One night many years ago, my wife couldn’t sleep. So I said, “Let me bring you a glass of warm milk.” She drank the warm milk, but she still couldn’t sleep.
So I said, “Let me give you a massage.” So I gave her a massage, but she still couldn’t sleep.
Finally, I asked her, “Have you tried counting sheep?”
She replied, “Sheep, cows, pigs, but I still can’t sleep.”
I did not know what else to do, so I said, “Can I share with you what I’ve been reading lately? I’m reading this book on logic and it’s very fascinating.”
She said, “Interesting. *Yawn*. What’s logic?”
So I explained to her, “Well, the author of the book defined logic as the science of evaluating arguments and constructing good arguments. So this is a theoretical book that discusses the concepts, principles, and methods of logic…” But before I could finish my sentence, my wife was already fast asleep.
Mister Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and friends, *bow*…
Logic bored my wife to sleep, but it is far from boring. And here’s my proof.
In this short speech, I am going to talk about what logic is, why it’s important, and how to do it, using this Jiu Jitsu gi that I am wearing as my visual aid.
What Logic Is
First, what is logic? Logic is not simply an academic discipline. It’s more like intellectual mixed martial arts because there’s an intellectual self-defense aspect to it. So it’s not boring.
We are all constantly surrounded by individuals, groups, and institutions that try to influence our beliefs, values, and actions.
For example, when you go to a book shop, you will find books in the religion or philosophy section that try to prove that God is a delusion. Or conversely, that God is real.
When you open the newspaper in the morning, you will read essays and opinion pieces that try to persuade you to support or reject a particular political view.
When you open your television, you will see ads that try to convince you to buy certain products.
Logic enables us to pause and ask, “Wait a minute, should I believe these claims? Are these claims true? Are there good reasons for thinking that God is a delusion or is real, or that this political view is valid, or that this bottle of soft drink contains 1 liter of happiness?”
Logic sensitizes us to the fact that we are always surrounded by all kinds of claims and it helps us assume a more defensive and critical attitude. It equips us to assess the truth or falsity of ideas. And this matters because ideas have consequences.
Why Logic is Important
Second, why is logic important? Logic is important because these individuals, groups, and institutions are of course motivated by their interests and their interests may not necessarily be beneficial for us. In fact, their interests may directly harm us. Through our knowledge of and skill in logic, we can assess the claims of these individuals and groups to see whether they are true and/or harmful.
How to Do Logic
So finally, how do you do logic? How do you practice intellectual mixed martial arts?
There are loads of textbooks on logic that show you how to do that and it normally takes you a semester to study logic in college. I only have a few minutes so I’m going to summarize logic in 3 steps.
But first, it is important for us to understand the concept of an argument
Imagine that these books make up a house. This first book is the roof and these two books are the walls or pillars. An argument is a lot like a house. This roof represents the claim or conclusion of an argument. This first pillar represents the structure or form of the argument and this second pillar represents the content or premises of the argument. A good argument has all of these elements – a claim or conclusion, a valid or strong structure (in other words, the conclusion follows from the premises if the premises are plausibly true), and plausibly true premises or content. If either or all of these are missing, your whole argument will collapse and what you’ll have is either a bad argument or a mere assertion.
Again, a good argument = strong or valid structure or form + plausibly true premises or content.
So with that in mind, here are the 3 steps on how to do logic or intellectual mixed martial arts:
1. Ask yourself, “Is this piece of writing or speech an argument or an assertion? If its claim is backed up by reasons, evidences, and facts, then it is an argument. If not, then it’s a mere assertion.”
2. If it’s an argument, ask, “Is its structure valid or strong? Does the conclusion follow from the premises if the premises are true?”
3. Finally, “Are its contents or premises plausibly true? Are they backed up by evidences and facts?”
For example, you see Richard Dawkins’ book on a shelf in National Bookstore and you decide to buy and read it. You can then ask, is the author making an argument or merely an assertion? Is he giving us, his readers, reasons and evidences to support his claim that God is a delusion? Are those reasons relevant? Or is he merely engaging in bad rhetoric and sophistry?(2) Is the structure of his argument valid or strong? Does his conclusion follow from his premises? (3) Finally, are his premises true? Are they supported by facts? And so on.
Obviously, there’s still a lot to be done when evaluating arguments. For example, further questions you may ask are: Is his argument deductive or inductive? If deductive, is it a categorical, conditional, or disjunctive syllogism? If it’s a categorical syllogism, can the propositions be shown to be true if illustrated using Venn diagrams and the modern square of opposition? And etc. But those three basic questions are a good start.
By simply memorizing and mastering the three questions, we are already equipping ourselves with intellectual self-defense. And we can, and should, use them every time someone — a friend, a group of persons, a political party, an advertising agency, a religious group, an author, a book, a post in social media, a TV personality, a celebrity, an intellectual, an expert, or any kind of “authority” – tries to influence us to believe or do something.
In summary then, logic is intellectual mixed martial arts and it’s important because we are constantly surrounded by individuals, groups, or institutions that try to influence our beliefs, values, and actions. Their interests may be harmful to our own interests, so we need to defend ourselves from them. All it takes to do intellectual mixed martial arts is to ask those 3 important questions.
Madame Toastmaster. *Bow*
*Speech delivered at the Queen City Toastmasters Club