February 21, 2007

[Logic Error]

I've been pondering the necessity of "logic" as of late. The trouble at the moment is that logic has begun to seem a bit tiresome; so many people use logic to prove so many things. The end result is that we have a lot of people that can "logically" prove whatever they really want to.

The thing about logic is that first, you have to buy into the system. If you believe logic works, then it works. It is its own language. Mostly, logic works within systems, languages. The so-called "laws" of logic only apply within a certain language. For example, the word "cause" can mean different things in different systems - determinists believe "cause" to mean (and therefore "be") something different than, say, libertarians do.

The trouble that comes from this is when different systems try to use logic to prove their side. I've just been reading about the "free will" debate in a philosophy book, and it seems to me that the two systems have nothing in common. One system claims that we are free because of their definition of the word "cause", and the other system claims that we aren't free out of an argument based on their definition of "cause." Yet another system says that we're only sort-of free because of yet another definition of the word "cause." And all three systems use logic to prove their way, and more logic to disprove everybody else.

In other words, our definitions of words assume certain logical arguments, thereby forming one large circle of logic. Logic is a self-contained system.

Since language is culturally based, it stands to reason (no pun intended) that really, somebody's stance on a particular issue is usually related to the way they have learned their language. It turns out that the eskimos have many different options for the concept of "snow," whereas in Queensland, Australia they only conceive of snow as one sort of thing. How important a concept is relates to how useful it is in practical experience.

We look no further than the game of basketball for an exmaple Professor Walls gave in class. The winning team often attributes their success to their amazing abilities as athletes (free will, as it were - "we just wanted it more"), whereas the losing team often often attributes their failure to "fate" ("I guess it was meant to be, we tried so hard!").

And so while logic is a nice little system of itself, it is necessary that you believe in logic for it to work - it is a self-contained system. Science, religion, and even atheism are all self-contained systems, where the language they use "proves" their beliefs. If something doesn't prove a belief, the language used is modified until the evidence matches the belief.

I, for one, have yet to understand how logic can account for things like paradoxes (of which the Christian faith contains many) or the flow of time. So many logic arguments presuppose a linear flow of time, when this has never actually been proven to exist. We may think that it's linear, but then again, earth looks flat unless you take a look at it from farther away. And who's to say that your five senses (or more or less, since some cultures don't acknowledge certain senses and others claim more than five) are not deceiving you?

No, faith is involved. We cannot be certain that we know something, but we can be certain that we believe something. And I mean everybody.

I submit to you a new definition of religion: "religion is any self-contained lingual system which, by virtue of its culturally-refined definitions of words and use of grammar, may be used by devout adherants to prove itself and disprove other lingual systems."

What say you?


Chris said...

You know, it's funny, but I have this feeling that, while I originally dreaded taking this philosophy class, it must be good for me becuase it's generating a TON of writing from my various disagreements ...

oh, and check out this because it illustrates my point ...

Michael said...

I think logic, properly defined, is a lot more powerful and useful than you give it credit for. However, its utility in a postmodern world is limited primarily to the acquisition of information based upon axioms and the conclusions derived from them. Nowadays, if someone's operating from a different set of axioms, it's impossible to present a convincing deductive argument generated exclusively from your own axioms (and if you "step into" their world, as it were, and show how their axioms are self-contradictory, then the argument turns emotional/personal). So it's becoming increasingly difficult to make use of logic in fields where rational debate would previously have been of value (*coughPOLITICScough*).

The bottom line, I guess, is that logic is a useful tool for self-improvement from an intellectual standpoint, but (and this irritates me to no end) it's rapidly losing ground as an apologetic tool.

Chris said...

I know, I know. Logic is useful, I'm not denying that, but what I'm arguing is that logic isn't the end-all that lots of people (particularly philosophers) seem to think it is. Logic can work if you all speak the same language - THE SAME language, meaning you all agree on every definition and understand each other's past experiences. Trouble is, that never actually happens. If we truly spoke the same language, we'd be the same person.