LESSONS IN LOGIC: ‘Principles’

I would like to address the notion of ‘principles.’ In a moral and righteous society, this shouldn’t be a necessary conversation — in a moral and righteous society, that is. Sadly, we are no longer a moral or righteous society. Thus, this is a necessary discussion.

As is my habit when discussing such things, I start with the definition of the word (NOTE: I checked this against my 1996 edition — for what should be obvious reasons):

Definition of principle

1a : a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption b(1) : a rule or code of conduct

(2) : habitual devotion to right principles a man of principle c : the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device 2 : a primary source : origin

3a : an underlying faculty or endowment such principles of human nature as greed and curiosity b : an ingredient (such as a chemical) that exhibits or imparts a characteristic quality

I will leave the reader to decide for themselves but, to me, a principle is to human behavior as the rules of logic are to right reasoning. By this way of thinking, a principle must be something that is set in stone; meaning, it does not change according to the circumstances of a given situation. All of us should have a set of principles by which we try to live. Furthermore, those principles should be as comprehensive and as well thought out as possible; with great pains taken to make sure they are consistent and do not create contradictions with each other. This way, whenever we encounter a situation that may be emotionally difficult, or which seems morally confusing, we can fall back on our principles by letting them dictate the correct decision or course of action. In this way, principles can function as a compass which guides us through the storms of life. So, what happens when we violate our principles?

I started by stating that I have always thought of principles in terms of logic: just as logic is a set of rules by which we reason correctly, principles are laws by which we live correctly. When we make a mistake in logic, it is called a fallacy. But what do we call a break from our principles?

Definition of hypocrisy

1 : a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not : behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel

2 : an act or instance of hypocrisy

In our culture, hypocrisy is generally looked upon in a negative light, and for good reason. It signals either a breach in a personas principles, or a deception by a person about the principles in which they purport to believe or uphold. The key in determining which is the case lies in whether or not a person recognizes they have acted hypocritically and corrects their behavior, or not. If a persona recognizes their own hypocrisy, or accept correction, then they can be forgiven as simply having slipped in upholding their principles. However, if a person neither recognizes their hypocrisy, nor accepts correction, then we can determine that they do not — in fact — believe in the principles they claim to hold.

Usually, it is easy to determine which is which, but not always. The closer we are to a person, or the more we like them or agree with their principles, the more likely we are to miss or excuse their hypocrisy. This is a problem because, if the trend is allowed to become a habit, then the principle that is being violated is abandoned. If too many principles are abandoned in this way, a person will soon lose their way. If this happens to too many individuals within a society, then the whole society will lose its way. This is how entire nations slip down the path from righteousness to evil. It is for this reason that we should never take the slightest act of hypocrisy lightly. Just as the rational person corrects every fallacy they encounter, the righteous person corrects every act of hypocrisy — and for the same reason: to defend the integrity of reason as well as the character of the individual, the society and the nation.

Now, I’d like to share several examples I have encountered in the past few days. All of the following came from ‘conservative’ talk show hosts. I will not give their names. I will just explain what they said and then hope you will see the hypocrisy for yourself.

The first host has said for years that the American people may claim different Parties, but the great majority of Americans live their lives by ‘conservative’ principles. This host has also said that ‘conservative’ principles win the support of the American People every time they are clearly, sincerely and correctly expressed. Finally, this same person has said we should never let anyone tell us we cannot do something. That such people are loosers, and never amount to anything. However, when this person is asked why we don’t start a third Party, he replies by giving a list of reasons why it won’t work.

Another talk show host recently explained why things never seem to get done by a certain political Party by using the example of the ‘prisoners’ dilemma.’ In short, this ‘dilemma’ points out that prisoners in a jail so outnumber the guards that, if they ever want to do so, they can just rush the guards and break out of the jail. But, because no one trusts anyone else to face the risks with them, everyone voluntarily remains in jail. This same host also uses a similar example he refers to as ‘being the second person to to dance.’ Again, in short, he says that the first person who gets up to dance at an event is never the person who starts the dancing. It is the second person who encourages the rest to join in the party. So, when this person was asked why we don’t start a third Party, he responded with a list of reasons why it will never work.

Do you see that both of these hosts have violated the principles in which they profess to believe? If you are having trouble seeing it, can you see their hypocrisy? Their hypocrisy points to the breach in their expressed beliefs (i.e. principles).

Here is another example. This host has spent years explaining how a certain political Party has been working to seize and hold power in the United States. This host has explained that, if this Party ever came to power again, they would take action that would assure they would never lose another election again — ever! This host has also told us that we cannot trust the media, and that our election system was vulnerable to being manipulated. Finally, this host has told us how foreign nations — especially China — were working to interfere with our elections. However, since Nov 3, this host has refused to even discuss the election irregularities. This host has accepted the media narrative. And this host is now talking about how people need to work harder to get their opposition message out, and to win elections in 2022. Do you see the hypocrisy here?

This little trick applies to everyone: personal behavior, relationships, politics, even religion. When you see what appears to be a hypocritical action, first make sure it is real hypocrisy. You do that by making sure you know the principle in question, you know it correctly, and in context, and that you are correct in your judgment that it is being violated. If, after doing all that, you determine that it is hypocrisy, then that principle is, in fact, being violated. Try to correct it. If it is in you, you will be making yourself into a better person. If it is in a friend, you will be doing that person a kindness. If it is in a stranger, you will be helping to defend your society and, ultimately, your nation. And never accept that objection that correcting hypocrisy is ‘judgmental’ or ‘hateful.’ Whether or not it is any of those things all depends not on the fact that you correct someone, but in how you correct them. You can either do so with an agape love, or with malice — in which case, I hope that will be an act of hypocrisy on your part in itself. 😉

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