The Practical Side of Heaven: Chapter Two, Part Six: Traditional Logic and its Fallacies

Cover: The Practical Side of Heaven

Cover: The Practical Side of Heaven

Learn more about The Practical Side of Heaven

Copyright William C. Kiefert. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter Two, Part Six: Traditional Logic and its Fallacies

We are not born with culture, we create it. We have not found solutions for problems that have haunted civilization since its birth because we have looked for those solutions in the same consciousness which created the problems. To solve our problems, we need to be conscious of them in truly new ways.

There have been those thinkers who have argued that our judgmental way of reasoning is a major cause of our moral crisis. Some critics have gone even further and pointed out that judgmental reasoning is the consequence of the character of the laws of the very logic we use in our thinking. Just as mathematical laws determine mathematical answers, so too, do laws of logic determine what we take to be reasonable answers. Let us see how our laws of logic lie at the root of our moral crisis by first examining what justifies them.

At the very basis of our laws of logic, there stands an axiom, meaning an assumption or standard, we take for granted. Suppose we reasoned with a logic which rested upon a standard which was inappropriate when applied to people. Then no matter how well we thought we reasoned about human beings, we would, in fact, be making irrational decisions and choices. It would be like using a map of Los Angeles to find our way around Chicago. No matter how carefully we followed the map, we would find ourselves lost in Chicago! Likewise, if our reasoning was inappropriate to use socially, we may, without even realizing it, be making irrational decisions and choices that lead to inhumane actions!

The situation would be even worse if millions of people failed to realize that their reasoning was not appropriate for every situation. For when they reasoned inappropriately, millions of people would not only act irrationally; but they would incorrectly think that they were doing the rational thing! The fact that millions do it would only make it an insane world!

“The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make those vices virtues. The fact that they share so many errors does not make those errors to be truths. And the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.”

So, we must ask, what is the fundamental standard underlying our laws of logic? For the assumption not only causes problems in terms of human relations, but on the positive side, it allows us to do something very important intellectually. It enables us to generalize. The problem arises when we generalize to a negative conclusion. “All liberals are stupid.” “All conservatives are insensitive and uncaring.” “Blue-collar workers don’t read Shakespeare.” “People on welfare aren’t worth a damn.” It is generalizations like these, which not only are patently untrue, but also reduce the individual to mere membership in a class whose stereotypical traits may not apply. Generalities make thinking easy; but particularly regarding people, generalities turn people into mere “things” to be dismissed or hated, without requiring that one get to know even a single member of the group. When we use the cliché, “Some of my best friends are…” we implicitly acknowledge that we have generalized too hastily. We have realized that not everyone is alike. But it is precisely the assumption that everyone should be alike which lies at the basis of hate and prejudice. How this assumption came to be the basis of our logic is now the story we must tell. The origins of the story go back to ancient Greece, some three hundred years before Jesus, and even further back in the East.