What is Logic?

The Way of the Runari: A Brief Introduction

The Principles of Runari 5/12

“Writing structure is logical. Writing method at its best is instinctive. That way you get the benefits of both styles – improvisation within calculation.”

Stewart Stafford

“There is no point in using the word ‘impossible’ to describe something that has clearly happened.”

Douglas Adams

Logic may be one of the more difficult terms within the Principles of Runari to define. The Greek term on which it is based, logos has a wide number of meanings. If we were to boil it down to one definition it would be the application of reason.

This means using reason over instinct and emotion (see below). Other definitions include the ‘rational principle,’ ‘laws of thought,’ ‘reason’ or ‘the rules of right reasoning,’ and “truths based on the meanings of the terms they contain.’

It is a little ironic that we cannot define logic with the accuracy we’d like given that definitions are essential to making logic work. For example, let’s take elementary mathematics – one plus one equals two. This requires defining one, plus, equals, and two as a single thing, aggregation, the result of aggregation, and a couple of things – therefore logically if you have two individual things and add them together you get two. Not a window.

I would say that logic first defines terms then takes a rational approach to what will happen or is most likely to happen given those terms and known factors. Logic is open to change when factors or better arguments are presented. It also means, as we’ll find out below, that it is linked to the correct application of the scientific method and the investigative method.

The use of logic underpins the rise of the modern world though has its roots deep back into our history and prehistory. It can be found in Aristotle’s ideas on judging the world based on our senses rather than on our feelings.

Logic is good for the thought experiment. An example is my thought experiment on why different galaxies are moving away from each other at different rates. It did not use science or data or feelings, but applied a logical argument. It defined the terms of speed, propulsion, gravity and so on, then built out a logical explanation for the phenomena.

What are the benefits of using logic in our lives? Our gut instincts, common sense, culture, and feelings have value, but they are instinctive and based on repeated actions or received wisdom. The application of logic lets us step back and think in depth about each element of a problem or idea, and extrapolate into a what happened, could happen, or should happen.

Using logic is key to finding factual truths and approaching many elements of the world. It’s a good skill to have and it’s good to be able to understand when we are being emotional and when we are being logical.

One of the opposites of logic is ideology. Ideologues, those who believe deeply in an ideology, cannot use logic. This might sound tough, but ideologues run on conclusions whereas independently minded people who apply logic believe in the process of discovery, reason, and analysis. When this process is used, for example the scientific method or the historical method, then the conclusion comes as a result of the evidence whereas when the conclusion is put first, the evidence is manipulated to ensure the conclusion is found.

Another opposite of logic is feeling. Where in previous chapters we’ve looked at opposites as being negatives, feelings are more complicated. Your feelings are valid, but it is important to understand them for what they are – feelings. An intuition may be right on some level, but it may also be wrong.

In modern discourse the term “I feel…” is often equated to a logical or factual argument, and in some cases is held to be superior to them. Acknowledging feelings is important because we feel what we feel, but they are not superior or even close to equal with facts, logic, and reason.

Let’s take socialism as an example. Many people feel that the ideas of socialism are good. They feel it because they want everyone to be equal, happy, and looked after. 90% of people who support socialism do so because they are good people and have positive feelings towards other people.

However, objectively speaking 100% of socialist countries have failed. Even countries which mix socialist controlled economies and democracies have seen themselves decline. Countries which embrace socialism end up just as unequal if not more so, freedom declines, freedom of speech is eradicated, economies spiral into disaster, people go hungry, people spy on each other, the government turns murderous against group after group as it seeks to enforce a kind of equality of outcome which is just impossible in nature.

The great failing (one of dozens) of Karl Marx was his inability to logically extrapolate what would happen to capitalism. He saw it leading to mass oppression and a revolt of the working class against their oppressors. However, instead, it allowed for the development of safer technologies, newer industries, and a rapid rise in both wealth and living standards even for the poorest. Capitalism now pulls 200,000 people a day out of poverty around the world. It’s much maligned because to many it feels fouler, but its results are much better.

That’s the facts. However, if logic rather than feelings was applied to the socialist ideal and compared to its rival, free market capitalism with a limited state to enforce rights and protect the environment, then you can evaluate their differences and extrapolate to different outcomes.

