Another category of logical fallacies

OK, look.  I love logic.  I basically got a degree in it, and I was raised in a pro-intellectual household by a man whose bread and butter (and therefore mine) came from his skill at arguing — and I'm good at it; I won't even pretend to be modest there.  

I know a LOT of people who also love logic, but who don't have my training in it — tech people mostly; people who work inside a system where logics, both the mathematical / formal kind and the informal systems and debate kinds, are very valuable.  These people are natural allies of logic-when-it-comes-to-human-interactions:  They agree (with philosophers and others who've made this argument, often against incredible backlash, for centuries) that being logical, i.e. attempting to act in accord with reason, and seeking calm, clarity and understanding beyond just reacting like a lump of flesh to one's emotional and other stimuli, is a wonderful thing:  a worthy goal and a kind of betterment for all people in almost all circumstances.

We don't tend to kill people, in this part of the world at least, for pushing this pro-logic, hey-let's-try-being-reasonable-instead-of-just-emotional agenda.  It's kind of showed its worth for a few hundred years now, and religion (it's oldest enemy, an entire system built on anti-logic) has much less of a hold on human societies in most places, so for the last couple generations especially, "being logical" has grown steadily more popular, in theory if not in practice.  (As ever, we humans care about what works, out there in the real world where we might starve; so just as the scientific method has gotten more and more cred with people the more technology it produces that they can see and hold and treat (illogically, I hafta add) as "proof the thing works", so has reason and systems-thinking and related branches of logic gotten more popular as people become more familiar with things like computer networks.)

But what your average pro-reason, pro-logic person I interact with doesn't seem to understand, generally, is that for humans, being logical / reasonable is VOLUNTARY.  It's a choice, like eating vegetarian, reading a book a week or napping twice a day.  Like all things we can choose to do, the choice to "use logic" to interact or to "be reasonable" in a given situation or about a certain topic are, first and foremost, GOALS that we set for ourselves.  

We don't get to flip a switch and say, "OK, I'm logical now!  I've decided to be pro-logic so from now on, everything I do is representative of logic and reason!"  It's not a jumper on a motherboard, or a radio-button in Edit > Preferences.  It's something you devote to, study, try to understand and then struggle to apply to yourself in every case you can.  You will not always succeed, because again, that's not how humans work.  But a "vegetarian" is not a human who has not had animal product pass their lips in X months; a vegetarian is a human who has decided to live on a non-animal diet, and who makes all of their decisions in an attempt to live by that principle.  A logical / reasonable human is the same.

So here's, I think, the important part:  You can't decide that ANYBODY ELSE is logical, is a devotee of reason, beyond yourself.  Logic is wonderful, and it's necessary in many pursuits, so you can definitely be part of a thing where you (and others) are obligated to act reasonably as part of it (for instance, if you become a doctor, you're agreeing to act according to reason, and can be punished for not doing so) — but simply being human does not put you, or your opponents, under the umbrella of "if logic says you're wrong then I win, wham".

I think this is SO important.  (Did I mention it's important?  Because it's important.)  Because by treating logic as an assumption rather than a deliberate, buy-in system, we lose SO much of its value, for one thing.  To be a fan of reason is to hold up mankind's ability to choose to think carefully as a treasure, and to say to yourself and others, "This is so important and so awesome, that I'm gonna do it, going to choose to live by it."  That's a gold star that we shouldn't take away from logic by treating it like it's as obvious as needing to breathe or pay the bills — because it isn't.  Many, many people, in many cultures — probably most of both, if you were strict about it — are NOT logical, and have no desire to be.

And you can't make them.  

But you have to deal with them.  Literally, you have to make deals with them — over everything from your work, to your relationships and family, to voting or getting a spot on the subway or walking down the street unharassed — you have to butt heads and argue and state your case and try to get along with (or overcome, depending) all these people who have no real interest in logic (though they probably say they do, because it's popular here and now).

