When two college kids in a coffee shop begin discussing philosophy, you know it’s going to be a long night. I remember doing this, but it wasn’t over coffee; our conversations always took place over pizza at 2 am. Everything is fair game to amateur philosophers, and one simple question could take them down long, winding, scary-looking roads. One thing you might want to see them do is set up ground rules for their discussion. However, today, the likelihood of postmodernists setting up rules for discussion is pretty distant. Postmodernists are absolutely certain that there are no absolutes.
Our postmodern debaters might instead toss logic aside for the purpose of wide-ranging debate. They evade moral boundaries with “that’s your truth, not mine.” Comfortable with opposing presuppositions, the two decide that what’s true for one may not be true for the other, but that’s okay.
What they don’t realize, while coffee cools and conversation continues, is by setting aside basic truth, they have lost the means by which to build a real discussion. What follows is nonsense. Essentially, they’ve washed away the very foundations of logic in pursuit of erudite, meaningless philosophical dialogue.
Considered the father of logic, Aristotle recorded what he observed in the world. He is renowned for his laws of thought, one of which is called the Law of Non-Contradiction. This law seems so simple, yet its application threatens postmodern thought. Thus the reason that many teachers and scholars today depart from (or ignore) Logic: the Law of Non-Contradiction is an inconvenient truth that wreaks havoc on their pseudo-intellectual debate.
This law states that a thing cannot be both true and false at the same time. In other words, something cannot be both A and non-A. That seems like a no-brainer. However, most likely our postmodern coffee-house debaters have abandoned this basic law of thought. “What’s true for you may not be true for me” cannot exist as a basic truth in light of Aristotle’s law, because two conflicting or contradictory statements cannot both be true.
Take for example something a blogger recently posted. He made a seemingly innocuous statement about religions: “True religions encourage good behavior.” (I won’t copy the entire sentence, because what follows that statement is a fallacy I may choose to take apart another time.)
Let’s unravel the phrase “true religions.” That in itself is a contradiction. Every religion claims to be a true religion. (Honestly, why would you not claim to follow a true religion? Put it another way: why would you follow a religion you knew to be false?)
Most religions claim that their god is the one true god (or, in some cases, the many gods who reign and rule). If they don’t hold to a deity, they do follow certain paths to holiness or heavenly existence. So if religion A claims its god is the one true god, and religion B makes the same claim, each religion has just vowed the same, yet conflicting, statement.
By saying “mine is the one true god,” you have implied that all other gods are not-true. If that is so, you cannot say that religion B’s god is also true without abandoning logic. Thus only one religion’s truth claim can be true, according to the Law of Non-Contradiction.
Go ahead and try to believe that all truth claims—even contrasting ones—are valid. Believe that your coffee is both cold and not-cold. Just realize that you have kicked the foundation out from under your discussion, and it’s going nowhere.