© Fernando Caracena, 2016
What is logic and why is it a necessary tool in modern thinking?
For some time, I have thought that I should write something about logic. Perhaps if an advanced education taught anyone anything about anything, logic would be its most important ingrediant. It is the finest wine of human thought. I love logic. I have developed a definite taste for it. I am sickened by the cheap pig swill that passes for the true essence of that wine. Don't drink that toxic cool aid, instead develop your taste and drink only the finest distillation of human thought.
What is Logic?
Logic is somehow connected with language, which is one important characteristic of human thinking that distinguishes us from the animals. What is amazing is that human babies learn their native languages so fast. They do this by a total immersion in all kinds of situations where people speaking to each other respond with various actions. Children catch on fast, that the spoken word is of vital importance and that understanding it is vital to be able to explain how humans are responding to each others thoughts, and acting.
Skinner (1957), a pioneer of behaviorism in psychology, thought that language was simply a reflection of environmental influence. Somehow that baby makes order out of the chaos of human experience. Skinner would probably say that language is an emergent phenomenon: a spontaneous order that evolves from a complexity of experience. Where I would disagree with Skinner is that he would call the cause of language development, "conditioning". The conditioning view was criticised by Noam Chomsky, who proposed his own theory that made him the world's most famous linguist at that time. Chomsky argued that children could never acquire the ability to be able to understand an infinite number of sentences from a finite number of situations involving language, but instead acquire it naturally from the fundamental way the mind itself is organized [see video]. He went on to abstract a number of universal rules for the grammar of all human languages.
We recognize that the human mind already has mental structures capable of manifesting language. The problem is that people cannot decide just what the human mind is. Be aware thast our world is full of traps that prevent us from thinking deep, effective thoughts. People insist on sharp definitions before they will even think about anything. However, in exploring reality, we have to proceed into uncharted areas, and through the experience of many forays into the unknown, finally arrive at well worn trails, which are the definitions. Sufficient here, is to recognize the wilderness itself: there is the mind that we and all other human beings possess. Once we see that, we can start comparing notes, which terminate on well defined categories and definitions.
The World of the Mind is Real
The human mind is real, consisting of parts, and manifesting physically as corresponding structures in the brain. Human beings, however, see other human minds through their thoughts and actions, not through physical brains locked up in their skulls. There is a person there that we can communicate with, and cooperate with. There is a direct connection with minds of others through thoughts and intentions, which we articulate through speech and writing. When we look at a preserved brain specimen, all we see is a marvellous structure that we can study and dissect, but we can no longer communicate with the person that used that structure in life to carry on all physical interactions. Does that mind still exist? I believe that it does, and that is why ideas are so powerful. Plato's ideas are still alive and vibrant and they influence many generations of human beings in their thinking. The world of ideas is alive, and our minds are alive in this world of ideas. Our whole world is enriched by generations of people who have contributed to our thoughts in one way or the other.
The beginning of wisdom in matters of mind begins with the realization that there is orderly structure to the human mind and to the mental environment in which mind lives. We as human beings have a birthright in having an innate connection to this order that is capable of manifesting in each individual human being that is born. An important purpose in our lives is to develop the potentials of our minds as much as possible.
Logic and Language are Parts of the Human Mind's Order
Something magic happens in the mind of a neonate on hearing the sounds of parent's voices. The child takes notice, and watches the parents carefully. The child is not born with inherent thoughts, these are acquired entirely on its own, just as it learns to walk by itself. But, just as walking depends on having legs, speech and thinking are made possible by having mental structures that make these possible. What I am suggesting here is that logic is what we call the pattern that we can abstract from our most effective thinking processes. If we can see these patterns in our mind's eye, we can begin to understand them: we then grok logic. Grokking logic is a theme that I hope to address in some future post(s).