Showing posts with label logic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label logic. Show all posts

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reblog: Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 9

Part 9: Apples, Oranges, and Character Assassination
“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”  — Socrates
Only two fallacies on the docket today, but they are biggies!

Category mistake/error

I’m sure you have heard the term, “It’s apples and oranges.” Maybe you have used it, yourself. When Person A says this to Person B, it might be the case that Person B has made an explicit comparison between two things, in which case Person A believes that the things in question are not sufficiently alike to warrant Person B’s comparison in support of his case. A timely example of this might go as follows:

“Person A: How can you be against same-sex marriage? It’s like being against mixed-race marriages, which everyone knows was bigoted and unconstitutional. Miscegenation laws were repealed and so should bans on same-sex marriage. 
Person B: That reasoning doesn’t fly. It’s apples and oranges. 
Person A: Why do you say that? 
Person B: First, there are no federal bans against same-sex marriage in the U.S.; there just isn’t any legal provision for it. But, more to the point, same-sex marriage and interracial marriage have extremely little in common. There is no difference between a black and a white human being (or any other color), because skin color is biologically and morally trivial. There is an enormous difference, however, between a man and a woman. Race or ethnicity has no bearing on marriage. Sex, on the other hand, is fundamental to marriage, in regards to both reproduction and child-rearing, which constitute the primary, societal purpose for marriage.”

Another way one can commit a “category mistake” fallacy is by implicitly assuming — as evidenced in one or more statements — that a thing belongs to a particular group with certain characteristics, when in fact the thing in question does not belong to said group — at least, not in the proper context (e.g., within the relevant worldview or under the specific set of circumstances being discussed). Therefore, it should not be expected to have those characteristics, and the argument fails.


Again, sorry for the lack of content.  I wasn't able to take classes this semester so I might be able to take some time to write more.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Splitting Hairs Theologically Speaking

I've recently been studying theology as part of my major at Liberty University Online.  I'm currently taking Theology 201 and let's just say, it's been an uh, interesting time.  To me, when it comes to religion I've always been very inclusionary.  Especially when I hear discussions about doctrinal issues in churches that actually drive people away from God, or make people not want to come to church.  That's one of the reasons I've always like apologetics more than theology.  It seems that apologetics is about bringing people together to reason about the things of faith, but theology is about arguing the minutiae about what "[f]or in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form" exactly means.

The reason I bring that particular verse is the subject in theology class for the last two weeks has been Christology.  I won't go into the details, because I'm sure many of you don't care, but even though the class has interesting things to teach me, I don't really like the divisiveness of theology in general.  Take Christology for an example.  It is vitally important to accept that Jesus Christ is God and man, called hypostatic union.  Now, how Christ did so, is called kenosis (κένωσις) that relates to "pouring out" from Philippians 2.  Now, as an amateur philosopher, these ideas pose some interesting problems.  How can two completely different things occupy the same exact space at the same time?  Obviously, nothing is to difficult for God, as Mary was told when she questioned the impossibility of her giving birth.  But, as Prof Kreeft taught in one of his lectures on the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, God is the God of logic and we shouldn't claim God breaks the laws of logic (even though I've thought that way before).

Now, maybe it's just a problem of teaching.  Because as much as I don't like to bash the college from which I'm seeking a degree, I don't feel like there's anyone to explain why these theological puzzles are the way they are.  On that topic of Christology, there was a section in the textbook about the wrong views of kenosis.  One of them said something to the effect of Christ set aside His attributes of deity when He was born on earth as our Savior.  However, according to the text, the "right" view is that Christ "veiled" His attributes of deity.  As I'm reading this section, I couldn't help but think that there's such a fine line there and does it really make a difference?  It's obvious from various parts of the Gospel accounts Jesus is limited.  Like, He doesn't know various facts that an omniscient God would know.  In fact He specifically says, that He doesn't know (Matt 24:36).  So, obviously Jesus didn't have His attribute of omniscience.  But wait, He did have knowledge that no mere man could have.  In several places it's said of Jesus that He knew what was in their hearts or a similar phrase.

All these doubts can be explained in the simple fact that God is omnipotent and nothing is too difficult for Him, as was noted before.  But, that makes this a mysterious concept and I distrust anyone who claims complete knowledge of any detail of these high-level theological questions.  I really have a problem with people who not only claim to have the truth but also reject those that partially disagree with their view.  I talk about this all the time, though I don't see any past entries about this... I really dislike any teaching or theology that drives people away from Christ.

