Thursday, July 12, 2012

Triune Inductive Proof Matrix

By GJ Gillespie

There are three basic parts of an inductive argument: A claim is supported by evidence and reasoning. In other words, Evidence (data, supporting facts and opinions) plus Reasoning (the warrant, analysis, rational link, explanation) equals Claim (thesis, conclusion). (Toulmin model)

All three must be present and operating with equal weight in supporting relationship for an argument to be probable or strong. Each part must be equally valid.

  •  A speaker will make observation of the evidence, then using his or her reasoning powers will advance a claim. The reasoning process leading to a conclusion is called Proof.
  • Going from data directly to conclusion is intuition-like Inference. Or, evidence may lead directly to the claim--with the reasoning inferred–similar to an enthymeme.
  • A firm conclusion requires both the heart felt conviction of truth and the process of rational analysis to confirm that the conclusion is possible, plausible and probable.

Analogy to the Trinity

Perhaps these three elements in an inductive argument are analogous to the divine persons of the Christian trinity? The trinity is conceived as the three divine persons existing as one God, equal in substance but distinct in their relationship to each other. The Orthodox formulation maintains that the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness of me,” John 15: 26. Earlier in this chapter Jesus says that the Father sends him.

This triune interaction is the only possible way to distinguish between three equal points in a space without any other reference. The pattern forms a unique and irreducible relationship between the three. By unique I mean that there is no other combination of relationships between three equal points that are possible to indicate that each point is distinct. By irreducible I mean that all three elements must be present for each to remain recognizable. The relational structure permits unity within diversity. The same qualities of coherence seem to apply to a strong argument.

Analogy and its Implications

We may consider that the Claim is like the Holy Spirit, Reasoning is like God the Son, and Evidence is like God the Father.
  • Claim is the Spirit (Revealer of truth, Spirit of Truth, liberator for action, life giving power, the essence). Notice that the Claim proceeds from Reasoning and from Evidence exactly parallel to the doctrine of the trinity in which the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
  • Reasoning is the Son (Logos, the Word, making known the Father, making the mysteries of life and cosmos understandable, like light in darkness).
  • Evidence is the Father (Source of meaning, originator of truth, Ground of Being, Creator of diverse array of data in the cosmos, mysterious wholly other.)
  • When the claim is inferred without reasoning, the process is analogous to natural revelation. “The law written on the heart.” (Romans chapter one.)
It is possible to come to the claim without evidence and rely only on reasoning. This is analogous to divine revelation. (The Bible, Word of the prophets.)

Ideally, both evidence and reasoning are equally employed in proving the claim. Evidence backed up by reasoning forms a line of thinking that is stronger in proving inductive arguments.
All three elements will usually have equal weight for the argument to be persuasive.

Fallacies as Heresies

Fallacies in argument may be analogous to theological heresies that fail to accept all three persons of the trinity, stressing one over the others.

  • Monism that sees God as one only is like accepting a claim without any evidence or reasoning, failing to rationally account for the diversity of evidence.
  • “Jesus only” is like refusing to provide evidence to support a reasoned understanding of a claim or equivocal reasoning for a vague claim.
  • Polytheism or nature worship is denying importance of reasoning. It is having an irrational leap of faith in your beliefs, ignoring contradictions, going from one bit of evidence to the next without credible analysis.

More similarities between inductive proof and trinity

Using our reasoning ability to draw conclusions about truth from our experiences in the world is what makes human communication distinctive. Each of the three elements implies the others, exactly like the theological formulation of the trinity: beginning with the claim we can naturally infer both the evidence and reasoning, beginning with reasoning we can infer the evidence.

Evidence by itself without any rational explanation or linked to a specific claim may not inherently imply anything. But a piece of evidence does seem to call for analysis and some conclusion about it. A poll showing that 52 percent of respondents favor one candidate for president (evidence) taken by it self does not imply any conclusion necessarily. But, such a statistic might suggest in the mind of a reader reasoning and a conclusion. The statistic might imply the generalization that in a democratic society the will of the majority should rule. A natural conclusion might be the candidate favored by the larger poll number will win the election.

In the same way theologically, “I am in the Father, and the Father in me,” (John 14:11) and “I and the Father are one,” (John 10:30) are scriptures that show that Christ and the Father are equal and intimately related, just as reasoning and evidence merge in rational thought. In the natural world, the existence of a son implies the existence of a father. A father implies a son (or at least a child.)

The Holy Spirit may be thought of as the single unifying purpose or essence of the Father and the Son. The Spirit makes the Father known to worshipers. Through the Spirit the presence of Jesus is experienced. Just as evidence and reasoning lead to a single claim of truth, so the Father and the Son send the Spirit of Truth into the world.

A claim founded upon compelling evidence and reasoning is a powerful motivator for action. “Your house is on fire!”(evidence). People who remain in a burning house usually die (reasoning). “Get out of the house now!” (claim) The power of the argument comes in the claim. The Spirit of God is his power in the world. The Spirit “convicts of sin,” or motivates action, just like a well argued policy claim calls for action.

The single sentence of the claim is “short hand” or embodies both the evidence and the reasoning without having to re-state either. When a neighbor in your back yard is yelling, “get out of the house!” he or she may not need to explain the reasoning or evidence for the claim. The claim by itself implies both. In this example at least, the support is “present” in the claim without being directly stated. In the same way, the Father and the Son are present in the Spirit.

The work of the Spirit functions as “short hand” for -- or represents -- the Father and the Son, signaling the central purpose of each of the other persons of the trinity in the world. It is through the Spirit that we know the Father and the Son. The Spirit reveals the Father and the Son, just as a valid claim will imply its backing in evidence and reasoning.

This triune inductive argument matrix, therefore, suggests that the Spirit may be thought of as God’s thesis statement for humanity. Just as a thesis summarizes the entire content of an article, the Spirit reveals the heart of God. The matrix also reminds us that the process of thinking inductively -- beginning with evidence, moving to reasoning and leading to a conclusion -- must be coherent in forming a single unity called an argument.

Next: The Trinity of Argument

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