Democracy gives all a voice, but what if the majority follows a voice that is heavy on volume but light on reason? How can we inject basic reason into dialogue, whether the everyday or on the national and global stage?
Hubby and I recently spent an enjoyable evening with my nephew and some of his late-twenty-something friends. It was an energizing back and forth of ideas and experiences. At one point, while discussing a certain Republican Presidential Nominee to the south of us, I made a proposal.
If more people were educated in the basic fundamentals of logic, then fewer people would be sucked in to support irrational leaders. My suggestion? Make Introductory Logic a compulsory course in high schools, colleges and universities. This basic, practical and immensely valuable field of study should not longer be an option.
I loved the intellectual challenge of mind-stretching academic courses, but the most practical course I took in high school was Typing 101. It was a class usually taken by those on the vocational track, future secretaries and clerks. I can’t remember why I took it, but I loved it. Sr. Edith Clare was a friendly drill master, determined to teach us speed and accuracy. I embraced the challenge and developed both.
When I began university, term papers were still hand-written. Few intellectuals wasted their time on type-writing skills. I banged out my work on a manual Underwood, proud of the professional look of my very mediocre papers.
With the coming of computers, typing skills proved even more valuable. No Mavis Beacon for me. Typing morphed into key-boarding, and my flying fingers still ruled.
I didn’t finish my degree until after the birth of my fifth child. My first courses as a distance student were Intro to Philosophy and Intro to Logic. Again, I don’t know why I took them, but they ended up being my most valuable and practical courses in all further studies.
When heady philosophical theories tied my brain in knots (a frequent occurrence), I picked up my Logic text-book and began solving Boolean equations, or spotting the fallacies in sample arguments. I loved the beauty of balancing values, proving them true or false.
Learning basic logic became an invaluable tool in my reading and writing. Whether for course work or blogging, I’m constantly nagged by a voice in my head that questions and challenges the words on the paper or screen; whether mine or others.
Philosophical reasoning and logic joined my high school Typing class in practicality. What some people consider light-weight “artsy fartsy” studies, actually teach the most basic, the most practical skill needed in today’s society.
How do you use reason to think clearly, judge wisely, and speak as truthfully as possible? Truth is not truth because you think or feel that it is. Truth must be proved.
When basic rules of discourse are ignored, dialogue becomes impossible. For example…
Instead of responding to a statement, one attacks the person. Trump is the master of the ad hominem argument. In primary debates and now in the presidential race, his preferred mode of response is to hurl names at his opponents. Dare to question or criticize him? Be prepared for the slings and arrows of his outrageous bullying. But, don’t expect any solid evidence for his outrageous statements.
Today’s media inundates us with news stories around the clock. Having a basic grasp of logical reasoning can help to filter through the morass of biased or unsubstantiated resources. Do the premises presented in an article or news report support the conclusion stated in the headlines? Where is the proof for the truth claims? Is the article presented as an objective reporting of facts, or an opinion piece?
Knowing the difference between fact and opinion is crucial in discerning the truth value of a statement or argument.
Discussion boards and letters to the editor are great exercises in honing reasoning skills. The next time you see an online discussion dissolve into a fight fest, try to spot the moment when dialogue ended. Was it a mean-spirited comment attacking the person? Was it an assumption that if the writer believes A, then he or she also believes B, C, D and more? Was it simply a statement that had nothing at all to do with the issue at hand, trying to high-jack the discussion to focus on one’s own agenda?
Promoting an understanding of basic concepts of logical reasoning can provide the tools necessary for wise discernment in a democratic society, making it much harder for irrational fools to gain or maintain power.