Now, don't get me wrong, theology is important, and it's important to make sure we have definitions that match the teachings found in the Bible.  But, as my dad always liked to say, "let's keep the main thing the main thing."  As part of my studies I think it's important in my life to draw a line in the sand theologically speaking.  Here's an important thing to remember though, while I hold the following list to be true and in accordance with God's Word as revealed in the Bible.  If there's a mistake or a misunderstanding in the following list I can revise it without feeling I've betrayed myself somehow.  Everyone makes mistakes, I could be misunderstanding something and that's okay.

God the Father:
Almighty maker of Heaven and Earth infinite, holy and actively working in the world today.

God the Son:
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, second person in the trinity, coequal with God the Father and Holy Spirit who came to earth as a man.

God the Holy Spirit:
The third member of the Trinity who is always working to convict of sins, persuade unbelievers, and comfort the saints.

The Bible:
God's inerrant Word, His Truths written by men as they were carried along in the Spirit that we might hide in our hearts that we might not sin against God.

The Depravity of Mankind:
All have sinned and no one can save oneself from sin's hold.

Salvation is not by works but only through the saving work of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection.

Resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Jesus Christ bodily rose from the dead on the third day, and it is through that work that sin and death are defeated.

Return of Jesus Christ:
Jesus Christ could return at any moment and His followers should live with that in mind.

Resurrection of the Dead:
Just as Christ rose from the grave and rules in Heaven, believers and all the dead in Christ shall someday join Him in everlasting peace and joy in Heaven.

Church Family:
As followers of Christ we need to be happily and actively involved in a local community of believers.

I've purposely left certain dividing terminology out, e.g. "Total Depravity."  I've recently had a long discussion with my theologian/friend +James Hooks and he makes a powerful argument for Calvinism/Reformed Theology.  But, I still don't see eye to eye with all the views in Calvinism.  Mainly because how it is apparently irreconcilable with the concept of free will.  I'm sure the answer there lies in some different definition of freedom and will, but that still doesn't work with the way I view free will and choice.  I'll save that for a future entry.

This same list is now on a separate tab as I'd like to join with other believers that agree with these statements to join me in sharing through this site.  I've put out the call several times, but apparently no one is interested in sharing.  The invitation still stands, if you agree with these statements of faith, and would like to share your thoughts on my blog I welcome you.  That doesn't mean that I won't host people that disagree with these statements, as I've hosted several entries in the past even from people that I don't really know, including the regular Faith and Philosophy Blog Carnival.  What I mean to say, is that if you would like to partner with me in this blog you'll have to agree with this statement of faith, but if you have something you'd like to share, as long as it doesn't contain any ad hominem attacks or illogical/irrational statements, I'd still welcome dissenting entries.  As the (current) sole administrator of this blog I reserve the right to refuse any entries.  Though I commit to fairly assess any entries and give my response with reasons for acceptance or denial of any entry.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Discovering the Philosopher in You Part 4: Logic: What Is Valid Reasoning?

I'm sorry for such a long time between entries!  If you're following my series, or my blog in general, the last entry was on the nature of truth.  This lecture/entry is on logic and reasoning.  There's a few courses available on this topic available at  As we've been discussion truth is objective in relation to reality, or as Prof McGinn says, "Beliefs are true or false; reasoning is valid or invalid."  So here we are discussion logic in relation to validity NOT truth/falsehood. The best classical example comes from Aristotle, All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal.  The thing I like (and hate at the same time) about logic is the way it can be expressed somewhat mathematically.  The problem comes in knowing what the symbols mean.  I learned about this use of symbols in a class on logic but I haven't really gotten the hang of how to use all the symbols.  This simple lecture from Prof McGinn doesn't really go into all that but I feel it's worth mentioning here.  That classical example would be written something like:

∀ P ⇒ Q     All Ps are Q               All men are mortal
A ⇒ P        A is a P                      Aristotle is a man
∴ A ⇒ Q      Therefore, A is Q    Therefore Aristotle is mortal

If everything of a group has a certain property, then every particular part of that group also has that property.  Also, if one particular thing has a property, then something has that property.  I know it sounds silly and basic, but that's the way it's supposed to be.  Logic, for the most part, is straightforward and basic.