The premise of socialism relies on enforced equality, the giving of all responsibility and organisation of society and the economy to the state, and the acceptance of what you are given. There are logical questions to ask based on this premise. For example, what happens to the people who disagree or who buck the trend and outperform others? The answer to the first is to try to change their minds and the second is to limit over achievers so they perform to the same level as the worst.

If your results are the same no matter how much effort you put in, then what is the point or motivation to try hard? This is a fundamental question that socialism cannot answer, but which capitalism does. In a merit-based system output equals input. This then produces the Pareto distribution where the top 10% produce 90% of output and 1% produce 90% of that.

Of course there’s logical consequences to capitalism which may be negative. The question is what happens to bad people and those who do not do well. Let’s take the bad first, in a free market, if a company or person acts badly, there’s opportunity to take your money elsewhere. The second one is an interesting one because it relies on market forces finding roles for those with few skills or a low IQ or developmental problems, but it also opens up opportunities for the successful to provide charity – there’s a reason conservatives donate more money and effort to charity than socialists.

Let’s recap quickly. If you take the basic premise of socialism – equality then it feels good, but if you apply logic you expect it to turn very badly. Historical facts bear this out and so it creates one of the world’s most murderous ideologies and one of the great causers of poverty. On the flip side, each to their own and merit, two foundations of free market capitalism along with each person negotiating a price between a good and a service, feels chaotic and liable to leave the least able down the bottom while the top take everything. Yet, once logic is applied you can understand how it opens up opportunities to bring everyone on the planet out of poverty, which it is liable to do by the end of the century if socialism is kept at bay.

Logical approaches include arguments and thought experiments. Pure logic is in the mind and is not empirical. However, it can be factual because it sticks to known physics, solid definitions, mathematics, and so on.

Both facts and feelings, as we’ve seen, can be subject to logic. In some ways the means of checking them are based on logical methods. For example, if we deduce or feel the sky to be blue, we can use our senses (think of Aristotle) to see it is blue. The uses of our senses is logical and a first stage to a logical approach.

The next logical approach to finding facts from logic or feelings is the investigative method or research method. This means using the senses to find recorded data on particular subjects.

A good example might be carbon in the atmosphere. Carbon is a greenhouse gas and therefore it’s logical to think if carbon increases in the atmosphere the Earth becomes more of a greenhouse. We would therefore expect the temperature to increase. Logic-based computer models indeed show this, but the raw data does not. In fact despite us coming out of a mini ice age, temperatures are stable if cooling since World War 2.

The use of logic and facts do not always match up. That means the logical idea based on its parameters were ok, but something was missing. A thought experiment takes one idea, so logic also allows for counter ideas to be resolves partly in argument and discussion.

In the movie World War Z a character posits the idea of The 10th Man, an Israeli or maybe Mossad idea for ensuring there are no echo chambers or thought bubbles. The idea is simple. If there are a group of people, in this case 10, and all of them agree on an idea, course of action, or interpretation, then it’s the duty of the final person to disagree even if they agree.

This idea is also known as playing Devil’s Advocate whereby someone purposefully takes on the alternative view or even the polar opposite view in order to generate a debate. This was a concept I largely failed to introduce to my Japanese students who would always fall in line with the opinion of the mood maker or leader of the class. However, there was one boy called Daisuke who got it and who revelled in presenting a different opinion, so in that one class we could have proper debates.

The scientific method steps in as part of this logical approach because its based on the idea of experimenting or observing things in the same setting as before, to repeat it. If we boil water once do we know it is the heat which caused the water to boil or our wish for it to do so? Repeating the process under the same and other conditions proves or disproves a logical or emotional idea.

Going back to the carbon idea, a combination of investigative and scientific methods deduced that a 400 parts per million for carbon is actually relatively low and that greenhouse growing conditions do best around 800 to 1200 ppm where effort in vs results out are at their best, but plants thrive most between 2,000 to 3,000 ppm while they die under 200 ppm. Data also deduced that the oceans are so vast they release carbon on a 800 year lag, and as the bigger carbon emitter, they are releasing carbon from 1218 which was part of the medieval warm period when it was warmer than it is now.

The correct application of the scientific method means if the conditions do not repeat the result, then small changes are made until the result is replicated. Then how the result happens is known as are the results of different conditions.

Ok, let’s finish up on the idea of logic. In short, the use of logic looks at different elements, defines them, then uses rational thought to guess what might happen or might have happened. The absence of logic uses gut instinct. The bad use of logic is to define the result and create a structure to explain it. What are your thoughts on the use of logic?