:  if the first 2 premises are true, then the conclusion MUST be true in a valid argument (valid means that the argument is in the correct form) 

The above syllogism IS valid because Premise 2 affirms the first segment of Premise 1 (called the antecedent). I ask you, then, is this analysis cut and dried?  Are the two premises true?

Well, the movie clearly demonstrates that David loves.  He is a machine.  He is programmed and built to act lovingly and to have that love increase (grow) in response to his one human ‘bondee’ (one human who initiates a short programmed sequence of words enters into a ‘bonded-for-life’ connection with the ‘mecha’ i.e, the robot).  In the photo below, Mommy places the fingers of one hand behind David’s neck and reads a sequence of words, cementing the bonding.

Bonding between David and Monica in movie AI

But the error in Premise 1 lies in its presupposition.  The dad has humans in mind when he assumes that love and hate go hand in hand.  And for those created in God’s images, id est all of us, that is true.  We have been given a certain degree of free will.  We GIVE our love and we RETAIN or hold back our love.  Or else it is not true love. (What a risk God took! But He evidently WANTS the pinnacle of His creation to love Him freely). The downside in creating a machine that imitates a loving human is that the owner of the ‘mecha’ deceives himself in thinking the machine really DOES love him. If he stops and THINKS, the machine is merely following a program, however complex it may be.

David loves Mommy, acts and speaks with tender, servant-like affection because he can do nothing else.  This is not true of humans.

*

Let’s shift back to real life.  Deep movies are satisfying because they offer us food for thought.  We can practice our logic skills in a safe environment when we discuss a film’s premises and conclusions.  Then we feel more prepared gently to question someone in our circle who advances a conclusion that might not be sound.

Vive le cinéma profond!

Question:  What is your all-time favorite deep movie?  What is a premise we could analyze? 

Logical Gal and Syllogisms everywhere

7 Apr

Bird Syllogism

I don’t always see what is right in front of my eyes.  It’s that common experience that occurs when you notice what was present  all along.

Today I was reading the last sentence of the book of Judges in the Bible.  It goes like this: There was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.  (Judges 21:25)

The commentary mentioned that the author of the book meant to communicate Israel’s need for a king who was powerful enough to enforce God’s laws.  Had I not read that explicit conclusion, I would NOT have connected the 2 sentences: a) no king b) chaos as people live life as they please.

My first response to the commentary is ” Well, duh!  Thanks for bring this to my brain’s attention, because my brain (ever in self-protective filter mode) had not seen the connection.”  As it turns out only when there is extra LIGHT given to some facts do we notice the details, the nuances, the relationships.  I had read that passage numerous times.  It is also an oft-quoted observation of errant people wandering far from God.

I mentioned that thought to my husband and he responded, “Well, there’s a syllogism, for you!”  And his addition of critical thinking brought more light!  Here was a 1st degree enthymeme.  What was missing was the major premise.  The Judges passage stated the following:

  • the 2nd or minor premise – No king in Israel was reigning and enforcing the Mosaic Law
  • the conclusion – Therefore, no people followed the Mosaic Law but did what they wanted

It was then easy to construct what HAD to be the 1st or major premise:

  • All kings in Israel reign and enforce the Mosaic Law

Mosaic Law (10 Cs)

Once you know the structure of a syllogism,  you can spot arguments in toto or in fragments.  Understanding the structure not only gives you a sense of where an argument should go, it also provides NEW information that might not have been so apparent at first glance.

Ah, the usefulness of logic!

 

 

Logical Gal spots same premise but different conclusion

2 Dec

It’s just a dog!

One married couple:

  • Shared major premise
  • Different minor premises that each contained the idea, ” It’s just a dog!” 

= opposing conclusions

= marital spat

We’re faced with our old friend, the enthymeme.

An enthymeme is the articulated part of a whole syllogism whose other premises are implicit and  unarticulated, but very much present and influential!

His argument went like this:

You should grant me my small, minor requests that are important to me

This particular small, minor request regards getting rid of JUST a dog

Therefore,  you should get rid of the dog!

Her argument went like this:

You should grant me my small, minor requests that are important to me

This particular small, minor request regards living with JUST a dog

Therefore, you should get used to living with the dog

Whose desires prevailed?  Let’s just say they are still married and learned a lot from navigating the small but important issues in a covenant relationship!

Logical Gal and the difference between objective terms and subjective values

4 Nov

Last time I wrote (post dated 1 Nov 2013),

I asserted that terms were by nature objective since they are descriptive of what is.

One of the laws of the universe (no human made this up) is called the Law of Identity.  An apple IS an apple.  All the attributes on the left of the IS add up perfectly to what is on the right side.   Add or subtract one of the attributes and you no longer have an apple.

I asserted that the definition of TRUTH is straightforward – It is that which corresponds to reality.

So where do values and opinions come in to play?  Can they be subjective?

Value statements depend on the presuppositions behind them.  Presuppositions are the assumptions we make that are often hidden.  But they totally influence our conclusions, our values!

Change the presuppositions and you alter the sense of the conclusion. Presuppositions are sometimes unarticulated in a discussion.  When you have just a partial argument, it’s called an ‘enthymeme’ because the missing parts are implicit.  

“You’ll get fat!”   when fleshed out could be part of a syllogism that looks like this:

  • Eating chocolate 3x a day causes people to get fat – (Presupposition)
  • You’re eating chocolate 3 x a day – (Presupposition)
  • Therefore, you’ll get fat – (explicit enthymeme that showed up just as conclusion)

Getting fat is a fact, it’s truth.  What I mean is:  ‘adding a pound of fat to your body‘ is what might be corresponding to reality  But again, depending on one’s values, being fat is either a sign of ill health, or a sign of prosperity and beauty. (Think of Rubens’ artwork!)

 

The fact of adding fat is the truth – it’s objective.

But what it means is relative and subjective to the one creating the proposition.  In the conclusion above, the proposition being asserted is this:  You (subject) are doing something that will cause you to get fat. (predicate)

That proposition is either objectively TRUE or FALSE.

It’s subjective sense is, however, relative…..relative to the assumptions/presuppositions one holds.

Clear thinking requires the use of tools and the time to employ them.  Asking questions and parsing out terms from propositions is one tool.  Teasing out the implicit ideas behind the propositions is another.  Be a diligent detective.