Am I Another “Nattering Nabob of Negativity”?

Thanks, Spiro Agnew and likely William Safire for help on my title.

Been reflecting on what Iowa had recently done, what Massachussets and others have done before that, and what Maine and others are contemplating as regards both  private, and also often very public, “nuptials.”

Are you familiar with the syllogism?  It was a teaching and learning device used by Socrates in his dialogues and still has the value of being able to clarify one’s thinking.

If a syllogism is constructed properly; that is, that it passes tests for both truth and validity, then there is no escaping the conclusion that is drawn from the premises.

See if you can test out this syllogism’s factual accuracy as well as validity.  (1) If you agree with the major premise(s) and the minor premise(s) and (2) if the premises have factual accuracy, then you must also agree with the statement found in the conclusion.  Let’s try out an example now:

Major Premise:  No man can be a wife, and no woman can be a husband.                                                                          Minor Premise:  Charlie is a man and Rosie is a woman. Therefore:  Charlie cannot marry a man, and Rosie cannot marry a woman.

(One can concede, of course, that a wedding is not necessarily a marriage,  nor is what has sometimes come to be called a “civil union.”)

The ultimate truth in the two premises can be found in the story of Creation, in the Book of Genesis.  That means, however, that you must believe that the Book of Genesis is the “Word of God.”  “In the beginning was the Word, and . . . .”   If you do not accept those premises, then you are still dead meat if the laws of the United States continue to be made and interpreted by Godfearing men, such as the majority of those whom we call the “Founders.”



22 Responses to “Am I Another “Nattering Nabob of Negativity”?”

  1. Marshall Faircloth Says:

    Here are my best false syllogisms:

    Major Premise: To attempt nothing is to fail at nothing.
    Minor Premise: To fail at nothing is to succeed at everything.
    Conclusion: Therefore, to succeed at everything, attempt nothing.

    MaP: God is Love.
    MaP#2: Love is Blind.
    MiP: Ray Charles is Blind.
    C: Therefore, Ray Charles is God.

  2. pen Says:

    That syllogism is terrible. By using “husband” and “wife” in your major premise, you are setting it up with gender bias. But “husband” and “wife” have no more link to the legal definition of marriage than you give it. You are basically saying “Marriage is between a man and a woman, therefore two men or two woman can’t be married. Your major premise is basically the same as your conclusion.

  3. pen Says:

    To expand a little, here’s the syllogism simplified:
    No man can be a wife.
    Charlie is a man.
    Charlie cannot marry a man.
    I don’t believe that this is actually a syllogism, because the concept of “marry” is introduced at the end without being proven in the major or minor premises.

    A true syllogism would look like this:
    No man can be a wife.
    Charlie is a man.
    Charlie cannot be a wife.

  4. Dave Hayes Says:

    According to Leviticuc, a man laying with another man “as with a woman” is an abomination.

    So is eating shellfish.

    So, I guess you just believe the parts you like, huh?

    Or, should we be stoning women who are not virgins when they marry, too.

  5. Dave Hayes Says:

    Excuse me, it should have read Leviticus.

  6. dlee Says:

    “So, I guess you just believe the parts you like, huh?”

    …….or the parts that scare you the most

  7. Forest Crump Says:

    I like Marshal’s

    “Major Premise: To attempt nothing is to fail at nothing.
    Minor Premise: To fail at nothing is to succeed at everything.
    Conclusion: Therefore, to succeed at everything, attempt nothing.”

    You know if more people did nothing the world would definitely be a better place.

  8. Gregory Phillips Says:

    Dr. Raymond, I’m disappointed. I would have thought that you, as a man who has made the study of language his professional life, could have constructed a sturdier argument for this position than that.

    But maybe there just isn’t one.

    There’s a thought.

  9. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    Forest Crump!! I’m doing less to help the world be a better place!! I tried to use that with my Dad years back and he just couldn’t understand my logic!! Can you cut the lights out? I’m determined to do nothing and it’s hard to not do something at all!!

  10. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    Gregory! You think your disappointed now wait till you get your grades!!

  11. Daryl Cobranchi Says:

    Yeah, this argument was really weak.

    Assume that the Bible is not true, and your entire argument falls apart. So, since you assume tha the bible is the word of god (and true), that leads to the conclusion that the stuff in the bible is true.


    And I call BS on the godfearing leaders bit. Our leaders ought to know that the US has a secular government.

  12. Daryl Cobranchi Says:

    If you do not accept those premises, then you are still dead meat…

    I believe history will show that the bigots are the roadkill. Five states have already legalized same-sex marriage. CA and NY will quite possibly fall into line soon DC city gov’t just voted to recognize SSM administered in other states.

    Your side is losing ground quickly.


  13. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    Foreat Crump!! I’m stuck on the thought of nothing!! I have been told more than once I would never be nothing!! quote= ” You will never be nothing!” That must be a good thing!! What do you think?? Marshall!!

  14. Raymond Rundus Says:

    A brief first reply to the thirteen previous and quite melodious though not harmonious comments.

