Thursday, March 24, 2016

Verification Principle of Dating

Here is a riddle: What is the difference of approach between an apostle and a philosopher? Answer: An apostle gives answers or commands without much instruction or analyses , and a philosopher looks at the problem and tries to solve it by breaking it down piece by piece, relying on logic rather than on authority. For instance, take the problem of dating and marriage within LDS culture. At a recent general conference, M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve told the young men in the audience to seek marriage (as though young men don't already try to do that). But notice, that in his talk he never tells men how to get married; he just gives them an order. Unfortunately, it has become a pattern in the church to give orders without directions. This is not to say that leaders are not vitally concerned, it's that they seem to believe that what they say is evident even if they don't provide evidence for what they are saying at times. Allow me to help remedy the problem.

Before I begin, the reader should be forewarned that this principle is concerned with those in the LDS Church and is aimed at those who are seeking marriage. If one is not at the marrying age, is not interested in marriage, or if one is not a member of the LDS Church, this principle and association of ideas may not be as of much help to you. If you are LDS, single, and hoping to change your dating perspective, read on.

First, I will ask the reader to follow the direction of David Hume in relation to previous guidance about dating. To quote him "“If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.” What do I mean by this? I mean that up until now, we have not gotten serious details or principles in relation to how we should date; rather just abstract concepts. Allow me to give a few examples : You just haven't found the right one, keep trying, she (he) is out there somewhere, keep your temple covenants, etc.

First, since Mormonism espouses a libertarian or compatabilist view of free will, there can be no such thing as "the one", because this would imply that your spouse is pre-destined, which is incompatible with libertarianism and compatibilism. Keep trying isn't advice; you are obviously trying if you are asking for dates or accepting them. While the person that you may marry or date is out there in the world supposedly, they aren't determined so there is a chance there isn't someone out there for you. In regard to the temple covenants, while they are given to us to makes us more Christlike, they are not related in any significant way to finding a suitable dating partner and eventual spouse; many people within the church fornicate and marry while those who keep their covenants remain single. Don't misunderstand; temple covenants are very important. But the covenants themselves will not help a person find a mate. So, we can cast all these ideas to the flames and start anew.

Before I lay out what I call the Verification Principle of Dating, a brief history lesson is in order to show where I borrowed it from. In the early part of the 20th century, there were a group of philosophers known as the Vienna Circle. They took a scientific approach to philosophy, since most of them were trained as scientists. While he was not a member of the circle proper, the English philosopher A.J. Ayer met with the circle for a time and brought their ideas to the English speaking world in a book entitled Language, Truth, and Logic. In it he argued for what is now known as the Verification Principle of Logical Positivism. Following in the footsteps of Hume, Ayer argued that unless a statement is verifiable by the 5 senses, it is meaningless. In other words, if you can't produce evidence for a claim, it is neither true nor false; it is just without cognitive meaning, or "armies on the moon" to quote Hume again.

What does this have to do with LDS dating? Simple. I will now propose what I call the Verification Principle of Dating which is this: Unless there is empirical evidence that a date will progress to a relationship or marriage, then no date should take place. Simply argued, in the LDS Church there is an expectation to marry. But too often, people go on dates just for fun or out of curiosity. Instead of doing that, we should date only those whom we would want to have a serious relationship with.

In order to apply this principle, think of the basic scenario. A young man sees a young woman who tickles his eyes and approaches her and asks for a date. Usually, unless the girl is in a relationship, she will accept his offer. Under the verification principle, this is a bad idea since A) The young man in question has no idea why the girl said yes B) The young woman accepted knowing nothing about the young man. Instead, the situation should have been approached in this manner. After the offer was accepted, the young man should inquire why she accepted. If the answer is along the lines of "I usually always accept a first date", then the young man should thank her but tell her it may not be in their best interests to go on a date since their is no evidence that it will go anywhere. Instead, he should ask for her number and talk to her more to see if there is any commonality between the two of them through texting and talking on the phone. If there is, then a date can be scheduled. If not, then the two can thank each other for their time and look for others to date.

Perhaps upon inquiry the girl says "I think your handsome, and would be interested in getting to know you." This is good, since there is now empirical evidence that a relationship can form (you generally don't marry those you find unattractive), but it is still incomplete because there is no evidence a strong relationship can be formed because they don't know one anthers interests and beliefs. So, the young man should first return the compliment (women love being told they are beautiful), but still ask for her number and tell her they should do extensive talking before going on a first date to see if they are compatible. If they are, then they can proceed. If not, then on to the next person.

I can see some of the arguments against this position such as "This is putting to much pressure on a first date", "this is taking the romance out of relationship", and "What about online dating?" I will address those here, and if anyone else has a counterargument I did not address, say so in the comment section below and I will answer them in another post.

In regards to pressure, in many ways this will relieve pressure. Many first dates go badly because a person is nervous and doesn't really know the other person. Under the Verification Principle, you will have done extensive talking and will not have the awkward pauses of most first dates, and will know what your date likes to talk about. You will also know that there is real  interest in pursuing a relationship, which you would otherwise not know for sure without the Verification Principle. Some may say that it is a bit forward to ask why a person is interested after a date has been accepted because them accepting the date implies that they are interested. On the surface this may seem true, but it is specious. Most LDS  women will accept dates from anyone who asks respectfully, and to be fair many LDS men requests dates with no real intent. This principle forces both parties to be honest with each other, and to know where they stand.

Romance and chemistry (which doesn't exist) are not factored into the Verification Principle, but for good reason. Romance can't happen until a date takes place; the Verification Principle is intended to weed out dates that have no business taking place. So, one can believe in both romance and the Verification Principle.

Online dating (especially Tinder) make VP much easier because there is already evidence you are attracted to one another, and you usually talk extensively. In short, in many ways the online system implements VP unknowingly and it seems to be successful.

No idea or system can guarantee a relationship or marriage; there are many factors that go into making that important decision. However, the Verification Principle of Dating can be of great help on the way by allowing you to date people whom you are more likely to marry.


  1. Forget focusing on marriage. Just go have a good time.

    1. The post began with the point that this was for people who wanted to find someone to date to progress to marriage. Fun is a different point of the project.

  2. I found your comment quite remarkable that you would say "Unfortunately, it has become a pattern in the Church to give orders without instructions". Are you sure about that?

    1. I am not absolutely sure; I have not been everywhere in the world where the Church is so I couldn't say with absolute certainty. However, too often, especially with this topic, there is a command (get married) without a principle or set of principles to do so (the how so to speak).