Most people can’t do logic, or even its dumbed down version, critical thinking. A lot of this ‘most’, when I tell them this, think I mean I can, and am therefore smart and think they are dumb. This only goes to demonstrate most people can’t do logic! I’m in the ‘most’ on logic, though not bad on critical thinking on the odd occasions I’m bothered to engage my brain’s clutch. I’m no good at video games now, compared with my grandson, though still much better at fixing the machines he plays on. I’ve never thought whatever I could do with frequency distributions and varieties of Gaussian copula is any more impressive than carpentry, or vastly better than me at snooker. Many, of course, think their ability to keep their bodies reasonably trim and wear middle class clothes, makes them better than carpenters, or scruffy, fat oiks like me – watch any Newsnight.
Two very English philosophers tried to burn themselves out doing logic about 100 years ago. Russell and Whitehead’s volumes are more or less unreadable to the rest of us. I found some kind of quest for basic building blocks I felt doomed to failure, though I can’t work out why I felt that. I know I was looking because I find human relationships unrewarding and trivial, perhaps meaningless and often revolting. This is anarchist in a sense, wondering if there is something ‘real’ we could experience if ‘society’ could be swept away. Romeo and Juliet is not a love story for me, but the converse – a ghastly soap opera about adolescent traps. I like the idea of ensuring our young get childhood, but detest the persistent demand to be trapped in it and the libidinous economy needed to perpetuate childhood.
The logic of R & W leads to certain farce. Essentially, they have not done enough over three volumes to get essential definitions right. They bring a meaning of the term ‘implies’ to algebra that lacks context. Think of a great night out, wonderful sex, you happy on a plane out and her left with an unwanted pregnancy. Define ‘happiness’ in this. Not easy without ‘context’. One way out in logic is to go modal. Modal logic can be viewed broadly as the logic of different sorts of modalities, or modes of truth: alethic (“necessarily”), epistemic (“it is known that”), deontic (“it ought to be the case that”), or temporal (“it has been the case that”) among others. In a sense, in logic, one should (another mode) wonder who has been left holding the baby. Godel produced a famous statement of this we are still unsure of in terms of what he meant to actually express and whether various versions we come up with are right. Essentially, we can’t come up with even a simple arithmetic system that doesn’t have internal inconsistencies or the baby we have left someone else holding.
I wanted to find something that would let us work out complex human interactions logically with a pencil and paper. Sad puppy! I had probably been conned by stories of the Holy Grail. If I was still doing chemistry, I’d probably be locked into obsession with making super-solids, which become liquid at low temperatures but retain the solid lattice. A Russian lad who knocks down a few beers from time to time got a Nobel for peeling pencil-lead down to one atom thick graphene with Selotape recently. You may not be impressed, yet graphene at super-low temperatures may help knock down Relativity – which will be a magnificent use of pencils. It’s about different thinking on gravity and maybe that Lorentz transformations are just what we ‘see’ now and were not forever. Theory of everything stuff – Horizon might get to it if it stops regurgitating old dross from the 70s.
I don’t teach logic – I’m no good at it. I just know enough to know this. What I have become sure of is that another field, that of evidence, is something we need to be a bigger part of our education. Something shields most of us from evidence, as surely as we are shielded from the bent evidence given by bent cops, prosecution and forensic scientists to dull, jobsworth judges, defence briefs and gullible juries in cases like Nico Bento. Newsnight were good on this, but as usual there has been no follow up. There is good philosophy, social science, excellent potential in real science and such practical fuck-ups for us to get better at evidence-based reasoning and its logic and what stops us basing society more on evidence and logic. For now, I’d just say why would anyone want to stop this? I expect Galileo knew when they showed him the instruments of torture – what are the modern day equivalents of these? Science is held (too strongly) by some as a history of mistakes – our worthies have certainly found ways to cover theirs up, which may be why we have no science of society.