An Illusory Intertwingling of Reason and Response

Philosophy: I wax philosophical, and many times violently politico-philosophical. If you can stand the heat, here’s the kitchen: enjoy your stay . . .

Tafel :: philosophy

Saturday, April 07, 2007


I get really tired of the annoying tendency everyone — Christians included — has of legitimizing the commonplace. Ubiquity does not necessarily equate with morality. Okay, granted: majority neither equates with universality. I know this. It still seems like "everyone."

I was listening to a religious (I hesitate to say "Christian") radio program several days ago. It was the fourth installment of a round-table series on parenting and the family. Previously discussed were the various ways in which parenting is responsible for the behavioural and character development of children. Up now was the question of the degree to which children are responsible for their own behaviour, aside from parental influences poor or beneficial.

I would, of course, agree with the thesis behind this line of questioning. However, before the discussion could even begin, one of the panelists mentioned, by way of opening, that the question of individual responsibility was never more apt due to the many children being raised in dysfunctional families — especially single-parent families.

"Hold on," interrupts a female panelist. "I just want to clarify, because I know you didn't mean to say what it sounded like you were saying: that single-parent families are necessarily dysfunctional. I mean, there are a lot of single-parent families that are less dysfunctional than a lot two-parent families."

Ummm... yes. He did mean to indicate that.

First, voluntary single-parent families — those in which the separation is voluntary, such as cases of divorce — are dysfunctional. The term "dysfunctional" (adj. not operating normally or properly, Oxford Dictionary) merely indicates that a family is not functioning in a proper manner. As a Christian, I would be compelled to say that any family voluntarily divided is not fully in compliance with God's plan for that family, and is as such dysfunctional.

Not to say that there is no making the best of unfortunate circumstances: a single mother whose husband abandoned her can easily strive to follow God in the management of her family and raising of her children: this I do not contest. However, without placing blame for the situation on her, I decline to sugar-coat the it and say that such a family is God's perfect will, and hence not dysfunctional. While she may bear no responsibility for the fact that her family is dysfunctional, it undeniably is. Stating that gravity has no bearing on life doesn't change the facts for a pilot in his final spin.

I don't think that terms should be used haphazardly or derogatorily — but calling a spade a heart wins no games. Admitting that a situation is less-than-ideal is entirely prerequisite to coping with — and eventually mending — it.

No, we should not belittle a single mother doing the best she can for her family, but neither should we canonize it as an alternative ideal.

Okay, there's that. Now let's gripe a while about the absolute inability of even those who should know better to grasp the simple concept that is the syllogism. Logical fallacy: some two-parent families are dysfunctional, therefore single-parent families are not dysfunctional as a result of their not having two parents.

Non sequitur. Need I explain?