Now I get it.

For quite some time I’ve been looking at the rules of logic in relation to how people reason on various things. Repeatedly I came up with a gap between the rules of logic and the application of reasoning.

In retrospect I discover that I unknowingly made an assumption, that if the rules of logic were applied then proper reasoning would follow. I’ll explain in a minute how I made this error. Importantly though, I had noticed that often times that very intelligent people would see the logic in some argument (which is not about ‘having an argument’ which is forbidden in Eng-uh-land) but still fail to reach a proper conclusion. Of course, I mean ‘proper‘ relative to avoiding pitfalls in reasoning. They would see the evidence, see the logic but come up with a conclusion that was plainly divorced from the logic and incontrovertible evidence. That’s the gap I’m referring to.

So I had to sort out the nature of this gap.  What I observed makes sense and I should have resolved this sooner. But I’m delighted that I found the gap and then found similar written out there to what I had observed. I then went on to the net and came across several good articles about ‘logic’ and ‘reasoning’.

  1. Logic is a set of fundamental rules. It’s like mathematics i.e. 0 + 1 = 1 or 3 + 4 = 5 (if added vectorially). The rules of logic just sit there in the background. They do nothing.
  2. Reasoning is about, how and with what integrity the rules of logic are applied.

Reasoning is a product of the mind’s operations. Logic is the product of nothing – it’s just there, like the laws of nature. So, breaking this down, by analogy, to a real life situation – let’s say I want to build a machine that flies. Well, I have to obey the laws of physics and mathematics that sits there in the background. That’s elementary. I then need to apply the laws to any creation I might make. How well I apply the laws determines whether my machine will get off the ground, and whether it will stay airborne for any length of time. My machine may suffer many crashes in the experimental stages – and I go back to the drawing board. What did I do wrong? The problem is not with the laws of physics. The problem is with my application of the laws. The laws of physics/mathematics are the ultimate master only too willing to fail my creation for disobedience.

Thinking of ‘laws’, I’m actually thinking of the application of reasoning in legal environments like courts. Judges or juries see the evidence and they apply reason, as they do. But on many occasions they get it wrong. Discovery of what went wrong in those environments is not as easy as seeing my hypothetical flying machine crash. Ooops.. I hear ‘Stupid‘ intruding at this point.

Stupid: So you’re saying that the law is like a plane?

CW: No.

Stupid: Are you saying that a plane crash is easier for people than the misapplication of the law?

CW: No. What I am trying to say is if my hypothetical creation crashes, that’s a physical event that is very tangible and easily visible. Things that go wrong in applying reason and logic to law, may not be immediately observable. It often takes years for cases to reach a Supreme Court, which would then pick out the failures of logic and application of sound reasoning.

Stupid: So you’re saying that planes crash quickly?

CW: Planes may crash quickly. I’m not talking about planes. What’s the matter with you?!! How the devil did planes get into your head? Did I say anything about planes? Are planes the only machines that fly?

Stupid: So you’re not talking about planes?

CW: Jeez!! I’ve given an analogy of how an experimental hypothetical flying machine I might design would be expected to fail quickly if I do not apply the laws of physics and mathematics properly. And by contrast the misapplication of reasoning in legal situations may not be discovered as dramatically or quickly as my hypothetical machine crashing.

Stupid: So you’re obsessed with plane crashes – are you?

CW: Look – I give up. Get lost!!

Stupid: You don’t need to be so rude!!

CW: And do you need to be so monumentally stupid?! That’s your name – innit!

I don’t know.. I really don’t know how Stupid gets into all this. Why do I allow it? I’ll have to sort that out later.

Right – let me see if I can pull myself back on track. I may have applied the laws of physics properly but my reasoning may have been wrong. My machine will have failed – I would discover – because I did not consider several other factors, or I may have made subtle assumptions. I discover those assumptions and my failures of reasoning by going back to the drawing board.

Likewise in another domain such as law, ‘one’ may apply logic but the reasoning may be wrong. I’m not saying that logic and reasoning are totally distinct entities. In a fair percentage of instances the two will appear inseparable. But there are dividing lines that become more obvious to me as time goes on.

So – do I need to be right? No. I’m not saying I’m right in the above. I’m saying what I see. I may well discover in the future that I am wrong. So what! What does it all mean to me at this stage?

  1. I should not assume that because people see the logic and the evidence that they would come to a ‘logical conclusion’ based on my own reasoning.
  2. Reasoning being a product of the mind, is subject to numerous influences (which I do not digress onto).
  3. Logic is a static set of rules – likened to mathematics.
  4. Erroneous applications of the rules of logic may and do happen because the capacity to reason properly is affected by other influences.
  5. I previously made an assumption – which I now discover – that if people learned the rules of logic they’d be better able to reason. That assumption is not well founded based on the evidence I see.
  6. Logic is not to be conflated with reasoning. Often the two go hand in hand and appear to be ‘friends’. However, logic is the ultimate master and will bring reasoning to its knees where the latter falters.
  7. ‘Logical reasoning’ as a term is a conflation of two disparate concepts.
  8. For individuals or organisations to come to more robust conclusions/decisions, for starters they need to have good knowledge of the rules of logic AND proper training in reasoning.
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