Tag Archives: marriage

Meaningful definitions require boundaries

19 Oct

human-animal-stem-cell-research

Scientists at the National Institutes for Health apparently are talking about lifting a ban on research that would co-mingle human stem cells with animal embryos.

Human-Animal Embryo Stem Cell Research

Listening to a discussion about this back in August, the commentator who mentioned this new development posed the question:

  • What does it mean to be human?  If you have 99% human DNA and 1 % ‘other’, are you still considered human?

In other words, “How do we define the term, HUMAN?”

What came to mind was how TODAY, we seem to be playing fast and easy with definitions.

Two examples come to mind:

1a. Tolerance once referred to the restraining civil behavior between two or more people who held and articulated differing and/or contradictory beliefs and positions.  If you think about, one doesn’t tolerate what one find acceptable, one AGREES with it.  By definition, the ‘classic’ view of tolerance presupposes contrary views.

1b. Tolerance today seems to require that a ‘minority, despicable viewpoint’ be shut down, shamed and disbarred from the discussion table.

The term has remained the same, but the concept has changed.

2a. Marriage once referred to the legal union between one suitable (not a close relative) man and one suitable woman of appropriate age.

2b. Marriage today refers to a state-granted status that recognizes a two-person, gender-indifferent union with the same legal rights of a married biological male and female.  (A temporary quantity and constituent view – down the road who knows how many humans and what/who else might fit into this new definition!)

Logical friends, definitions matter!!!

These are but two current examples.

Think about other terms in the area of religion, for example:  God’s love, Faith in God or Prayer.  These ALSO seem to stand for a multiplicity of concepts.  So what exactly is the relationship between TERM and CONCEPT?

First of all, a concept is the immaterial idea of something one pictures, the image of which one holds in his head.  A concept can indicate something real or imagined like a tree or a unicorn. A term is the written or verbal name we give to that concept.

Terms can be confusing because the same term can refer to different concepts.  Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason teaches that before ANY discussion about a topic can ensue, two people must clarify and agree on the definition of terms used.  Conversational partners must know and state the concepts they have in mind when each employs a term.

So back to those religious terms I mentioned. Today, in Christianity, people seem to talk with ease and certitude about ‘the love of God’ or they announce: ‘I believe in God’ or ‘I pray’.  We cannot assume that they and we are picturing the same thing.  As the fox in Le Petit Prince says ‘Words are the source of misunderstandings.’

As the social climate across the literate world grows more fractured and sharp, logical and reasoning men and women CAN make a difference by gently asking the clarifying questions that will guide others to think about what they mean.

Who knows?   In bringing a concept to light, in employing the discipline of articulating WHAT WE MEAN, someone or even we ourselves might decide to modify what we believe. Not a bad result. For thinking is never wasted effort or time.

 

 

Logical Gal and the audacity of an adjective

1 Jul

Adjectives

Adjectives were boring until Saturday.

That’s when I learned about the power they employ.  I’m sure you can recite along with me the same answer…

  • to this question:   What is the function of an adjective?
  • and the answer is:  An adjective modifies a noun

So what’s the big deal? It’s that verb ‘to modify’ – so innocuous!

The speaker at the weekend conference who got me to consider adjectives was a former English professor (does anyone STOP teaching English?).  In her talk on Saturday she explained that the function of an adjective was to CHANGE a noun.

That startled me!  Switching from the familiar verb ‘modify’ to the more powerful synonym  ‘change’  set off a small explosion of  implications that coursed through my mind.

Change - Angel of death

Not all adjectives drastically alter a noun.  For example, take the phrase  ‘stay-at-home dad‘.    The man is still a ‘dad’, whether he is the primary care giver for his children or not.  Adding the adjectival ‘changer’ doesn’t detract or add from the ‘pure’ definition of the concept ‘dad’.  But what about that old term women (and men!) often used 40 years ago when they felt ashamed of being a stay-at-home mom.  Someone came up with the phrase ‘domestic engineer’ to be used by a mom/wife desiring to lend gravitas to what she did every day.  Did anyone REALLY think she was an engineer?  Only in the euphemistic sense.  I am guessing that few Engineering Schools or departments teach courses on running a household.

Domestic Engineer

 

*

Why is this important, the playing around with adjectives?

Because how we define institutions and groups figures prominently in the news these days.  Marriage, faith and politics are not neutral topics of little import.  The rhetoric is intense and emotions are high.  Words matter, especially adjectives.

Question: What striking example can you provide of an adjective changing the original or ontological sense of a noun? 

 

Scrabble - every word counts

 

 

Logical Gal and the State’s interest in marriage

19 Mar

I revisit the marriage debate that is very much present in our culture and courts. 

Marriage Debate

How do you even begin to tackle this issue?  Where does one wade in?  Like any emotional and complex issue, the questions are often more important than the answers.

