Logic

Knatz.com / Teaching / Thinking Tools / Reason /

There’s far more than one kind of logic.

“I understand you,” one guy says to another in John Cassavetes’ Shadows (1959).
Wham! He cold-cocks him.

That scene can be analyzed as literature, drama, cinema, sociology, psychology, pathology, zoology … How about as logic?

(Within a year of writing the above I was analyzing such scenes as macroinformation!)

On the one hand we may see a non sequitur. Yet the same data can be seen as an enthymeme: a syllogism in which the a premise (or the conclusion) is left unexpressed. We see the conclusion: he hits him. How many premises were left out? How many links are missing from this logical chain?

Syllogism: deductive reasoning. “An argument the conclusion of which is supported by two premises, of which one (major premise) contains the term (major term) that is the predicate of the conclusion, and the other (minor premise) contains the term (minor term) that is the subject of the conclusion; common to both premises is a term (middle term) that is excluded from the conclusion.” (Random House Unabridged)

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Socrates is mortal.

That’s a famous one. What good is it? Do we need logic to know that’s he’s dead? Isn’t history enough? Didn’t we kill him? (Or just as good: force him to kill himself?) Would we have done so if we had thought it impossible?

I suspect anyone can see that this has something to do with reason: how connected is it to intelligence? What does it have to do with survival?

Are truth and logic connected in any inevitable way? How about the major premise above? All men are mortal. Is it true? What about Jesus? Why don’t we hear a chorus of protests from Christians in logic classes? What about Socrates? Isn’t he too immortal after all? Yet we did kill him. Just as we killed Jesus half a millennium later.

OK. That’s a different kind of immortality. Let’s admit that both Socrates and Jesus were mortal. What about you and me? Just because everybody else seems to have died doesn’t prove and you and I will. Isn’t that more properly a prediction than a conclusion?

How is “All A is C; all B is A; therefore all B is C” going to help us when there’s nine or twenty billion people instead of five: no food, no forests, no air, no ozone layer … the unscreened sun making everyone go blind and get cancer … no fish, no birds, all major cities but Denver are under the sea, and a half-dozen new plagues hit all at once? How many of us are going to be immortal in heaven when there’s no one left on earth to burn candles? when we’ve followed the dodos and the whales and the manatees down the drain we had a major part in widening?

Will Sherlock Holmes help us? Didn’t Arthur Conan Doyle have him forever talking about deduction? Did any of his conclusions actually flow inevitably from any of his premises? He sees calluses on a guy’s hands, mud on his boots … Sherlock gives Scotland Yard the guy’s trade, his address, his height and weight, what he had for supper, his astrological sign … all sure fire stuff for a sufficiently gullible grand jury.

You’ve read Doyle. Now try reading Bertrand Russell. Alfred North Whitehead. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Aspire to that. Or are we ready for Armageddon?

Now try Gregory Bateson. Make your reading honest. Actually try to see how humans actually think. Reading Frazer too will help, and Korzybski. It ain’t like Aristotle said. But now maybe there won’t be an Armageddon.

A human usually sets the premises in place
before activating the logic process.

Leonard Shlain

2012 02 21 Also at issue here is the common confusion between prediction and fact: mortality is a prediction: “I know of no one in the past who didn’t die eventually; therefore, we may predict that we too will die.” But as long as we’re breathing, we cannot be counted among those who have died. Wait till the eggs hatch before counting chickens.

Where logic has been placed in relation to the other academic disciplines has changed in the last century and may change again. Many had regarded it as a part of philosophy. Some moved it over with math. I place it outside my competence: as I’ve already confessed, the school system permanently crippled my math aptitude. But I follow the expertise of select others more than well enough to point still others in a few good directions: especially when it comes to caveats.


My Primer lists the contents of Gregory Bateson’s Every Schoolboy Knows. The title to this chapter of Mind and Nature is of course ironic (as wasn’t it also when Dr. Johnson was forever saying it?): few schoolboys know the points Bateson made (or Johnson). The rational competence of adults, including teachers, including science teachers, including our political and industrial leaders, isn’t much greater. I emphasize this because I believe that Armageddon will come all too soon unless such knowledge becomes general. For this piece, I quote the whole of Bateson’s point #13:

Logic is a poor model of cause and effect.
We use the same words to talk about logical sequences and about sequences of cause and effect. We say, “If Euclid’s definitions and postulates are accepted, then two triangles having three sides of the one equal to three sides of the other are equal each to each.” And we say, “If the temperature falls below 0 degrees C, then the water begins to become ice.”

But the if. . . then of logic in the syllogism is very different from the if . . . then of cause and effect.

In a computer, which works by cause and effect, with one transistor triggering another, the sequences of cause and effect are used to simulate logic. Thirty years ago, we used to ask: Can a computer simulate
all the processes of logic? The answer was yes, but the question was surely wrong. We should have asked:
Can logic simulate all sequences of cause and effect! And the answer would have been no.

