Friday, 15 November 2013

Laws Of Discourse II

Before leaving the section on "Laws of Discourse," I had to check that I had not missed anything in it. I agree with these four statements by Anderson:

"Two plus two always makes four, no matter what kind of brain is doing the arithmetic." (p. 128)

"A properly constructed syllogism always leads to the same conclusion." (ibid.)

"Environments differ tremendously, but all environments reflect the same fundamental laws of nature." (p. 130)

"[Intelligence's] protean character indicates that communication between species will always be feasible if both are willing to make the effort." (ibid.)

I have some reservations about this paragraph:

"Of course, the extra-Terrestrial is not obliged to use logical rules. Most people do not, except in a fuzzy and semiconscious way. Logic deals with abstract, artificially simplified propositions. The statements we make in real life are much more complicated. Is monarchy a good or bad form of government? Well, now, that all depends." (p. 129)

All that logic can do with a single proposition, e. g., "Monarchy is a good form of government," is to affirm the tautologies, "If monarchy is a good form of government, then monarchy is a good form of government," etc. We need at least two other propositions, e. g.:

A good form of government is stable and has a clear line of succession.
Monarchy is stable and has a clear line of succession.
Therefore, monarchy is a good form of government.

Of course, someone else will say that a good form of government has equality and democracy and that monarchy does not have these features but that is not a disagreement about logic.

I disagree that "Most people do not..." In its most basic sense, logic is that consistency between propositions without which we would not succeed in saying anything. Of course, we express propositions with words or other symbols which is why Anderson describes logic as the principles governing symbol manipulation.

If a man says, "My son was born on January 1st, 1948," then later, "My son was born on January 1st, 1949," we ask him, "Which was it, 1948 or 1949?" In practice, everyone accepts that this kind of verbal contradiction is unacceptable and that the speaker is obliged to correct it. No one says, "I am free to contradict myself because I am not bound by logic." And, if anyone did say that, then he would not succeed in telling us when his son was born or anything else either.

So, in its most basic sense, everyone applies logic all the time without realizing that that is what they are doing. For the most part, everyone applies the laws of English grammar correctly without being able to write a grammar text book. At least, they apply grammar sufficiently to make themselves understood. They might colloquially say, "Was you going?" instead of "Were you going?" But, for practical purposes, they do know the differences between, e. g., singular and plural or masculine and feminine. And logic is even more fundamental. Language can survive a lot of mistreatment of its grammatical structures but not a complete absence of consistency such that I would be free to affirm, then deny, a single proposition without giving any explanation or recognizing that this was a problem.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Very interesting, but I have to agree with Poul Anderson at least in part when he said most of us don't use logical rules except in a fuzzy, semi conscious way. I have had weary frustrating arguments with people who denied, for example, that "opinions" can be wrong or deny that voting for Party X means you assent to the ideas and beliefs and policy programs of that party. That is, they denied, to use an absurd example, that my opinion that Hitler was a wise, noble, good, and great man was a false opinion.

One person conceded that my hypothetical opinion that two plus two equals five was factually incorrect while STILL denying it was a WRONG opinion. So, I have to lean more to Anderson's view.

I know you don't care much for Aristotle, but I have thought that a revival of the Medieval educational system based on the quadrivium, including the study of logic, might be a good idea.


Paul Shackley said...

Yes, people apply the law of non-contradiction in everyday discourse all the time without thinking about it. All that logicians have done is to recognize and formulate the law. But often when people start thinking about thought itself, they get all muddled, saying, eg, "Well, if that 's his opinion, then it's right for him" etc!
Did I say I don't care for Aristotle? He has to be preferred to Plato who put ideas before things. No, I think it was just that I didn't agree with Aquinas' application of Aristotelianism.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Exactly, for far too many, when people start thinking about thought and logic, they get muddled and confused. Because they are no longer taught the basics of HOW to think logically.

Thank you for correcting me about your view of Aristotle. Altho later writers like Jacques Maritain and Mortimer Adler might well disagree with your view of St. Thomas Aquinas.