Logic

It has been mentioned before in this blog, but one of the hardest things to not only do, but also to truly understand, is logical thought. At first glance, it seems like logic is something that is very black and white and has no room for interpretation, but unfortunately like many things in life it isn’t really that simple. Using logic in our arguments is a critical part of effectively conveying our point of view, but logic by itself is not a trump card that wipes out opposing ideas as simply wrong.

This is the problem in our modern version of discourse in America. Everyone has an opinion, and with the education we have access to in this country everyone applies at least a basic level of logical reasoning to their position. It is rare to come across someone who holds an opinion “just because”. There is almost always a reason, even if they are not explicitly aware of it. For the most part, a person can tell you why they think they way they do, and the reasons are usually understandable if you follow their logic.

Where we run into trouble is when we take that logical resolution and start believing that our viewpoint is objective because we have logical reasons to hold that view. Nothing in human relationships is ever purely objective. It isn’t possible to ever make it so. This is because we are all unique individuals with different backgrounds, different biology, and different situations. We are influenced by myriad factors on a daily basis that change how we look at the world.

A fairly simple example of the differences in how logic is applied is a sensitive topic for me: gun control. Both sides have logical arguments that support why they think we should act in a certain way toward firearm possession and use, but that same logical approach to figuring out what they think is right has led to polar opposite views on what should be done with firearms in our country. This is because both sides are starting from vastly different premises.

Advocates for strict gun control begin from the concept that public safety is the primary concern above everything else, even their own personal freedom. It is a belief that stems from a compassionate viewpoint that violence or loss of life is something that we should be fighting to prevent at any cost. It is a noble sentiment and one that even the most ardent gun rights advocates support to some degree, but ultimately it is an opinion and even though one logical outcome of that way of thinking is to do everything possible to remove the tools of death, it assumes the premise that preventing violence is the most important thing we can do.

On the other side of the debate, gun rights advocates still abhor the loss of life, but for them it is not something that is viewed as the most important factor we should be considering. For a conservative, public safety is very important, but individual freedom is paramount. They start from a position that each individual has certain rights that he should defend at any cost. The logical outcome from this line of thinking is to believe that he should have access to any means necessary to defend his own rights from those who would infringe on them. Gun control for a conservative is far worse than death because for him it is a limitation on what he views as an immutable right that he is obligated to defend as a free person.

As you can see, both sides make logical arguments, and which side resonates with you will depend on what beginning point of view you start with. For full disclosure, I will say that for myself I value individual freedom, so while I can lay out the arguments of both sides fairly objectively, I recognize that I hold a certain bias that many will disagree with. The point of this article is not to try to convince anyone on the issue of gun control, but to help you understand that just because someone holds a different point of view from you, it doesn’t mean they are stupid. They simply hold different values.

We have reached a point in this country where is has become unacceptable to disagree. This is mostly because we believe that our media has converted us into zealots who blindly repeat talking points that have been shoved in our faces for so long that we just don’t think about it anymore. The reality is that most people are somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum, not radical left or alt right. There is so much common ground we share as Americans, or even at a more basic level as human beings in general. When you’re having an argument with someone, try to remember that they are a complete individual with their own thoughts and opinions. If you assume that they are an intelligent person who has reasonable arrived at their point of view through logical thought, you are in a much better position to have a rational discussion about the issue.

What do you think about this topic? How have you applied logical thought to your way of thinking? Can you delineate where you started from and how you got to your current point of view? You may not have thought about it before, but if you trace your steps back, you’ll realize that you may have put more rational thought into it than you first assumed. Once you can do that, try to apply that same process to a point of view you oppose, and you may start to find that your opponent isn’t as crazy as you thought and it will be far easier to treat them with respect.

Respect is a powerful thing.

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