Who Am I? More importantly, who are you and why don’t you agree with me, because I am right. I know I am right, because if I knew I was wrong, I would know what was right so I would be right again, thus I am right. So why don’t you agree with me since I just proved I was right?
Logic IS the thing. Whatever your position on any of the many divisive issues of the day, without logic you will not be able to analyze the issue, assess its validity and form a decision or opinion and you certainly will be unable to surmise the strength of another’s point of view, especially if they are a skilled writer or speaker. Today, more than ever, information is a click away, making it absolutely crucial to have a mastery of the laws of logic and critical thinking so you are able to analyze the information for practical use.
Here we will have to address some essentials of the philosophy of thought in order to will lay the foundation for this article and the series of articles on logic and argumentation that will be coming. If you want to understand how to logically win an argument or understand a position then you will need to know the following information.
It all started when the philosophers and sages of the world started to ask questions: Who is man? Who are we as people? What is human nature like? What should we do? Can we answer any of these questions by looking for clues in the world or in human nature?
While the philosophers and sages thought, studied and learned they all observed something I would call freedom of existential self-defining. The answers to the question, who am I, lie at the foundations of every civilized, human society. As such, this freedom to define who we are and why we are here poses a challenge that cannot be discarded.
This existential freedom is, however, not absolute. One could say the practical realm limits it: I would say that its scope is limited by objective reality. The term objective means independent on the subject, thus objective reality is independent of the mind. The laws of nature that we discover with the scientific method determine this objective reality. We don’t really know the nature of these laws, but we see some regularity in nature. Therefore, we postulate the existence of laws in various dimensions of reality. We learn about their existence when the intellectual models of reality that we have created work, thus allowing us to predict and manipulate reality.
After we discover these laws, we know which of them we can use, from which we can transgress, what elements of reality we can change and what elements are immutable. We cannot change the speed of light or the DNA of a particular, living being without harming it. But, we can overcome the laws of gravity and go to the moon. We changed the world because we discovered laws of nature based in objective reality and thus were able to anticipate and mold reality for our purposes.
While we can mold, and use these laws there are still plenty of laws in the objective reality that curb our freedom, some of which we may never be able to overcome or transcend. Thus, how we define ourselves and how we define our nature is limited by the laws of the universe, of objective reality around us and within us. If we define ourselves wrongly – e.g. we wrongly define morality or the law – we will bear the consequences. Practice will show us them sooner or later
Plato divided of the world into two realms: the real world (the world of things) and the ideal world (the world of ideas). In Plato’s metaphysics the real world is just a set of shadows of the ideal world. Only the ideal world “truly” exists. Here truly means eternally. Harkening back to an earlier Greek philosopher Parmenides, according to whom only something that never ceases to exist can be called being. A being that ceases to be cannot be considered being.
Not being 100% consistent with the details of platonic metaphysics we can understand this duality as ideal vs. real, spiritual vs. material or mental vs. physical. While these three categories are not the same, they do overlap. For the ideal, spiritual and mental the common denominator is thought. For the real, material and physical the common denominator is thing. Both, the ideal and the real can be seen as two different dimensions, two different domains of the same one world. Therefore, objective reality, the real world, has, as its foundation the laws of nature and thus it’s highly ill advised for us to violate them.
In the world of thought, at least in theory, we have much more freedom and flexibility. Some believe that this freedom is absolute. Nevertheless, it too has its inherent principles: the laws of logic. They limit or rather direct our freedom in a certain direction (will and should direct). The laws of logic are your guidelines, your friend, not an obstacle or enemy. Violating the laws of logic is not only ill advised, because the laws of nature are not there to prove the idea’s validity,violating the laws of logic can have a devastating impact on the society.
The world of thought contains various concepts and visions of how the real world looks (science and its models of reality) or how it should look (ethics and religion). We can disagree about those concepts and visions, and in fact, should. However, we simply cannot allow for violating the laws of logic and critical thinking. Any suppression of ideas, elimination or hiding of facts, censorship, or refusal to rationally address afore mentioned is not just breaking the laws of logic, it is ignoring logic altogether. Just like you cannot simply ignore the laws of gravity. If you don’t like an idea, a thought, a position you have to take the effort to prove it is wrong, you can’t simply cancel it, as if it does not exist. How do you prove it is wrong? Using the laws of logic and your knowledge about a certain realm of the world. How do you make a person change their mind? Applying the laws of logic. How do you develop your ideas? Harness the laws of logic. In the natural world if your idea was not in concert with the law of gravity the proof of its invalidity would be quickly known. However, without logic, that simply is not the case in the world of ideas and rhetoric and so the impact on a society can be quite subversive.
Suppressing an idea or belief is tantamount to burning books and it is violent. Why? Because when you suppress a person’s freedom of thought those ideas can intensify and become toxic and even lethal.
We know well from human history all the abhorrent and repugnant things people have done to other people originated in the world of ideas and that they were accompanied by ideological and logical manipulation, such as suppression of free thought, suppression of dialogue and suppression of the exchange of ideas. It is violence because when people cannot express and discuss their thoughts, these thoughts cannot be developed, learning cannot happen and if people are only engaging in a platform that is in accord with their thoughts, because they are censored elsewhere else, these thoughts are never challenged and so become more virulent. Historically, when thought and discourse is censored people revolt and violence ensues.
If you accept, as a given, that logic exists, then the idea of censoring the thoughts and ideas of others should be abhorrent to you. If you know the laws of logic you will be free from falling prey to those charismatic, loud and or self righteous thinkers, writers and speakers that use fallacious arguments like over simplification of your argument (straw man fallacy), or using the majority of opinion to prove the validity of an opinion (bandwagon fallacy), how about appealing to authority fallacy or using anecdotal evidence or something we see often today, the ad hominem fallacy, which is rejecting someone’s argument by attacking the person rather than evaluating the arguments on its merits.
Without at least a basic awareness of the laws of logic you won’t be able to form your own opinion and when we have a population that can’t form an opinion we will collapse under the weight of irrationalism.
This is the first of a series of articles that will be writing to teach philosophy, philosophy of language and it’s practical application, where I will look at examples of correct ways of reasoning and argumentation or explain why there is a dispute.
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If you have any questions, if your facebook friend made an argument and you want to know how it violates or adheres to logic, if you want to know if your argument or opinion is following the laws of logic, if you want to know how a political stance, such as cancel culture or faith dogmatism, doesn’t stand up to the laws of logic then COMMENT below and I will break it down for you and all the others wondering the same question.