Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Proof that BIll Clinton was right, or was it Nietzsche




A golden oldie.

A proof that Bill Clinton was right, or was it Nietzsche?
As you may recall, Bill Clinton once reminded us that a good deal depends on what we mean by the word "is." But it is possible to equivocate on other words as well. A syllogism I once sent to Bill Vallicella about an unsharpened pencil turned out to be an equivocation on the term "pointless," not the term "is," as I had intially suspected. Just for fun, I analyzed the famous proof that Ray Charles is God, and since Ray has passed away, a proof that God is dead. To wit:

Logical proof that Ray Charles is God , and that God is dead

1. God is Love.
2. Love is Blind.
3. Ray Charles is Blind.
4. Ray Charles is God.
To which we can now add the Nietzschean addendum
5. Therefore God is dead.

To subdivide, we find:

1. God is love.
2. Love is blind.
3. Therefore, God is blind.

On this one, of course these concepts are complex,one diagnosis would be that this English argument commits the fallacy of four terms, which would be clear in Greek.

1. God is Agape.
2. Eros is blind.
3. Therefore God is blind.

OTOH,

1. God is blind.
2. Ray Charles is blind.
3. Therefore Ray Charles is God.

seems to be the fallacy Clinton was noting. But since most people don't want to attribute blindness to God, we can see how the fallacy works as follows:

God is wise.
Socrates is wise.
Therefore Socrates is God

The absurd outcome is the result of ignroing different uses of the word "is."

On the other hand the "Nietzschan" syllogism

1. Ray Charles is God.
2. Ray Charles is dead.
3. Therefore God is dead.

seems to be an instance of the indiscernibility of
identicals, and is a valid argument whose conclusion
would be true if the first premise were true.

Isn't logic fun? You can prove almost anything, so long as the meanings of words can be manipulated!

There are no facts, only the interpretations of facts. -Nietzsche

5 comments:

E. I. Sanchez said...

I found it interesting how the meaning & logic broke once you used the Greek: eros & agape.

Anonymous said...

It appears that you are using the word "is" to mean "equals." As in, if A = B, and B = C, then A = C. However, in English the word "is" can (and does in the cases you cite) refer to attributes rather than ontology. Just because two things share one or multiple attributes does not make them the same thing.

Is that your point? :-)

Hallq said...

anon--that's certainly true of the first argument, though the second is more interesting. The second, actually, seems to expose how saying "God is love" makes for wishy-washy theology--agape/eros equivocation aside. Ask the average person to define "love" in every sense they can think of, and they're never going to come up with a sense that allows for love to be an all-powerful being.

I'm very curious to see the unsharpened pencil one, though...

Ilíon said...

"There are no facts, only the interpretations of facts. -Nietzsche"

There exist only the interpretations of that which does not exist?

Ilíon said...

"The second, actually, seems to expose how saying "God is love" makes for wishy-washy theology--agape/eros equivocation aside. Ask the average person to define "love" in every sense they can think of, and they're never going to come up with a sense that allows for love to be an all-powerful being."

But to say "God is love" is not to say "love is God."

To say "God is love" is but the best way we can find to put into words a specific truth of Divine Simplicity.