Growing up in the 1960s, one of my favorite characters on Star Trek was Mr. Spock. Half Vulcan and half human, First Officer Spock pursued the logical path to problem-solving tenaciously throughout the U.S.S. Enterprise’s travels in the vast cosmos.
Journey with me on a trek of our own: a series on critical thinking. In this first article I will briefly explain what logic is and why it is a discipline most worthy of careful study.
What is Logic?
Logic (from the Greek, logos) deals with thinking and reasoning. It has been described as “the principles of correct thinking.” The laws of logic and formal rules of argumentation are intended to help a person order their thinking. Logic’s cogent and consistent rules of thought help insure that a person arrives at reasonable and truthful conclusions. Aristotle (384-322 BC), the father of logic, referred to this academic discipline as an “instrument” that assists a person in discovering truth.
Why Study Logic?
The value of logic to human beings is intuitively obvious for four fundamental reasons:
1. For the pursuit of truth and reality
Throughout most of Western civilization, “truth” has been defined as that which corresponds to reality. In other words, if a person’s beliefs or views match the way things are in reality, then that person has uncovered the truth (called the correspondence theory of truth). Logic can serve as a reliable instrument in determining whether this correspondence actually takes place.
2. For the development of a world-and-life-view
What does it mean to hold a rational vision of reality? In his excellent philosophy primer Questions That Matter, philosopher and logician Ed L. Miller states,
Careful thinkers strive to make their arguments, positions, and pronouncements rational, that is, well conceived, well evidenced, well stated, and persuasive.
Logic and rhetoric are two of the critical disciplines involved in the formation of a worldview. A person first embraces a rational worldview and then attempts to persuade others of its explanatory adequacy and internal cogency.
3. For evaluating ideas and arguments
Critical thinking filters the constant dangers of propaganda, wishful thinking, and the blind acceptance of ideas. Consider how many people in the 20th century adopted destructive totalitarian ideologies without careful logical analysis of these political systems.
4. As a foundational discipline
Important—and exclusively human—activities such as reading, writing, math, science, and music presuppose logic’s validity. Obviously, logical abilities stand at the core of what it means to be Homo sapiens (thinking man).
Careful thinking is an absolute necessity in life and pursuing the principles of logic keeps one’s reasoning on track.
For more about the importance of logic and critical thinking, see my book A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.