Method 'Practical Logic':

   

Introduction



Why   Logic?



[First website version june 21th 2005;
revised version july 12th 2006]

Summary


The importance of logic is directly connected with that of information. As long as we live we make a use of information. For a large part this is because of it's immediate experiential value, for amusement and sensation, like stories and anecdotes, jokes and rumours, etc. .. At the same time, information can offer us guidelines for our choices and actions. Because of this, information has profound effects on the functioning, communication and interaction of people and cultures. For some information it may therefore be useful, or even of vital importance, that it is solid and reliable. The latter requires that data are thoroughly

grounded

on facts in reality. In short, quality of information is intimately connected with it's degree of truth value.

Logic

offers the rules and guidelines to be able to decide about truth relations between information elements: the ordering relations that determine the truth values of distinct data.

As soon as we may discern some ordering of data, there is information, and where information is logic can be applied to it. In reverse, chaos and confusion - or, disinformation - may lead to problems that can be clarified with help of logic. There is, for instance, the information overload that we are faced with every day, through the media and internet, which the power of logic can help us to filter and to process.
At all times the logical laws are independent of the contents of the data, the subject, the domain or the 'kind' of reality. Logic clarifies the possibilities and restrictions of human judgement, in the most exact way we can think of. It determines the boundaries of any kind of science .. including itself! In fact, logic is the most exact of all sciences. Because of this, logical knowledge preceeds any kind of other knowledge. Moreover, the logical regularities compensate for the numeous ways in which the human mind may deceive itself with illusions and fallacies. Because of this, knowledge of logic is the start of understanding facts and their connections in any area.


The term 'logic'



The concept of 'logic' may represent one of the most poorly understood - and unrightfully neglected - systems of thought in our present day culture.
When people are asked 'what is logic?' the answers vary from 'a certain kind of feeling' to 'a kind of mathematics'. The fact is that everyone van nature has logical intuitions - which is an absolute prerequisite for being able to function in a meaningful way - but that most people only have a very vague notion of what logic as a mental function really is about, what it's meaning and purpose is, and what you can actually achieve with it.

An enormous variety of properties, limitations and mechanisms - often negative ones - are attributed to logic that are often the precise opposite of what logic actually is, what it can do and can't do. For instance, the idea is wide spread that logic is very rigid and static. The opposit is the truth, however! In fact, logic is from it's foundations endlessly subtle and flexible, and especially also a creative system. Logic simply is an essential part of the human abilities of imagination. That applies to the most primitive forms of intelligence, through general thinking and information processing, untill the most sublime heights of brilliance of the human mind.
{See also: Creativity of Logic. [in Dutch]}

An other often heard of complaint is that logic would be dull and dry, and especially cold and hard, even inhumane or worse .. In short, about everything that we don't want to have for a nice and meaningful life. This however is just as well based on a misunderstanding. It may be true that logic is completely neutral and objective. (Which, by the way, is not the same as perfect, absolute and complete truth.) This neutrality is really an advantage that renders logic its surplus value. Because of this, it is the best instrument we can think of for our judgement, that happens to be easily biased and distorted by numerous other factors.
At the same time, there isn't any contradiction between logic and any non-logical content of the world we live in and our experience of it, its full colours en richness. Logica can perfectly well be combined with all thinkable and non-thinkable kinds of behaviours, sensations and body feelings, including these so-called 'warm' content like emotion and intuition, communication, empathy and intimacy; and furthermore matters like morals and ethics, religious or spritual experiences .. and so on. As long as we acknowledge the subjective experience as such in it's own right, and apart of course of such cognitive elements like myths and mythologies, doctrines and ideologies, dogmas and taboos ..
Logic can work independently of these experiences and often be meaningfully applied to them, attribute even to their richness, their quality and their subjective value.

The only subject logic is about concerns the relations between contents of experience - whatever these may be. Every time we bring one thought in relation to an other, logic tells us something about the link of step between them: in particular whether loss of truth value takes place with respect to already accepted information, and if so, to what extend.
With this, logic doesn't impose any force on us, and lets our freedom of choice undisturbed. The effects of applying logic will always be dependent of which presumptions, agreements and aims we first accept ourselves. With logic, we can then see what conclusions these in combination with each other will result in.

This is precisely the thing we can see people doing all the time: forming of thoughts, making steps in thinking, reasoning; argueing for something, pleading or disputing .. In fact, we cannot escape from the use of logical concepts and principles. Moreover, the most fierce sceptics and 'opponents' of logic appear to make abundant appeals in their arguments on logical criteria like reason, validity and truth .. (although, it must be said, just as abundantly in a messy way). That is 'logical' too, both in it's literal meaning and as a way of speaking, for if we want to avoid abiding in total and absolute chaos all the time, the use of logic is inevitable. Therefore, everybody - man and any other living organism - is generating order in chaos everywhere, although not always is the resulting order a logically valid one ..
Furthermore, without a healthy dose of logic the quality of information wil stumble downwards and we will find ourselves with fuzzy nonsense misleading ideas by which many problems unnecessarily endure.
The decisive factor in not solving problems is many times failing judgement.

