Logic: A Necessary Tool for Truth

Examining the Slides in the Miscroscope

As the nonscientist on RTB’s five-person staff scholar team, I sometimes feel like the odd man out. Because I’m a philosopher, I often look at things and think about things very differently than my science colleagues. The questions that I tend to ask, even about science, usually inquire about things from a very different perspective. I typically gravitate toward asking more philosophically oriented questions that focus more on logical relationships than science’s emphasis upon observational relationships. Yet I recently came across a provocative analogy that I think helps to show the broadly common way that my science colleagues and I both seek to discover knowledge and truth.

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft draws this interesting comparison in his book on logic:

“Logic is one of philosophy’s main instruments. Logic is to philosophy what telescopes are to astronomy or microscopes to biology or math to physics. You can’t be very good at physics if you’re very bad at math, and you can’t be very good at philosophy if you’re very bad at logic.”1

Analogical Thinking

I view Kreeft’s comparison of the various instruments of knowledge and truth as functioning as a stimulating analogy.

Here’s that instrument to discipline comparison outlined. Logic’s relationship to philosophy is like:

  • telescopes to astronomy
  • microscopes to biology
  • math to physics

In all of these academic fields it is possible to engage in the discipline itself without specifically using the instrument. For example, ancient people practiced astronomy long before the telescope was invented, and studies in biology went on for many centuries before the microscope was designed. Similarly, it is possible to observe the general effects of physics without the formal use of mathematics, just as a person can ask common sense philosophical questions about life without appealing to the formal aspects of logic. Even the great philosopher Aristotle, who is credited as the “father of logic,” referred to logic as a “tool” or “instrument” (Greek, organon). However, the use of these amazing instruments—whether actual artifacts (telescope and microscope) or pure conceptual realities (math and logic) discovered via the human mind—produces an increase in information and knowledge that is seemingly exponential. Both the amount of data and the depth of potential understanding is exceedingly increased by the use of the instruments. And the more skilled you are at using the instrument, the better you are in your given discipline.

It is very important to also acknowledge that logic’s relationship to philosophy is in another way profoundly unlike the other examples in the comparison. In a critical sense, logicians would insist that to significantly think, speak, and act requires an appeal to, and dependence upon, the laws of logic. Logicians have powerfully shown that the laws of logic are unique in that they are ontologically real, cognitively necessary, and irrefutable.2 Broadly defined logic is a tool of philosophy, but in a stricter sense, logic or the laws of logic make rationality itself possible. Astronomers, biologists, physicists, and philosophers all depend upon the laws of logic to make their lives and studies intelligible. So, like all analogies, this comparison has obvious limitations.

Lenses or Pathways

Another engaging way of thinking about Kreeft’s analogy is to consider replacing the word instrument with the words lenses or pathways. In a sense these apparatuses allow their users to see or envision whole new worlds or to open doors and pathways to new dimensions of understanding. For philosophers, the laws of logic serve to ground intelligible experience, and for physicists the universe seems written in, and explainable by, the language of mathematics. This equipment, or conceptual framework, allows for a transformation of human sight and comprehension. How incredible and valuable is that?

Thus, while there are times I feel my work as a philosopher is out of step with my science colleagues, this analogy helps me to keep in mind that as Christian scholars in very different disciplines, we are all using our prize instruments to hunt and gather the knowledge and truth that God has revealed in his infinite wisdom as Creator and Redeemer.

Reflections: Your Turn

What do you think of Kreeft’s analogy? How do the artifactual instruments differ from the instruments of conceptual reality? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Endnotes

  1. Peter Kreeft, Socratic Logic: A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles, 3rd ed. (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2010), 5.
  2. Peter A. Angeles,“Laws of Thought, The Three” in The HarperCollins Dictionary Of Philosophy: In-Depth Explanations and Examples Covering Over 3,000 Entries (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 167.

  One thought on “Logic: A Necessary Tool for Truth

  1. Paul A. Carter
    January 31, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Ken, I’m glad that you’re a member of RTB’s scholar team. You provide a perspective that is complimentary to that of the scientists. Keep up the great work!

