Tag Archives: Aristotle

Is this true?

14 Dec

“Virtue is the happy medium between two extremes.” La vertu est le juste milieu entre deux vices.

I read Aristotle’s advice in a post by an American woman living in France.  And it caught my attention.  At first blush, it seems ‘reasonable’.  Who wants to argue with avoiding extremes?

But then I thought, what if both the extremes are irrational?  Wouldn’t that indicate that all the points in between were as well? Would it follow that virtue be found half way between the two extremes?

For example:

Either you can spend all your time playing video games or you can spend all your time pursuing extreme sports.

Would Aristotle really advocate spending HALF one’s time amusing oneself with virtual reality and the other half with high-adventure?

Just a few moments of reflection provide evidence that life is BEST lived in reflecting deeply.  Unfortunately we are a rushing culture, one apparently content with oft-meaningless sound bytes.  A good number of people don’t take time to think and reason. Pondering takes leisure, curiosity and time.  Recall that the classical definition of leisure has little to do with ‘free time filled by activity’.  Instead it’s a “spiritual and mental attitude, a state of inward calm, contemplation, serenity and openness”

A new year is coming and if you are the resolution-making kind of logical Joe or Jane, how about challenging yourself to eliminate one extra-curricular activity in your week to make room for some guilt-free sitting and thinking. Your body and soul would certainly benefit and maybe your neighbor as well!

Logical Gal muses about naturalism and homosexuality

6 May

When was the last time you walked a premise or position as far as you can, applying with consistency all aspects of the ‘stand’?

I’ve been thinking about naturalism, that way of describing our universe as a closed system. Built into this worldview is the fundamental belief that nothing exists beyond the natural or physical. I’ve also considered the theory of evolution.

I’m not a scientist, but what I understand about evolution is that organisms reproduce but sometimes with random mutations – a descent with modification.  If the change promotes self-continuation, also called being ‘good’ for the species, then the change continues.  If the change weakens the species in some way, systems that promote ‘survival of the fittest’ kick in. This built in self-regulatory guidance is a way to explain how nature will take care of ‘mistakes’.  And these ‘mistakes’ are just the changes that turn out to be not ‘good’ for the species.

Evolution thoughts

As you might attest yourself, claiming that something is ‘good’ all depends on what you mean by the concept of ‘good’.

It USED to be that most folks could say without pause that ‘good’ or ‘bad’ fell into the arena of ethics and philosophy. Aristotle wrestled with what constitutes our highest good and how that plays into virtue, especially excellence. And Judaism and Christianity have long defined ‘good’ as aligning with God’s character.  Our Creator is good and He created us in His image to BE good as well.

But according to atheist Sam Harris, the concept of ‘good’ is more akin to an effective chess move, a change that will win the game.  So in baseball, to say that a batter is ‘good’ would be a way of describing his ability to hit the ball so as to bring in the most runs.

This idea of what I’m calling ‘natural goodness’ (as opposed to ‘ethical goodness’) has some interesting ramifications for the theory of evolution and the phenomenon of homosexuality.

I want simply to raise a few questions.  Addressing them will take more time.

  • If the process of evolution envisions species self-optimizing, then how can homosexuality be good for the species?
  • Isn’t reproduction the goal of a species?
  • And if species survival IS critical, then why are certain 21st century societies willingly bringing on ‘PAN-upheavals’, that downplay the propagation and nurturing of the next generation?
  • How many Americans are actually gay?

Just a quick on-line search produced reports that document a lower-than-thought percentage. Studies show that in fact only 2 % of the US population self-identifies as gay, although some have dabbled in same-sex attraction. Link to Atlantic Monthly article

Final question:

  • How can naturalists and those who support the theory of evolution maintain that promoting homosexuality via mandated government policy is GOOD for a society, since it doesn’t encourage the continuation of our species?

Just thinking…..

Supreme Court

Logical Gal dismantles those pithy rhetorical punchlines

3 Mar

Rhetorical Devices

Sometimes an opponent will zing out a line so clever, so smooth that you swallow it whole and wonder what hit you.  That’s the power of rhetoric.

Not all rhetoric is bad.  In fact, if you want someone to be persuaded by truth, you have to package it, or present it with rhetorical skill.  Aristotle taught his students how to employ effectively LOGOS, ETHOS and PATHOS.  The logos is the actual content, the ethos is a combination of the accuracy of both YOUR authority/credentials or those of the experts you draw upon as well as the quality of your character. Finally pathos is the ‘why you should care’ factor.

But long are the days when an audience listened patiently as an orator skillfully presented a case. Today, in our sound bite culture, we swing snatches of words.

So how does a Logical Joe or Jane parse out one of those ‘fly-by’ explanations that masquerade as arguments?

Sound Bites and Slogans

Last week we took apart the clever line, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary explanations!” (see preceding 28 Feb 2014 post)  Today I would like to address a criticism against God as He is presented in the Bible:

How is eternal punishment for a temporal crime fair?!

At first glance it doesn’t seem fair.  This question is short enough for someone to thrust out there, pause and just let settle in.

The seeming injustice comes from our idea that a punishment should fit the crime.  So we must actually think a bit deeper.  The responses I heard today in a podcast interview made sense.

I offer them as a way to get a handle on a sensitive and difficult issue.

First, time of punishment v. time it took to commit the crime is irrelevant.  How long does it take for a speeding bullet to kill an innocent person?  Yet if convicted, a criminal may spend a lifetime in prison.

Second, whom the crime is committed against makes the difference.

Let’s say one person slaps another.


In the first instance, a big brother might get TIME OUT!…. as a punishment.

But what if an employee slapped his boss?  The stakes would be higher.  I’m pretty sure he’d be fired on the spot!

Well let’s suppose a more risky situation.  You’re at the White House for a State Dinner.  As you approach the President in the receiving line to shake hands, you haul off, intending to slap him. Probably even before your hand neared his ear, you’d be wrestled to the ground and hauled off to jail and charged with something serious.

Do you see what is happening?  The severity of the crime DEPENDS  on the one it is committed against.

So now let’s consider the Creator of the entire universe.  One of His created beings whom He lovingly fashioned in His image rebels all his life and refuses to have anything to do with the One who gave him life. Despite messages and countless ways to get his attention, God’s overtures are ignored or even scorned.

Just like citizens cannot expect to ignore a court summons and get away with it, neither can we turn our back on God and not expect a consequence.

Yes, eternal punishment is categorically different than life in prison, but God the Creator is in a different class all together from any created thing or being.

It takes some time to think through pithy lines, but it’s worth it.  The more we practice the skill of thinking, the better we get at it.

Question:  Which arguments are you having difficulties unraveling?