The latter reflects the importance of logic shortly and clearly: she is irreplaceable and unequalled as a guideline and an instrument for the solving of confusion and problems. It is therefore wise to have a clear understanding of what logic actually is.

Logic and information



The importance of logic is directly connected with the use of information. For the concept of information numerous views, notions and definitions exist, but a rough, global description can be given that reasonably covers most of the commonly accepted meanings:

'Information consists of a difference in a certain area of a certain reality (or domain)'.
{See for further arguments: Concepts of information: data from different sources and levels.}

We constanly use information - day and night, consciously and subconsciously - to determine our options, preferences, choices and actions in all kinds of situations. The quality of our information can thus make the difference between life and death, health and illness, well-being and misery. Therefore, information, apart from other factors - of a material or social nature - is decisive for the quality of our life and hapiness, and even so for our survival.
"We are not getting upsed by things themselves, but by our thoughts about these things"
(Epiktetus, 55-138 A.C., 'Encheiridion').
{Of course, there are much more factors that are determining our psychological functioning. See for a realistic and efficient classification, closely corresponding to the architecture of the nervous system: Het 'Ten Factors Model' © of human functioning.}

It is furthermore impossible to be alive (and stay alive) and not processing information. Even when we walk aroud 'mindlessly', or are sunk away in a deep sleep, meditation, trance or coma state - even then processes of information processing continue to take place in our body, our nervous system and our brains. in our verstand, ons gehele zenuwstelsel,
in al onze spieren en organen, tot in elke levende cel van ons lichaam ..
]--> This applies on all levels of our functioning, from the micro-level, the processes of our body cells, to the macro-level, our social and societal behaviour. In short, as long as we live we are busy processing data and meanings.
'You can not not-assigning meaning' (C.P. van der Velde, 1986).
{See also: Principles of 'Modelling': the limitations of knowledge, information and logic.}

Next point is that the information we directly apply in our decision processes, doesn't come falling out of the air, 'just like that', nor is it straight forwardly coming in from the outside world, even not directly from out of our sense organs. The immediate basis of our reactions and choices lies in our own psychic process with all kinds of conscious and subconscious contents like associations and memories, fantasies, dreams and reasonings.
"People do not directly respond on basis of their sensory experiences of events but primairily from their internal representations"
(Lankton & Lankton, 1983).

There is of course an important difference between conscious and subconscious processing of information. Nearly infinitely many processes for the basis of our staying alive take place on a subconscious level in our body and our brains. But the most intense experiences and activities, that are most decisive for our living situation, are mainly made in an active, conscious awakening state. This distinction however is not very strict: subconscious thoughts can come int awareness after all, and their are many sorts of activities that we sometimes do better in a more of less half-conscious way, e.g. on routine (bicycling, driving a car, ..), 'by feeling' (sporting, maing love, ..) or 'intuitively' (brain-storming, designing, creating art, making music, ..). It is clear though that our most important decisions are mainly controlled and determined by 'higher' psychological processes, in particular conscious attention and analytical and constructive thinking.

Combinatory thinking


The outcomes of our thinking consist of conclusions, ideas and conjectures that we use as guidelines for our do's and don'ts. It is therefore convenient if our insights have something to do with the reality of the situation, and, preferably, tell us something about it that is reliable.
{Since ancient times it is well known in philosophy, both in the West as well as the East, that perfect knowledge is not achieveable. Still it is proven millions of times, firstly in everyday experience, that knowledge can be improved. See also: Establishing proof by falsification'.}

Situations however change all the time so we'll have to make new combinations of data again and again to make reliable estimations.
All activities of our mind are thus built of twoe elementary processes:
(a) the combining of known data, and
(b) the deriving thereof of other data.
This process is te essence of what we call 'reasoning'.

Reasoning :


a process by which available information is taken to derive other information from.

We reason from (a) starting points, or premisse(s), to (b) conclusion(s).

Structure of an argument :
{basic information (premisses)}   inference / derivation   conclusion.

This basic structure of argumentation is a common characteristic, both in information as well as in thinking processes.

Information is ordering, is reasoning.


When something is informatie, it represents something, an idea, or a state of affairs. In such a representation there are always elements to be found - contents, data - that stand in a certain connection or ordering.
The content data are to be experienced, while the ordering of those data - litterally - is of logical order. The fact is that things are ordered implies that they can be ordered in a different manner. It is thus the ordering by which the contents gets sense and meaning, and with that an informative value. Information exists dan ook in de grond uit een ordening van gegevens.
Any ordering is related to an infinite amount of possible arguments. A simpel example, when we say 'The TV is standing on the table', then we can reason 'so beneath the TV stands the table' but also 'on the table stands the TV and/or the radio', etc.. In short, all information is based on ordering and all reasoning brings some (re-)ordering along.

Every thought is generated by steps of thinking.


