Thank you. I didn't take logic in school, and this spells it out very clearly.
I'm going to put it in my memories so I can refer back to it.
I took logic (and dairying) in the course of my second degree, largely for fun, I thought. I expected to skate through because I thought (ah, the confidence of the 20s) that having been brought up around lawyers I knew how to think logically.
No, I knew how to think *tactically*. Not the same thing. The only real logic I knew I'd learned as part of serious scholarly work--you don't try to prove your hypothesis, but *disprove* it--because if it's wrong, you want to find out before you humiliate yourself in front of your thesis committee (or Dr. Drew, who was a one-woman committee on things like that.)
Anyway--first day or two of logic class I felt like I was being kicked in the teeth, realizing that I didn't know what I thought I knew, but after that it was enormous fun. The math connection becomes obvious even before you get to the Venn diagrams. And it's much easier to do clean scholarly work if you understand Aristotelian logic. People will sniff at it, saying deductive logic doesn't lead to new discoveries--but what they don't want to admit is that it *tests* new discoveries. It's not the tool for making discoveries but the tool for determining if what you think you've found is really there. I think it put the polish on my ability to assess sources rapidly--a real help the next year in grad school.
As a librarian I learned to use logic in the evaluation of research materials, both online and in print, but I'd just never seen it spelled out so succinctly and clearly. Proof is where you find it, and, I'm afraid, closely tied to one's prior beliefs most of the time, even when it shouldn't be.
I'm lucky in having met the right books (and instructors) at the right times. If I'd run into Sayers' _The Lost Tools of Learning_ in high school, I would not have caught on...I had to read Aristotle first, and I had to read Plato before Aristotle (not everyone needs them in that order, but I did. I had glanced at Aristotle and shrugged, but after Plato I suddenly wanted the next guy in line. And geometry was always my love (thank you, Mr. Baltis), and reading Euclid in Greek, sheer delight. (The only Greek that was sheer delight, with my lack of language talent!)
It was because of Sayers, read in the gap between the two degrees, that led me to take the logic course. Odd how things work.
Ha. The best use for geometry is in quilting. If only I'd had a geometry teacher who quilted, I might not have almost flunked the class back in high school [g].
ah, yes: CADD software was actually invented for the convenience of quilters!
In my case, geometry was the ONLY "math" course I got an A in, in either high school or college, both of which I attended before the advent of handheld calculators for number-crunching. Just last week I added 1+2 and got 4 when I was tallying quantities in my engineering-tech Day Job. Which is why I'm an engineerng-tech, and not an Engineer.
EQ is just a special-purpose CADD derivative.
Which makes it much easier to use (EQ knows its audience -- the program is pretty much computer-neophyte proof).
Thanks for this eloquent post.
2009-08-29 06:08 am (UTC)
Hrm, I'd noticed the post initially and almost responded... before I managed to restrain myself, because I thought I smelled troll. Didn't realise there'd been an event until I read these two latest posts...
And I feel it may be an odd way to express it, seeing as this is your space as you say, but I'm appreciative of your stance on these things. I enjoy reading your books, to the point that you were the first author I followed/sought out online, and I've been glad to enjoy your blog posts as well. When people act like that, is seems to sort of poison the air, if that makes any sense? And it happens so often online. It's nice to know that can't happen here =)
On the subject of logical discourse though, I'd say this would be an excellent primer for any class or such *chuckles* It'd be nice if the subject were mandatory in education... or at least required for certain professions, like politicians and news media ;P
P.S. I'd login with my OpenId when I post, but livejournal seems to hate mine =P
Thank you for posting this. Would you object to my printing it out? I would like to be able to refer to it while not on-line, at times. (I can't connect to the Internet while at the Committee office.)
There don't seem to be any logic classes locally, which is frustrating. My mind may be the best weapon I've got and I'd like it to be as sharp and accurate as possible!
Yes, you can print it out.