By "real" interest, I mean that they value logical thinking and rational conclusions, including and especially as applied to themselves.  Someone who does that, you can have a logical discussion with, and you can use reason to point out flaws in their own position and trust that they will at least attempt to follow your meaning — and if they agree that their position is unreasonable, you know that, because they're a devotee of logic, they will try to change it.

However.  That is, I repeat, NOT most people.  Not most of your family, your journalists, your friends, or your cops and governors.  Most people's interest in logic ends right with "knowing enough about it to sound smart enough to get people to do what I want", period, end of story.  Those same people, if this were a few hundred years ago, would be professing to be super-fans and experts in Christianity (or Islam or Hindu or Buddhism, depending on your part of the world), and they'd be happy as pigs in mud to violate every inconvenient principle of any of those things while quoting scripture at the same time.  They're still out there, of course, too — the world changes slow — but when you think about how easy the not-really-a-believer, in-it-for-the-power priest is to spot nowadays, realize that he hasn't gone away; only changed his religion.  He's a huuuuuge fan of "logic" and "science" now.

But he's not our biggest problem, those of us who love our logic and would, if we were allowed, use that system to govern our whole lives.  Our biggest problem is the half-believers, the Undecideds, the people who are probably perfectly happy to "go along with" logic and reason, but who in reality are still WAY more comfortable actually making decisions the easy, the automatic (and therefore "natural"-feeling) way:  By turning toward things that give us a pleasant tingle, and turning away from anything that hurts.  Because we're animals, and if you take away our self-reflection and intelligence (or just choose to never develop them), then that's what we do:  We skate through life like amoebas, turning towards things that smell like food, and running from anything that seems painful.

And the thing I find myself wanting to scream at my fellow pro-logic folks nearly every single is this:  YOU CAN'T REASON WITH PEOPLE WHO DON'T.  And that includes people who wish they did, or want to say they do, or really like the idea but don't know how…in other words, really, most people.

Look, logic survives and thrives for the same reason all other systems do:  Because it works.  But it doesn't work if you're standing there taking punches and talking about how this is all very illegal in your rulebook.  Logic is like boxing:  It's a voluntary game, with rules that have to be agreed on by both / all parties in order to work.  And these are scary times, where a great many illogical people are spouting a bunch of terrifying ideas.  Appeals to logic are not going to stop them.  They might stop other people who really are logical from agreeing with that thing, but for every one mind you reach that way, you lose a hundred others.  And you certainly can't protect yourself or anyone else from the dangerous bad ideas going around lately by pointing out that they're not logical.  That is 100% analogous to standing in front of the Inqusition and pointing out that what they're doing isn't very Christian.  …Do you really think they gave a fuck it wasn't?  And do you really think that people pushing to start a Muslim Registry or bring back the fine art of blaming women for rape really give a fuck if their claims aren't logical?

Be safe out there, friends.  And yes, be rational!  Use rationality and reason to teach each other, to reach across boundaries, to learn awesome new things about yourself and others, and to find new ways to be kind and fair when our amoeba-selves would be otherwise.  But when the "conversation" you're in is clearly no-holds-barred emotional; or when the "news" you're reading is clearly flat-out lying; or when giant financially invested forces are playing off of false exhortations to "be reasonable" to tone-police those they're hurting (you saw this with the DAPL protests), remember that you're not boxing unless you're in a ring.  If you or those you love are being attacked in an alleyway, be it a physical or an intellectual one, then make sure you're respecting logic by applying it where it makes sense, and using other tools where it doesn't.  

OK, enough babble from me — I'm trying to muster the will to shift this website around (ugggh, hehe) while also Xmas shopping and not just hiding under the blankets 24/7 because it's cold out and almost everything I see and hear outside my house makes me want to jump off a cliff.  (I'm sure that totally wasn't obvious at all, from any of the above, lol.)

Peace*, everyone!

(*which necessitates justice :))

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the fourth wall).
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