Taking the time to think and formulate questions requires patience and resolve.  Too often I have succumbed to the temptation to jump right in with my point of view (backed by reasons, of course .)Smiley Face - small

Had I resisted that first impulse and taken the time to prepare the field of reasonable discussion with the fertilizer of clear terms and thoughtful questions,  my results perhaps would have been better.  At least they would have turned out differently!

Questions - asking good ones

Hence, my interest was piqued when I heard an excellent question framed this way.  For the sake of focusing just on the questions, I am skipping any term-clarifying work that should always take place.   On to a jump-off question:

When someone is defending the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, a first question could be this:

  • For which essential public purpose does the State licenses marriages? 

That is a brilliant question because it takes marriage out of the realm of ‘love’ and ‘rights’.   It focuses on the fact that the State actually has chosen to care about marriages enough to regulate them.  Why would the State even do that?   After all, the State doesn’t care about where I go to church or who my friends are or even which career I choose?  Why marriage?

It turns out that the State and our entire society have a very compelling interest in marriage. Research shows Report about what serves children best that AS A GROUP, AS A RULE and BY NATURE, a hetero-sexual couple in a long-term stable relationship, caring for and raising their own biological children provide the best environment for those children to grow up to be responsible, healthy and functional citizens.  The next generation IS society’s # one resource. Society won’t continue without succeeding generations of adults who can take on responsibility!

The question advanced serves to focus the discussion away from the emotionally charged question of love because it is irrelevant to the State.  As the man discussing this strategic question on the radio remarked, when he and his fiancée applied for a marriage license, the question of whether they actually loved each other was not even on the application form! That isn’t important to the State.

Marriage License App

I was struck by the simplicity and power of one question.  The ability to focus the discussion away from emotionally charged areas allows for fruitful and rational discussion.  No one denies that love is important to 21st century Americans.  But that is not something the State needs to be concern about!

Further Thought – What powerful clarifying questions have you encountered?

Logical Gal and why your major premise matters

20 Jan

Premise 1 – All exercise benefits the body

Premise 2 – Stretching is an exercise

Conclusion – Therefore, stretching benefits the body

The major premise is the first one listed above, in this example:  All exercise benefits the body

The way deductive logic works is this: if the major and minor premises are TRUE and if the syllogism conforms to rules for correct formation (validity), then the conclusion is both predictable and true. Without going into any further discussion about validity, I want to focus on WHY one’s major premise, in general, can have a weighty effect on one’s conclusions.

Consider a married couple who trust each other.

Let’s imagine a situation where it’s reported to the husband (Bob) that his wife has been seen having some tête-à-tête discussions with a man.  The implication is that maybe the wife (Sue) is having an affair.

Depending on Bob’s major premise about his wife and their marriage, his conclusions will be different.

Possibility # 1:

Overarching presupposition or major premise:

Premise 1:  (overarching major assumption) My wife is faithful to her word and her commitments and loves me completely

Premise 2: (the circumstances) – But she has been seen with another man

Conclusion: since I know that she is a faithful gal and loves me, there must be a good explanation for who that other man is.

Here’s the other major premise and subsequent conclusion

Premise 1: My wife might not be totally committed to me or to our marriage

Premise 2: She’s been spotted talking with another guy

Conclusion: She probably is cheating on me

Do you see how what we do with new information depends on the contexts we hold?  Same circumstance in both cases – the wife is seen meeting with another man.  The conclusions vary due to the original major premise or pre-supposition.  Sometimes we are not even aware ourselves of the assumptions we carry with us.  They are implicit, subconscious.  But they powerfully affect our lives!

Just for fun, what could be possible scenarios that would explain Sue’s conversations with a strange man? Maybe she was talking….

  • with a craftsman to plan a special birthday gift for her husband
  • with a potential care-giver for her aging father
  • with their son’s new soccer coach about his skills

If we move into a more spiritual plane, how might our pre-suppositions about God affect our reactions and conclusions to disappointment, illness or acts of violence we encounter in life? Have you ever met someone who claims that God must not be good or all-powerful if He lets evil happen?

Their major premise probably goes something like this:

God is good and almighty if He answers my prayers according to my desires

Question: Have you ever drawn a conclusion about someone or something that turned out wrong? How did your assumption or major premise impact your conclusion?

Illicit logic

19 Aug

Now that I have your attention, on with validity!

Last time we chatted about ‘distribution’ of terms.  If a term is distributed, then what we mean is that we’re referring to ALL members of the subject or ALL those the predicate could possibly address.

For example in the proposition No carrots are sweet, we are saying something about ALL carrots and something about ALL ‘sweetness’ as a predicate.  So carrots and sweet are both distributed. 

