Logic is a misused word.
I hear people throwing it around all the time. This is illogical, that’s illogical, “No, a fallacy isn’t a lapse in logic.”
Logic does not mean, “makes sense,” or “sounds reasonable to me.” It is a very specific thing.
reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity.
You do not get to make up something that sounds ‘right’ to you and call yourself ‘logical.’
You can claim to call yourself all sorts of other things – things listed in this article. But. If you are not using the very specific rules of logic, you do not get to call your argument that. The term ‘logical’ is reserved for those who actually use its rigorous, deliberate, long form of thinking.
(Note: There’s a difference between defining a person as logical or illogical, and defining a person’s statements as logical or illogical).
Otherwise, you’re just guessing and sometimes you get it right.
We’ll talk about how you can build logical conclusions in later posts. This one is about all the things people confuse ‘logic’ with.
4. Logic is NOT the Same as “Reason.”
This is a logical statement. Deductively, it’s valid. But, there is no Sparkles and unicorns can’t fly.
There is logic, but no reason.
Logic is a component of reason, but it doesn’t mean anything until we fill it with facts.
It is the stage waiting for actors.
We can’t know what the play is about until the actors arrive – just as we cannot know the truth until the facts arrive. However, with no stage, there is nothing for the actors to stand on.
Likewise, while ‘logic’ may not be synonymous with ‘reason,’ there can be no reason without logic.
We set the structure. We build an empty stage of logic. And then we fill it with facts. From this, we can witness reality. And, only from reality (and an acceptable standard of ethics), can reason be accomplished.
“Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information.”
This also means that if we want to establish reason, we not only need the framework of logic, we need a framework for sorting facts from real and not real. We got the framework of the argument right – we got the facts about unicorns wrong.
The same is true of ‘truth’ and ‘rationality.’ We need logic + facts to arrive at any form of honesty.
3. Objectivity is Necessary for Logic, But Not the Same
You need objectivity if you’re going to formulate a logical argument. That doesn’t being devoid of preferences, emotions, and bias – it means you set them aside. You can make an agreement with yourself to look hard into the face of truth, whatever it might tell you.
Thus, objectivity is a component of logic.
If one is not being objective, they may compose the structure of a logical argument in an erroneous way. But, objectivity does not guarantee logic.
If one is not motivated to support one bias or another, they are not likely to deliberately manipulate their statements, but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll have the capacity to abstract a logical argument divorced of the norms they are accustomed to. It also doesn’t guarantee that their mind won’t take mental shortcuts that skip over important facts.
One can be objective and still accidentally be illogical.
However, you can’t be logical and un-objective.
2. Common Sense Doesn’t Need to be Common
“Common sense isn’t all that common,” as they say.
And that’s not the only trouble with it. Common sense also isn’t always logical.
good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.
It sounds like the same thing, but here’s the difference: this definition – the one for common sense – is subjective. There is no structural form or test for accuracy.
“Good” sense. It’s practically a circular definition.
The manner of qualifying something as possessing “common sense” is one of personal judgement and can be based on a variety of preferential factors. Often, these parameters are based on cultural assumptions and current norms. What is common sense to one person is bizarre to another. There is no universal method for categorizing an action or belief as having ‘common sense’ or not.
While common sense may frequently intersect with what is logical, there is nothing inherent to compel it to do so.
1. Logic is Not Unemotional
It’s absolutely true that your emotions may cloud your judgement, but without emotions, logical conclusions lack direction.
Let’s take the famous trolley problem. Technically, it’s an ethics problem, but it shows up in logic discussions, as well – mostly to expose the emotions and possible hypocrisies of the person being posed the problem.
There are many variations of the trolley problem, but it essentially comes down to this:
There is a train bearing down on 5 people stuck on the track (for whatever various reasons). The train has no breaks. You have the option of diverting the train to a different track that has only one person on it.
What do you do?
The question is meant to underscore how we feel about passivity versus complicity. Do you do nothing and take no responsibility for the five lives lost, or do you take action and deliberately murder someone to save five others?
But there’s something else going on here. The trolley problem relies a universal assumption that is almost always true – the value of human life in the mind of the participant.
You might say it’s only ‘logical’ to maintain the survival species. We must protect our own to ensure not only our own survival, but the survival of our genes. There are two problems with this:
- Losing those five people is not going to imperil a species of 7 billion.
- This impulse may be a leftover instinct pre-programmed into us from a time when the deaths of five people could, in fact, mean a weakened tribe, but that’s not logic. That’s instinct.
Besides, what is emotion if not a neurological response to stimuli?
The reasoning behind the trolley problem is removed from ’emotionless logic.’ Without a human impetus – without the value placed on human life – the question has no use.