This material was taken from the booklet Learning Logic at Home.
Once you have learned logic, what next? Why did you try to learn it in the first place? I did not learn logic in order to have an intellectual ornament to set on my shelf and show off to my friends. I learned logic so that I could use it. How can we start using logic on an everyday basis?
Recognizing bad reasoning in other people's arguments will be the first real application you will see in your life. This will come without much effort simply by learning the most common logical fallacies. You will have a more critical outlook on what other people try to pass off as good arguments. You will no longer be satisfied by the same shallow reasoning. Arguments which once convinced you – especially political debates and theological arguments – will suddenly strike you as downright dumb. The deeper you study in logic, the more subtle the illogical reasoning you will be able to discern. If you have studied formal logic, then you will notice when a speaker commits the formal fallacy of "denying the antecedent," or "affirming the consequent" when using a hypothetical syllogism. If a salesman tries to convince you of the value of his product by means of an inductive generalization, you will be able to recognize if he is using a representative sample for his generalization, or if he is just trying to pull some wool over your eyes. You will know what constitutes true scientific evidence.
These are some of the critical uses for logic. But what are the constructive applications of logic? The study of logic proves its value when it comes time to build your own arguments. This is also where logical reasoning becomes the most difficult! Discipline in logical thinking is not a piece of cake – no wonder few people try it! Practice makes perfect, and exercise of those little gray cells can leave your head hurting just as much as stacking a cord of firewood will make those muscles ache next morning!
I must apologize at this point for having few resources to point you to. I have found few books which explicitly apply logic to their subject.
History – Critical Thinking in U. S. History is a set of four workbooks which my mother used with us when I was younger. These teach how to question historical interpretations and sources. They are written for students ages 13 and up. (Critical Thinking Books & Software.)
Historical Fallacies, by David Hackett Fischer, is a book which shows how common the logical fallacies are in historical writing and how to detect and avoid them. (Published by Harper & Row.)
Opposing Viewpoints – This series of texts, published by Greenhaven Press, presents original historical sources and articles on opposite sides of many issues.
Debate – Debate is a way to learn to think logically in a fast paced environment. This is a classical outlet for training in logic.
Science – There are many texts that teach scientific reasoning at different grade levels.
Theology – my father wrote a pamphlet, The Sabbath Syllogism, in which he lays a basic foundation for the logical interpretation of Scripture and for deducing doctrine. He uses the example of the doctrine of the weekly Sabbath to show how Jesus reasoned syllogistically. (Published by Trivium Pursuit.)
Philosophy – Gordon Clark was a Christian philosopher who applied logic to every area of thought. He wrote many books on different philosophical subjects. The Trinity Foundation has several lectures on philosophical topics which I would recommend.
Do you know of any other materials which apply logic? I would appreciate your suggestions for later editions of this booklet.
Learning logic is just the first step. Learning to consistently apply what you have learned is the next step, which you will have to take on your own.
Copyright April 01, 2000, all rights reserved. 6451 views