Tag Archives: Contradictory Statements

Logical Gal and the ‘good’ life

6 Aug

Good Life - Rob Lowe Cigar Aficionado  “Good” – Once again we bump up against the importance of clarity in our language.

Rob Lowe, apparently, exemplifies someone enjoying ‘the good life’.  To wit, ‘Cigar Aficionado‘  even has a regular feature by that name. Just what IS the ‘good life’?   And what is meant by ‘good’?   The word good is one of those equivocal  terms that refer to different concepts.  The differences in meaning and usage range from-

  • the moral good – John always does what is good in the eyes of God
  • the effective good – This device is good for opening cans
  • the expedient good – What good timing, that John arrived in time to take the children home
  • the good player – John is good at tennis – skilled in a sport
  • the pleasing good – Your dinner tastes good;  the photo is a good representation of me
  • the thoughtful good – It was good of you to stop by with my mail

“Yes, well….what’s the big deal?” you say.  Good question!  (in this case, good means ‘appropriate’). The rub is the time one needs to clarify meaning.   Making distinctions takes time. It’s much easier for person A to be sloppy with terms or accuse person B of a contradiction or even portray person B’s view by means of a strawman fallacy.  (Distorting someone’s argument so you can knock it) Strawman Fallacy

I heard such an exchange the other day when a young Christian man announced that God had contradicted himself, citing several places in the Bible where God claims to show NO partiality:

  • For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deut 10:17)
  • ...because God does not show partiality. (Rom 2:11)

Yet, (the young man continued), God also says that He chooses some to love and some to hate.

  • Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated. (Rom 9:13)

Perceptive young man, he was, but the key to unraveling a seeming contradiction was to clarify the term PARTIALITY. Fortunately for me (and the young man), the pastor reassuring us that there was NO contradiction was John Piper.  He clearly explained that partiality was discrimination based on irrelevant considerations.

For example, if I am hiring the most qualified person to teach French, but overlook someone’s clear lack of abilities and experience because her mother  is my friend, or due to her skill in baking goodies for the teachers’ lounge or because she and I both happened to be  born in Atlanta, then I am WRONGLY showing partiality.

But if God chooses people on whom to show His favor according to HIS wise and good criteria as opposed to how the world judges what is appropriate, then we can still say with assurance that God does not show favoritism.

Just look at how God saves people from every kind of :

  • social strata and
  • people group and
  • age bracket and
  • income level

..and people with differing levels of education and aptitudes and experiences

…and regardless of the crimes they have committed or societal good they have done

These examples surely point to the FACT that God IS impartial.

What good news for you and me.  All we have to do is act on His encouragement….

  • “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22)

Jesus knocking at the door

Do you see the importance of taking the time to exercise correct thinking?  Deliberately parsing out meaning from the different distinctions is WORTH the energy.

Question: What is a seeming contradiction that the ‘world’ tends to showcase, whether in  the political, spiritual or educational arenas? 

Logical girl and seeming contradictions

26 Mar

Most of the time when I encounter what seems like a contradiction, it turns out that just thinking clearly for a few minutes resolves the problem.

If thinking coherently can untangle some issues, why am I hesitant to proceed immediately to exercising my mind?  There are a couple of possibilities:

  • we aren’t used to thinking
  • we haven’t been taught to think
  • it takes time to think
  • how do we know if we are right after having thought?
  • our society doesn’t value the invisible world of inner thoughts.  Americans are pragmatists. It’s a DO this….3 EASY steps…..whatever WORKS…culture

Penseur

If someone isn’t DOING something, they are labelled as lazy or as dreamers.  So we avoid thinking, for lack of immediate visible payoff.

But there’s the rub – without clear and logical thought, we can be left with invalid ideas.  And ideas have consequences.   Actions flow from ideas, whether accurate or not.

So much for my detour into why we don’t think.  All that was to explain how pleasantly surprised I was to see an apparent contradiction melt away as I listened to a man think out loud.

The conversation fragment centered around God’s tendency to act differently throughout history AND yet still retain the attribute of unchangeability.  At first the one might seem to preclude the other.

