Wednesday, March 02, 2005

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.


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!

1 comment:

BK said...

This is priceless. As I stated on my own blog, "All Christians need to keep in mind that logic is an essential tool for the apologist and works in favor of God's existence when properly used. Prof. Reppert's post helps to remind us that a logical argument can look good, but still be fatally flawed."

I am going to pick up your book tomorrow!