Epistle 4. Posted on 2019-03-01.
Why would someone want to talk with a philosophical counselor who specializes in logic. Why logic?
An ancient philosopher named Epictetus answered the same question:
“When someone in his audience said, Convince me that logic is necessary, he answered: Do you wish me to demonstrate this to you? — Yes. — Well, then, must I use a demonstrative argument? — And when the questioner had agreed to that, Epictetus asked him. How, then, will you know if I impose upon you? — As the man had no answer to give, Epictetus said: Do you see how you yourself admit that all this instruction is necessary, if, without it, you cannot so much as know whether it is necessary or not?”
I like to ask people what is most important to them? Typical answers include “my life,” God, or “my child.” Some have never pondered the question.
If someone replies that their life is most important to them, I might present a thought experiment: “What if you were in a situation in which thousands of people will live, only if you forfeit your life?” If someone will forfeit their life under any circumstance, then it is not their life that is most important. So what is it that is more important than their life? Reason. Such an extreme sacrifice is made only when it is reasonable. “And what do you need to be able to discern what is reasonable?” Logic.
If someone replies that God is most important, I might ask “How do you know that, and how have you come to know God in the first place?” Reason. “It would be unreasonable for you to worship a false idol. How do you discern the correct God?” Reason. “And what do you need to be able to discern what is reasonable?” Logic.
You see the strategy, but more importantly, you grasp the conclusion. I might continue, “Since reason is most important and reason is discerned with logic, how much time do you devote to logic?” The answer is usually “None at all.” I might inquire “and how much time do you devote to brushing your teeth?” The conclusion goes without saying: most people are more concerned with dental hygiene than reasoning, and yet I have never met anyone who considers dental hygiene to be more important than their life.
Logic is useful for making better judgments, and therefore decisions in life. The question is not “why logic?”, but “why ignore logic?” Logic, I suggest, leads the way out of Plato’s cave.
Vale (pronounced WAH-lay is Latin for “Farewell”),