virus: Rethread: logic is a hammer

John ''I Take Large Steps'' Williams (
Sat, 14 Jun 1997 22:34:30 -0400

I've used the following quotes to focus some of my thinking here. It's in
bad need of focus.


"I am a Christian, but I think in secular rational ways all the time. If I
am ill, I don't want Mormon brain surgery, i don't want Baptist blood
transfusions and I don't want Lutheran proctology. I just want the job done."
-- Martin Marty
(in an interview with Nathan Gardels
of _New Perspectives Quarterly_)

"This belief in absolutes, I would the great enemy today of the
life of the mind. This may seem a rash proposition. The fashion of the time
is to denounce relativism as the root of all evil. But history suggests
that the damage done by the relativist is far less than the damage done by
the absolutist."
-- Arther Schlesinger, Jr.

[John] I contend that neither [reliance on logic or reliance on myth]
[John] gets anyone much of anywhere, because they deal with different
[John] realms of experience.

[Eric] On the contrary, logos gets you places. In planes. Cars.
[Eric] Or through the little copper wires and unto the 'net.


I wanted to break and rethread this, so I can regain some of my own
coherence of thought. In my attempts to convince David, I've managed to
cartoon my own position. I've spent the last couple of days with minimal
interaction, so I could step back and re-evaluate exactly what it is that
I'm trying to say.

First of all, lest someone complain that I'm not playing fair by the Reed
principle (as I understand it) I want to state that I appreciate David's
(and everyone else's) input, even though we have a tendency to get
exasperated with each other. This whole conversation has required a
fineness and precision of thought that I have never experienced in any
theological argument before, and has served to modify and clarify several
"gut-beliefs" that I've never examined on this level before. Thus, I wish
to re-phrase, re-frame, and re-contextualize the situation, in hopes that
people won't think I'm totally goofy. :-)

Cavet, directed to David: As usual, if i mis-characterize your position, it
is unintentional. I'm doing my best not to straw-man anyone, because it is
generally annoying and also a waste of time attacking vapors.

Now: on to some "clarifications."

I. Playing by the rules.

One charge that has been leveled is that post-structuralist
thought-patterns allow one to change the rules at whim. Calvin-ball logic,
of sorts (for those of you who have read Bill Waterson's stuff).

Some forms of post-structuralism certainly would allow one to do this. I'm
not advocating this position; rather, I advocate using the proper tools at
hand for inquiry and discussion, and being clear about what tools are being
used. I agree that if there are not clear guidelines, then the discussion
is not likely to proceed well.

II. Worldviews as tools.

Eric asked some time back if the ability to change worldviews was not
somehow hypocritical. I would argue that it is hypocritical only if you
adopt each worldview's (obsolete) position that it is the only viable

If one begins to accept worldviews not as Paths to Truth(tm), but as
Interpretive Aids to Reality(patent pending), merely changing world-views
is no longer hypocritical.

III. Supremecy of world-views.

I somehow get the sense from David that he believes that I am arguing from
a pro-religion standpoint, and he from an anti-religion standpoint and that
he expects me to take a position directly contrary to his. In other words,
that *I* am saying that religious faith is a better way to live, while he
insists that "rational" thought is better. Perhaps David thinks I am trying
to convert him. This is not entirely the case.

I am merely trying to gain some tolerence for people of faith. My tactic
has been to demonstrate that even those who rely on logic are people of
faith, and I still stand by this position. I am not attempting to require
David to convert to some mythological symbolism if he does not want; I do,
however, wish for David to grant the work of mythological symbolism some
validity; ie, not to discard it as the work of the ignorant and irrational.

IV. My position: logic is a hammer.

This addresses the issue of why logic appears to work: ie, making planes
fly, or telecommunications technology operate.

Even I, as a relativist, would have a hard time not labeling the concept
that logic is completely invaid "loony." Logic has served us very well. The
difficulty with logic is that it is primarily effective in the relm of the
experiential. If the construction is a model of the world, and logic is the
hammer, then our observed experiences with the world are the nails.

Logic can be applied only when there is a great deal of observational data,
or when certain pre-requisites are accepted.

Logic works very well in scientific realms -- such as determining what
causes cancer, what makes planes fly, etc -- because we have a limited area
of observational data to explore, and because we are able to test
everything required to make an effective statement about the world in this
or that case.

Logic, at the level of the metaphysical, can also work: but one must accept
some concepts as being "given" which cannot be possibly proven, at least,
not with our current realm of experience. Secular humanisms and logical
philsophies of morality all require a belief -- I would go so far as to say
"faith" -- in the concept of "free will." Logical religious constructions
have other "givens." These cannot be proven, but their acceptence on faith
allows one to construct a world-view that is larger and more encompasing
than what science can provide; including discussions on morality, purpose,

But finally, logic is a tool, and part of what it does is define and
constrain how we see the world; complete reliance on logic as an
experiential filter possibly distorts our perception of reality because we
can and do modify what we percieve to fit what we expect to see.
(Photographers, or those who work with color in the printing industry, will
know exactly what I mean.) One who is equiped with only a hammer will be
unable to manage, say, a screw well. A rivet will be almost hopeless.

Those of us who are willing to accept and use other tools can make much
more elaborate and complete worldviews.

I'll concede these points, however: the further you get from scientism, the
further you get from being able to declare a statement to be close-to-true.
And furthermore, logic is an important, and adaptable tool, which can be
used in many circumstances -- even those that some would consider
"irrational" circumstances. But we need to recognize that our <logic> may
be faulty; either in application or understanding, and always watch as
close as possible for cases where our concept of logic is standing in the
way of our perception of reality.


I do not expect that I've clarified everything I need to, or thought long
enough about some of these statements, so shoot. :-)

-- John

John Williams ICQ Address: 1213689
"See my loafers? Former gophers!"
Various Artists: Raising the Tide of Mediocrity for Two Years