Friday, August 28, 2009

Logic & Religion

Yesterday I began my 10th year of teaching philosophy at MCCC. I'm teaching two courses: Intro to Logic, and Philosophy of Religion. I love teaching these courses!

It's helpful for students to have some background in philosophical logic prior to taking philosophy of religion, since the latter involves some very technical, high-powered logical arguments. So along the way I explain some basic logical concepts to my phil or religion students.

In my logic class I supplement my brute teaching of logic with various logical arguments that illustrate logic. For example, last evening I presented this argument:

1) The more trainable an animal is the smarter it is.

2) Dogs are more trainable than cats.

3) Therefore, dogs are smarter than cats.

Note first that this argument is "logical." What that means is: if P1 and P2 are true (premise 1 & premise 2), then the conclusion follows inexorably. Thus the statement Dogs are smarter than cats would be true. Further, it would be true for everybody.

I find it interesting that in both classes yesterday some students brought up the idea that something could be "true for you but not true for me." Philosophers,k especially logicians, are not interested in this. In logic "truth" is a function of statements, and a "statement" is a sentence that is either true or false. If it is true that Dogs are smarter than cats than this is true for you and for me and for everyone on the planet even if they have been educated otherwise.

So I'll be introducing a lot of students this fall to truth-issues. Such as: God exists. That sentence is statement. Therefore it's either true or false. Both theistic and atheistic philosophers agree on that. Both theists and atheists then try to either logically prove it to be true or prove it to be false. I think the statement God exists is true. This means, in the philosophy of religion and logic sense, that one can formulate an argument (supporting premises made of statements) that leads to a conclusion (a statement). I always invite challenges and disagreement, and we always present the relative counterarguments and let students know how they can pursue further studies.