AS MUCH I ENJOY philosophy, there is one thing in philosophy that I truly hate: Logic.
I’m not talking about the kind of logic someone is talking about when they say that eating a hot dog without ketchup is the only logical way to eat a hot dog or when we say washing your hands after using the restroom is “logical”.
One “logical” act is just a matter of taste and the other is what any human being even the least bit concerned with being sanitary would do.
There are plenty of things we say are “logic” or “logical” that aren’t logic or logical at all.
I’m talking about the kind of logic that philosophers do. Philosophical logic.
I hate THAT logic.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that logic is the bane of my existence. I’m not good at logic.
I flunked logic.
But they still gave me a degree in philosophy.
Remember kids: bullshit is better than logic.
Despite my utter failure at all things logic, I still look for ways to use philosophy in my daily life while avoiding logic.
Which is a fairly easy thing to do on the internet, actually.
However, instead of bringing me relief, my avoidance of logic has become somewhat of a problem for me.
You see, here in the U.S. philosophy is all about analytic philosophy.
The philosophy with all that LOGIC.
Our heroes are dudes like Frege, Carnap, Quine, and Russell.
Russell wanted to make philosophy more like math.
Something else I hate.
I. HATE. MATH.
So you understand why sucking at logic can make things difficult when you’ve decided to take up writing philosophy as your somewhat full-time vocation.
Still… as much as I despise logic, I am more than well aware that logic is a necessary part of philosophy.
Logic is used to construct arguments.
Not the kind of arguments you have with bae.
Actually, I kinda suck at the other kind of arguments, too.
Oh no, couldn’t be arguments like that.
Nope. Philosophy is all about arguments that look like this:
So, lucky me. I went to college here in the U.S. where it‘s all about the Analytics and logic, and my reward for loving wisdom SO much was having to go to an ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY focused college and having to take logic classes.
Yeah. That’s pretty much what happened.
Philosophical logic is:
Logic (from the Greek “logos”, which has a variety of meanings including the word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason or principle) is the study of reasoning, or the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration, it attempts to distinguish good reasoning from bad reasoning.
Now, as a fan of philosophy it is almost required by law that I also like Star Trek.
Star Trek, Monty Python, and Woody Allen movies. Every philosopher is required to not merely like these things, but live by them. Required.
Doesn’t matter which incarnation of Star Trek: The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine – even Enterprise.
Well, maybe not Enterprise.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Any philosophical question can be answered by watching an episode of Star Trek.
That’s why I was initially so disappointed that one of the series’ most beloved characters, the Vulcan First Officer of the USS Enterprise (in the original series), Mr. Spock, was a devotee of logic.
Vulcans are all about logic.
The Matron of Vulcan Philosophy, T’Plana-Hath, says:
Logic is the cement of our civilization with which we ascend from chaos using reason as our guide.
Vulcan society is so devoted to logic that they purge themselves of emotions through a process called Kohlinar.
I swear that’s as far as I’m going to go with the Star Trek lingo.
Vulcans believe that they must purge their emotions so that their emotions don’t interfere with their ability to reason. The reason why is a complex story.
I’ll just say that it has to do with Vulcans being extremely violent and some guy named Surak.
Actually, Vulcans don’t so much purge their emotions as they learn to control them. Just in case anybody wants to call me on that.
Like I said, I suck at logic. And the thought that a TV show I was required to watch for my philosopher street cred included a character that was going to be a Carnap in space, made me want to ditch any philosopher cred I’d be awarded if I watched. I knew that every time I watched the show it would be a humiliation. I feared tuning in every week to watch some dude that I would find utterly incomprehensible. I’d have to face the fact that I had no place in philosophy. I knew that Mr. Spock would be just like my logic professor – he would speak in a language I couldn’t understand, even though he’d be delivering the dialogue in English.
Kind of like what happens when I read Bertrand Russell.
Living as a Wookie would do me just fine, I told myself. I can get angry enough to rip a droid’s arm out of its socket.
