Saturday, January 3, 2009

"I want you to think what I think is valid because I think it."

This statement (the subject of this post which made to me by a family member of mine) i a perfect example of the consequences of the prevalence of relativism in our society. The statement has two major problems with it:

The first problem is that the validity of a statement (using the colloquial definition of valid "true," although this discussion probably applies to the philosophical definition of valid as well) is based upon the idea, not the speaker. I can think/believe an invalid statement. George W. Bush can think/believe an invalid statement. Barrack Obama can think/believe an invalid statement. The Pope can think/believe an invalid statement. The corollary of course is that anyone can also think/believe a valid statement. I can think/believe a valid statement. James Carville can think/believe a valid statement. Pat Buchanan can think/believe a valid statement. Adolf Hitler can think/believe a valid statement. The validity of the statement does not change if Bush thinks/believes it or Obama thinks/believes it. They don't add anything to the statement but the presentation of it (which can make it more appealing or persuasive, but not more valid). Saying a statement is valid because someone thinks/believes it reverses the notion of belief. Someone should think/believe something because it's valid, it shouldn't be valid because they think/believe it.

The second problem with this statement (in the subject) is that it is self-contradictory. The person who speaks it (we'll call them the commander) expects the person who hears it (we'll call them the commanded) to think what the commander thinks/believes is valid. However, the commanded obviously thinks/believes what the commander thinks/believes is invalid or the commander would not have made the statement. Should the commander not follow his own command? Should he not think/believe what the commanded is thinks/believes is valid because the commanded thinks/believes it? Yes, by the rules set up in the commander's statement, he must. Here is the contradiction. The commander wants the commanded to think/believe what the commander thinks/believes is valid because the commander thinks it, however the commander doesn't think/believe what the commanded thinks/believes is valid (because the commanded doesn't think/believe what the commander thinks/believes is valid). Logically, the statement then creates a cycle, where someone must concede what he thinks/believes is incorrect. The commander is assuming the commanded must be the one to make this concession.

The fact that this statement was made by a member of my family also raises an interesting ethical question: what are you obligated to think/believe/feel about the thoughts/beliefs/feelings of the members of your family? The colloquial notion is that you are obligated to think/believe as the statement that is the subject of this post says as an issue of respect/love. Essentially, members of your family are granted "immunity" due to their blood relation to you. I belive this "immunity" is unethical.

By asking a person to think/believe what you think/believe is valid because you think/believe it, you are asking them to change what they think/believe (as explained in the second critique above). What makes a person human is his ability to think/believe. By asking the commanded to think/believe differently than he does in order to "respect/love" the commander, the commander is asking the commanded to place his own humanity below the humanity of the commander. Requesting a person to relinquish his own humanity is unethical. Members of a family certainly shouldn't ask a person to relinquish his own humanity. Thus, this "immunity" for family members is unethical. It creates a cyclical relinquishing of humanity. Everyone must "respect" what everyone else think/believes even if it directly opposes what they think/believe (the most common example used colloquially is that parents that disapprove of homosexuality must "respect" the homosexuality of their child).

This discussion is extremely prevelant in society. Think of how often you are told it's wrong to think/believe what someone else thinks/believes is wrong.

And if you disagree with that, well then:
Shut up, you're wrong. (Get it yet?)

1 comment:

Daniel T. Richards said...

Philosophy lesson of the day for your loyal readers:

The act of thought has nothing to do with validity. Validity is only determined by logical structuring. It is also separate from absolute truth value.

The following syllogism is valid:

All ducks are purple.
Henry is a duck.
Therefore, Henry is purple.

The premises, if they are true, lead to the conclusion necessarily.

The following syllogism is invalid:

All ducks are purple.
Henry is purple.
Therefore, Henry is a duck.

The premises, if they are true, do not lead to the conclusion.

A sound argument, on the other hand, must be valid and absolutely true. The first syllogism is valid but not sound.

This syllogism is both valid and sound:

All men are mortal.
Socrates was a man.
Therefore, Socrates was mortal.

The conclusion follows from the premises AND the premises are absolutely true.


Colloquially, your brother wants his statements to be as true as any other statement because he believes them to be true. Of course, this is intellectual masturbation and not a lot more. Two plus two equals four whether or not I believe it to be so. Drowning will kill me whether or not I believe it to be so. My pen will not turn into a unicorn whether or not I want it to be so. These are the inescapable facts of reality that relativists can't stand.

"Nothing is absolutely true!" they shout...except for the fact that they just muttered an absolute.

"Everything is valid!" they yell...which must include the fact that "nothing is valid."

"Logic is evil!" they scream...forgetting that they have to use it in order to formulate a thought, let alone a sentence.

I honestly hope you're not bothered by any of this nonsense--though you probably are.