The False Security in Ignoring Presuppositions…

At the beginning of the semester, I read an introduction to one of my textbooks for a social science class in which the author of the book, Richard Haas, expressed concern over a college graduate who did not seem to know very much about civics or the world in which the student lived.  Haas expressed this concern as if the college curriculum should have prevented this travesty of knowledge. [1]  However, I would respectfully disagree with Haas’s presupposition that the University should not let a student leave their institution without a basic understanding of how to be a good citizen.  This is not the university’s problem.  This problem started well before that student went to college.   

               The issue at hand is an issue that affects many people: Presuppositions.  In modern society, many people have false presuppositions that lead them to make irrational decisions.  Furthermore, people make arguments without considering presuppositions.  I would like to take a moment to show the inadequacy and the false security in ignoring presuppositions. 

               Now, let me throw out a quick disclaimer: Haas’s book is useful and I am not trying to be critical of Haas, nor, do I know him personally.  I just used his introduction as an example.  Many other examples can be used especially regarding conversations about the Bible, and Christianity. 

               At first glance, many people would feel a strong sense of agreement with Haas’s interpretation of the situation.  Many would say that an educational institution should not allow their graduates to have a poor understanding of the civics of their home country.  Afterall, it is an educational institution.

               If you would indulge me for a second, I will attempt to point out the reason why this presupposition is flawed.  First, it is reasonable for every citizen of a country to be well-informed of its civics, but not every citizen goes to college.  Therefore, the natural tendency is to push the responsibility onto the public educational system.  Again, I would refute this because not everyone attends the public school system.  (I am not advocating that the public school system should not require courses in civics; however, the failure of a person to adequately learn civics is not the responsibility of these institutions).  Where does the responsibility reside? 

               The parents of that young man are to blame.  The parents!  When individuals make decisions to engage in actions that could yield the results of procreation, they by default accept responsibility for a child should one be conceived.  The parents of the individual are subsequently responsible to ensure that the child will become a useful member of society.  This is not a commonly accepted position in a nation that flaunts sexual freedom, but the reality is nonetheless true. 

         The right answer is that the proper blame and ridicule should be placed upon the parents for the child being inadequately prepared to operate civically as a useful member of society.  This realization would not have occurred if the presupposition was not questioned.

               To question presuppositions, one must think deeper than surface level on statements.  This type of thinking is useful in many different types of scenarios: from the courtroom to the church.  To take everything at face value will lead to shallow thinking, and make one very gullible.  It is always prudent to ask the question: Why? As I have attempted to illustrate, the need to question presuppositions is important and essential.  One dimension of apologetics is the importance to ask someone (or yourself) why they believe their position.  The Christian has good reasons and solid evidence on which to state their claims.  The atheist lacks support for his or her presuppositions. 

Many will continue to find false security in a failure to challenge their own presuppositions, but will you?

[1] Richard Haas. 2020. The World: A Brief Introduction. New York, NY: Penguin Press.   

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