May 01st, 2013
Logic, its limits and a smattering of related topics are the subjects of discussion in this edition of the jkpodcast. This episode is material recorded while Tom, Kevin and I are kicking around ideas for episodes. As in not infrequently the case, the discussion of what we should look into becomes an impromptu handling of the event. More than usual, even, we hit alot of points for a couple of sentences and then move on. I think I’ve rounded up all of the bits and pieces we refer to below. Besides following the links, if anything we talk about interests you sufficiently, let us know and we can follow up on it in a future episode.
The intro text is from a lecture series that I can’t find online. The podcast Peace Revolution excerpts it from time to time as part of their ginormous monthly episodes. Here’s the link for the episode where I found the lecture. It’s from 4h 15m – 6h 27m (yes, it’s a 6 1/2 hour podcast) and titled An Introduction to the Law of Identity and the Axioms from which one derives Freedom. I really enjoyed the lecture and Leonark Peikoff has enough of Barrack Obama’s cadence to give me the giggles the entire time I’m listening.
I make reference to the School Sucks project. If you don’t listen to their podcast, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s really well done and very interesting. In Logic Saves Lives Part 10 — the Elephant and the Rider, they talk about the use of the logical fallacies (here’s a list) as a shortcut for engaging with and processing ideas.
Here’s the paper I reference in the podcast. I do a reasonable job summarizing it during our discussion, though I make a biological claim that’s not really relevant to the paper. The main idea is that reason isn’t very useful for a solitary person attempting to assess the truth, but the function is rather to create and evaluate arguments to persuade others. I make the claim that reason was developed for the purpose of communication, but that’s not really relevant to the paper.
Tom touches on this idea for a sentence or two. It’s a huge topic unto itself. The gist of it is to take the idea of non-aggression into the realm of communication by attempting to achieve win-win outcomes based on shared goals premised on shared humanity instead of using communication to dominate the co-communicator.
I also stumbled across this genius piece that touches on exactly the tactic of using rudimentary rhetorical tricks to bash ideas (and, more importanly, those that hold them) instead of engaging in an authentic discussion. The author, Stephen Bond, has a number of extremely well written and though provoking articles. And good game reviews.
Jad: Logic, its limits, and the spattering of related topics are the subjects of discussion in this edition of the JK Podcast. What you’re about to hear is Tom, Kevin, and I accidentally generating material for an episode on logic, while talking about how we should do some research and put together an episode on logic. We touch on a huge number of bases, sometimes only for a sentence or two. Rather than try to fill in all the gaps with narration, I’ll put the relevant links and supplementary information in the show notes for episode 26 at JKPod.com.
We’ll probably get back around to most of the topics, but if there’s anything in particular you’re interested in hearing more about, drop us a line and we’ll get on it. We spend most of this episode talking about the limits of logic. I want to emphasize up front that the three of us agree that logic is indispensable as a tool to compare our subjective experience of reality to that which objectively exists. To reiterate the importance of logic before we get around to nitpicking its use in common discourse[?], let’s listen in on a little bit more of Leonard Peikoff, [?] logician extraordinaire, and amateur Barack Obama impersonator.
Leonard Peikoff: [?] exists, the world, reality, existence is what it is independent of the content of any conscience. That existing have metaphysical timing – they come first, they accept the terms, they are there, they are real, they are independent of any mind or consciousness, and consciousness on this[?] view, is nothing more than the faculty [?] what [?], what [?] and independently exists.
Now this however a second book[?], to understand why logic is required – that is that when human beings enter the realm of thinking, the realm of conceptual [?] cognition, they are fallible, they are capable of error, they’re not automatically correct. Out of human knowledge is essentially conception[?] and as such, it is obviously not infallible, and not automatically correct.
Now if you combine these two points of trying to [?] know [?], and learn [?] in fact are what they are independent of [?] consciousness, and the sheer fact that you believe something doesn’t show that it corresponds to those independent facts because you are fallible, and capable of [?].
While under those conditions, if you are [?] to complain, any idea of yours has knowledge, you need to have a standard by which to judge [?]. A standard to enable you to determine whether or not [?] whole [?], or not. You need some method to enable you to determine how to arrive at reliable conclusions. When you can claim that represent facts, and when they do not [?] rejected as false.
Jad: One thing I don’t – I don’t [?] tonight that I was interested in that I saw a couple stories ago by about – we might’ve even talked about it, we’ll we actually talked about [?] – the limitation of logic, so essentially like, my own thing that I’ve narrowed it down to is people are fairly convinced that they’re reasoning processes are sound, and people who make a practice of intentionally using logic, or piecing together logical arguments you know, they believe that because of the nature of the way their building the argument that the argument is defensible, right? They’re using the logic to say you know, to take apart another argument and put my argument in its place.