No thought comes completely out of nowhere. Every thought or idea is generated by a basis of already present data or thoughts. It is originated through a thinking process, and every process of thinking constists of steps of thinking. Every step of thinking is a connection, or linkage, of basic data (premisses) to a conclusion. So, every thought is the result of some kind of reasoning - logical or not.
{ What we usually call 'thinking' naturally includes much more apart of just 'reasoning'. All kinds of subjective perceptions and experiences belong to it, and if we take the notion wide enough also bodily, emotional and spiritual feelings, entc.. }

The foundations of reasonable thinking.



Logic studies the grounds of thoughts.


The aim of reasoning is mostly that it doesn't yields just randomly anything, but that it adds new informatie. In practice, this means that the results in any case do not reflect complete nonsense but has to be useful for making optimal decisions in the world we live in. The information serves us to tell us something about this, and preferably something that is to our benefit. To make a comparison, we don't want a map of some territory to send us into a gorge or a swamp, but precisely points to a passable road and if possible into the direction of our end goal.

It is thus practical if information has a basis in reality, or at least the area concerned of reality. In general, there are then two possibilities.
· First possibility is that we have direct access to the area of reality concerned, and that we have complete and reliable data about it. This is of course rather theoretical because human knowledge in most cases is limited and fallible. Anyway, situations change alle the time, so we'll have to make new combinations of data again and again to make reliable estimations. With that however, a combinatory explosion easily takes place, and in any case we easily make thinking errors (fallacies). The queastion remains how conclusions are to be derived in a way that is correct.
· The second possibility is more often the case in dayly life, namely, that our data are to a certain extent incomplete, inaccurate or insecure. The question is how we can still reason with these in a useful way, at least without loss of information value.

In both cases, it is important to reason in a solid way, or at least as solid as possibly, so to make optimal use of available basis data. This means that the conclusion of the argument has to be based on the premisses. The question is however, does the conclusion really have any ground in the data at hand? In other words, is the conclusion sufficiently supported, or 'covered ' by the premisses?
In that case it is inconvertibly true that the conclusion actually follows from the premisses.
This is precisely the point where logic comes into play.

Founding and improving information


Logic consists of knowwledge about what sorts of data may lead in which kinds of combinations to what sorts of conclusions. Through this, logic tells us for a certain amount of basic data very precisely which conclusions are meaningful and which not, of not yet.
Logic offers a multitude of guidelines and criteria to decide whether there is sufficient ground for a thinking step or conclusion. Moreover, we get directions how precisely to improve an argument.
Logical decisions can thus yield two kinds of results:

(a) The conclusion is grounded. In that case no loss of truth contents has taken place, and we can be confident to continue building up our information.
{We can still see to what extent whit the conclusion, loss of logical power has taken place, a decrease of information value. If so, we can strengthen the conclusion or at least keep 'stronger' information in reserve.}

(b) The conclusion is insufficiently grounded (non sequitur [nonseq]). E.g., she is premature, or excessive, or just irrelevant. In that case, we also come to know how precisely loss of truth value has taken place. In any case, we can use these outcomes to improven our information.

In short both possible outcomes are useful for optimizing our information, and can in that way contribute to the final result: relaible information if realizing our goals.

Logical laws.


In the scientific discipline of logic unambiguous guidelines - of formal rules - are formulated through which reasonings can be performed quicker, easier and more reliable.
We can also put it this way: in logic, the aim is to consider all possible opinions and ideas that people can have and to preserbe only the part that will always be true - regardless the infinite amount of possible variations of subject, content and application.

The concept of 'truth' is of course abstract and has been the subject of debate since the very beginning of philosophy. And, as we since long know, life does not offer us perfect securities or watertight garantees (apart maybe from those of death although only the actual dying will give definitive confirmastion). Toch is dat grotendeels een kwestie van theoretisch 'luchtfietsen'. Indeed, all informatie is - as far as we know - subjective and relative. But when we accept this, that is only because it seems 'true' to us, thanks to one argument or another that appears 'logical' to us.
More generally, we cannot avoid the distinction between 'true', 'less true' and 'false'. Even the most fierce sceptics and 'opponents' of logic appear to make abundant appeals in their arguments on truth values, logical relations and logical criteria like reason, validity and truth .. Although, it must be said, just as abundantly in a messy way. Which is no wonder, when trying to prove that logic doesn't count by using a logical argument.

In short, as soon as we are dealing with information or ideas, logic applies.

Logic reflects the truth principle.

Logic therefore is not concerned with specific situations or ideas about situations, but with the relations between ideas - in principle, all possible sorts of ideas.
The rules of logic reflect what characteristics 'thinking steps' have to have to yield reliable conclusions - regardless the particular content of the data, and independent of the subject under consideration.
Logical laws rule the validity of conclusions with respect to certain basic data (premisses).
{For the exact distinction between 'truth' and 'validity' see: Schemes of Logical levels and criteria.}

Logic :


a system of rules by which a relation between data can be tested on validity.

For this, extensive systems of formal, or symbolic processing, have been developed.
{An example of an application of these is of course the digital computer.}