Friday, November 21, 2014

None, Some, All


One of the problems with how people view things is when they see some people doing a thing and assume that everybody is guilty of doing it, or they see some people not doing a thing and assume that nobody does it. This is where we get stereotypes and prejudices from. I’m sure you’ve encountered the assumptions like people assuming that because some Muslims are terrorists, it means “Muslims are terrorists,” or because some Hispanics are illegal aliens, it means “Hispanics are illegal aliens.” But that’s not a rational assumption. Why? Because knowing that Some A are B does not mean All A is B:

Some A is B(If all we know is that Some A is B, there’s a lot of A and B we don’t know)

When we know, “Some A is B” (whatever A and B may be), it does not allow us to make a general conclusion about the whole of either A or B.

Contrary and Contradictory Statements

Once we recognize this, we can understand the means of refuting a stereotypical charge.

Two statements can be said to be contrary when they cannot both be true, but both of them can be false. For example, if we say “All A is B” and another says “All A is C” and A cannot be both B and C, but can be something else instead of B or C, then the two statements are contrary.

On the other hand, if someone says “All A is B” and I say “Some A is not B,” then these statements are contradictory—they cannot both be true but one of them must be true. If All A is B, then there cannot be any A that is not B. But if Some A is not  B, then it is not true to say that it all is B.

Once we recognize this, it becomes clear what the debate is in each case.

  1. If someone argues that All A is B, the refutation is to show that at least one is not.
  2. If someone argues that No A is B, the refutation is to show that at least one is.
  3. If someone argues that Some A is B, then the question becomes, What does that prove?
Some people may do a thing, but one can’t conclude from this fact that all people (especially of a group) do a thing just because some do.
Logical Issues
The fact that SOME A is B can tell us things about specific subsets of a group, but it can’t tell us something about the whole group the subset is a part of. To form an accurate judgment on the whole, we need to know characteristics about the whole that we can compare the subset to. Moreover, to form an accurate judgment on the subset, we need to have accurate information on the whole.
There are two choices, when it comes to discussing SOME:
  1. All A is B, Some C is A, Therefore Some B is C.
  2. No A is B, Some C is A, Therefore Some C is not B.

That’s pretty much all you can determine when you only have one universal and one specific premise. 

Unfortunately, some people think that the knowledge on behavior of some is enough to indict the whole, but the problem is, it doesn’t give a person enough information to conclude anything:

Some A is B Some B is C Some C is A

In the above graphic, the area marked “???” is the area we need to know about to demonstrate the relationship between A, B and C. But if we only know that Some A is B, Some B is C and Some C is A, we can’t conclude that A, B and C are related to each other in any way other than coincidence.

Application to What People Say About the Church

This is why attempts to tie The Church (as a whole) to the sins of the members doesn’t work. You can come up with a huge laundry list of the sins of some:

  • Some Catholics Sexually Abuse
  • Some Catholics are Bigoted
  • Some Catholics are Misogynistic
  • Some Catholics are Hypocritical

Etc. Etc.

But the problem is, no matter how long the laundry list you come up with, you can’t come up with an indictment of the whole, unless you have a universal (ALL or NO) to compare it with. But there is only one universal that does fit, and that is ALL Catholics are Sinners. That’s hardly news, because ALL non-Catholics are also sinners. So, you’ll also find Buddhists who sexually abuse, Muslims who are bigoted, Presbyterians who are misogynistic and atheists who are hypocritical.

In all these other cases, nobody would presume to judge ALL Buddhists, Muslims, Presbyterians and Atheists as having these traits, but when it comes to the Catholic Church, the whole is presumed to be guilty because of the sins of the part.

The Magisterium vs. Individual Vice

The thing to remember is this: The Church has a living teaching authority (magisterium) which passes on and interprets the teaching of Christ through His apostles. Catholics who live in a way contrary to the teaching of Christ are not doing so because of the teaching of the Church, but in spite of the teaching of the Church. We have a Catechism which people can consult to see what we believe (HERE is a searchable version). We have the Pope and bishops in communion with him continuing to make clear what is and what is not compatible with our faith. Certainly we can have people in the Church—even people high up in the Church—who do evil, but one cannot say the Church made them do evil.

Something to think about the next time you see accusations made against the whole Church, on account on some who do evil despite the teaching of the Church. 


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