If we posit……. Some boys are strong, then the terms boys and strong are undistributed because we are talking about only some of the set of boys and only some of the set of strong things.

Why do we care whether a term is distributed or undistributed?  I’m glad you asked!

Remember that we must be precise with our words.  We must not give the impression of ALL if we mean only SOME.  To say that ALL pre-teens get to stay up until midnight is a lot different than SOME do.  Since terms and their quantifiers build propositions which in turn build arguments, accuracy is important.

Often people over-generalize in order to make a point.  We, the recipient of the argument, need to be aware of quantifiers (the all, some, no, some..not) or we’ll be HAD!!!

On to rule 3 of how to test whether a syllogism (argument) is valid (i.e. in the correct FORM):

Rule 3 – if a term in the conclusion is distributed (applies to ALL of a term) , then it also must be distributed in the premises.  This prevents over-reaching conclusions.

To determine whether a term is distributed/undistributed we label our terms by the position they occupy in each of the 3 propositions and in the syllogism itself.  Here is our ‘DUDUs and UUDDs’ chart again from last time.

Subj

Pred

A(all)

D

U

I (some)

U

U

E (no)

D

D

O (some…not)

U

D

 

Some satisfying relationships are happy

Some satisfying relationships are marriages

Tf, all marriages are happy

 

Labeling our terms, starting ‘bottom up’ with the conclusion, we get:

 

Premise 1 –     Some satisfying relationships(Mu) are happy (Pu)

Premise 2 –     Some satisfying relationships (Mu) are marriages (Su)

Conclusion –   Tf, all marriages (Sd)  are happy(Pu)

 

S = subject term is marriages

P = predicate term is happy

M = middle term is satisfying relationships

U = undistributed

D = distributed

 

Rule # 3 states that if a term is distributed in the conclusion, then it has to be distributed in the premises.  We find that marriages IS distributed in the conclusion; however, where the subject term marriages is located in P2, it is NOT distributed because Premise 2 is an “ I” statement (see chart above).

Therefore, we say that the syllogism is INVALID because it violates rule # 3 (of 7 altogether), committing the Fallacy of Illicit Minor (one can violate the minor or the major term.)

Just pronounce the word ‘illicit’ in a class of 8th-graders and you have their instant attention as they wait to hear about SEX!!! 

So I have explained to my rapt class that the term ‘illicit’ means NOT allowed or unlawful.  What we are NOT allowed to conclude is that every single marriage is happy JUST because SOME satisfying relationships are happy and marital ones.   That conclusion goes FARTHER than the information given in premise 1 and premise 2.

Next time we will talk about a fallacy called FUM, where the middle term is undistributed.

In the meantime, as you read and listen to arguments, ask yourself if the conclusion drawn is valid or invalid according to Rule 3.   If you run across an egregious and interesting example, please share! 

What is Chili?

11 Jul

    

Terms matter! 

Once when we were engaged to be married and were visiting my parents, Mom prepared a tried and trusted entrée she thought Mike would like – chili!  The only problem was that she left out the kidney beans!  My fiancé, who was less than tactful, remonstrated, “This isn’t chili – it has no beans!”

Was he correct?  It depends on how you define ‘chili’.  (Why did she omit the beans?  She was probably distracted by the presence of her articulate and handsome future son-in-law!)

One of the fundamental laws of thought is called the Law of Identity.  It’s pretty intuitive: a thing is the sum of its component parts, characteristics (or ‘predicates’ to be technical) and NOT something else.

Let’s suppose that you define ‘chili’ like this:

·         Chili is a thick soup or gravy composed of meat, beans, tomatoes and seasonings

What happens, then, if you leave out or add something to this ‘soup or gravy’?  According to the Law of Identity, it is NOT ‘chili’.

Such a rule or guideline is useful in all kinds of conversations.  When we talk with people, our first responsibility is to get clear what they have in mind when employing a term.  So we ask them:

 What do you mean by ‘chili’?”

          or

 “What exactly is ‘chili’?

Being clear and precise about the definition is important. If you add or take away a defining component, you have changed the thing whether it is material (concrete) or immaterial (an idea).

When I engage in conversations about controversial items like prayer, God, marriage or even Christianity, I CANNOT assume that the person with whom I am talking defines the term in question the same way as I do.  This Law of Identity is basic!

For example, if I mean by marriage the historical and biblical definition:

a covenantal relationship recognized and supported by society between one qualified man & one qualified woman for the purposes of companionship, love, mutual support and the raising of children if possible

….then taking away or adding a part changes its identity.  It is no longer ‘marriage’ but something else!  That is fine, but we should be honest.  Fuzziness doesn’t help anyone.  Such equivocating with terms allows people to hide.  No progress can be made toward establishing meaningful conversation and/or solving problems.   

What concepts do YOU see in everyday life that are ‘allowed’ to stay fuzzy?