By Joe Bailey, Assistant Features Editor–
Initially, the study of logic may seem like a subject with niche appeal, but take a closer look and you will find a toolset which is applicable not only in academics, but everyday life as well.
In normal conversation, we use the word “logic” in conjunction with things like reasoning and argumentation. These are broadly the topics a typical logic class would cover, but not in the way you might expect.
The first thing many probably think of when they hear about logic is the process of deducting conclusions from facts using what are called “syllogisms,” but the subject goes much further than this.
In a logic course, statements are whittled down to the bare essentials. Claims are systematically picked apart and put back together like mathematical equations. “Formal Logic” is the name of the pseudo language devised to accomplish this.
In formal logic, natural language arguments are separated into claims (or “premises”) represented by uppercase letters which are connected by symbols called logical operators. Logical operators take the place of connectors like “and,” “or” and “if, then” statements in English.
The rules of formal logic are stricter and more precise than those of most natural languages. This makes it easier to parse out the underlying structure of arguments. Even without translating to formal logic, statements and claims become easier to analyze with just a little exposure to this style of thinking. A collection of statements paired with a conclusion can be proven invalid with just a few systematic steps.
In the world of academics, logical principles are used in subjects ranging from computer science to law and philosophy. Wherever precisely expressing complex ideas is necessary, logic is your friend. It’s a great tool for eliminating ambiguity.
While formal logic is useful, it also comes with some odd implications. As a result of the rules decided on for certain operators, some strange, but technically true statements are possible.
Take the following sentence:
“If The Echo is a dog food company, then The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is a high school.”
Even two false statements can be combined to make a true one given the right rules and logical operators. Additionally, the rules that produced this sentence are generally accepted to be the best for interpreting natural language. Despite how it may seem, this doesn’t expose a flaw in formal logic. Instead, it exposes the inherent ambiguity of natural language, as such rules are never specified.
Luckily for everyone using natural language, context usually makes it obvious when a sentence is ridiculous. Even so, I think it would be worth it to consider using logical techniques when confronted with ideas that involve less context or prior knowledge.
This is all to say that students are met with complex ideas on a daily basis. As a student myself, even minimal exposure to logic has made me reconsider how I view language. It’s a subject that goes very deep and I have only scratched the surface.
Logic courses are good. You should take good courses. Therefore, you should take a logic course.