Archive for June 28th, 2021

June 28, 2021

Musings about logic

by Neil Rickert

Logic has always come naturally to me. Perhaps that is why I went into mathematics. However, some people find logic to be quite difficult. Even some very creative people can have difficulty with logic. I guess it is just as well that we are all different and can benefit from that diversity.

For me, as a mathematician, the term “logic” is used for inference involving the strict following of rules. However, people seem to have varied ideas about logic. So this post will be a somewhat rambling stream of comments (musings).


It is sometimes said that if the only tool you have is a hammer, then before long every problem begins to look like a nail. And if the only tool you have is logic, then every problem begins to look like a proposition.

Logic is not the only tool that philosophers use. But, in my opinion, they do seem to give it too much emphasis. And, perhaps as a result, they do tend to put too much emphasis on propositions. We see this when they define knowledge as “justified true belief”, so as to have a propositional account of knowledge. But it has always seemed wrong to me. As I see it, the knowledge of a plumber is in his ability to fix the pipes; he does not need to give eloquent speeches about pipes.

Similarly, philosophers of science often describe scientific theories as belief systems. But this, too, seems wrong. A theory is much more a system of research behaviors than a system of beliefs.

Mr Spock

In the Star Trek series, Mr Spock was notable because he did everything with logic and avoided emotion. But here’s my question: if there was no emotion, why would he even care whether he got to logic right?

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