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all done for 2005

I finished grading and writing narrative evaluations this weekend, so I'm all done with work for Fall quarter. However, I'm still doing research over the break (since, to be honest, I didn't really do much during the actual quarter).

Incidentally, I was going to mention this earlier when it came up, but now that I'm done with everything I have time to explain it...

I held a review session last week before the Logic final for everyone taking the class. The philosophy department didn't have any rooms available that were big enough, so I reserved one through the physics deparment that seats 90 (although only about half came). I had suggested the professor use a particular translation example earlier in the quarter, but he either forgot about it or never got around to it, so I made it the very first example in the review session. As opposed to all the useless prose we had them translate into symbols during the quarter, this one actually matters in that it's a real-world example of people in power failing to apply logic to their legal documents (and many of the students taking the class were legal studies majors so I think it was of particular interest to them):

The Texas Marriage Bill

a.) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman
b.) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.


Despite protests by many (http://www.savetexasmarriage.com/) that it was worded extremely poorly and threatened to outlaw all heterosexual marriages (and possibly even gay marriages, depending on whether gay marriage is considered "similar" to what they define as marriage in part a), the bill was passed as it's written, and is now a part of Texas state law.

If lawyers can get stuff like this passed, then how does legal language have any meaning whatsoever? You could use this as a precedent that nothing written legally needs to mean what it says literally, which opens the door to all legal documents meaning whatever one wants them to mean, depending on how you interpret them! My interpretation is that the bill clearly outlaws heterosexual monogamous marriages, but says nothing about the legal status of homosexual or polygamous unions except that they should not be considered marriage. I was considering having them do a deductive proof that the union between a man and a woman shall not be recognized by the state given a & b as assumptions, but I realized before I presented it that there were too many subtleties with the way it's worded to do that with the techniques they've learned (for instance, you have to treat "consist of" as meaning "is defined by" or "is equivalent to" which is a bit tricky and runs into a lot of issues). So I instead just left the implications up to them after they translated it.

Of course, politically, I am very pleased that part b passed. If I had to draft a marriage bill to pass in all states, it would say almost word for word what b says. I wouldn't include part a though, since I believe a marriage is a union between any N (for N>1) intelligent beings (whether or not they are human or have a specific gender) who are in love. I think it would be nice if government did not recognize any marital status; that way whether you're married would depend solely on what your friends, family, or church recognizes. This would avoid any government discrimination in who can get married and who can't, as well as ensure the separation of church and state.

This was probably the most fun review session I've done, and it seemed to go over well. I really enjoyed TA'ing this class as a whole and put a lot of work into it. Next quarter, I'm TA'ing "Overview of the Universe" again for the astro department (I was too slow on the draw to get "Intro to Philosophy" which would have been my first choice, but at least I got my second.)

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
mpnolan
Dec. 14th, 2005 02:27 am (UTC)
Could you wrap the TML text in tt or anything other than pre? It's causing the page to stretch.
spoonless
Dec. 14th, 2005 02:34 am (UTC)
Done. You must have a much smaller column width than me.
geheimnisnacht
Dec. 14th, 2005 09:55 am (UTC)
Yep, too good not to use that example...

Good ol' Astro TAing, 5 hours a week. More time for Banks then, eh?
go4thnx
Dec. 15th, 2005 06:02 pm (UTC)
If lawyers can get stuff like this passed, then how does legal language have any meaning whatsoever? You could use this as a precedent that nothing written legally needs to mean what it says literally, which opens the door to all legal documents meaning whatever one wants them to mean, depending on how you interpret them!

In France legal documents are written in both English and French. When the lawyers want the documents to be extremely clear, concise and otherwise free from interpretation they write them in French. When the lawyers want the documents to be interpreted or adaptable, they write them in English.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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