While Prof McGinn doesn't go over that symbolic logic, he does cover the three main classical laws of logic.  As I understand it, they were codified by Aristotle and the lectures refer to them as, "three traditional laws of logic: the law of identity, the law of excluded middle, and the law of noncontradiction."  I don't necessarily agree with this idea as common sensical as it seems, but Prof McGinn says that these laws of logic are inescapable and the even the concept of a universe where these rules don't hold true is inconceivable (you keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it means).  The book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid seems to say that "kōans (公案)" are examples of mankind's ability to step outside this idea that logic is inescapable.  I don't completely agree with everything that book says but it seems that is the case.  One of problems I have is these sayings are just that, sayings.  They may indicate that mankind can think illogically, but that doesn't mean one can escape the rules of logic.

Take the law of identity, everything is identical to itself.  It seems to me that it's possible to conceive of a place where that isn't the case.  But, just because one can conceive it doesn't mean one can actually go to such a place or make something that doesn't follow that law.  Or the law of excluded middle, which says that everything has a given property or it lacks it.  Or the law of non-contradiction, which says that nothing can have a given property and not have the same property at the same time.  So, we can conceive of things that don't follow these laws, but we can't actually make things or find things that don't follow said laws.

Now that's a snake

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Aristotle on Logic

When it comes to learning logic Aristotle is one of the founding fathers.  If you want to study logic a great place to start is Aristotle's collective work called the Organon traditionally made up of 8 different books: The Categories, On Interpretation, Prior-Analytics, Posterior-Analytics, Topics, Sophistical Refutations, Rhetoric*, and The Poetics*.  The last two are the ones that many modern philosophy/logic students often don't consider logical works, and it seems like these last two were just kind of thrown into the mix.  Sophistical Refutations is kind of like a text on anti-logic, a kind of how to spot the sophistical, empty arguments.  Of course, these works cover a wide range of logic and Aristotle's works in general cover a very broadly defined concepts of logic and philosophy.  There's no way I or anyone else could even try to attempt to cover every bit of these works but I've been listening to the History of Philosophy podcast, and Professor Adamson gives a nice overview of these works.  He talkes about how ancient philosophy students would start their foray into logic and philosophy with these works.

So far the podcast, as I've been going through it, has only given a broad overview of the logical works. To me, the most interesting book is the first one listed, The Categories.  In general, it's about categorizing various things.  The categories for different objects are listed as: substance, quality, quantity, relation, place, time, position, state, action, and being acted upon.  How certain parts a thing are essential to that that thing, and some are accidental.  It may seem silly but there's a problem I have with this.  One of the concepts within the philosophy of language is that words are given their meaning through a somewhat arbitrary process.  Prof Adamson uses the example of a giraffe quite often, so I'll follow his example.  I'm assuming everyone of my readers knows what a typical giraffe looks like.  One of the examples is a giraffe painted blue, so we have a blue giraffe, but that's just an accidental characteristic of that particular giraffe, or if there was a giraffe with a broken foot.  Those are accidental characteristics of giraffes.  So here's my question, one would assume that a long neck and legs would be considered essential characteristics of giraffes.  However, what if I told you that I had a short-necked short-legged giraffe?  What makes what I'm calling a giraffe?  Me calling it a giraffe?  According to some concepts of linguistics that's part of what makes it a giraffe.

The next on the list, On Interpretation is also quite interesting.  To me, it has one of Aristotle's most important contributions to logic and philosophy.  I've always heard it called the "Law of Non-contradiction" though Prof Adamson doesn't specifically mention it.  In general, this particular text is about negation and how to make statements and syllogisms.  I don't have the space to explain all that but I would like to talk a little about non-contradiction.  According to the professor of the logic course that I was taking through negating a statement isn't as easy as it appears.  The most straightforward method is to append the statement with "it is not the case that..."  So, the non-contradiction idea is this: two statements that are contradictions of each other cannot both be true at the same time.  For example, the statements "giraffes exist" and "it is not the case that giraffes exist," cannot both be true at the same time.  Obviously, at some time in the future or in the past giraffes may or may not exist, but at the same time they cannot both exist and not exist at the same time.  Though according to Prof Adamson, it seems that Aristotle leaves an exception to this idea, namely, for statements about the future.  For example, the statement "I will win the lottery tomorrow" is about the future and it is both true and not true at the same time.  Tomorrow, when I'm taking a bath in gold and jewels like Scrooge McDuck, I still can't say that statement was true or false just because it ends up coming true doesn't mean that when it was made it was true.