Reductio ad Absurdum

By Dr. Jim Ferguson
As my readers know I like words; not just to be pedantic (bookish), but pedagogical (educational), because I’m a teacher at heart. Previously I’ve noted that the word doctor derives from the Latin word docere, which means to teach. I teach medical students, nurses, staff, patients, colleagues and those who will listen.

I enjoy finding the perfect word for communicating an idea, and even wrote a Focus column in May about the term for the perfect word (mot juste). Perhaps words and enunciation are even more important these days. Communication is largely non-verbal through body language and facial expression. However, our faces are now covered by masks which limit nuanced communication because smiles and frowns are obscured and our voices are muffled.

Everyone has random thoughts at times. However, for unknown reasons obscure words sometimes just pop into my mind. I may not even know the meaning of a term. Perhaps I heard the word in some context and it was filed in my memory. Fortunately, the Internet is available to answer questions for the curious and to continue my educational process.

Our English language is a living entity which evolves over time. The compendium of word-tools a person or a culture possesses is called his or its lexicon. There are a half million words in the English lexicon; perhaps upwards of a million if you include scientific and arcane terminology. By contrast the average person has perhaps 10,000 words in his or her lexicon.

Words come and go, falling in and out of fashion. We also acquire new meanings for words or terms already in our memory banks. Examples are a mouse with a computer instead of under the cupboard and woke as an expression of social consciousness rather than awakening from sleep. And a generation ago, who could have predicted that some would claim there are more than two sexes or there could be a debate about the meaning of “essential” in the context of services?

As an example, if schools are not an essential service then what is? Apparently liquor stores and abortion clinics are deemed “essential” by political functionaries, but AA meetings and church congregations are not. The word congregation means an assembly of persons. How absurd is it that congregations of protesters, with or without masks, are deemed essential by “enlightened” Democrats, yet churches are not?

Reductio ad absurdum is “disproof of a proposition by showing its absurdity when carried to its logical conclusion” (Webster). These days there are numerous examples of this anglicized Latin term. One example is that LGBTQ has morphed into 100 genders rather than two biological ones. Another absurdity is that hatred of Donald Trump justifies voting for Joe Biden who is obviously not competent to be president, nor will Kamala Harris make him more so. If Joe’s “handlers “want to be President they should declare their candidacy and run for the office rather than vying for the position behind the absurd facade of ole Joe.

Racism is a term which defines a person by the color of their skin or their ethnic background. Sexism is a term which defines a person by their biologic sex or perhaps how they identify themselves. The most recent example of reductio ad absurdum is the choice of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden‘s vice president running mate. It is absurd that the choice is deemed “historic” rather than racist and sexist. Martin Luther King must be turning over in his grave since we have drifted so far from the ideals of his “I Have a Dream” speech where character rather than skin color defines a person.

A friend recently sent me a gift of a new word, and I added it to my lexicon. And to make it even better, I discovered the word was a mot juste! I was not familiar with the term paltering which Webster defines as acting insincerely or deceitfully. My friend used the term as the perfect definition of the media, and I agree.

My readers know that I believe history is important. The Founders of our country believed in the lessons of history, and were thus able to create our Constitution, a revolutionary and historic blueprint of government for our country and for mankind. However, a perspective of our post-modern era is that only the present is relevant, so statues that “trigger” snowflakes and leftists must come down.

Years ago, I told the history of the Big Lie, but the story bears repeating. In 1923 there was an uprising in the city of Munich, Germany. It became known as the Beer Hall Putsch because the leader of the coup d’état was to meet his stormtroopers at a Munich beer hall. The uprising failed and the leader was sent to prison for two years where he completed his book entitled “Meine Kamph” or My Struggle.

Of course, I’m speaking of Adolf Hitler. His book is full of rants against Jews, Gypsies, communists and others who disagreed with his racist philosophy. However, Hitler came up with one novel perspective, euphemistically known as the Big Lie. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, would later use the technique of telling a big lie, so boldly and effectively and so often that the common man could not conceive that someone could be so disingenuous and deceitful, and, therefore, the average man would begin to believe the lie. That same technique is brazenly used today by the media and politicos to dupe the public.

Though we have endured big lies at least for the last four years, we are now in the season of the biggest lies. What should we do in this current season of this information? Francis Schaefer (quoting the prophet Ezekiel) asked this question in his prescient book, “How Should We Then Live?” Schaefer said we should seek Biblical truths. We must speak the truth in love as the Apostle Paul advised, and we should pray for the lost and confused. Additionally, the Doctor Is In recommends listening carefully and measuring everything you hear against common sense, rather than through hatred’s induced insanity.

And lastly, I’ve adopted the mantra of another friend. He advises us to “Keep looking up!”

Well said.

 

 

 

 

 

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