REFLECTIONS ON LOGIC
D. R. Khashaba
What is logic? As I see it, logic – I speak first of traditional, Aristotelian logic – is an empirical science. Aristotle did not lay down laws for thought: he observed normal thought, extracted regular patterns in normal thought, then systematized and formulated those patterns in ‘laws’ just as physicists observe and describe regularities in nature and name them ‘laws’. In other words, thought naturally has inbred habits and settled channels which Logic describes and systematizes. As a science it has the same relation to philosophy as other sciences. While philosophical thinking naturally operates logically, it can do without Logic.
No one needs Logic to think ‘correctly’. All one needs is, first, to be honest with oneself, and secondly to see to it that one’s ideas are in order and not muddled. Little children and primitive peoples think properly and effectively. This is not to denigrate the science of Logic: it is good as all natural science is good; but it is not necessary for philosophy nor is it part of philosophy proper.
Thus far I have been speaking of traditional, Aristotelian, Logic. The development of mathematical or symbolic logic in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is more properly to be seen as taking mathematics – rather than logic – to a higher plane of abstraction. It created a language by means of which propositions and terms are represented by highly abstract symbols rendering it possible to make complex calculations more easily and securely in the field of physical abstractions. But it is sheer folly to think that symbolic logic can be of any use in solving practical life-problems or in deciding moral or philosophical questions. It is the nature of abstraction to abstract from – that is, to drop – the particularities of the particular, and that is just what we have to consider in dealing with practical problems.
Neither the old Logic nor the new Symbolic Logic (which it is a travesty to call Logic at all) in itself and by itself can yield new knowledge or truth. Neither Newton nor Einstein arrivd at their theories by logical deduction or by calculation. Each of them had a creative idea out of which he derived a formula for making calculations. Logic – old or new – is barren; left to itself it goes on reproducing its empty formations.
The creators of logical symbolism sought to escape the fluidity and ambiguity of ordinary language. To gain precision and accuracy they dropped the nuances and rough edges of common-language words. The more fit the artificial language became for special purposes the more inadequate it became to reflect the fluidity and interrelatedness of life and nature. The dream of making pure logic resolve moral perplexities – as Leibniz dreamed – is a vain dream.
Kant saw that pure reason yields no knowledge about the natural world. Wittgenstein saw that pure logic says nothing. In the realm of the object, we question nature and nature speaks to us in enigmas that we interpret variously. In the realm of the subject, we question our own mind, not to reach any knowledge or truth but to enjoy the self-evident luminosity of the reality of the mind.
D. R. Khashaba
January 17, 2017
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