And so the intuition for what I’m trying to get at is the fact that like, that’s what you know, medieval monks did, right? That’s what the scholastics did is you know, sit for hours and come up with these perfectly reasoned arguments about did Adam and Eve have belly buttons and stuff like that, right? And so they you know, they made a very rigorous practice of you know, using Aristotelian logic to build these arguments and take apart other arguments and stuff, but their premises were so flawed that they were just talking about nonsense, right?
So I was kinda thinking like, that seems like there’s an echo of that in all kinds of latter day arguments where people are basically saying you know, “you’re not being logical, you’re not using reason you know; here’s my argument and it defeats yours”, but they’re not accepting the human limitations of logic that they’ve got all these biases and premises that they’re assuming essentially –
Jad: – that may be causing them to go up with faulty conclusions. Anyway, so I saw this paper on argumentation – on [?] argumentation theory – and somebody was saying that reason was not a means of discovering truth, but that biologically it’s a means of conveying information, so it’s a social tool to explain why I’m doing what I’m doing, or why you should do what you’re – why you should do something, or whatever – not a tool for sitting by oneself and thinking through something and coming up with the truth you know, coming up with something that matches objective reality. So anyway like I said, I think it would require some prep but I thought it was an interesting topic.
Kevin: I mean, could you give an example to one that might exist in like, a modern day sense?
Jad: Well and – actually I can’t honestly – we could probably come up with something – but it’s something that you hear a lot in the libertarian and anarchist you know, [?] you on boards and whatnot, or people are essentially using this list of logical fallacies to just kinda go around and hit people with a hammer sort of thing you know, without really connecting on the level of what are you trying to convey to me, what am I trying to convey to you – it becomes like a debating club sort of thing –
Jad: – where you’re just trying to win without actually trying to engage in a pursuit of mutual understanding, or succumbing to some greater understanding, or anything like that.
Tom: Yeah that’s infuriating when you put forth something and then someone just goes, [?] –
Jad: Done. And [?].
Tom: Use words.
Jad: Yeah so there’s that, and there’s a podcast called The School Sucks Podcast where they were looking at another argument that someone was having where they had had you know, where it was – somebody was basically upset because somebody was basically bullying them with the list of fallacies in exactly that way like, “this is a logical fallacy so your entire argument is dismissed” – out of hands sort of thing.
And it was kind of interesting because they split pretty hard on that point and it was funny because there was one guy who was just saying like, you know, logic can’t fail, logic won’t fail – and now I’m expanding the topic – but it’s to do with our perception of binariness[?], the perception of perfect information that we have – because our brain gives it to us, right, but I make the analogy of like, perception that you’re seeing things outside of your field of vision, you know, or on the edge of your field of vision, when actually you’re not, those are just things that your brain is remembering that you saw before and putting there so you have a whole picture of what’s surrounding you and yeah, that’s why stuff hits you out of the blind spots, you know? Because even though you didn’t see it coming because you weren’t actually visually processing that area, it was actually there.
But we have this perception that we’re reasoning coherently, that we have access to full information, that we understand the state of things, but it’s just not true – the world is so you know, messy, and noisy, and non-binary that when you start being like, things are you know, A or not A – that isn’t being a poor model for a lot of measurable entities in the real world.
Kevin: No I mean, it’s an interesting topic to me because I feel that I’ve been called out on that before you know, just over the last many years. Predominantly, I want to [?] get into arguments in a much more left leaning group of people, I feel that at times, probably some of the more intellectual of the group at some point will really call me out on the logic and say, “well you know, your logic follows suit except for the fact that the originating statement, the antecedent to the entire argument is we don’t agree with.”
If I’m hearing you right, it’s kind of like making a religious argument and then eventually coming back to the fact, “well, the book says this”, and you’re like, “that’s the problem.” There’s no proof that the book is correct, so therefore to base your entire logical argument on the fact that that chapter and verse says such and such doesn’t have any bearings. Is that kind of level what we’re talking about, or –
Jad: Oh I think so, totally. I think that’s exactly what I’m talking about with the premises you know, and this has been talked about a lot which I still think it could always be talked about more because people are really, really bad at it – everyone, myself included – which is why if you’re talking about being really constructive and having a constructive conversation with somebody who you’re going to you know – who you want to have a long term positive relationship with or whatever that ironing out those premises is the critical part of the whole thing, not the process that follows –
Jad: – but ironing out like, “here are the things we have in common, here’s what we’re both trying to achieve”, you know, et cetera, et cetera. That part of the conversation is kind of the part that is required to avoid the part where you’re trying to use debating tricks to show why the other person’s wrong.
Tom: That’s kinda the gist of the non-violent communication where you know, it’s another human being, connect with them, find out what you have in common, find out what the problem is, and then get them and you on the same track to see how can we both win? How can we solve this without you causing damage to me or anybody else, or I doing the same and that’s a whole different approach then it’s not adversarial because debates create resistance and yeah you know, some people will respond to losing positively by saying, “oh you’re right”, but a lot of people will just put up a resistance and you don’t win even if you win –
Tom: – if you think you win. But I think what’s interesting about what you’re talking about here is that there’s also a group of people who take logic and parse everything down so finely, it almost seems like nothing can be said for sure.