When the sequences of cause and effect become circular (or more complex than circular), then the description or mapping of those sequences onto timeless logic becomes self-contradictory. Paradoxes are generated that pure logic cannot tolerate. An ordinary buzzer circuit will serve as an example, a single instance of the apparent paradoxes generated in a million cases of homeostasis throughout biology. The buzzer circuit is so rigged that current will pass around the circuit when the armature makes contact with the electrode at A. But the passage of current activates the electromagnet that will draw the armature away, breaking the contact at A. The current will then cease to pass around the circuit, the electromagnet will become inactive, and the armature will return to make contact at A and so repeat the cycle.

pk drawing
If we spell out this cycle onto a causal sequence, we get the following:

If contact is made at A, then the magnet is activated.
If the magnet is activated, then contact at A is broken.
If contact at A-is broken, then the magnet is inactivated.
If magnet is inactivated, then contact is made.

This sequence is perfectly satisfactory provided it is clearly understood that the if. . . then junctures are causal. But the bad pun that would move the ifs and thens over into the world of logic will create havoc:

If the contact is made, then the contact is broken.
If P, then not P.

The if . . . then of causality contains time, but the if . . . then of logic is timeless. It follows that logic is an incomplete model of causality.


Coming next: inference, deduction, induction, abduction …


I apologize that so much time has elapsed since I opened this file without my being able to get back to finish it. I can’t fix it now either but I do need to park the following somewhere. The following style doesn’t belong among my Thinking Tools modules but I’m not yet sure how to merge it among my Social Pathologies.

Logic is very important. Without logic how would the “white” man ever have justified enslaving the “negro”? How would the Church ever have justified burning the heretics? A St. Paulian contempt for reason is also helpful.

One’s hope was in the weakness of logic.
Howards End

Notes, Logic Scrapbook

Oh, and how’s this for “logic”? Adolph Hitler (famous logician, right?) said (in German, of course, I write it as English), “Obviously, Jesus was not a Jew.” Notice: wishes trump reason in the “reasoning” of common thinking, of common sense. Just because something is phrased as a syllogism doesn’t make it true; but it does make it effective rhetoric. It’s mob-swaying rhetoric that Hitler was a master of. (I’m proud to report that when I taught rhetoric in college, I assigned Hitler as an example. (I also assigned some science!) (Science as rhetoric! Imagine!)


Wham!: human logic in film

Go fuck yourself with your logic.
Alphaville

I wonder if the makers of The Pope of Greenwich Village saw the Cassavetes film mentioned above. Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts continued Hollywood’s tradition of excellence in portraying dumb hoods and hebetudinous street people. The Rourke character gets his cousin Paulie to stand still in front of him: Listen to me. Are you paying attention? Wham! Smack!
My favorite layering of dialogue, logic, and assault though is the scene in Farewell My Lovely where Kate Murtaugh’s Amthor has had Robert Mitchum’s Philip Marlowe sapped and doped. She has him brought to a chair. “You’re a stupid man with a stupid job on a stupid case.” Her fat body towers over his wrinkled and weary slump. “I get it,” he concludes: “I’m stupid.”
Amthor hauls off and slaps him a good one. Marlowe flows what energy he has into a big right fist. Up from practically floor level come his knuckles. Pow! Right in the kisser.

You’re not too bright, are you? I like that in a man.
Farewell My Lovely

Here we have an identity wittily parading as an inference: a seeming deduction.
I loved Jean-Luc Godard’s work, in the 1960s especially, but I never saw Alphaville till last night. Godard’s scripts are routinely rich in the kind of nitwit pseudo-profundities the French seem to specialize in, never richer than here, and the Eddie Constantine character’s obscenity is most refreshing: though not half as refreshing as the macroinformational intersticing via closeups of Ana Karina!


Compare my sequences above — I understand you / POW and Pay attention / POW with the following gem from Kieslowski’s White: Karol, the abused hairdresser, has eavesdropped on his bosses, beaten them to the buy for their hot land deal. They thought he was asleep, they were wrong. “You son of a bitch!” they address him. “No,” he says: “I really need the money.”
Is this a non sequitur? or a brilliant chain of sound reasoning?
We then learn that the reason Karol needed the money so desperately that he is forced to become rich was because it was the only way he could think of to exact revenge on his abusive wife: a fasinating love/hate mutuality.

Thought vs. Armageddon
I look for such reading “all the time.” I believe I find such: fairly regularly. I’ve found several more since writing the above not that long ago. Jared Diamond, Michael J. Behe, Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary …
Either my standards aren’t as high as I pretend or maybe we’re not quite as brain dead as the behavior of the majority would suggest.
@ K. 1998 07 12

2012 01 08 I just came upon this masterpiece of novel prose:
Never use logic on an emotional woman. Or one in any state for that matter.

Elmore Leonard, Freaky Deaky

See also
Therefore …
Also: search

K. Teaching Thinking Tools Reason

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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