I love logic. It just makes sense!
I want to share with you a method that will save the world. Well, not really, but it’s really cool.
Basically, this method consists of the principles behind the Scientific Method. Call it what you will, but it applies to ANY topic – Theology, Philosophy, Physics, Geology, Sociology – ANY topic.
It has to do with making sense of ‘things’ that we observe in reality (whatever ‘things’ you may be ‘observing’ in ‘reality’). People have different ways of interpreting and explaining what they observe in reality. The so-called ‘law of non-contradiction’ (which is about as basic as it gets with logic!) says that two contradicting statements about the exact same thing cannot both be equally accurate.
Anyway, you start with an observation of a ‘thing’, then when you explain this ‘thing’ to someone you do so by means of a statement – your ‘ideas’ about it – your ‘thesis’ (or hypothesis, if you like). A diagram of this would look like this…
Now, the problem with an idea or ‘thesis’ all by itself is that it could be wrong. Sure, it could be right as well, but you’ll never know unless you contrast it with another one. It is really unfortunate that many people never even make this first step. They simply hold on to their precious thesis and never test it to see how strong it is. You need to test your ‘thesis’ against other ones! The diagram enlarges to show the 2-way dialogue with another ‘thesis’…
This is wonderful when this actually happens. It could be a simple mis-understanding between friends. “Oh, I see. I thought you meant ‘x’, but now that you’ve explained it, I realise you actually meant ‘y’! I’m no longer upset anymore!” Of course, this could play out in an endless number of scenarios. Either the ‘thesis’ or the ‘anti-thesis’ could become (or appear to become) more correct or less correct.
What happens (if an agreement or ‘middle ground’ is reached) now, is that something emerges from the conversation. This ‘something’ is one of a few things: a) it is the original ‘thesis’ (only now stronger – having been contrasted with another one), b) it is the ‘anti-thesis’ (having been shown to be stronger than the ‘thesis’) or c) a mixture of the two – a syn-thesis! This looks like this…
What happens here, is that this stronger idea – this syn-thesis – becomes the NEW ‘original’ thesis! Which makes our diagram look like this…
At this point, what do we do with all theses (plural of ‘thesis)? Remember? We test them against other ones! This is no different here. The NEW, stronger thesis needs to seek yet another ‘anti-thesis’.
This is called learning. I hope it is clear that this is an on-going process!
I think we actually can make real progress, but also think we need to remember that as we ‘advance’ our theses, we may look back and observe that what we thought was an ‘advance’ in the past was actually a step backward (and yes, even this observation itself could later be seen to be ‘wrong’ – and so on ‘ad infinitum’!).
Two ‘theses’ in dialogue is a wonderful thing, but it is even better to have 3 or more! The ‘synthesis’ you emerge with will be all the more stronger! (This is often referred to as the process of ‘peer review’ – and it’s a wonderful thing.)
There are difficulties, too, which we will need patience for. Too many voices in one ‘conversation’, means that it will simply take longer for each thesis to have its say. It could well be that a mixture of ‘smaller conversations’ and ‘larger ones’ could be a great thing, because each would have its own strengths and weaknesses/hindrances.
Another hurdle come because this process has been going on quite naturally for some time now, and in many, many different fields – theology, sociology, etc. It seems that after a time, there can be ‘patterns’ that emerge. Details that were originally hotly debated are given less and less time and often assumed to be valid in later conversations. This can be antithetical to the process of this method, as the whole point of it is, of course, to expose ALL of a thesis to criticism.
As I suggested earlier, patience is necessary! But we must be about this business of dialogue with other theses! We must grow. We must learn. To not dialogue is to fail to ‘advance’ at all (whether or not they are real or ‘illusory’ advances!) To not even attempt to advance is to slip backward.
“Iron makes iron sharp; so a man makes sharp his friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (BBE)