God doesn't change

But listening to this thinker go deeper, I learned otherwise.  God is just, that is, He does what is always right.  THAT is the the quality that doesn’t change.  But as any parent knows, acting correctly toward one’s child looks different at each stage.  The parenting response might change, but the quality of fair and correct discipline and training need not alter.

Protective Parent

 

So a parent can still be considered consistent yet act differently and appropriately at each stage – as can God.  So when some people casually toss off the quip,”I prefer Jesus to the God of the Old Testament,” they are actually communicating that God has changed or there are 2 different Gods.  When you hear that, just ask them WHY?  But be gentle as you lead them to consider how they themselves might respond differently in various situations YET still be considered loving or fair.

My hope is that NEXT time I meet another apparent contradiction, I’ll pause and reflect first before drawing any conclusions.

 

Question: What about you?  what contradiction bothers you?

 

 

“That’s a contradiction!” – are you sure?

30 Jul

So…how does knowing the Law of Non-Contradiction help in real life?

Remember we said that according to this DISCOVERED law (it’s built into the fabric of our universe by God as opposed to invented by culture):

 A & non-A cannot both exist at the same time and in the same way.

Consider this pair of statements:

  • ·         Susie is pregnant
  • ·         Susie is not pregnant 

Now we have to be careful and not automatically ASSUME that this is a contradiction. Two propositions that LOOK contradictory could in fact be explained…….

1.    If we mean that Susie Jones is pregnant, but Susie Smith is NOT pregnant (2 different Susies)

2.    Or if we mean that Susie is pregnant with many good ideas, but Susie is NOT pregnant with child (pregnant as an analogous term – referring to different but related concepts)  

But if we are talking about the one and only Susie Smith and we understand the predicate term ‘pregnant’ to indicate about to have a baby, then….

·         They cannot both be true OR false at the same time and in the same sense.

In Christianity this law of logic helps me sort out my theology.

My favorite attribute of God is His sovereignty.  When we say that God is sovereign, we understand God to be 100 % in charge of all that happens, the good and the bad.  I’m not saying that I understand this characteristic of God, but I am comforted by it!  (If God allows suffering and evil, then He must have a good purpose for it even if I can’t see that…yet!)

Therefore, because of the Law of Non-Contradiction, when I assert that God is always sovereign I cannot say:


God is sovereign

But

God had no control over that deadly train accident in Spain.     

That would be saying:  God is sovereign over all/ God is NOT sovereign over all

Either God IS sovereign or He is not, if I take sovereign to mean that He controls all molecules in the universe.

What we have to do when hit with confusing statements that seem irreconcilable is to ‘translate’ them, if possible, into A and non-A forms.  Then we can evaluate them clearly.

I say, ‘if possible’ with this caveat in mind – you might run across an either/or claim –

·         God is either all-loving or He is a God of wrath.

·         You’re either pro-choice or you are anti-women.   

If you can’t ‘translate’ the 2 predicates into an A and a non-A term, then you might be facing the Fallacy of Bifurcation (aka ‘false dilemmas’).  We’ll talk about that on our next Fallacy Friday!

Back to the above assertions – If we wanted to deal with that first claim, we’d have to re-frame it and then discuss terms.

·         God is either all-loving or He is not all-loving

·         You’re either pro-women or not pro-women

 Your HW for the next few days is to keep an ear out for ‘either/or’ claims and try to determine if they are in fact contradictory or perhaps examples of the False Dilemma fallacy or actually TRUE!      

When a valid argument feels wrong – Logic to the rescue!!

29 Jul

So what do you do when someone’s argument is in the correct form, but you know that there’s still a problem?  

In a previous post I asked you to ‘draw’ out this syllogism:

All roads lead to Rome

Old Cabin Cove is a road

Therefore, Old Cabin Cove leads to Rome

Here’s what it should look like where BOTH the outer red square and the blue circle represent P1, and P2 is represented by the red X within the blue Roads circle.  We can CLEARLY see with our eyes that Old Cabin Cove is situated within the larger red square, “Things that lead to Rome”

Things that lead to Rome

As you can tell visually, the conclusion does not overreach the scope of the two premises P1 and P2. The syllogism IS, therefore, in the correct form and is considered VALID.  But our work does not end there.  You can FEEL that something else is wrong.

