Friday, February 04, 2005

A parody addressing those who deny logic

The reason I have this fixation in a lot of my blogs on logic is because I'm in the unfortunate situation of going to a college with only one philosophy teacher, and he doesn't put a high value on logic. He wastes a lot of our time by having us read a lot of irrational nonsense. In classroom and email discussions, I can never advance an argument without somebody taking issue with my use of logic. Consequently, I spend the majority of my time defending logic. You can't reason with people who don't believe in logic, so you have to settle the logic issue before you can argue about anything else.

One day last year, I was just really frustrated with having to defend logic against arguments such as, "You're just using western logic," and "Your use of western logic is biased and dogmatic," which aren't really arguments at all. In my frustration, I wrote this parody. A few people in the class found it entertaining, so I thought I'd post it on my blog. The reference to "speaking differently" comes from an article our teacher had us read by a couple of kooks who thought logic was a matter of personal preference, and they preferred to "speak differently."

A feller walked into the Wingate Inn, and we had the following conversation:

Feller: Hey, can I use your phone?

Sam: Yeah, just be sure to dial 9 to get an outside line.

The feller starts to dial the number, but then stops.

Feller: Did you say I had to dial a 9 to get an outside line?

Sam: No, you don’t have to dial 9. Just dial the number.

Feller: Okay.

He tries to dial the number, but it doesn’t work.

Feller: The phone doesn’t work.

Sam: Did you dial 9 first?

Feller: No, you said I didn’t have to dial 9.

Sam: That’s right. You have to dial 9 first.

Feller: Then why did you just tell me I don’t have to dial 9 first?

Sam: Because you don’t.

Feller: Then why did you say that I do?

Sam: Because you do.

Feller: You're screwing with me.

Sam: Why do you say that?

Feller: Well, first you said I have to dial 9 to get an outside line, and
then you said I don’t have to dial 9 to get an outside line.

Sam: That’s right.

Feller: Well, you’re contradicting yourself. They can’t both be right.

Sam: Oh, you’re just using Western logic.

Feller: Listen, I either have to dial a 9 or I don’t.

Sam: Now you’re being biased and dogmatic.

Feller: You’re being crazy.

Sam: I’m only speaking differently.

Feller: You can say that again.

Sam: I’m not speaking differently.

In the end, “western logic” helped the feller figured out that he actually did have to dial a 9 to get an outside line, and that I was wrong all those times I told him he didn’t. Maybe the phone was being biased and dogmatic, too.


At 2/08/2005 2:49 PM , Blogger Brent Feist said...

Sam -

Excellent dialogue! My wife and I got a laugh out of it. It definitely exposes the "western logic" myth.

I'm sure your familiar with Ravi Zacharias ( - if not you'll love him). In one of his lectures he tells a great story about a discussion he had with a Hindu philosophy professor. The professor spent an entire hour arguing that when you study eastern religions you have to use "eastern logic" - the both/and system (in which case A can be equal to non-A). Ravi waited quietly and patiently to the professor rant on and on until he was done.
Ravi then told the professor that he had only one question for him. He asked, "So your telling me that when I study eastern religions I can only use the both/and system or nothing else? Is that correct?"

The professor's face immediately dropped and he begrudgingly replied, "The either/or system does seem to immerge doesn't it?"

I once had a talk with a woman who said she was a student of Buddhism. She was making all kinds of contradictory assertions. I too realized that to even begin to have a productive discussion with her I'd first have to address logic and explain the law of non-contradiction to her. I used an illustration in which a woman told one person she wasn't pregnant and then immediately told another person that she was. I then explained to her that the woman couldn't both be pregnant and not pregnant at the same time. I asked her if she agreed.

She replied with a long pause and said, "Well.......I don't know. People can have different perspectives". I looked at her with an incredulous stare and told her she had to be kidding. She wasn't.

It seems that even acknowledging something as self-evident as the law of non-contradiction is a matter of the will. It really seems to be blatant intellectual dishonesty on their behalf. People like this choose the philosophical fantasy that supports their worldview so they can live how they desire. It really is a Romans 1 situation.

The question I ponder is if these types of people are even capable of intellectual honesty when it comes to epistemology (or anything having connection to God's existence/accountability)? Do they know they're wrong but refuse to acknowledge it? Is their dishonesty so deep that they'll continue to argue for what they know is false just to have their own way? Or, are they really incapable of intellectual honesty until God gives them a regenerate heart?

