Archive for July 25th, 2021

July 25, 2021

The world is not a logical place

by Neil Rickert

Let’s start with some definitions:

  • logical: in accordance with the laws of logic;
  • illogical: contrary to the laws of logic;
  • alogical: the laws of logic are not applicable.

My title is suggesting the last of those — that the laws of logic are not applicable to the world.

Of course, we do use logic. But we have to do some preparatory work to make it possible to use logic.

A logical world is a world of immutable objects. I’ll refer to those as “logical objects”. When doing mathematics, the numbers are examples of logical objects. In logic, we use the idea of “identity”, where A and B are identical if those are really just different names for the same logical object. So 3+1 is identical to 2+2, because those are both ways of referring to the same number 4.

In the world we live in, there are no immutable objects — see my earlier post about change. And what we mean by “identity” and “identical” can sometimes be confusing. Those are because our world isn’t really a logical world.


How do we deal with this situation? We categorize. That is to say, we divide the world up into parts (i.e. categories), and treat those categories as if they were logical objects.

Some people think of categories as collections of individual objects. I prefer to think of categories as arising from carving up the world into parts. What we think of as individual objects are themselves categories. We think of a person as an individual. But a person changes. The atoms which constitute that person today will soon be gone, and replaced by different atoms. A person’s appearance changes due maturing and aging processes. But we see these variations as the same person, because when we carve the world up into categories we place the variations of that person into the same category.

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