Tag Archives: Hercule Poirot

Logical Gal – what about meaning?

6 Jun


I read an essay that mentioned truth and meaning in the same sentence.  I stopped, realizing that I had never thought about the distinction between the two.

Truth is pretty straight forward in its definition, even though volumes of ink and print have been invested in battling over whether true exists.

I’ll spare you the churn- it does.


Truth is that which exists, that which corresponds to reality.  It’s not  a case of – YOUR truth or MY truth, nor is it  – True for YOU and True for ME.

So without showing the reasons for the assertion that TRUTH is objective reality  (other posts have done that – just click on the tag labelled ‘truth’ along the lower right side of this blog), l will move on to something that IS more subjective, and that is ‘meaning‘.

In talking with my husband the other night, we reasoned our way to the following:  meaning is a way to describe the impact of reality ON a human.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City has organized and streamlined Christian doctrine into a set of 52 questions and answers  – New City Catechism.  One of the questions asks: “What does the resurrection mean FOR me?”

That one little preposition ‘for’ is key.  I thought about how the bent of the question would be significantly changed if one were to substitute the preposition ‘to’ in the place of the 3-letter one.  What something means FOR me is completely different from what it means TO me.  I can be wrong about what a piece of reality means to me.  However, when you say something has meaning FOR someone,  a follow-on question quickly surfaces……meaning FOR me ACCORDING TO WHOM OR WHAT? 

In the arena of the New City Catechism, the authority supporting those answers is the Bible.  But there are plenty of other authorities in life.  For example,  I can imagine a scenario where a teenager might query her parent:  What does this curfew mean FOR me?


and the parent might respond: The curfew means a limit which carries consequences TO you should you violate it.

So the concept of meaning follows on FROM truth.  And it varies according to authority.

  • The next question that then occurs: Do WE have authority over meaning for ourselves?
  • What about those poor souls who announce  – “Life Is Meaningless! ?


I’m thinking that the only response one could offer would be to ask them the questions:

  1. How do you define ‘meaning’? 
  2. From whose point of view is ‘life meaningless’? 

They might be intending the concept of ‘meaning’ to refer to teleos (the Greek term for purpose) – that is design or ultimate end .  In that case someone might be a materialist and consider life to be a random interchange of time and matter to have NO ultimate purpose.  However IF there is ultimate meaning FOR someone because ‘someone or something’ created them in the first place, THEN no matter the denial or ignorance of that creating authority, there IS meaning for the person.

Whew!  – I’m getting hungry.  All that thinking burns us the ‘little gray cells’ as our favorite Belgian detective likes to say!

Hercule Poirot

I’ll leave you with the logical next question:  Do you view life as having meaning and purpose?  If so, according to whom or what?



Logical Gal – what makes something true?

17 Mar

Habit with him was all the test of truth, / It must be right: I’ve done it from my youth. -George Crabbe, poet and naturalist (1754-1832)

George Crabbe - Poet

Talk about redefining truth!  You’d think that a rule of life that stupid would be immediately laughed at and knocked down!

But before we ‘go all smug’ on poor Mr. Crabbe’s description of someone’s idea of truth, let’s stop a moment and reflect if we ourselves don’t rely on this fallacy in some version or another.

This Appeal to Tradition (or in Latin – argumentum ad antiquitatemcan take the shape of many habits that are harmful.  Just because something is habitual doesn’t make it healthy or right or lawful.

  • I always interrupt my husband; he doesn’t mind.
  • We always host our in-laws for Christmas; I’d feel guilty if we suggested otherwise.
  • The XYZ minority group are used to our comments.  What’s the big deal?

One of the dangers of relying on and NOT questioning tradition or habit is that you stop thinking through your reasons for doing something.

Tradition Fallacy

Tradition and habit are not bad in and of themselves.  In fact, solidifying some habits can be very beneficial! (i.e. questioning authority, thinking for yourself, verifying sources).  And there is a danger in rejecting an argument out of hand just because it is old.  (that’s another fallacy – Chronological Snobbery)

So how do we know when to hold on to tradition and when to jettison it? I don’t think that is the correct question.  For one thing, someone might continue to observe a tradition because it recalls an event precious to the community linked to it.  Generally, if it works and isn’t harmful and those who practice it are blessed by it, then I can see the value in following it.

But when it comes to giving reasons for why you believe something to be TRUE, then that’s a different scenario.  We cannot appeal to tradition in the place of reason to back up an argument.  Therefore, we’re going to have to ‘exercise those little grey cells’ as Detective Hercule Poirot is wont to say:

Hercule Poirot

  • So whether you find yourself abroad, away from your homeland, having to defend your country’s practices
  • Or whether you are asked to give a reason for why you believe what you do about God and the meaning of life
  • Or even if you are asked to justify your choice of a political candidate, your particular diet, method of childrearing or managing a work crew…..

….then it’s best and more impactful to your questioner if you can give a rational reason for what you do.  Besides, the value in examining why you do something might just be in getting you to discard that way in favor of another.  Do you really want to emulate this man?

Tradtion - John Lennon