In logic, an “argument” is not a spat or a fight that you might have with your spouse or with a sibling. A logical argument consists of making a claim (conclusion) that something is true or correct and then seeking to support that claim with facts, reasons, or evidence (premises). In effect, an argument in logic is a “supported opinion.”
As we noted in part one, the study of logic doesn’t actually teach a person to think—people do that naturally and intuitively. Rather, instruction in logic teaches a person to think in an organized and conscientious manner.
Logic can be defined as “the rules of correct reasoning.” Following these precepts helps a person to order their thinking consistently so they can arrive at truthful, rational conclusions. And as we saw in the previous article, logic can help a person arrive at a rational destination—letting one analogously think of the rules of logic as a type of GPS or navigational system that guides one’s thought.
A Rational Navigational System
Here I offer three more ways that logic’s system of organization can serve to guide one’s path and thus help a person arrive at a reasonable destination. The following points specifically reflect logic’s ability to order and discipline a person’s thinking.
#4: Beware of Preference
There seems to be a tendency in human beings to draw the logical conclusion that a person prefers to be true. When it comes to evaluating arguments for reasonableness and explanatory power, preference tends to weigh heavily in one’s final assessment. Preference can even at times trump solid evidence that points to the truth of an alternative conclusion. Conscientious students of logic should attempt to be aware of the potential bias of preference, and instead remain objective in one’s reasoning and give rational factors appropriate priority.
#5: Check Your Emotion
It is easy to feel passionate about the central point of one’s argument—especially when an opponent with feels equally passionate about a different or opposite point. But strong emotions, while a normal part of being human, can indeed color one’s logical analysis. Though it may not be easy to engage in a dispassionate analysis of one’s deeply held conclusion, it is important to try. Emotion can be so strong that it can limit one’s ability to examine ideas and issues analytically. While one can appreciate the place of genuine emotion, one must still try to keep one’s emotions in check during logical exchanges so that they don’t become a negative factor in the reasoning process.
#6: Acknowledge Your Assumptions
When it comes to the reasoning process, no one stands in a completely neutral position without assumptions. Since logic is about proving (or verifying) things through the use of arguments, unwarranted presumption can be a big problem. The truth of an argument’s conclusion shouldn’t be presumed without justification. Rather, one should seek to acknowledge and to properly justify their presuppositions, and then offer evidence, facts, or reasons to support the conclusion being drawn.
The study of logic helps a person order their thinking and, thus, arrive at reasonable and truthful conclusions. In this way logic’s power to properly organize serves as a type of navigational system to keep a person on the path to a rational, truthful destination.
Reflections: Your Turn
How does your understanding of logical rules 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.
- On the topic of addressing the challenge of logical fallacies, see my article “How to ERASE Logical Fallacies.”