Notes on Introduction to Logic -- Phil A101

William Jamison - Instructor

Notes for  Introduction to Logic


What is Logic and why should we study it?  Logic has a very important history for Western Civilization.  It has changed over the centuries, just as everything else.  What it was for Aristotle, or for the Scholastics, or for Wittgenstein, may all be of interest in a historical sense, but what do they have to do with us today?  Would it be worth our while to study logic as propounded over 2,000 years ago? Would it be any better to study logic as it was taught 50 years ago? 

            To answer any of these questions, we have to look at logic as we understand it today.  We have to understand why a student whose main concern is getting a job in a satisfying (and well paying) career would be interested in anything so ancient as logic.  We have to make the practical connection, showing why a study of logic would improve a student's chances at success in business, science, the arts, and maybe even in love. 

            What is logic as we understand it and use it today? 

            This is actually a very philosophical question.  That explains, perhaps, why it is generally taught as part of the offerings of a philosophy department, though it can also be part of a mathematics curriculum, statistics, and many other programs offered in colleges and universities.  This does not mean that the answer will be difficult.  It only means that it is answered by understanding how logic plays a role in how we think today.  What is our current perspective or point of view about thinking? 

            From a Biological standpoint, we are no longer as baffled by the physiological functioning of the human brain.  We now have machines that are capable of "watching" the brain as it functions.  We can see the sparkles of brain activity in the different lobes and "see" how the brain deals with the demands placed upon it.  Questions about emotional topics posed to the persons in the study have been filmed "thinking" with males typically thinking with one localized section of the brain in dealing with emotional questions, while females "think" over the same questions using multiple sections of their brains.  This of course results in very interesting speculations over the differences in males and females, possible explanations for why females may recover from strokes more easily than males, and other fascinating things, but it more certainly does tell us that our thoughts are clearly associated with electrical energy coursing through tree -- like networks of neurons.  These networks can be seen to expand with experience.  The speculation of John Locke that the human mind is like a blank slate at birth waiting for experience to write on it, can be visually verified as subsequent experiences create ever expanding networks writing new memories through the brain.  Our contemporary experience with computers lends us more comparisons by comparing the storage functions of hard drives, the operation of Random Access Memory and the workings of the Central Processing Unit.  How much like the human brain are our new machines?  The assumption is that the human brain is far more capable and can store fantastic amounts of ideas in a manner simulated by the techniques of holographic images.  Children can be studied linking mathematical, musical, linguistic, visual and other skills with the physical growth of their brain and the timely introduction of such experiences when their brains are most likely to build those memories and increase their lifetime potential of mastering those skills. 

            This work has been cheered on as some of the most exciting work being done in labs today and the discoveries in this field will probably come so quickly that only those professionals in the field will be able to keep up with it and it's implications.  For philosophy, many of the implications of this work can already be discussed. Gone are the dilemmas for us over how reason is related to the world of experience.  The British Empiricists, Locke was one, were right.  Experience, as a flood of sense impressions, enters our brains from our senses and writes on them.  The ancient philosophical quandary, how are our minds, or spirits,  and bodies connected, has lost its central puzzle.  The connection is electrical. 

            So what then happens to the rest of the puzzle?  How do we relate rationality to experience?  Many philosophers thought the answer lay in our spiritual association with knowledge existing in some other place.  Plato's Ideal World was primarily an explanation for how we could have Truth and stability.  Plato hypothesized the Ideal World as if it were that great big hard drive in the sky, where all memory was permanent and we poor CPUs at work in this great bureaucratic networked office called "earth" were pulling our programs and information from this great hard drive through a faulty communications net, that gave us mere shadows of the real information at best.  This idea of the Ideal World, where true ideas lived, evolved into that Christian Heaven where we would return someday to enjoy true knowledge if we behaved ourselves while carrying out the programs designed for us by the great big CPU in the sky. 

            This Ideal World was convincing to everyone and many tried to find alternative explanations for how we could know things.  For the most part, these took the tack that the information was embedded in the earth, or nature, itself.  Imagine, if you will, the earth as that great big hard drive full of information and stability, and all we had to do as little CPUs was pull up as many files from its libraries as possible and read what was there and know the truth.  

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