Logic

Let’s get this straight: being logical does not make you right.  It’s perfectly possible to construct a logical argument based on flawed premises. You take a premise like, ooooh, the fact that it’s cold at night, and form a logical argument based on the need to wear warm clothes, and take a jacket, and what about a hat?  But then you go on holiday to Greece in the middle of the summer, then suddenly your central premise (that it’s cold at night) falls down.  Another example is the contraceptive pill — suddenly the previously reliable premise that sex carried a high likelihood of pregnancy became inaccurate.  A sound premise quickly became a flawed one.

The problem is that many individuals seem to think that logic is the only way to construct any argument, and that it should be the only component.  Yes, good argument is based on logical, rational discourse.  Yes, logic is a key component.  But it’s important to bring in other aspects, and it’s important to consider other perspectives.  Why?  Because the world is very rarely black and white.  The world is perceived slightly differently by everyone.  And in a world constructed of shades of grey, there are few (if any) premises which rest on unambiguous, objective fact.

Let’s take a more solid example. What about the principle of gravity? A law of nature is as close to an objective fact as we can get. In our world, things fall downwards in a uniform manner. Except there are two issues with it.

Firstly, the principle of gravity is considerably more complex than “things fall downwards”. All objects exert a gravitational pull relative to their mass.  We all know that speed alters the effects of gravity, and that it’s possible to achieve “weightlessness” in a falling plane.  We also all know that different planets have different gravitational pulls — the moon, being a much smaller lump of rock, allowed astronauts to jump distances impossible on earth.  The question, therefore, is where you draw the brackets around “the world”.  Is the moon included? Are our “tricks” with gravity included?  It’s fine to have a law of nature, but don’t assume that you know exactly what that law is. Don’t assume that you won’t find something which indicates that the law is more complicated that you previously thought.

Secondly, we see the principle of gravity in different ways.  It’s the same principle, but it means very different things to a high school physics teacher, a stuntman and a construction company.  To the teacher it’s an important part of the theory which students need to learn. To the stuntman it’s likely to be something dangerous, to be battled against in the quest for making a good film or putting on a good show. To the construction company building a tall building it’s a hindrance in getting heavy materials to the top of the site.  Oh yes, of course the principle of gravity is the same in all these cases, but the interpretation changes. And I think that matters. I think that our world is made up not of walking flesh and blood, but people with views and opinions and interpretations.

Logic is only useful if you recognise that the validity of an argument rests of the appropriateness of the premises.  And premises not only change over time, but can often be interpreted in more than one way. So really, don’t suggest that the world is black and white and certain and unchanging just because your logic says it’s so. Likelihood is, I don’t accept your premises.

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About feminismfortories

Moderate Tory, Liberal Feminist. Based in the UK.
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