If you can find a copy of _Introductory Logic_ by Kilgore, it's a good textbook that you can use as a better reference than my brief essay. While looking up that book online (to see if it was easily available) I found a website that summarizes Kilgore's list of informal fallacies--there's a lot there, and it's not Kilgore's site, so it may be a copyright violation (individual appears to have also used Kilgore's examples of the fallacies, which may exceed fair use) but it's a useful tool nonetheless. http://attitudeadjustment.tripod.com/Books/Logic.htm
Still, I think more explanation than this would be helpful to most people (that would include me.)
Only the 1968 edition of Kilgore's book is available on Amazon.com; the 1988 is unavailable. They list 15 copies, new and used, from $5. The current popular text appears to be by Nance--I've never read it, so I don't know how hard or easy it is. Still...the old Kilgore's available, with one at least only $5. Which is cheaper than the newer texts.
Thank you very much indeed. That Website looks very useful but I would defininitely need more information.
The book proved to be unavailable in London and very expensive on Amazon UK. I would not have thought of trying Amazon US if you hadn't told me about it - but I was able to buy that $5 copy! (It's much more affordable than any of the UK copies even with the shipping.)
Thank you for a very interesting post. There do seem to be a fair few people around to whom the old saying 'my mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts' might be said to apply.
I've read some explanations of that phenomenon and we've all seen it in action. In a relatively stable world, in which the dangers and rewards are well known and stay much the same from generation to generation, having fixed beliefs that substitute for research, innovation, and thinking is linked to survival. You don't "find out" each time if rattlesnake bites are bad for you--or that ice must be a certain thickness before you can walk on it...you accept authority because authority has been shown to be right over a long enough period. I read an essay once that said marginal societies--where survival is tough for everyone all the time--cannot afford experimentation, if what they already know works. Which it does, or they'd have died off.
But those who want to control people use fear tactics to convince people that they, too, are in a survival mode--and thus must accept Authority. You get people scared of something and they are more controllable. Once frightened people are in a herd with a Leader, it's much scarier for them to stop and think...now they have not only the initiating fear (attack, invasion, sickness, hunger, hellfire, whatever) to be afraid of, but the displeasure of the others in their group their Leader. They have emotional reasons to embrace denial.
You mean like...when someone tells us that taking off our shoes, before we get on an airplane, will protect us from the terrorists? Or that showing our driver's license, will? Or that consenting to a slackadaisal search of our person and personal belongings? It's almost like you're implying that these are social controls and not actual security measures.:)
That would be a whole different post. Which I may make someday but not today, on which a large number of time-consuming, tedious chores have landed.
2009-08-29 12:11 pm (UTC)
P S I think your cut line didn't quite work
Everything is still showing below the "Read more" line.
2009-08-29 03:30 pm (UTC)
Re: P S I think your cut line didn't quite work
Yes, I know. There's nothing I can do about that. It's LJ's software.
I've had no formal training in logic, but as a scientist, I've been well drilled in how to make and evaluate an argument. Your post gave me words to describe why arguing with some people makes me want to tear my hair out.
Since this is my first response to one of your posts, I'll take the opportunity to tell you that Sheepfarmer's Daughter was the first of my favorite books that my son read. He loved Paks as much as I did. He has just returned from boot camp and compared parts of the experience to his memories of Paks' experiences. I believe that she is part of the reason he was drawn to the military.
From one mother to another--I pray that he returns safely from all deployments.
Do let him know, if he doesn't, that more Paks-world books are in the works.
Brilliantly spoken, as usual.
Very well described (I followed mmegeara's link here)
As a scientist, who was taught scientific method early, this has always been internalized as long as I can remember.
Your post has great examples that I wish a lot of people would read, understand, and use from now on!
I tend to have high standards as to what I consider proper evidence and generally end up not arguing with anyone about anythinng online because I rarely have the time to argue it properly to my own standards. This, of course, doesn't preclude me from reading all sorts of unhealthy discourse online and constantly biting my tongue, ummmm...fingers? ;-)
Thanks! I have a feeling I'll be referring people back to this post often!
Yeah...it can take all day to untangle and refute one illogical post, and who has the time?