NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 10, 2014

My dog is some dog!

“Some dogs are black. My dog is black. My dog is some dog!” This absurd bit of reasoning (in form of a “syllogism”) was adduced by one of my school friends to show how words can be manipulated to get a false result. But don’t take this example of absurdity too lightly. Illogic is abroad in the land, although maybe not to the extent shown in a Glasberger “motivational” cartoon in which a penguin says, “Penguins are black and white. Some old TV shows are black and white. Therefore some penguins are old TV shows.” (This poster is entitled “Logic. A systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.”)

Suppose you were to hear that “Some people are too lazy to work. People getting welfare don’t have to work. People on welfare are just lazy!” Would you buy this “reasoning,” or would you recognize that the conclusion doesn’t follow, and that the speaker is just upset because he thinks his hard-earned tax money is being wasted on ne’er-do-wells? The first two statements don’t logically support the third, since there could be (and clearly are) many welfare recipients who are eager to work. Or how about “Once we legalize gay marriage, the human race will come to an end!”

Aristotle was the first person to set rules for extracting truth from facts. His efforts have evolved through the work of many brilliant scholars ever since, and many complicated analytical systems of logic created. Logic was one of the “trivium,” the three fundamentals of a Greek classical education, together with grammar and rhetoric, often defined simply as “the art of thinking.” “The whole goal,” suggests Wikipedia, “is to train the student’s mind not only to grasp information, but to find the analytical connections between seemingly different facts/ideas, to find out why something is true, or why something else is false (in short, reasons for a fact).” Few things can be more important today than logical thought and action.

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