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When is a ‘fallacy’ not a fallacy?

26 Apr

“Just because it’s ALWAYS been that way doesn’t mean it HAS to be!”

Have you ever heard that remark?  Likely it comes from a person who doesn’t approve of a current rule or practice.  And it’s a true statement.

The ‘is/ought’ fallacy teaches us to watch out for people or books that assert something like:

  • This square baking dish is what Grandma used to bake her prize-winning meatloaves
  • Your meatloaf is too long for the dish
  • Therefore, you had better cut off one end of it to fit the pan.

But is that the only option for the next generation of meatloaf makers?  Since this pan IS the tool Grandma used in the past, does it follow that we OUGHT to use it today, in all circumstances?

No!  That is a perfect illustration of the ‘is/ought’ fallacy.  Just because something IS a certain way, doesn’t mean it OUGHT to be.  The ‘duh’ solution to the meatloaf is to find a larger pan!

But sometimes the truth requires an OUGHT to flow from an IS

I thought about this yesterday, reading about today’s ‘nones’, those nominal church-attenders who might have identified at one time as Christians.  Given the rapid upheavals in western society, they no longer see a benefit to attending church.  Yet some of them claim to be spiritual.  What they mean is that they don’t discount the immaterial. They just prefer to choose and select their own beliefs and practices.

What they DON’T subscribe to is a God:

  • who is personal
  • who requires His followers to submit to His authority

According to these ‘pickers and choosers of the spiritual’ the way God IS does NOT impose an OUGHT.  They would cry, “Fallacy!”

Why object to any ‘oughts’ flowing from a reality?  That’s easy!  Who wants a God who requires SOMETHING from you? The only way to reconcile a demanding God with one’s autonomous wishes is to deny such a God exists.  Voilà!  then no obligation remains. It can be inconvenient to believe in a personal God who:

  • creates and sustains EVERYTHING that exists and therefore is the rightful ‘owner’ of all
  • makes human beings in His image with the capacity for a personal relationship with him
  • as originator, has the RIGHT to require certain responses from his creation

Americans, of all ‘1st world’ people, are a peculiar bunch.  Their nation was birthed in rebellion.  They see themselves as a people who exercise self-government and ones who cherish individual rights.  Their national DNA pulses with that 18th century symbol of an angry snake ready to strike:

dont-tread-on-me-meaning

So what do we logical Janes and Joes do with this assessment?  Just keep the distinction handy in your toolkit.  What people criticize as a fallacy might not be. We’re called to pause and think and question whomever makes a claim.  And if you are a Christian logical Joe or Jane, more is expected of you.  God, through the apostle Peter, calls His children always to be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in them, but to do so with GENTLENESS and RESPECT for the other person (1 Peter 3:15).

Question: What other ‘fallacy’ out there might not always be a fallacy? 

 

Just because something IS, does that mean it OUGHT to be?

28 Sep

is-ought-fallacy  Given the breathless rate of societal upheaval in America these past 2 years, the IS/OUGHT fallacy seems to be the modus operandi of the current ‘Culture Nazis’.

What do I mean by that?

First of all, to set the stage for this failure in reasoning,  here is where I see this kind of fallacious thinking popping up.  People seem to believe and argue for a narrative that goes like this:

  • This relationship exists (IS), therefore it ought to be authorized (OUGHT)

In short hand – If something exists, it should exist.

But is that true? And if so, then on what basis?  What grounds or serves as a foundation for this premise and conclusion?

If my two-year old granddaughter makes a scene when her parents deny her every wish, should she throw a tantrum just because that is her ‘natural’ or default response?

Just because she screams, should she scream?

Can we say that something is wrong or right?  Or is personal preference what supports our decisions?

A toddler’s self-centered outburst is small potatoes compared to what culture is claiming as reasonable.  Consider the following if/then conditional premises that follow this is/ought line of thinking:

  • If two people love each other and feel their relationship deserves official recognition, then they ought to have the freedom to marry with the state’s approval
  • If a person born a biological male feels better acting like a female, then he should be acknowledged as a female

What’s the difference between those is-ought statements and the following?

  • If a person feels like she is very overweight, but her appearance belies her feelings, then she should be treated as overweight (this is the way she is as she defines reality, then others should accept her preference)
  • If a person claims he can operate a motor vehicle and consume marijuana, then he should be allowed to do so  (this is his self-evaluation, therefore we should accept it)

The first two affirmations are now accepted by a segment of our US population.  The last two claims more folks might question.  But the reasoning in all 4 if-then statements is the same.

Should we really make decisions about what is good, right, beautiful and acceptable based on what occurs naturally, what we prefer or what we feel?  Many would say unequivocally YES!   When we balk at submitting to authority we do so out from a desire for self-rule or AUTO-NOMY.  ‘Who gives YOU (or society, or the church, or God!) the right to tell me what to do!’

When a people no longer submit to law or when the law becomes watered down so that it can be stretched to mean whatever one wants, then anarchy ensues.

Even if my country is becoming unmoored and applying false reasoning to justify personal preference, Christians have an authoritative foundation to guide and ground their decisions.  What a relief.

As a Christian, my parameters of what is the good and acceptable are detailed in the teachings and commandments of God.  He is my creator and I belong to Him.  So I defer to His wisdom and His wishes for me.

Many Americans seem increasingly to prefer a decision-making model that leaves them like drifting ships with no anchor.  In reality, without any authority in their lives they are actual prisoners of their temperamental or fickle feelings.

Who wants to live with this life rule?: “What IS today IS my truth and I OUGHT to be accepted by everyone.  And I reserve the right to adjust how I feel and act for tomorrow. My opinion and preference is how I define my reality.”