I guess like Koukl has so wisely instructed all we can do is be faithful and honest with people and pray God uses the truth we share as a rock in their shoes to turn them towards Him.

So I guess we'll just have to keep placing stones in their footwear my friend!


At 2/08/2005 6:29 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...


Thanks for your comments.

You and I must listen to some of the same people. I actually did hear that lecture by Ravi Zacharias. It was on one of his broadcasts that he has published on his web page.

There was a Hindu guy who used to work where I work, and I got into an interesting discussion with him one day about "truth" and "logic." He claimed that all views were equally true. I said, "Including mine?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Well my view is that your view is wrong. Are you saying that I'm right?" He argued with me at first, but then said, "Yes, for you." I'd do anything to have recorded that conversation. It was a classic. At the end, I finally said, "If you really believe that all views are true, then why are you arguing with me?" You'd think he thought my view was wrong.

I don't remember who it was, but I heard somebody recommend that if you ever get in an argument with somebody who denies the law of non-contradiction, just negate everything they say and claim that they said it. For example:

Jim: My cat is pregant.

Bob: So you're cat is not pregnant, huh?

Jim: I said my cat is pregant.

Bob: Oh, okay, so your cat is not pregnant.

Jim: Bob, listen to me. I said my cat is pregnant.

Bob: Well, Jim, if it's true that your cat is pregnant, then it must also be true that your cat is not pregnant.

Ronald Nash makes the point in his book, Worldviews in Conflict that significant speach is not possible without the law of non-contradiction. Unless you are excluding the opposite of what you say, then you aren't saying anything. "My cat is pregnant," doesn't mean anything if it does not exclude "My cat is not pregnant."


At 2/09/2005 2:21 PM , Blogger Brent Feist said...

Sam -

I actually attended the apologetics lecture series at Biola University a few years ago and heard Greg Koukl use the very technique your talking about during a Q & A session on apologetic tactics.

A gentleman from the audience asked Greg what he would say to someone advancing the postmodern take on knowledge by stating, "We can't know spiritual truth because our words don't accurately reflect reality. We are all stuck behind our own cultural context and bias and can't get at the truth."

Koukl quickly responded, "So your saying we CAN know spiritual truth because our words DO accurately reflect reality."

"No. I said we CAN'T know."

"So your saying we CAN know."

"No. I said we CAN'T know."

"So your saying we CAN know."

"NO. I'M SAYING WE CAN'T KNOW!", the man said now frustrated.

At this point Koukl stopped, put his hand up towards the man to quiet him and said, "I know exactly what your saying." He then took a step backwards, looked around the auditorium and said, "Do you understand what I'm doing? This technique is a bit more sophisticated. I know exactly what the gentleman has stated but I'm taking his postmodern view on knowledge seriously and putting it to use against him. I'm exposing the self-refuting nature of his view which says that our words don't accurately reflect truth about reality. I'm showing that if his view is correct then even the words he's using to describe his view don't accurately reflect truth. So when he says we CAN'T know then the contrary statement that we CAN know must also be the case. If words don't accurately reflect reality then neither do his."

The auditorium sat in stunned silence because it either went over their heads or they were blown away at Koukl's quick wit and wisdom like I was. What a powerful refutation of a destructive point of view.

I'm new to blogging and just wondered how you found my blog? Is there some place where various blogs are referenced?


At 2/10/2005 1:38 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...


That's great that you got to attend that lecture series. I would like to have done that.

There's a lot of views out there that are easy to refute, because they do the refuting for you. They're self-refuting. It surprises me sometimes how many people believe things that are so obviously self-refuting. I mean self-refuting claims don't just happen to be false, but they are necessarily false. It's impossible for them to be true. The claim that "Words can't accurately convey thought," is self-refuting when understood, yet I heard people say that all the time, and they expect to be understood.

I found your blog because you have Scaling the Secular City by J.P. Moreland on your list of favourite books on your profile, and I have the same book on mine. I just clicked on mine, and it gave me your blog. I'm new to blogging too. The first blog I have on this blog is called something like, "The very first post of my very first blog," and I did it just a couple of weeks ago.


At 2/10/2005 1:17 PM , Blogger Brent Feist said...

Sam -

I am blessed to live in Southern California because of easy access to some of the best apologetics teachers in the world. In fact I attended the very church that Koukl started his ministry out of and didn't realize it until I was looking through the appendix of J.P. Morelands book "Love your God with all your Mind" (excellent book!).

If Koukl ever comes to your state make the effort to go see him. He's a great model of what a Christian Ambassador should be.


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