Sunday, 8 January 2012

Wordplay - logic

Aristotle - from Wikipedia
What is logic?

Well I for one find it a rather odd business, this mish-mash of ideas we call logic. Aristotle made a start with his syllogisms, but over two thousand years later logicians tried to turn it into a game of symbols and rules so they could run off with it and build careers. Electronics engineers build computers with it, while politicians and climate scientists never use it at all.

The online Oxford dictionary defines logic as:-

[mass noun]
1 reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity:experience is a better guide to this than deductive logicthe logic of the argument is faulty
  • a particular system or codification of the principles of proof and inference:Aristotelian logic
  • the systematic use of symbolic and mathematical techniques to determine the forms of valid deductive argument.
  • the quality of being justifiable by reason:there seemed to be a lack of logic in his remarks
  • (the logic of) the course of action suggested by or following as a necessary consequence of:the logic of private competition was to replace small firms by larger firms
2 a system or set of principles underlying the arrangements of elements in a computer or electronic device so as to perform a specified task.
  • logical operations collectively.
So logic is, within certain boundaries, a move in the argument game, a rather feeble prop we use in whatever way seems most convincing.

Yet it seems to me that logic has more to offer if only we explore  its possibilities, loosen it up and reconnect it with the real world. This is what Spinoza tried to do, but Newton came along and distracted us with his mathematics and mechanistic science of cause and effect. I can't help thinking we could have made more of logic and less of Newton's science, so in future posts I'll make a tentative attempt to expand a little on what might have been.


rogerh said...

"England is governed not by logic, but by Parliament" - Benjamin Disraeli.

I had hoped some combination of computer text analysis and logic might de-mystify the law leading to useful answers to legal questions on Google - "Is it legal to do xyz in Somerset on alternate Tuesdays".

A look at Alec Fisher's book 'The logic of real arguments' shows just how hard it is to extract solid meaning from words - and how easy it might be to wrap respectable words around a false argument.

Demetrius said...

One matter is that much of modern "science" has taken Newtonian thinking to extremes. When this is allied to dodgy research and manipulated results then the outcome can be disastrous. As in mathematical formulae for governing playing the markets.

A K Haart said...

rogerh - my father was in computers from the early days and always thought they would be useful in legal work, but it never happened in the way he thought.

D - yes, too many use maths and statistics without knowing the underlying laws, which may be impossibly complex anyway. So the calculations tend to break down without warning.

James Higham said...

This is what Spinoza tried to do, but Newton came along and distracted us with his mathematics and mechanistic science of cause and effect.

I'm so glad you wrote that and I think I might be on the same page as you. What do you think of Kepler v Gallileo, if there is a "v" at all?

A K Haart said...

JH - I’m sure Galileo has been idolised more than perhaps he deserved and the Catholic Church was more rational in its dealings with him than it usually gets credit for.

I’ve not looked at the relationship between Kepler and Galileo in any detail. I tend to see Kepler as the greater scientist of the two, but not from any great depth of knowledge.