Inspired by The Value of Logic in Pratical Life, by JayWalker, I decided to rant about logic.
Logic, in practical life, is, more often than not, what we want it to be. As Taleb underlines repeatedly in his book, The Black Swan, people tend to only look for instances that corroborate what they want to believe in. They almost never look for instances that challenge or invalidate their reasoning. And as Taleb says, “these instances are always easy to find.”
It is a natural tendency in humans. It is extremely difficult to, once you have come up with a theory for, say, doing something, go out and strenuously look for instances that prove your theory wrong. It is even difficult to continually be on a prowl for such instances. And when faced with such an instance that debunks our theory, we find it hard to accept the fact head-on, and tend to ignore it — after all, enough other instances have confirmed our theory. We also forget, or don’t want to accept, that all it takes to disprove a theory is a single instance that invalidates it. Do we know, at any point in our lives, about all such instances that invalidate something we have come to rigorously believe in? Do what we know, give us an edge over what we don’t know?
Is it, then, even conceivable to apply logic in its entirety to our day to day lives? For all we know, there may be that single instance hiding somewhere that will be discovered some day, shockingly so, that will debunk our reasoning. Can we even affirm with certainty what is conceivable and what is not? The strict principles of validity that form a crucial part of determining logic, could be invalidated at any point in time. That we do not know of any such argument or fact that does, does not mean that such an argument or fact does not exist. We really don’t know what we don’t know.
Conscience forms from having infused a fear, by religion perhaps, of the consequences of committing actions that do not comply with what is considered morally ethical, just, or right — I say, “by religion perhaps”, because atheists tend to exhibit a heavy conscience too. A person with a heavy conscience does not succumb to the reasoning that, “just because everyone else is doing it, so should I”. The resulting burden, if they did, is immensely unbearable. But can what is considered morally ethical, just, or right, be some day proven to not be morally ethical, just, or right? On a given day, you would be given to acknowledge that religious beliefs, perhaps some or perhaps a lot, are really similar in nature to logic: strict principles of validity applied to reasoning to come to some sort of a conclusion. They tend to be.
So, when confronted with an opportunity to break a traffic signal, I hesitate, perhaps not immediately because of fear of being accountable in front of the deity I believe in, but because of the risk of hastily causing an accident (or even causing someone to lose their life). Another individual may exploit the same opportunity without thinking as far ahead. For them, the surety that they would not end up in an accident and also get pulled over, is enough to convince them to do it. If the fear of being accountable to the deity is ignored for a while, the only difference between the two processes of applying logic is that of being sceptical and of not being sceptical. Sure, I may not run into an accident every time I break a signal, but I can, one day. And the more times I don’t run into an accident, does not minimise the probability that I will some day. For the other individual, it probably likely does minimise, or even, eradicate that possibility.
I will continue my rambling another time in another post. For all it is worth, what I have written may come across as nothing more than senseless to someone reading it — it probably is.