But watching Star Trek, I feared, I’d have to face the chilling realization that I could never cut it as a Vulcan.
So, despite my initial logic-induced trepidation, I watched the show.
I’m kinda glad that I did.
Because exactly what I feared would happen didn’t happen.
Listen: Vulcans claim that they’re all about living the logical life. The catch is, though, is that they weren’t really doing logic at all. At least not in the philosophical sense.
Doing logic – actual philosophical logic – made me realize that Vulcans, at least
according to the Vulcan logic that Spock explained to Captain Kirk, isn’t… well… it ain’t logic. Spock’s famous admonition to Kirk, The Needs of the MANY outweigh the Needs of the FEW or the ONE, is positively utilitarian.
Anyone who has sat through a bull session of discussing ethical thought experiments knows utilitarian ethics can get us to some very unreasonable, dare we say, illogical outcomes.
There’s no doubt Vulcans are intellectual. Mr. Spock hands-down is the smartest member of the Enterprise crew.
And not just because he was accepted to the Vulcan Science Academy and Starfleet Academy.
But it seems that the high-minded Vulcan logic that Spock (and every other Vulcan) adheres to should be described as “this makes sense” or call it what it is, some utilitarian ethics with a dash of everybody kind of thinks this way.
Spock often mentions his inability to lie – IS LYING INHERENTLY ILLOGICAL?
Vulcans boast (and they do boast) that the cornerstone of their logic-based lifestyle freedom from emotions and the irrational nature of emotions leads species (including humans) into behaving illogically.
According to Vulcan logic, emotion and rationality are presented as mutually exclusive; either you’re logical and emotionless or emotional and illogical.
First, Vulcans often are emotional. During the course of the original series and the six TOS (the original series) films, Spock occasionally displays emotion.
And don’t just blame that on the fact that Spock is half human.
Other Vulcans, including Spock’s betrothed, T’Pring, Spock’s half-brother Sybok, and the Vulcan on Voyager who had a bad case of Pon Farr were all emotional.
And then there’s this thing: Irrational (or if you’re a Vulcan, illogical) behavior is based on how you act according to the information you’re working with, not necessarily upon your emotional state.
Contrary to what Vulcans believe, emotions are necessary for decision making.
In neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s study of a patient “Elliot” (who lost part of his frontal cortex during tumor surgery) Damasio discovered that his patient’s intellect remained intact, however, Elliot had lost the capacity to experience emotion. Elliot was, Damasio described, “disengaged” from the world. The inability of Elliot’s brain to connect reason and emotion interfered with his capacity for decision making.
Damasio observed that patients like Elliot, people who had damage to their frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls emotions, were unable to make even simple decisions.
Imagine having to choose between two relatively equal choices: On one plate you are offered a grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread. On the other plate you are offered a grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread with a slice of heirloom tomato. You like grilled chicken sandwiches with and without a slice of heirloom tomato. How do you choose which sandwich to eat? If you have emotions, you may choose by simply deciding that you don’t “feel” like eating a sandwich without a slice of tomato. But without the capacity to feel, you may be unable to decide which sandwich to eat.
In an article in the Arizona State Law Journal, legal scholars Susan Barades and Jessica Salerno wrote:
Emotion helps us screen, organize and prioritize the information that bombards us… It influences what information we find salient, relevant, convincing or memorable.
I suppose it would be worth noting that I am a very emotional person.
And if I’m gonna toot my own horn here, I’m pretty good at making decisions.
Well, nine out of ten decisions.
I guess in the end, it’s ok if I’m not logically correct -according to Vulcans or to real philosophers. Sure, if I ever contact the Long Island Medium to channel the spirits of Godel or Quine, I might want to brush up on my derivations, but if and until then, I’ll still suck at logic, continue to enjoy watching Star Trek, and H.A.T.E. all arguments comprised of a set of premises supporting a logically inferred conclusion.
Besides… Vulcans aren’t really logical, anyway.