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FUNDAMENTALS OF NATURAL LAW: The Law of Definitions

I am a formally trained philosopher, and hold a degree in philosophy.  Now, I do not say this to boast, but to explain why what follows is difficult to accept and harder to admit.  As a student of philosophy, logic is our primary tool, and one of the foundational building blocks of logic are definitions.  Therefore, it is with a great deal of embarrassment and more than a little humility that I must accept the correction of a reader by the name Veracious Poet.  He pointed out that I have been miss-using the term ‘Humanist.’  I would like to apologize to the board, and to thank Veracious Poet for his correction.  I humbly accept it, and have made some corrections to previous posts in response.  It has also prompted this post, as a great many of our problems in understanding this world and each other can actually be found in our miss-understanding of the way we use words.  Words are only symbols for a concept or idea, and if we are going to properly communicate our ideas and understand those of others, we must learn to use those definitions properly and with as much accuracy as we use mathematics or any other scientific principle.  Inherent in this is the assumption that we try to make the definitions we intend clear and well known.  So, to that end, let me address the role of definitions in Natural Law.

First of all, we need to understand that words do not define a thing, the nature of that thing, concept or idea is what defines it.  I write about this in ‘Form and Function Define.’  This is true by definition, but then, we need to understand what a definition is and how it is connected to fact.

Next, we need to understand that Natural Law is much more inclusive than most of us believe.  For example, logic is a part of Natural Law.  In fact, it is one of the Natural Laws.  It governs many things, including reason, language, mathematics and even the scientific method.  Language is just a specialized form of reason: a narrow application of the rules of logic that allows us to communicate.  The same applies to mathematics, which is just another form of language.  We use language to communicate through the use of symbols.  These symbols can be in the form of sounds, or they can be expressed in the form of pictures.  Some pictures have specific uses, and we give them their own names to indicate this specialized use.  For example, a number and a letter are nothing more than specialized pictures.  They are specialized because they have a set, universal form and meaning that does not change.

However, the Natural Laws governing logic are of a different form than those governing physics.  The laws of physics can be broken, but we do not think of them that way as they penalty for breaking them is immediate.  If you jump off a building because you think you can fly, you are going to have a bad day.  This is because the penalty for violating the laws governing gravity are enforced without delay.  The same cannot be said for the Natural Laws governing things such as morality, economics and logic.  However, there are still penalties for violating these laws, and those penalties are real and do assert themselves in time.  In the case of violations of the laws governing logic: there is a special name for violating these laws.  We call it a fallacy.  One of the most common fallacies is that of equivocation.

Equivocation occurs when a person uses the same word to discuss two or more different meanings.  It is often done with the intention to deceive, but it also happens quite often by accident, without conscious understanding of what is being done.  This latter example most often happens when a person uses a word without having a clear understanding of the definition — as I did with the term ‘Humanism.’  So I will use ‘Humanism’ to explain equivocation.

I was trying to find a single term I could use to represent all forms of belief that deny the existence of God and to show how these people have replaced god with man (see my previous post).  Secular Humanism is one of the specific forms of this belief, but so is Atheism and so forth.  I chose the term ‘Humanism,’ but I tried to apply my own definition to it.  Now, I did define this definition as I intended it to be understood, so — technically — I did not equivocate.  However, this does not excuse the fact that I inadvertently confused the discussion.  As Veracious Poet pointed out, I would have been better off using a more accurate term; a term that the leaders of this general belief assigned to themselves.  For this reason, I now use the term ‘Materialist.’

Now, for the sake of fully explain the necessity of understanding the meaning of words, I would like to quote Veracious Poet’s comment to me.  However, before I do so, I want to make it known that I am not trying to single him out.  I have already admitted my mistake and taken action to correct it.  Now I want to show how we can all have an equal hand in the same mistake because we do not fully understand the meaning of a word, either.  So, with that said, Veracious Poet commented:

“Humanists are different from Atheists. Humanists, generally, believe in morality whereas most atheists don’t. Cooperative Humanism permeates all religions and in fact it contributes to making the world a better place.  Jesus was deeply concerned about the welfare of humanity. Therefore, in a way, he was a humanist. I don’t know how you define humanism.”

