Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Is Logic Over-rated?

One of the curses of modern times is the beaten-up and sorely used intellectual baggage we still carry around from the Enlightenment. No, I don't mean the ideas generated by thinkers at the time of the European Englightenment, I mean the mutated, dumbed-down versions of those ideas created by modern pop culture.

In particular, I got pretty disgusted today with the idea that Logic, now elevated to the status of a god, is the solution to everything, and that furthermore, it was non-existent before the European Enlightenment.

Logic solves an incredible range of problems, as I'm sure almost everyone would agree. However, it's sad to watch sentient adults act as if political, personal, or religious questions can always be resolved by logic. Logic, in this mythology, replaces morality in that we can all look forward to a magic time when everyone becomes totally logical. Then and only then will humanity achieve the heaven of total agreement. Has some human being perhaps already attained perfect logic? Is he or she even now sitting around, sad and lonely, yet patiently waiting for the rest of us to catch up? If so, I can't imagine it. The reality is that each of us believes our ideas are generated by reason, while everyone who disagrees with us is woefully confused by a combination of emotion, faulty psychology, rickety logic, and too much junk food (too much junk food - yummmmm).

Okay, now I should site an example of some Enlightenment thinker who saw a limit to logic. I know for a fact that David Hume wrote about that, and I know approximately where he said it, but I don't feel like looking it up right now. Also, I should prove how important logic was in the middle ages, for instance, but same excuse. I'm tired, I'm cranky about the whole business, I don't even feel like typing in the facts I already know, and I'm going to go to sleep instead.


The Guy from Meat for the Masses said...

I agree. Logic is a helpful cognitive tool, but it can't be applied to everything. Moreoever it does lack a moral component, which many of it's earliest proponents in the Age of Reason realized.

The world can't be explained completely in logical terms. It's both amusing and aggravating to watch those who embrace logic and reason as a religion as they attempt to use it to discredit other belief patterns. They seem unilling to apply logic and reason to their own belief system, falsely assuming that their own belief system stands the test. How many people who use science/logic as a religion understand the mathmatics and physics of their beleifs? Howmany have doen the actual experiments that support modern physics? Painfully few. But they're willing to take it on faith, because they believe that it's logical and someone told them it's true. Logic as a belief system couldn't survive the tests these same people would apply to other more traditional belief systems.

It's a sham that's coupled with ignorance and arrogance.

mongolhorde said...

As a group of simple raiders, the Horde does not claim to be an expert on this topic. However, we sometimes like to draw a distinction between logic applied to mathematics, digital circuits, Newtonian physics, etc. and the “logic” applied to conclusions about systems where the inherent complexity prevents understanding of the facts / underlying assumptions. We consider things like human interactions, life decisions and economics to fall squarely into this category. We have limited patience for people who claim that logic as described in the former is anything like the thought processes (or lack thereof) applied to the latter.

Anonymous said...

What do you propose is a better solution to solving political and religious issues? It's fun to see what happens when logic isn't applied in politics.

I don't think that we can really know for certain whether or not the universe can be explained in logical terms. We don't know enough yet. To claim that it can or that it can't is equally arrogant, just as claiming to know the truth about God is arrogant regardless of which side of the argument someone is on.

Of course no one has perfect logic, but trying is better than giving up on logic altogether.

Flo said...

Thanks for three intelligent comments, Guy from M for M, mongolhorde, and Anon.

I've been meaning to write a second post on this forever, and I'm now hoping forever means this week. So stay tuned.

For now, I'd just like to re-iterate that I never said we should give up on logic altogether. I did say, however, that logic will not solve all problems, and I'll be sticking to that position in my (soon-to-be written??) post.

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