    Gregory will acknowledge that the rules of syllogistic reasoning require that both the statements in the premises are “true”; that is, they have factual accuracy. More often, faulty structuring of the relationship between the premises leads to an invalid conclusion, as in the familiar example:
    All good citizens vote.
    John votes.
    Ergo, John is a good citizen. Everybody see the problem here? Often, an enthymeme (see your dictionary) can be seen to be based on a flawed or inchoate pattern of reasoning.
    BTW, in trying to record the “marriage” between same-sex couples, Iowa has apparently (according to a small-town newspaper in that state and cited in the most recent issue of “Time”) decided to refer to one of the applicants for a license as “Party A” and the other as “Party B.” Not indicated if whether, at the courthouse, the ministering official will be prone to say, “I now declare you ‘Party A’ and ‘Party B.'”

  15. Tammy Stephens Says:

    I’ll catch up, when things slow down here. But just wanted to say hi, and hope all is well.

  16. Gregory Phillips Says:

    Dr. Ray. you’re right, of course, about the rules of syllogistic reasoning. What you have failed to acknowledge (unless, that is, you are making this very point, in which case a tip of the hat to you) is that your original example is an enthymeme, since the major premise requires us to accept the assumption that marriage should contain a husband and a wife in order to be a marriage.

    It’s the introduction of “should” that makes this an ethical question rather than a logical, or factual one.

    Except, of course, for most opponents of gay marriage, this comes down to a religious question.

    And that can’t be presented in factual terms either.

  17. Daryl Cobranchi Says:


    I think Rundus’ post is just one big illogical mess. He starts out with the factually correct statement that a male cannot be a wife (which is a function of the limitation of our language and nothing more). His minor premise is stipulated. But his conclusion doesn’t follow from either his major or minor premise. You might as well say this:

    Major premise: Odd numbers are a subset of all whole numbers.
    Minor premise: 3 is an odd number
    Therefore: Pi is good with coffee

  18. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Are we just spinning our wheels as we try to get out of the snowbank of that pile of words and users of them that a language, any language, consists of?

    We must recognize (and agree) that the referents of concrete words are usually immutable, not subject to change
    UNLESS: the speakers/users of a language come to an agreement that this referent is now different from what it was.
    EXAMPLE: Pluto for many decades (thanks to Kansas astronomer Clyde Tombaugh) belonged as a referent to the class word “planet.” Now, it seems, while Pluto still seems to belong to our solar system, it is not, the scientists known as astronomers believe, a “planet” with the same status as Neptune or Mars or Earth.

    So, when did the class “husband” come to include women? And when did the class “wife” come to include men? I don’t see the scientists in the field of genetics coming to the rescue, at least not yet. And thus we will probably continue to be unable to reconcile our thinking.
    And I for one don’t want to be a wife or to have a husband. (Some of us may remember a feminist tract from the 1970s that was written by a woman and that had the title, “I Want a Wife.” But that had to do with how women are burdened with domestic and other duties as wives and had nothing to do with seeking sexual gratification.)

    Let me close by giving an example of an “enthymeme” that gained my interest a number of years ago. At that time colleagues Joe, Rudy, and I were carpooling a couple of days a week back and forth from Cumberland County to Pembroke for classes and such. (Even after they moved to Wake County, we continued to meet near Business 95’s intersection with NC-59. I had “fired” both Joe and Rudy at one time in the early 1970s at the behest of PSU administrators [both taught foreign languages and the requirements for such had been chiseled out of the “Basic Studies” curriculum] but later rehired them after legal action was considered, and they held no grudges obviously; they were/are involved in a “civil union” and we still remain good friend.)
    Anyway, one day we were driving back from the campus and, about two miles down the road, saw two young men wearing white shirts and black trousers and riding bicycles.
    Said Rudy, “Look at those two Mormons.”
    I thought for a moment and then replied, “Rudy, how can you tell their religion by just looking at them?”
    Can you reconstruct a complete syllogism from this circumstance?


  19. Daryl Cobranchi Says:

    So, when did the class “husband” come to include women? And when did the class “wife” come to include men?

    Who said it did? You assume, based on nothing authoritative that I can see, that a husband implies a wife. Why cannot a husband have a husband? Or a wife have a wife? You’re married, right? Does your spouse have a spouse?

    I know more than a few same-sex couples. None of them refer to one of them as the “wife” and the other as the “husband.”

  20. Take This Advice … And Blog Us in the Morning » Blog Archive » On same-sex marriage Says:

    […] Ray Rundus’ recent post on SSM generated a fair bit of discussion.  To balance out his generally “anti” […]

  21. Raymond Rundus Says:

    To further the discussion,extend the controversy, some of you may have some unexposed urges to say what is on your mind about the current controversy over the remarks of the reigning Miss California USA (I believe her name is Carrie Prejean) and whether Donald Trump (who owns the Miss USA “brand”) was right NOT to say to her and to the breathless world, “You are fired!”

    It seems as if there is more to the subtext of this controversy than simply the argument that a beauty queen ought not to offend any minority cultural community, or else she could be dethroned. . . . Or is this the primary concern?

    ? ? ? ? ?

  22. Daryl Cobranchi Says:

    The reason she almost was fired was that she had lent her name & voice to a politically controversial group, thus embroiling the pageant in politics. Add in the semi-nude photos which violated the contract she signed and you have your cause for firing.

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