    • January 31, 2017 at 7:49 am

      Thank you, Paul. I appreciate your encouraging words.

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  2. February 2, 2017 at 9:05 am

    May I post this article on my website? Thank you for your work.

    Blessings,

    Brian Chilton

    • February 2, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Yes, Brian, feel free to reblog it.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  3. February 4, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Reblogged this on Is Christianity True?.

    • February 4, 2017 at 11:45 am

      Thanks for the reblog, Steve.

      Ken Samples

  4. February 7, 2017 at 5:01 am

    Your value-add to the RTB team is the perfect complement of universal knowledge . Your integrate both books of GOD (book of Nature, book of Scripture), in a way that touches the heart of man . Thank u for your ministry … May GOD continue to bless you .

    • February 7, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Thanks you, Fred.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  5. February 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Wonderful analogy! So, when are high schools going to start requiring Philosophy/logic classes for students? Our society desperately needs to look beyond post modern philosophy for realistic answers to life’s biggest questions. Unfortunately a thought monopoly has control of our nation. Keep up the great work you are doing at RGB!

    • February 7, 2017 at 5:43 pm

      Thanks, Bob.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  6. Michael F
    February 7, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Ken, did my post get censored? If you’re not going to post my comments, I’d at least appreciate an email explaining why. I was hoping for a good conversation to hear your thoughts on my worries.

    • February 8, 2017 at 9:55 am

      Michael:

      Greetings.

      I read your lengthy concerns about my article. But to be candid I think you completely missed the point of my article. This article is not a piece intended for analytic philosophers but rather my personal reflections on how philosophers and scientists see things differently and yet Kreeft’s analogical thinking shows that philosophers and scientists both rely upon instruments.

      Because you were alarmed by my piece I asked another colleague who teaches courses in logic and the philosophy of science to review my article and your remarks. He came away with the same assessment that you had missed the point of my article.

      I’m well aware that logicians differ concerning the nature and status of the laws of logic, but I think it is fair to say that there has been a consensus among logicians that the laws of logic ground intelligibility.

      You insist that analogical thinking is not logical but most standard logic texts place analogical reasoning under inductive or abductive reasoning.

      You’re welcome to disagree with me and the popular blog article that I wrote, however your response seemed to reflect a rather condescending tone and attitude (reflected in your cavalier dismissal of the fine but popular work HarperCollins Dictionary of Philosophy and your retort “I missed where Kant was decisively refuted”).

      Maybe you didn’t intend to come across in such a strident fashion, but as a Christian thinker and author I have found that treating other’s works with the utmost respect and charity opens up dialogue and connection.

      This will have to be my last response to your comments given my heavy work load.

      With my best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

      • Michael F
        February 8, 2017 at 6:20 pm

        Ken, I certainly didn’t mean my comments to be condescending. I had I suppose some of my urgency comes from doing philosophy at a secular university, where the work of Christian philosophers can sometimes be viewed derisively for its low-standards. I don’t want us to represent our faith as shallow. But I recognize that maybe I misunderstood the point of what you wrote, and again, I am sorry for not engaging you in a way that was inviting. Blessings to you as well brother.

        Michael

  7. Rita Gorski
    February 8, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Sorry to be so late with a comment. First I’m so glad you’re part of the RTB Team – your contribution is one of my favorites, and I appreciate the availability to comment. As for logic – I have felt a little under suspicion by some Christians when I express views that I feel logic, philosophy, rationality, etc., can be helpful for some people to find God because it’s really the only logical, rational direction to go if one is honest, and as the Holy Spirit uses it to open hearts to truth. Because, they say, these disciplines are less than “spiritual.” A rock is not necessarily spiritual, but God can use it to point to Himself as The Rock of our Salvation and Strength. Thank you for the challenge to think, explore and grow with the minds God has given us.

    • February 8, 2017 at 10:14 am

      As always, thanks Rita.

      Warm regards.

      Ken Samples

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