On Logic and Reasoning

Philosophy seeks wisdom chiefly by speculation, but its tenets are held strongly by the bounds of what is reasonable, rational and logical. Coming from an industry where the world is interpreted in binary, I first found the  methods of deductive reasoning quite familiar. Whereas my industry tries to represent everything in a digital manner where each object’s character is represented in a combination of true or false values, reasoning deductively is the inverse process, in that the truth of each whole statement is broken down or reduced into components to reveal its truthfulness and validity.

However, another side of philosophical inquiry involves natural arguments that reveal that the real world does not work in the strict confines of deductive reasoning. The truth of arguments in the real world cannot be evaluated solely on the structure of its statements, because when meaning is included in the analysis, the methods of deductive logic become quite unreliable. Indeed, the two ought to be separated.

I do not intend to focus on their differences, but rather on what binds them, and that is logic. I am referring to logic here not as the formal science of validity and inference, but as that internal machine within that enables us to tell what ought to be should be or that what ought to follow should follow. It is the specific mechanism that allows us to infer, to make deductions, inductions, generalizations and conclusions. It is the internal programming that forces us to say that it is true if either A or B is true, or both. It is the self-executing code that forces us to make the induction that the sun will rise tomorrow because it always has and will always be. In short, it is the automaton that initiates reason.

Formal logic as used in deductive reasoning and informal logic as used in analysis of natural arguments, are just forms of this basic, root-level logic. The former is an exact science, the latter, a crude one, but both do not come close in explaining how man reasons. How will we ever know what makes us say that one multiplied by one is one, that false conjoined with true is false, that false or true is true? Is this logic the same in other universes? If we deliberately change these rules, and make these changes consistent all throughout, will our world come to a halt? If we can ask how we know what we know, surely we can also ask how we do our reasoning.

I think that the analysis of arguments is beneficial in finding ways to validate the truth, but if we do not explore how reasoning takes place at its most basic level, we will just have to be content with two different systems where one is not practical and the other, loose. The formal science of logic as we know it is not sufficient because its principles are not totally effective in the natural setting. If we take the endeavor a bit deeper, we will be able to find the one system that will effectively explain reasoning: be it informal or deductive. The analysis of reasoning itself, and how we do it, should prove to be a fruitful endeavor in that it will offer a clearer picture of the essence of the reasoning man.

Perhaps, one way of tackling this problem is by acknowledging that the world is not just black-and-white, that the spectrum in between is just as important as the absolutes. The world is not digital; it is analogue. Our reasons for arriving at conclusions in the natural discourse are sometimes not parallel with the rules of deductive logic because the human mind is able to weigh in as to what is weak from the not-quite weak and the strong from the quite strong premises. This means that our reasoning is not limited to the ideal world of absolute true or absolute false of deductive logic. If we can arrive at an agreeable conclusion in a non-deductive way, based on the merit of the content or meaning of premises, then there must be a way to validate it backwards. Deductive reasoning therefore must be subjected to modification.

But the path to this realization is very hard, if not impossible, to achieve with the current state of mental faculties that we have. We can only model, to a certain extent, the way human logic works. It was the premise of the creators of computers that human reasoning can be duplicated through artificial intelligence, but apparently, the forms of AI that I have come upon with in my profession is crude at its best. But crude as they are, these machines and software prove to be very beneficial. The lack of coherence of the rules in informal logic, and the occasional inapplicability of formal logic in human discourse prove that philosophy has not yet advanced into capturing the essence of human reasoning. All these show that human reasoning and logic is so vast, complex, and powerful.

Nevertheless, we cannot deny the efficacy of our existing logic systems. Deductive reasoning serves to provide a blueprint for the structure of valid arguments; whereas informal logic takes into account the expanse of human understanding beyond the simplicity of a deductive system. Both provide means to evaluate the validity of arguments and for criticizing the strengths and weaknesses of an argument in their own respective areas. They are indispensable tools for anyone to effectively criticize, evaluate, and judge.

Philosophy without effective and proper logic is futile. Likewise, philosophy and knowledge in general will not advance if we do not philosophize on logic itself. Logic is deemed to be the purest of ways to validate the truth. If we have doubts to this system, it only goes to show how much we have yet to know about ourselves and the universe.

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