Logic and the Real World


I have been lightly exploring the issues involved in Mormon epistemology (our methodology for arriving at truth). We emphasize the importance of spiritual experiences, of communicating with God and creating situations in which the Spirit of God is invited to bless us.

There are some pretty tough philosophical challenges that arise against this methodology. One of the most common is the issue of “subjective vs objective evidence.” I doubt I will ever be well enough informed to be able to debate with the “pundits” on this issue. But, as I study this issue I have thoughts that I think are worth sharing. This is one such thought.

This morning I went out to our car to discover that the hood and windshield were covered in bird droppings. It was very gross. We normally park our car under a big tree, and I have never had this problem before. For some reason the birds have targeted our car this week.

I needed to take the car down to get it inspected (I actually am doing it on time this year!). Because the windshield and hood were so disgusting, I wanted to clean it off before getting it inspected (not that it matters to the inspection guy, but it is a little embarassing). We don’t have a hose or a spicket at our home (apartment) and so I went out looking for one of those gas station drive-thru car cleaners. I haven’t used one of those in a while and so I was shocked at how expensive it was. I determined not to pay for it so I would just go to the inspection place and ask them if I could borrow their hose.

Upon arrival, I asked if I could borrow their hose and the young man said it wouldn’t be a problem but that I could just wait until after they were done with the inspection (darn). The young man took my keys and began the inspection.  He drove it around a bit, honked the horn, and did all sorts of tests. When he was done he replaced the sticker on my windshield for me. I payed him for the inspection and then he showed me where the hose was.

The hose was rolled up and hanging on a hook inside their garage, nowhere near the closest spicket. He pulled it off, unrolled it and hooked it up to the closest spicket for me. After spraying down the hood and windshield of my car (it was so dirty that it took me a few minutes) I then had a decision to make.

My car had already been inspected, I had payed, and my car was clean. I had no further business to do with this company. I wondered to myself if I really needed to turn off the water, unhook the hose, roll it up, and hang it back on the hook. I was done with it, and it would have been easy for me to just leave it there on the pavement and drive away. Logic told me that I would have gained absolutely nothing by doing all that work, because it would not benefit me in any way. Logic told me that my fortune would be exactly the same no matter how I acted, and so I might as well save myself that extra work.

But, I didn’t follow logic. I didn’t bother to do what all the available evidence said was the most beneficial to myself. Instead, I chose to turn off the water, unhook the hose, roll it up, and hang it back on the hook. I chose to demonstrate my gratituted by doing all of that and thanking the young man for lending me a hand. That choice defied logic. It defied reason. I gained nothing by doing it.

There are certain things that we simply do and know that are taught to us from a higher power. We do them because they just seem right, even though we can’t explain why.


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3 comments on “Logic and the Real World

  1. Interesting story. I have had some experiences just recently talking with members of different faiths, and this subject of epistemology inevitably came up each time, and they just could not believe that we could rely on the witness of the Spirit, and trying to find out the will of God directly by prayer. “But there is no objective evidence,” they cried! I reminded them that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. God will never 100% prove the truth of the gospel, for that would remove the very principle on which the gospel rests – faith. God wants a people who are believing, and who use their heads and their hearts to arrive at truth. God will not hand it to us on a silver platter.

    Your story reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s first chapters of Mere Christianity on the Law of Human Nature which points to God’s existence. He points out that there is a transcendent law, morality, set of rules, standard right way of human behavior, “a real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey.” He continues that there “is a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong. I think we have to assume it is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know…” “It tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how painful, or dangerous, or difficult it is to do.” This sounds very much like the light of Christ which we believe is born into every human soul on the day of its birth and which directs it and leads it to do good and to follow the right way, even as much as each individual gives heed unto it.

  2. James says:

    Thanks Bryce, I appreciate your comments. I am exploring some of these tough issues, and so far it has been pretty fruitful. Clark Goble has written alot about this, and I am slowly working my way through a series of essays and discussions he has one his blog about this topic.


  3. Lee says:

    If there is no Holy Spirit to lead us to the truth about God, then there is no hope. Even with the positive, humanistic effects of “good” religions (an example of which you gave), we would still all just be left to arguing circles around each other about the truth of God (which is what theologians do all day long). By definition, God cannot be proven objectively. I’m sure there will be many people who will think that the second coming of Jesus Christ (seeing him descend through the clouds would be a very objective experience) is an alien invasion (not the revelation of God), and that it simply proves that there is life on other planets.

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