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Assumptions surrounding logic

27 Jan

While listening to Al Mohler  (Link to his discussion here) explain the backstory to a recent Supreme Court decision affecting those on death row in Florida, I was struck once again about the importance of language.

supreme court

Words matter.

Obviously eight of the 9 justices in the photo assumed that as much. The wording of the 6th amendment to the US Constitution declares that a defendant is entitled to “….a public trial, by an impartial jury of the state….”.  The majority opinion of the Supreme Court argued that the words meant what they said.  The fact that Florida judges alone had the power to impose the death sentence (based on the recommendation of the jury) violated the sense of the language of the 6th amendment.

Al Mohler then drew the connection between how one reads the written text of the US Constitution and the Bible.  Either the words mean what they say or we open the gate to anyone’s interpretation.  And chaos ensues and words lose the power of meaning.

Language-based logic is the same.  Before we even examine and analyze a syllogism to determine whether it is sound, we have made an assumption:

Words matter!

Take the following sample syllogism:

Premise 1:All wood is a substance containing carbon

Premise 2: This stick is wood

Conclusion:  Therefore, this stick is a substance containing carbon

Logical Joe’s and Jane’s have to agree on what each term means.

  • Does ‘all’ unequivocally take in every member of the category of wood?
  • Does ‘wood’ represent the set of hard, fibrous materials that form the trunk of a shrub or tree*?
  • Is carbon only the chemical element represented by atomic number 6*?

*definitions based on Apple’s Mac dictionary

We ‘assume’ that words representing terms refer to a specific concept.  If that is not our starting point in logic, then we might as well abandon all reasoning.

But as my husband pointed out when we were discussing this necessary pre-supposition, another complication exists.  We can agree on the clear sense of a term YET once set in a proposition or even a clause, meaning grows complicated.

Take just a snippet from the Pledge of Allegiance:

“…with liberty and justice for all.”

Initially one can agree on individual concepts of liberty and justice in isolation. The term ‘all’ appears messier. Distinctions must be made, so we pose some clarifying questions:

  • does ‘all’ refer to all citizens or all those residing in the US?
  • and if all residing in the US are intended, do we need to differentiate between those legally residing and those who are not?
  • are we talking about all humans only?  Are the unborn included?  Are the mentally and physically dependent included?

Once we initially sort out terms, what happens next?  Other questions arise.  For instance, if we consider just one other term, the concept of ‘liberty’, what does the GUARANTEE of ‘liberty’ protect one against? How far does it extend and do I, who am included in the ‘all ‘, get to define liberty to suit my needs?

I’d love to say, “Let’s just go with the plain reading of the text!”  But I have to concede that a careful reading of any writing requires clear and focused thinking.  That’s why there will always be a need for diligent and thoughtful lawyers, judges, theologians and logical but ordinary men and women like us.

The challenge is great, but worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

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 asks: Will you go to heaven?

22 Jul

Eternal Life

God does NOT want you to be in the dark about whether you will be with Him eternally.

John writes this assurance  to believers :

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Well, is that it? Do you feel better now?

Wait a moment, you say.

John’s statement IS a powerful promise IF….

  • We clarify some key terms – ‘believe’ and ‘the name of the Son of God’
  • We flesh out the promise, by formulating a syllogism

Just the basics of logic, right?

So what does ‘believe’ mean when it comes to Christianity?  If we substitute the word ‘trust and rely on‘ for believe, we come closer to the sense of the concept.  A Christian is someone who trusts what Jesus says, Jesus being in essence God himself. (I and the Father are one – John 10:30)

What did Jesus say?  that He came to suffer the punishment we deserve for our rebellion against God and that He came to live a perfect, obedient life which gets credited to the account of His true followers.  It’s an unbelievable 2-way exchange.  Our guilt for His righteousness. Both sides of that swap ARE the necessary work that enable us to be adopted as children of God.

Name of Son of God

Now what about His name?  That’s easier to understand.  The name represents His character and functions.  Just glance at the image above and you’ll get an idea of just WHOM it is that Christians trust and rely on!  So when someone announces,  “I believe in Jesus!” one should ask this question: Whom actually are you talking about?

Mormons refer to a Jesus who is the spirit-brother of Lucifer and was born the way you and I were born, through a sexual union.

And then there are Muslims who deny that Jesus is the Son of God or that He actually died on the cross.

Those characterizations do not fit the Christian Jesus, the eternal and perfect Son of God. Words, obviously,  can mask a great deal.

*Now for a syllogism to lead us to an assurance of salvation:

Premise 1: All people who trust and rely on the Biblical Jesus for both standing in as deserved punishment bearer AND for living a perfectly righteous life receive eternal life with God

Premise 2: Joe is a person who trusts and relies on the Biblical Jesus for…..

Conclusion: Therefore, Joe knows/is certain that he has eternal life with God

Is that it?  Well, there is a pre-supposition lurking and these are always good to uncover in ANY argument.

Gods word is truth

Yes, one must believe that what is written in the Bible IS truth.  So then the promise as recorded by the apostle John at the beginning of this blog post is reliable and valid.

Just a word of encouragement for you if you are a believer who at times doubts his or her ultimate salvation.  We can’t go by feelings OR our behavior.  The Bible does not say, “If  you FEEL close to God, or if you DO all that God wants you to do, you will go to heaven.”

Remember, there is a spiritual force of darkness whose goal it is to deprive you of  KNOWING you are saved.  He is called the Father of Lies and the Accuser.  We must choose whom to listen to.

Question: If you are a Christian, what is holding you back from resting in the security of belonging to God?