The study of logic doesn’t actually teach a person to think—people do that intuitively and instinctively. Rather, instruction in logic teaches a person to think in an ordered and, thus, careful manner.
Logic can be defined as “the principles of correct reasoning.” Mastery of these principles helps a person to order their thinking consistently so they can arrive at truthful, rational conclusions. And since logic can help a person arrive at a rational destination, then analogously one can think of the principles of logic as a type of GPS or navigational system that guides one’s thoughts.
A Rational Navigational System
Here I offer three ways that logic’s system of order can serve to guide one’s path and help a person arrive at a reasonable journey’s end. The following points specifically reflect logic’s ability to organize and discipline a person’s thinking.
#1: Think It Through
In thinking about any subject it is important to ask whether the very foundation of the idea is sound. Well-conceived ideas are logically coherent, possessing internal consistency or harmony. Sound ideas avoid self-stultification or being self-defeating in nature (contradictory by both affirming and denying the very essence of the idea or argument). So before presenting an idea or argument, take the time to think deeply, introspectively, and especially critically about it.
#2: Stay on Point
In logic, the point is always what the argument’s conclusion or central claim indicates (see “Defining a Logical Argument” below). Thus, the conclusion is also called the central point of the argument. It is what the arguer is attempting to prove and encouraging others to accept. Since knowing the point is absolutely essential in thinking through an argument, losing sight of the point is logically disastrous. In fact, one of the biggest obstacles to careful thinking is distraction. The problem of irrelevance is that it tends to throw the reader or listener off track, and thus the point is hidden or lost. So remember to get into the habit of asking that critical question: “What’s the point?” Ask the question and keep on asking it as you evaluate the logical claims that you and others make.
#3: Keep It Clear
When it comes to reasoning, clarity carries its own persuasive power. Clutter and excessive complexity in an argument frequently stand in the way of the argument’s understandability and credibility. Since being clear in one’s reasoning is advantageous, keep clarity in mind as you initially construct your argument. People greatly appreciate clarity, especially when it is contrasted by its opposite in a debate. Listeners are usually open to, and even inclined toward accepting, the clearest position. However, bear in mind that clear does not mean simplistic or unsophisticated. So when presenting your argument (in other words marshaling the strongest evidence in support of the conclusion), deliver the ideas in the clearest terms possible without compromising the integrity of the argument.
The study of logic helps a person organize their thinking and, thus, to arrive at reasonable and truthful conclusions. In this way logic’s organizational power serves as a type of navigational system to keep a person on the path to their rational, truthful destination.
Reflections: Your Turn
How does your understanding of logical principles influence your thinking and speaking?
- 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 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007).
- For a great handbook in dealing with logical fallacies, see T. Edward Damer, Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2008).
Defining a Logical Argument
An argument in logic consists of making a claim (conclusion) and seeking to support it with facts, reasons, or evidence (premises).