"Logic 101" is a new series that will attempt to illustrate some of the logical fallacies that many arguments, especially those regarding religion, fall prey to during a debate.
I feel that it is important when having a debate to have a solid grasp of logical principles. While some arguments may seem iuntuitively convincing, we need to understand the fallacies that are leading you from the path of reasonable claims to the field of irrational conclusions.
So many discussions get mired in stagnancy because people unknowingly violate logical principles. Those conversations can, therefore, never bear rational fruit because of that fundemental misunderstanding. Further, I felt it was unfair to deride those claims as irrational unless I made an effort to demonstrate how to avoid those pitfalls beforehand.
Before I get into the discussion myriad of fallacies and how to avoid them, it is important to set the tone by mentioning the oft referenced but rarely understood "logical absolutes".
The first thing that we need to get out of the way is that these rules (especially the third one) applies only to formal logic where definitions in question have been clearly defined.
I can not emphasise this enough.
DEFINITIONS ARE IMPORTANT!
Without clearly defined terms it becomes impossible to make any logical debate work within the cloud of logical uncertainty that misunderstood terminology will create.
Once these definitions are established, then these are the three tenets by which every argument MUST abide or else they will suffer from being self evidently wrong.
ALL claims must adhere to these three rules called the "Logical Absolutes":
1. The Law of Identity - Something is what it is, and is not what it is not. Aside from the equivocation fallacy (which would be covered by clear definitions at the start) this is absolute. Things simply are what they are, and are not what they are not. They have a clear set of properties and a very specific nature. Something can't defy its own nature. That is a logical absolute.
i.e.- A rock is a rock, and not a fish. Pretty easy to accept.
2. The Law of Non Contradiction - Something can't be both true, and not true.
i.e.- A chair can't be entirely made out of wood, and yet made out of entirely NOT wood. Again, this is pretty easy.
3. The Law of Excluded Middle - A statement is either true, or false with no middle ground. It is often cited that paradoxical statements need to be excluded from this rule, but that is false. Statements like "This statement is false" violate logical (LED) principles and are, therefore, NOT valid and logical statements. Any proposition which asserts its own negation is not logically consistent. This kind of statement is called the Liars Paradox. We will exclude these arguments for the informal reader.
Very dry stuff but very necessary for any logical discussion.
So to summarize, every claim must:
- Clearly define terms;
- Ensure that we don't posit claims which violate the pre-defined nature or assert properties which are contrary to previously asserted properties of that claim;
- Don't make contradictory statements; and
- Don't ride a middle ground between true and not true. Any statement that is a logical statement is either true or false.
Let's try to stay within it.
Next in Logic 101: The Strawman!