Arguments in HTML

This post is not about arguments that occur on the internet, but about how to display philosophical/logical arguments in standard form on the internet. To put an argument in standard form:

  1. Write each premise on a separate, numbered line,
  2. Draw a line underneath the last premise, and
  3. Write the conclusion underneath the line.

It’s easy enough to produce an ordered list in HTML, but then the conclusion is numbered, which makes it look like another premise. This can be fixed with a trick in CSS, just add something like this to your stylesheet:

.list-arg li:last-child {
list-style: none

The HTML in the document looks like this:

<ol class="list-arg">
1. First premise
2. <u>Second premise</u>
3. Conclusion

As I was writing this post, I realized that I couldn’t add custom CSS to this blog without upgrading at a significant cost.

I spent two days toying with moving back to a static site or to the Ghost blogging platform. As I was experimenting with a self-hosted Ghost blog, it struck me that this might be incredibly easy to do in Markdown with something like this:

1. First premise
2. <u>Second premise</u>  

The thought was that putting two spaces after the last premise would signal a line break and remove the paragraph formatting. This worked nice in the Markdown previewer that I use on my computer, but WordPress produced this:

  1. First premise
  2. <u>Second premise</u>

The indention was perfect, but no underlining. So, I went back to experimenting with HTML. Maybe I could take all of the list markers out and put the numbers in myself, with a "therefore" symbol for the conclusion.

<ol style="list-style:none;">
<li>1. First premise</li>
<li>2. <u>Second premise</u></li>
<li>∴ Conclusion</li>

That produced this:

  1. 1. First premise
  2. 2. Second premise
  3. ∴ Conclusion

Finally, I wondered if I could insert the list-style attribute in the final list item:

 	<li>First premise</li>
 	<li><u>Second premise</u></li>
 	<li style="list-style:none;">Conclusion</li>

That gave me this, which was what I was after in the first place. It turns out that I really didn’t need to add anything to CSS at all.

  1. First premise
  2. Second premise
  3. Conclusion

Sometimes, the last premise is significantly shorter than the others, and the underline doesn’t look quite right. For example,

  1. P ⊃ Q
  2. P
  3. Q

That can be fixed with some non-breaking spaces. It looks ugly, but does take care of the problem.

<li>P ⊃ Q</li>
<li><u>P &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</u></li>
<li style="list-style:none;">Q</li>

That produces

  1. P ⊃ Q
  2. P        
  3. Q

Now, in writing this, I discovered that the new editor can’t handle footnotes. It turns out that there is always something.

A Gift for Us

This is a Christmas communion hymn, titled “A Gift for Us.” I wrote the lyrics last year, and Cheryl Tarter has written some wonderful music for it. It debuts at tonight’s candlelight service at NorthHaven Church.

Into our darkness, there came a light,
As a babe was born on that holy night;
The angels sang and the shepherds prayed
When the Son of God in a manger lay.

As we eat this bread and drink this cup,
We remember that child, a gift for us.
As we eat this bread and drink this cup,
We remember that child, a gift for us.

The fullness of God in human form,
Was that night, in Bethlehem born;
Giving up his throne in heaven above,
To teach us to serve, to give, and to love.

As we eat this bread and drink this cup,
We remember Jesus, a gift for us.
As we eat this bread and drink this cup,
We remember Jesus, a gift for us.

He came to this world, in all its strife,
For our sins, to give his life;
Lifted up, with his arms held wide,
The Son of God was crucified.

As we eat this bread and drink this cup,
We remember our Lord, a gift for us.
As we eat this bread and drink this cup,
We remember our Lord, a gift for us.

Finals Week

Time for the semi-annual benediction for finals week:

Dear students,

May God calm your anxieties,
refresh your minds,
and honor the faithfulness
you have shown this semester.

Remember that God has gifted you
more than you can imagine,
and you are capable of more
than you’ve ever dreamed.

May the great wisdom of the Father,
the incomparable love of the Son,
and the mighty power of the Spirit
be with you all this week.


Prayer for Pittsburgh

God of Grace, God of Mercy,

We pray today for the people
of the Tree of Life congregation
in Pittsburgh.

We pray for all those
who suffer from violence,
for those who grieve,
and for those who have died
because of a hatred that
has no point,
and makes no sense.

May they find comfort in
the knowledge of your love,
and healing in the support
of the community.

We ask forgiveness
for the ways in which
your word has been twisted
to support acts of evil.

Give us the courage
to challenge the evil rhetoric
that supports hatred and violence,
and to speak the truth boldly,
that your love, grace, and mercy
extend to all without limit.

May the love of your people do the same.


My Oklahoma Home

My latest song:


I-40 East, on a cloudy day,
Memphis up ahead, had to get away;
Had nothing in mind
Just looking for a place to roam.

Thought I could see, but I was dumb and blind;
Gave no thought to what I left behind,
The people that I love,
and my Oklahoma home.


They say that heaven’s paved
With streets of gold,
There’s no more tears
Or so I’ve been told
No more pain,
And no one feels alone.

But by those streets
Where the children play,
I hope to find
just a little red clay
To remind me
Of my Oklahoma home.

Verse 2:

Mind starts to wander when you drive for miles,
You think about faces, remember the smiles,
And you realize you’re old,
But you’ve never ever really grown.

So you turn the car into the setting sun,
The journey goes on, but the running is done.
God help me back
To my Oklahoma home.


You can’t leave, even if you tried,
When you’ve got red dirt deep down inside,
No matter how much you wanted
To leave it alone.

When you’re running away to another town,
No road is straight, they all circle around,
Bringing you back
To your Oklahoma home.


Okemah up ahead, the tears are making me blind,
And I hear the voice of Woody deep inside my mind,

And It’s taken thirty years, but now I understand,
That these are my people, and this is my land,

And these Oklahoma hills will always be home.

Thurman on Christian Power

Too often the price exacted by society for security and respectability is that the Christian movement in its formal expression must be on the side of the strong against the weak. This is a matter of tremendous significance, for it reveals to what extent a religion that was born of a people acquainted with persecution and suffering has become the cornerstone of a civilization and of nations whose very position in modern life has too often been secured by a ruthless use of power applied to weak and defenseless peoples.

Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, p.11.

Prayer for Labor Day


We pray for those who labor,

For those who are blessed
to do what they love,

For those who do what they must
in order to simply survive.

For those with hands as rough
as the son of a carpenter,

For those with backs as bent
as the one who bore a cross
through the streets of Jerusalem,

And for those who have been
shamed, despised and humiliated,
while serving at earthly tables,
patiently and humbly waiting
for a seat at the heavenly banquet.