Tag Archives: Equivocal terms

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 Gal – words must be precise

12 Feb

There’s the fallacy of fake precision and then there is LACK of precision.

You know how much I love distinctions.  I also enjoy the fact that very different concepts can be represented by the same term, thereby causing confusion.

Take the little preposition ‘of’: it’s simple enough. But its power lies in an ability to change the meaning of the word that follows.

I recently understood this in a discussion of the phrase: “the righteousness of God

Here are two possible meanings –

  • righteousness that has its origins IN God – it proceeds from God
  • righteousness that is an attribute or characteristic of God – one of His qualities

Likewise, the ‘fruit OF the Spirit’ can refer to characteristics of God the Holy Spirit OR qualities gifted to us FROM God the Holy Spirit.

Although related, these two meanings are dissimilar in the doctrine that can proceed.  In one case, you have to work, if you want that same quality; in the other definition all you have to do is RECEIVE.

Words have consequences.  But more than an unintentional mix-up in equivocal meanings, sometimes people love to hammer one particular definition to their benefit, no matter if its appropriate.

If you want to see a segment of people who are bull-doggedly dedicated to a concrete precise and specific use of words, look no farther than argumentative adolescents.  They often will hold an adult to the literal meaning of an utterance.

But YOU SAID, ‘I don’t want to hear anymore that you have had another run-in with your math teacher’  – All I’m saying, Mom, is don’t listen to what my school is telling you!” 

What YOU the parent meant was for the child NOT to get into a dispute with the teacher.  But the child is clinging to the literal meaning of the term, ‘ hear’.  Oy vey – youth!

To end this treatment of precision on a lighter note, I offer a philosophical use of precise terms.  In French, there are two words for ‘second’.  Deuxième refers to 2nd in a list of other ordinals where 2nd is NOT the last in the series.  If one means ‘second and final’, then the French use ‘second‘.

So when a Frenchman wants to imply that the war in the 40s was the world war to end all wars, he employs, “La Seconde…”  but if he does not choose to infuse this communication with that sense, he will use, ‘la deuxième’.  I find those word-based cultural insights compelling!

Question:  What precise words are YOUR favorites?

Logical Gal makes some distinctions

15 Nov

When you explain that your request is REASONABLE, what do you mean?  

Are you suggesting that it is supported by sound reason?  or rather that what you are asking is not too demanding?

Many terms have several meanings.  When the meanings point to entirely DIFFERENT concepts, such as:

  • a pitcher of water
  • or a baseball pitcher

…we call the terms  EQUIVOCAL.

The term ‘reasonable’  then, is equivocal.

Another category of terms are considered analogical.  These kind of concepts are related, so that they share something in common, but there are differences.  Something can have  a straight edge and you can also refer to unembellished news like this:  “Just give it to me straight!”   They both share the sense of NO TURNS.

In our current society, there is a term that can be taken in two different, but related ways.  I’m referring to the idea of GUILT.

If I were to ask you,What are you going to do with your guilt?“, I can guess with a high probability of being correct, that you would take that question to be directed to your FEELINGS of guilt.  So you might respond, “I don’t feel guilty, and if I eat too much chocolate or I hurt my neighbor’s feelings, I take care of those matters right away!”

But that’s not the guilt I’m talking about.  I mean, the actual offenses that each one of us accrues daily.  There is a sentence of guilt that grows larger and larger the longer we live.

The Bible teaches that our guilt is our major problem.  Hourly, we offend a Holy God.  And one day, we will appear before Him for sentencing.  That is the ‘weightier’ concept of guilt that I think Americans often skip right past.

So you see? –  gaining clarity about terms is REALLY  the first responsibility of a logical Joe or Jane. And clarity requires thinking.  And thinking requires TIME and effort.  Inertia, laziness, routine, apathy all war against our commitment to think intentionally.  But this kind of effort is worth it.  After all, one’s eternal destination hangs in the balance!