Tag Archives: Truth Claims

Blue-haired old ladies or reasoning from experience

5 Oct


mimi-with-blue-hair-and-maria-age-8  I was at my hairdresser the other day and our conversation turned to her many regulars, mostly old ladies who come weekly for a wash and a set.  I told her about Mimi, my grandmother, and her blue hair.  How she never seemed to be pleased with the color each time she came home from the beauty shop.

I then casually asked Lisa, “You probably don’t even know about blue hair for little old ladies!”  She came back right away with, “Oh, yes I do!  In fact, I regularly have blue-haired elderly clients.”

After recovering from my shock that blue-haired OLD ladies still existed, I decided to spring that news on my middle school students.  My ‘show and tell’ venture, using the above picture, brought many questions.

I think because I could produce a photo, no one boldly proclaimed, “Well, I’ve never seen a blue-haired little old lady.  I don’t believe you!”

But that is exactly how most people identify truth in our culture today.  Unless they have personal experience of something, or have heard about it from their friends and contacts, they don’t believe it.

Kind of arrogant, don’t you think?

What makes someone think that he can trust his experience and personal knowledge enough?  Does not that seem a bit presumptuous to dare to declare a universal truth, one that applies across the board?  Are you that infallible?

In logic, there are statements or premises that, if true, apply to all members of the subject of the premise.  We call that a ‘universal’. An example is:

  • All men are mortal

If this statement is true, then every member of the ‘man’ family must be mortal.

If this feature does not apply to every single unit of the subject, then at most one can say:

  • Some men are mortal

The same logic laws apply to the negative versions of these statements:

  • No men are mortal is a universal assertion
  • Some men are not mortal is a particular premise

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of us are relying on self-centered sloppy thinking in making truth claims. Consider the following types of generic statements:

  • “I’ve never heard of X.  I just can’t believe X exists.  For surely, if it did, then I would have encountered some mention of it?”
  • “No one I know of thinks that.  I don’t believe it.”

That’s as ridiculous as us saying, ‘I’ve never experienced echolocation (bees use of magnetic cues to travel), so I don’t believe in it.’

Or, ‘I’ve never seen God, so He isn’t real’.  Allegedly one of the Soviet cosmonauts boasted like that upon returning from orbit.

And just this morning I read a Tim Keller quote.  He’s pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan: “Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one.”

As our American culture polarizes more, may we be slow to proclaim these sweeping universal generalizations with a tone of authority and pursue the more humble reasoning of the particular.

I don’t want to be like the little boy in CS Lewis’ mud pie example, taken from his essay The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”



Logical Gal extols “First things, first!”

14 Oct

The wisdom and simplicity of ‘First things, first’ hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was listening to a discussion between a Christian and an agnostic/atheist.

The non-Christian started to list many evils done in the name of Christ.  The Christian graciously stopped him with this simple question: “Before we look at both the good and the bad actions of those who call themselves Christians, would it be okay with you if we look first at the claims of Christianity?  After all, Christians affirm many different events and statements about a historical man in 1st century Palestine who claimed to be God.  If those claims don’t prove to be true, it’s a certain waste of both your time and mine to go any further in our discussion.”

How brilliant is that!!!  And it’s logical.

Peter Kreeft, in his book Socractic Logic, describes what he calls ‘three aspects of reality’: terms, propositions and arguments. Remember that terms are either clear or unclear (ambiguous), propositions are either true or false and arguments are either valid or invalid.

So, in keeping with the ORDER of logical thought, we need to determine the truth or falsity of  propositions BEFORE we start to proceed via argumentation into implications.  Claims are going to be either true or false.  They can’t be both and there is no other alternative.

My impatience to jump into explaining my point of view has cost me frustration AND time.  And no doubt I have used up much good will in certain relationships.

Employing simple principles of logic and clear thinking benefits all of life!