This might seem odd, but when I consider what has made my dating relationship of 2+ years successful, I realize that I owe a debt of gratitude to Philosophy. My major has equipped me to carefully consider many situations that dating life has thrown at me, and I would like to share that equipment with you. Most of these tools fall under the category of logical reasoning.
Fundamentally, there are only two types of logical reasoning: inductive and deductive. Inductive is an appeal to experience, and we all use it everyday. Say my roommate Jon asks me if he should wear a coat today. “Yes,” I say. “Why?” asks Jon. “Because there is a wall of snow covering our window, Sherlock,” I respond. (I am grumpy in the morning.) Ta-da! I’ve just used induction and have spared Jon the inconvenience of freezing on his walk to class. When it comes to romance, inductive reasoning is critical.
For starters, how do you know if you “like” someone? Well, I would suggest getting to know them. If someone catches your attention--say she walks up to your table at lunch and starts talking to your friend--and you find yourself paying special attention to that person--like noticing that she has the biggest, bluest eyes you have ever seen--and later you cannot stop thinking about that person-- I mean, come on, she walks like an angel in Levi’s--then you definitely want to know more about that person. Here is another opportunity to use your induction skills. Pump your friend for information about the mystery woman: “Is she a Christian?”; “What does she do for recreation?”; “Does she like dogs or cats?”; “What is her favorite band?” (“The Strokes!?” Oh my goodness I love The Strokes.) Well inductive reasoning has done its job well, and it turns out you do “like” that person. Now it is time to take her out on a date. It is time for deduction.
Deductive reasoning occurs when you reason from premises to a conclusion. For example: if Jon wakes me I up, I’ll go to class; Jon is shaking me, so I am off to class. This is an example of a commonly used syllogism called a Modus Ponens. It sets up an “if then” statement, called an “implication,” and then reasons that the “if” came true, so the “then” must also come true. The complement to Modus Ponens is Modus Tollens. In Modus Tollens, you reason backward from a failed implication; if the “then” did not come true, then the “if” must not have been true. (If I did not go to class, then Jon must not have woken me up.) Modus Ponens and Tollens should be your weapons of choice when making “the call.”
Begin by introducing yourself; “Hi, this is Andrew, we met at lunch... yes that was me.” Good work. Now, take Modus Ponens for a spin: “Do you like coffee, because I’d like to take you out for some. You do like coffee? Great! It’s a date.” Just like that you have deducted yourself into a date. Now you need to figure out if the person is actually interested in you, or if this is just a pity date: if this is a pity date, she will slip “friend” somewhere into this conversation. She didn’t call you “friend”, so this isn’t a pity date!
Strong work. You have set up your first date and you are both well on your way to a happy, healthy relationship. But the logic does not end there.
Dating is not always easy. There will be times when you as a couple will be faced with difficult decisions. Obviously, trying times can’t always be solved exclusively with logic; there will be difficult questions that need to be prayerfully considered. Yet I do not believe that God wants us to shirk our decision-making responsibilities. We are called to ask Him for guidance, yet when the time comes, we are responsible for making decisions. What logic allows is a way to think clearly through hurting emotions in order to prioritize your life. I have already divulged a lot of personal information in this essay, so why not one more private example?
About a year into my relationship, I became overwhelmed with doubt and worry. I was so preoccupied with questioning whether my girlfriend and I were “right for each other”--whatever that means--that I could no longer enjoy our relationship. I felt like I was constantly under an oppressive, dark cloud of doubt about our future, and I couldn’t handle it any longer. Either we needed to break up or I needed to let my doubts go. Even in my angst, I realized that this was the perfect set up for a Disjunctive Syllogism. In a Disjunctive Syllogism, you are presented with two options. If you discover one of the options, say P, is false, then the other one, Q, must be true. So I decided to test the first option, and we broke up. About one day into the break up I realized that this option was completely false, so I bought two-dozen roses, put on a suit and my best apology face, and asked for forgiveness. Since, there has not been a dark cloud in the sky.
So will logic ensure you a happily ever after? Of course not. I believe that there are times when logic completely fails, and you need to trust the Spirit’s guidance to make decisions. Yet I cannot dismiss the role logic has played in making many relationship decisions from, “where do we want to go for dinner?” to “should we still date after you graduate?” And my hope is that a little logic can go a long way for you too. Now if you excuse me, I need to apply my inductive reasoning skills and snoop out a certain somebody’s ring size…