Can We Trust Our Own Logic?

Jul 03, 2011 1 Comment by

So frequently in our analysis of the arguments for and against the existence of a god do we rely on our ability to use logic, that we might forget the requirement of logic that we question even logic itself. Logic is used to propagate beneath assumptions so as to find out whether they are reliable. But logic itself works upon its own axioms, one of which is that the logic that human beings have developed through evolution, is immediately applicable to all things.

Of course we know that human beings find it difficult to separate our logic from our intuition. Take quantum physics for example. For the last one hundred years and more, quantum physics has shown us that our intuition is wrong at almost every turn. This does not mean that our logic is wrong however, for it was logic that showed us our intuition can be fallible.

In the realm of science, logic stands proudly as the victor. Human logic has turned out to be widely applicable to the universe. It seems to be rather fortunate that the universe is made of interlocking patterns, and that the human brain is a pattern-spotting device. Considering the rather haphazard nature of the macroscopic world, the unpredictability of weather patterns, terrain, other human beings and so forth, it’s a wonder at all that we developed an affinity for regularity.

But what about the realm of philosophy, where the origins of logic dwell. Quite rightly, anyone can have a stab at the philosophy of religion. But is philosophy as obedient as science. In a domain where everything relies on logic, it’s difficult to find a reference point. There’s very little, if anything at all, that can be known in the absolute, which makes finding logical axioms in philosophy very difficult.

If we’re not careful we may stray into the world of relativism and opinion. Certainly two people can both think that they are being logical and come to different conclusions. This raises all manner of questions about whether both are right, or one person is genuinely wrong. We’ve all agreed on this thing that we’re going to call logic, and some people seem to be better at it than others. But if we weren’t so self-assured of our own capacities to use logic then we might mistake this agreement of what logic is to simply be a gang-culture, or a supportive mentality. What really is the difference between one person being able to analyse the arguments more logically than another, and a certain group of people simply claiming to be more logical and therefore more correct.

Now we’re required to waltz into the dictionary to look up our definition of logic, maybe that will shed some light. But we’re getting far from the main question, which is how do we know that in philosophy, logic is better than illogic?

Maybe we should take the scientific approach, and just say that as it seems to work, we’ll run with it for now and think about it again some other time, once we’re a bit further ahead. Well ultimately, this is what one has to think in order to get up in the morning. Otherwise we’d spend the entire day lying there wondering whether we even exist, before we could possibly contemplate breakfast.

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About the author

I am the founder of Atheism Network.

One Response to “Can We Trust Our Own Logic?”

  1. Paul says:

    The argument I now use for “how do you know you can rely on logic at all?” is “it’s been consistently more reliable than anything else anyone’s been able to come up with”.