Anecdotally, I live on the gravel road, “Old Cabin Cove” in Western NC and I can attest that it does NOT lead to Rome.  It leads up a forested hill to our house and stops there!

What do we do then, with this valid syllogism?  We examine the truth of each of the 2 premises.

  • Let’s start with P2: Is ‘Old Cabin Cove’ a road?  YES! – no problem there.
  • Now for P1:  Do all roads lead to Rome?  NO!  Here’s the problem.  You already knew that, but what is illustrative in our simple example is this:  to DISPROVE an ALL or ‘A’ statement (also called a Universal Affirmative)  find ONE counter-example.  If there is JUST ONE single solitary road in the universe that does NOT lead to Rome, then the statement, “All roads lead to Rome” is false.
  • Why?  Thanks to the Law of Non-Contradiction which states that “A and non-A cannot both be true in the same way at the same time”.  Therefore we can’t say:  All roads lead to Rome and Some roads do NOT lead to Rome.
  • But we CAN say that Some roads lead to Rome and have that be a true statement.  (By the way, it takes only ONE road leading to Rome to make it true that ‘some roads lead to Rome’)

Back to our syllogism – if we want true premises, then we have to modify them to reflect reality:

P1   Some roads lead to Rome

P2   Old Cabin Cove is a Road

Tf……NOTHING!!!! –  we CAN’T conclude that Old Cabin Cove leads to Rome. It might and it might NOT.

Just like in our previous ‘cat and cuddly pets’ syllogism, our conclusion cannot reach further than P1 and P2, even if both of the premises are TRUE.  Here’s the sketch of what that would look like. We simply do not know where to place our X representing Old Cabin Cove.

Old Cabin Cove and Some roads

In our next post, I will share some real life examples of how knowing the Law of Non-Contradiction can help evaluate an argument you might read or hear.

What is Truth?

9 Jul

You don’t have to work so hard!

I’m talking about how to show that someone’s ‘big fat general statement’ is false.

Last time we talked about the beauty of the Law of Non-Contradiction.  Simply stated, 2 contradictory propositions can’t both be true or both be false AT THE SAME TIME and IN THE SAME WAY.

For example:

           All MacDonald restaurants look similar.

To ‘prove’ that this proposition is false, all we have to do is offer ONE counter-example:

           Some MacDonald restaurants do not look similar

(In fact, the other day on a trolley tour of Asheville, North Carolina, the guide pointed out a MacDonald’s sporting a grand piano and the strict architectural façade of Biltmore Village.  I had to do a double take. Was there REALLY a grand piano in a fast-food place!!!!  Yep! )

Today, I want to address the OTHER contradictory pair affected by the same Law of Non-Contradiction, the E/I pair.

What am I talking about with these capital letters?

Propositions are different, one from the other, based on their quantifier (how many of the subject.)

Logicians use 4 letters to represent the 4 possible propositions:

A = All S is P (where S is the subject term and P is the predicate term)

I = Some S is P

E = No S is P

O = Some S is not P

These 4 letters come from Latin:

·         Affirmo (the A and the I)

·         Nego  (the E and the O)

Thus we get: A, E, I, O. One pair is: A & O and the other comprise the E & I propositions.  This pairing tells us what we have to do to show a statement to be true or false.  If from real life, we can come up with the contradictory partner to what someone has said, then we KNOW that their original statement cannot be true simply because of the Law of Non-Contradiction.  Here’s a table to show the color-coded pairs:

A

E

 I

O

On to our E and I pair:

I just read in our local paper an emotional letter to the editor.  The author lashed out with a statement to this effect.

          No one should tell women what to do with their bodies

Let’s put that in logical form so we can see the terms.

No people are people who should tell women what to do with their bodies.

This is an E statement:  No S is P (we can tell from the NO)

The subject term is people and the predicate term is people who should tell women what to do with their bodies.

According to the Law of Non-Contradiction, the above proposition is in fact true unless we can find a counter-example that is an I statement. (its contradictory partner)

So, if we can think of at least ONE person who should be allowed/able to tell women what to do with their bodies, then the original statement is false.

If we can’t (or if there are none), then we have to reason that her E statement is likely true.

So, I toss the ball in your court, is the writer correct?