Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Plea for Logic

On occasion, I like hearing about what people think.  I like hearing new ideas, new ways of thinking, new *arguments* and *reasoned thinking*.  Unlike many, it seems, I *like* to have my thinking and beliefs challenged.

The problem is, logic is not actually integral to human thought, and it is certainly not integral to people's ideas or opinions.  Everyone has a bias, everyone has an agenda, everyone has a background that predisposes them towards some ideas and against others, etc.  This is natural.  Some biases and agendas are actually connected to truth and morality and so I do not mean this in a negative way.  But, our biases ought to be grounded in something more than emotional thinking.  For most people, reason is something that needs to be taught.  Unless you are uncommonly blessed with insightful teachers who are suited to your own personality, this does not happen in school, and most people are not of the persuasion to teach themselves logic.

This is a real shame, because armed with logic and reason, one can craft interesting and insightful arguments, and one can learn where one's thinking needs correction (and believe me, we all need correction in this area).  If you have a bias or an agenda (which we all do, and I would suggest that we all have a responsibility to ensure that our agendas can stand up to reason and logical thinking!), you are even in a better position of persuasion if you can make reasoned arguments.  Some might think that it is better not to go out trying to persuade people to our way of thinking at all, but we can no more live life without trying to convince someone somewhere of something than we can go through life without breathing.  So, what is not to like about logic??

Here are a few definitions, because words can be used in different ways.

logic

a (1) :  a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration :  the science of the formal principles of reasoning (2) :  a branch or variety of logic logic
> logic> (3) :  a branch of semiotics; especially :  syntactics (4) :  the formal principles of a branch of knowledge
b (1) :  a particular mode of reasoning viewed as valid or faulty

reason

1
a :  a statement offered in explanation or justification reason
s that were quite satisfactory>
b :  a rational ground or motive reason
to act soon>
c :  a sufficient ground of explanation or of logical defense; especially :  something (as a principle or law) that supports a conclusion or explains a fact reason
s behind her client's action>
d :  the thing that makes some fact intelligible :  cause reason
for earthquakes> reason why he wanted me to stay — Graham Greene>
2
a (1) :  the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways :  intelligence (2) :  proper exercise of the mind
 

argument

2
a :  a reason given in proof or rebuttal
b :  discourse intended to persuade
3
a :  the act or process of arguing :  argumentation
b :  a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion
 
***
These are specific tasks of thinking which have rules attached.  I am specifically referring to the more technical definitions of the above words: logic as a science, reason as sufficient grounds of explanation for a logical defense, and argument as a coherent series of statements leading from premises to conclusion.

These are intellectual pursuits, and though many of us would not consider ourselves to be "intellectuals", we all engage in this type of thinking.  We just aren't all very well-equipped to do so.    (Many of us even believe we are succeeding admirably, when in reality we are failing miserably.)

Because we are burdened with limited insight and knowledge, not everything needs or even has a logical argument.  But reason and logic are extremely valuable tools that can be used in every endeavor to one extent or another.  (Not always specific cases, but they have a place in every general area of life.)  While it is inadvisable to use logic solely as a basis for most decisions or internal self-making, logic is so powerful that it deserves a high place on the shelf of tools we use to tackle the world around us.  The study of logic also brings us to a knowledge of fallacies which we may find ourselves committing unawares, without our conscious intent or realization.  Avoiding such things assists in our communications and clarity.

I occasionally like to read conversations and reactions to news articles and the like; even when I find someone whom I believe to be on the right side of an argument, it makes me cringe internally when they use poorly constructed arguments or fall into emotional fallacies.  They not only make themselves look bad, they make everyone else with the same opinion look bad (or worse, they encourage poor judgement and reason in said persons) and, I would dare say, they hinder the advancement of truth and knowledge and what I would even call right progress.  In other words, they do much more harm than they ever do good.  

I hate to see that happen to a good, solid argument.  It *frequently* does worse damage than whatever argument the opposing side brings up.  People are very good at tearing down their own side.

Learn to think logically, learn to construct a valid argument, and learn to spot the flaws in your own thinking.  I wish I could say that these things shouldn't be so hard, but even the most intelligent people need a good dose of training in logic.

Instruct yourself, because if you leave it up to other people, you don't know what you are getting.

2 comments:

Jessica P said...

I'm not very logical at all. lol
But i'm also not particularly concerned with making people believe what I believe. I have too much to work on with myself and my own responsibilities.

I totally agree though, pulling emotional strings is not sound debating, it is manipulating.

~!Carey said...

But everyone has a need to be understood clearly, and everyone ought to know why they think the way they think.