Jad: Oh sure, that’s the other extreme right, is to be like you can’t know anything, so we can’t reason about anything at all, or –
Tom: But then – one more thing – you said something like, you can’t use reason to explain why you do something.
Jad: Oh, oh, what I was saying is – and this is just somebody’s theory that I found a paper on that I thought was interesting – was that biologically speaking, reason did not evolve as a tool for an individual to arrive at truth about the world –
Jad: That reason evolved as a way to convey what I’m seeing and experiencing to you, so that like, a group of people can come to a collective opinion about the state of the world.
Tom: But what struck me about that is then when you explain why you do something to people –
Tom: – for people, you give them an explanation – you are giving them a reason, it’s the same word. Is that a coincidence?
Jad: Oh no, no, but that’s that they say – the point is that we imagine that reason is something that an individual – the brain evolves so that you can figure out the truth about the world, but this guy – or this person, I can’t remember – is saying that that was a secondary effect, that came later. Before it was valuable as a way to reason about the world, it was valuable to a social unit to come up with a cohesive world view.
Tom: Maybe higher level of reasoning – I might agree with that – but I mean, doesn’t a – is there a certain amount of reasoning [?] animals do, like, “that’s a cliff, if I step off it, I will die”, I mean, isn’t that kind of reasoning? Isn’t that some basic, looking at the world and coming up with some conclusions and knowing how to react to it?
Jad: Yeah, I don’t know you know, is the difference between like, a Skinnerian cause and effect, understanding cause and effect and something where you’re trying to come up with a more – I guess it’s the idea right, like reasoning where it’s like, “I’m not sure what’s causing this, here’s what I think is causing it”, or whatever. I don’t know where that line is or anything.
Kevin: I mean, it’s a good topic to delve into, for sure.
Jad: Yeah, I kinda feel like we should probably look at it a little bit more. I don’t really understand all the ins and outs of the argument anyway, but that’s never stopped us before of course, we can just –
And it’s not going to stop us now.
– carry on anyway.
Tom: Don’t you think it seems that the kind of anarchist, voluntaryist platform is based kind of ethics, and trying to somehow use some kind of reason to define some ethical base that is the basis for non-aggression, blah, blah, blah, and it seems that the most common arguments against it are the type where they start chopping anything that you try and concretize into abstraction, and the end result as well, that’s the best we’re going to do as humans and laws are going to be arbitrary, and whoever’s strongest is going to impose it.
And yet they reject anything that’s close to what you might call an objective instead of ethics, and they almost reject the idea that there’s such a thing as justice and yet it’s a common basic feature I think in all humans to understand, or have a feeling of something that’s just or unjust. So it exists in everybody, but then no one wants to admit it exists at all and that everything’s arbitrary – it’s kinda hard to unravel.
Jad: Yeah, sure. Yeah. Well again, it seems like that’s one of those things where you’re bumping into the edge of what logic can do for you because it’s not a preference or anything, but it does seem like that is where the emotional tools of saying like, “well you know, you don’t want to kill people, I don’t want to kill” – like you know, that sort of –
Jad: – that sort of discussion can take place and more productively than being like, “if everyone on the planet is bound by a set of” you know, “objective rules and” – I mean whatever, I don’t really know how that argument goes, but I’ve seemed to have had it a million times – you’d think I’d be more well versed in it.
Tom: I think most people fall back on the old, “well [?] a perfect world, you know, I don’t want to hurt anybody and I don’t want to take anything from anybody”, but in a big society you know, you just gotta pay a little bit of your taxes and that’s what you give up and the result is what we have. So no, they don’t want to hurt anybody, but they don’t view – for instance, taxation – is hurting anybody because it’s just a little thing you gotta give up in order to get more order as a result.
So it’s almost harder to use emotion that way because they really don’t have any strong emotions. You know, if you’re working around $50,000, you should pay $10,000 – that’s fair. It’s hard that I get any sympathy, nobody’s killing anybody.
Jad: Well, but lots of people are killing, lots of people. It’s the $10,000 that buys the bombs that are dropped on people.
Jad: People have different things they care about, or that they’re – that you can connect with them about, so that’s [?] for sure.
Kevin: Yeah like, it kinda borders the [?] that we were talking about with respect to the subjectivity of ethics and morals again, so –
Tom: Yeah, [?]. It just keeps coming up though.
Jad: And we’re done. As mentioned before, links to the several related podcasts on logic, research articles, and blog posts will be up for your further exploration of the topic at JKPod.com. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, which you can e-mail to us at JKPod@JKPod.com, or drop into the comments on the site. You can also reach Kevin and I at our websites, KevinLudlow.com, and Jad-Davis.com. I’ll let you guess which one belongs to whom. We also have contact information for the most excellent, Tom DeLorenzo on the website. Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, take care.