Monday, May 1, 2017

The Difference Between What A View Asserts And Implies


In any discussion in which we are defending a particular view, we must present both a positive case and the negative case. The positive case shows the evidence for the view we are defending, while the negative case shows the problems with the alternative being presented. Both are necessary in the overall case. The negative case is necessary because the adherent of the other view needs a logical reason to abandon their view for an alternative. The positive case is necessary because if an adherent is provided a logical reason to abandon their view, the other view being presented may not be the only option. The way that a view is shown to be incorrect is that its claims are put to the test against reality and reason. If the claims are found to not reflect reality or they are not logical, then the view is false. However, the claims of a view can be of (at least) two different types that require a different approach. Today I want to discuss the differences in the assertions and the implications of a view or model. Understanding the differences will help us be more aware of how to properly address them in other views, and the understanding will also assist us in our formation and critique of our own views. This applies to worldviews, scientific models, philosophical theories, and really anything view that makes claims about reality, regardless of which area of reality it is.

What Are Assertions?

Assertions are propositions that a view or model explicitly claims to be true. When we are talking about worldviews, a worldview's assertions are the collection of propositions that it claims are true about reality. This collection is explicitly stated and defended by the adherents to the particular worldview that makes those claims.

When critiquing a worldview, it is important that we properly understand the assertions of that worldview. If we fail to understand the assertions correctly, then we run the risk of arguing against a misunderstanding of the worldview- a strawman. If we argue against a strawman, then we have not shown the worldview we are attempting to critique as having any issues. Thus our critique has not provided the adherent of that worldview a valid reason to reject it in favor of an alternative. Our critique simply does not apply to the debate at hand, and we sound like some crazy person who has decided to just start telling a story that has no applicability to the discussion at hand. Unless we are willing to take the time to properly understand what a worldview asserts, there is really no point in attempting to argue against it.

Some assertions are essential to the worldview, so if they are shown to be false, the entire worldview falls apart. While other assertions are not so essential to the worldview, and if they are shown to be false, they can either be adjusted or removed altogether. What gets really interesting and often causes great disagreements among adherent to the same worldview is that they do not always agree upon what is essential to the worldview and what is non-essential. For details on this, see my post "Zombies of Christianity."

Testing the assertions of a worldview or model is a direct way to test for its ability to accurately describe reality (truthfulness). If one of the essential propositions is found to be false, then the whole worldview or model may be rejected and an alternative needs to be found. If an assertion that is non-essential is found to be false, the worldview or model simply needs to be adjusted to accommodate the new data; however, that adjustment must not violate (it must be logically consistent) with the rest of the worldview or model. Sometimes what seems to be a minor adjustment affects the whole worldview or model, but not necessarily to the point of changing the essentials. As long as the essential assertions are not compromised, the main worldview or model remains intact, just with some different details. For those who are committed to a basic worldview (such as mere Christianity), the discovery that they need to adjust the details of their theology, science, or another part of the worldview does not undermine the historic event of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, so there is no need to be afraid or even resistant to change the detailed assertions of our worldview when the evidence demonstrates a non-essential detail to be incorrect.

What Are Implications?

While attacking the assertions of a worldview or model is a more direct challenge, one can use a more indirect method that is just as powerful. Many critiques of worldviews or models come in the form of critiquing, not the assertions of the view but, the implications. Implications are the collection of propositions that the assertions of a view necessarily leads to when the logic is carried to its end (or just a few steps from the assertion). Implications are not explicitly claimed by the worldview or its adherents, and in some cases, certain implications are not even held by the adherents because the adherents have not worked the logic through to discover them.

Necessary implications can be discovered using the assertions of the view and deductive reasoning. Any sound conclusion that results yet is not explicitly claimed, is an implication of the view. Since implications are necessarily dependent upon the assertions, it is, once again, extremely important to ensure that we properly understand the assertions of a worldview before attempting to deduce its implications.

As I mentioned earlier, implications can be used to critique a worldview indirectly but just as conclusively as testing assertions. If a validly concluded implication is false, then that indicates that one of the premises in the deductive argument is false. If that premise is an assertion of a worldview, then that worldview has been demonstrated logically to be false (as it is currently held- both essentials and non-essentials included). If an adherent wishes to maintain that worldview consistently, the false assertion would either need to be adjusted, so as to not lead to the false implication, or it would need to be removed from the worldview altogether. Of course, this flexibility would only apply to assertions that are not essential. If the false premise is an essential assertion, then the worldview has been completely falsified, and even the basic worldview cannot be believed reasonably, only emotionally- against reason, logic, and evidence.

Now, as I mentioned, not all implications are held by adherents to different worldviews or models. So it is extremely important to understand what an adherent believes. They may very well agree that a particular implication is false, but they may insist that they are being consistent. This is usually an opportunity to get them to go into further details of their worldview or model. If they are correct that they are being consistent with rejecting the implication, then it is likely that there is another assertion (or collection of assertions) that place a nuance on the "false" premise that adjusts it to avoid the implication (see my post "Providing Alternative Explanations"). The newly discovered nuances of the view may also make the implication not one that is necessary but one that is optional, which, of course, the adherent would simply avoid. Now, clarification does not always undermine a false implication; the adherent may simply not understand the deductive argument, or they are more committed to the false assertion than they are committed against the implication- they may be actually willing to accept the implication as true, which would demonstrate that they are actually more committed to a view than committed to truth.


The differences in assertions and implications are important to analyzing and addressing both properly. In our own views, the understanding will help us identify where a view can be flexible to follow the evidence where it leads. This allows us to adjust our own views as necessary and allows us to be more reserved and pointed, where applicable, in our claims of showing an opposing view to be inaccurate (which helps keep discussions cordial and respectful). In my discussions with people about different views, I try to identify if what I'm arguing against is an assertion or an implication; simply saying something like "I know you may not hold to this particular claim, but if you allow me to show you how your view logically leads to it by necessity, you may be able to more clearly see why I reject that view and why I think you should also, based upon your rejection of it." In the effort to be more careful thinkers, recognition of the distinction between assertions and implications will also help in our effort to be more persuasive presenters and defenders.

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