Thursday, November 14, 2013

The value of logic – an editorial

In 2002, Steven Yates, a former professor of logic, wrote an interesting article (“Can Logic Be Taught on Campus?”) on the place of logic courses in college curricula. He wondered whether logic was “at odds with the major campus tendencies.” For example:
Once we take [logic] seriously, we have to throw out a lot of what passes for scholarship today – and very possibly, a lot of teaching as well, to the extent that it has come to express the teacher’s feelings or attempt to elicit feelings from students instead of address facts of reality. (Italics in original.)
And from the conclusion of the article:
Carried out properly, a course in logic can greatly improve a college students ability to think independently, as an individual and not simply a herd-member, and not be taken to the cleaners by every fashion to come along. It can be used to show that many beliefs currently held dear on campuses simply dont make any sense when held up to the light of close, logical scrutiny. It is thus a highly politically incorrect subject. It probably belongs in the core of any good college or university curriculum, but definitely doesnt fit into an arena where emotions reign, where intimidation is the preferred method of enforcing conformity, or where truth and right are determined by the collective will (or sexual fetishes) of agitators-in-training – which is why the pronouncements of the latter offer such a gold mine of examples of horrid reasoning.
The Takeaway: Especially if you have never studied logic, I recommend you read the article. It will introduce you to powerful ideas that can help you think and write more clearly. You may be inspired to read a book on logic or take a course in logic. At the college I attended, logic was a required course. It was difficult for me, but it has paid off year after year, over my four-decade writing career. Have a go at logic.

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