Argument

Anti-Anti-Reduction

Suppose I argue that what makes a proposition true is its correspondence to a state of affairs. “All very well,” my interlocutor responds, “but true statements are so much more than statements that correspond to reality. They often inspire, exhort, warn, and comfort.”

Or, suppose I say that apologetics is a rational defense of the the content of Christian beliefs. “Yes, yes,” my interlocutor says, “but defenses of the faith shouldn’t just be rational defenses. They often require imaginative storytelling, poetry, and other art forms. People aren’t merely reasoning machines. We must appeal to their imaginative nature.”

In both cases, the reply should not be a defense of a reductive thesis. I shouldn’t reply, “no, statements are only sentences expressing propositions with truth values and nothing more.” Nor should I say, “imagination. Phewy. That’s got nothing to do with any defense of the faith.”

Instead, one should concede the point to the interlocutor and explain that theories of truth aren’t reductionistic theses. Neither are apologetic methods. The interlocutor should be made to realize that some claims aren’t reductionistic and that mounting anti-reductionistic arguments as responses to them miss the mark and make one sound a little argumentative.

Picking a fight where there isn’t one will only end in a fight over nothing.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.

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