Veracious Poet is correct: Atheists do deny all morality whereas Humanists — according to Veracious Poet — do not.  The problem with this is they do.  If, as Veracious Poet claims, the Humanist defines morality without God, then the Humanist is doing nothing more than claiming the throne of God.  This then places the Humanist within the definition of the way I was using the word: as a collective term to define all beliefs that replace God with man.

We see this belief that man is a god in the rest of Veracious Poet’s comment.  However, I cannot stress this strongly enough, it is possible Veracious Poet does not understand he did so.  he may even deny it.  But this does not change the fact that he has asserted a concern for humanity, not the individuals.  The collective is not real.  It is just a symbol.  Therefore, if we focus on the thing, we have created an idol, and idols are part of pagan worship.  Jesus did not have a concern for humanity in this sense.  Christ sees every one of us as an individual, and seeks a personal, one-on-one relationship with us.  That is not ‘humanity’ in the sense Veracious Poet is using the word.  In truth, Veracious Poet is using the words ‘Humanist’ much closer to the way I defined it than he realizes.  the only part of his definition I excluded is that he allows for a man-made moral code whereas the “Materialist’ does not.

Hopefully you can see the many levels of confusion that were created because I did not use a more accurate word in my original post.  I correctly defined the way I was using the term “Humanism,’ so I did not equivocate.  However, I used a term that, by the common definition, does allow for a moral code — an aspect I left out of my definition.  So I did open the door to confusion on the part of those who know the dictionary definition but do not read or accept the definition I created.  At the same time, Veracious Poet did not acknowledge the primary point of my argument in my original post: that those who think they can do whatever they please actually worship themselves.  They are making themselves into their own god.  In this sense, it can be argued that ‘Humanists’ should be included in the term ‘Materialist.’  They are denying God, just not morality.  But then, denying God is denying morality, they are just replacing it with their own — which is something Materialists deny, yet do anyway.

The problems associated with not having a clear understanding of what the words we use mean can get very complicated.  Even if we do have a clear understanding, we can still create confusion — as I hope I just illustrated.  Still, we cannot ignore this problem because it permeates every level of every aspect of our lives.  Maybe a few additional examples will help me make the point.

In America, we think of Democrats being on the political Left and Republicans being on the political Right.  However, in America, Left and Right mean something almost opposite as they do in Europe.  Here, the far Left is total government, and the far Right is Anarchy — no government.  The Parties do not represent this, as shown by their actions and policies.  Both Parties are to the Left of center on this spectrum.  Worse, you can have different degrees of belief within the Parties.  A ‘conservative’ Democrat could be closer to the Right than an average Republican, while a Progressive republican could be as far Left as is possible to get.

Diversity and tolerance are two more issues where we have lost our understanding of what the words mean.  We talk about diversity, but we try to stamp out any opinion that disagrees with our own.  This is not only a problem of equivocation, it is also a contradiction between our words and our actions.  The same applies to tolerance, where we use the word, but act as though it means acceptance.  It does not.  Then there is the issue of bullying.  We claim to be and campaign against it — by bullying those who do not agree with or accept our opinions.  This compounds the problems created by equivocation and contradiction.

Given all the trouble I caused by using a word in an incorrect way, is it any wonder why we have so much trouble getting along in a world where people have actually embraced the blatant miss-use of words?  In the end, at the very foundation of this whole mess, the problem is lawlessness.  Language is governed by Natural laws — the laws of logic.  Definitions are the building blocks of those laws.  We cannot break them without suffering the consequences and, in this case, the consequences are evident all around us.  We live in a society that can no longer communicate, and as a result, it is turning against and eating itself.

You see, we can break the laws, but — sooner or later — Natural Law will assert itself and we will pay the price.  It is unavoidable, which is how we know Natural Law is real, and what those laws are.

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One response to “FUNDAMENTALS OF NATURAL LAW: The Law of Definitions

  1. Pingback: FUNDAMENTALS OF NATURAL LAW: There Can Be No Liberty Without Religion | THE ROAD TO CONCORD

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