The Inadequacy of Logic

Via Ricochet:

Sometimes a question is the best response.

Answer: I am a true solipsist. (Gorgias)
Question: So why tell me?

A: There is no truth. (Gustave Flaubert)
Q: Is that true?

A: Knowledge is unknowable. (Francisco Sanches)
Q: How do you know?

A: It is irrational to assume that tomorrow will be anything like today. (David Hume)
Q: So you learned to speak, read, and write because…?

A: All cultures are equally valid. (Franz Boas)
Q: Including those that teach that all other cultures are invalid?

A: Truth is created, not discovered. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Q: Did you just make that up?

A: There is no free will. (Baron d’Holbach)
Q: What makes you say that?

You see, every one of the “answers” above follow from valid, methodically reasoned logical arguments.  But these narrow conclusions cannot stand beyond the boundaries of the premises that lead to them.


Filed under Philosophy, Science

4 responses to “The Inadequacy of Logic

  1. Indeed, it is easy to catch solipsists, subjectivists, relativists, determinists, and the like in self-contradiction. But this doesn’t mean that logic is somehow inadequate or deficient, only that people with those philosophical ideas are illogical.

    Fortunately, Ayn Rand was none of the above. Have you ever read Atlas Shrugged, or anything else by her?

    • You’re right. “Insufficient” would have been a better word than “inadequate.” Logic may be necessary for proper reasoning, but it is insufficient. I believe Godel’s incompleteness theorems apply; a philosophy can be consistent based on assumed axioms or propositions, and truths can be arrived at logically within the system. But there is no system of philosophy that is both consistent and complete. That is, if a system is consistent, there are some truths that cannot be proved within it. And if a system is complete or sufficiently strong enough to arrive at all truths there will exist contradictions, calling something both false and true. Of course, this is extending results from mathematical logic and reasoning about arithmetic, but my gut tells me it applies. How’s that for proof!

      Also, I’d prefer to call solipsism/determinism/etc. unreasonable or irrational as opposed to illogical. Their conclusions are arrived at through logic, which was the point I was trying to make: logic alone isn’t enough.

      As for Rand, I’ve read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, and a couple of her essays. Loved Atlas Shrugged the others not as much (read them at the wrong time not doubt.) There is something appealing about Objectivism, but I think of myself more as a probabilist. I think about knowledge in terms of uncertainty if that makes sense. I’m always updating my prior distributions as more data become available. Does that make me an Objectivist by default?

      • I’ll grant you that if you take logic as meaning only deduction, then it is insufficient. But deduction is not the only logical process; there is also induction. In deduction, we derive particular answers from general premises, but in reason, where do we get the general premises from? We get general premises by inductive inference from particular cases given to us by our sense experience. (A blog on the subject of induction: Inductive Quest)

        It’s true that we cannot literally prove all that we hold to be true, since we would get an infinite regress or a circular argument. But this does not mean that faith is at the base of rational knowledge. The axioms that are the prerequisites of all knowledge are self-evident, such that they are assumed to be true in every statement, action and thought, including those attempting to deny them. (Please see: The Axioms of Objectivism)

        You are definitely not an Objectivist “by default,” whatever one takes that to mean. You apparently consider faith in God as the “firm base” of all your “priors”/premises.

        But the existence of God is *not* self-evident like the axioms: I can get along in reasoning perfectly well without accepting the existence of a deity. God’s existence would need a specific basis in evidence for the claim, and there simply is none that I am aware of. Neither the Bible, nor the Book of Mormon provides credible evidence. We do not observe miracles today as in the Bible, and we do not see evidence of the New World horses, donkeys, pigs, cattle, wheat, figs, grapes, steel, cities, battles and Jews mentioned in the BoM. The evidence shows that Jesus was mythologized (Ancient Hero Archetype) and that Joseph Smith was a con man (Kinderhook Plates, Book of Abraham papyrus, multiple First Vision versions. See

        Arguments from design do not hold up either, since we have no specific evidence to suggest that the universe is goal-directed, or that humans were intelligently designed.

        I’m glad you liked Atlas Shrugged, but I would also recommend looking into Ayn Rand’s and Leonard Peikoff’s nonfiction if you are really interested in Objectivism. Atlas and the other novels are only the first step.

      • Almost thou has persuaded me to become an Objectivist :).

        Here’s where I take exception to your arguments. I have no problem accepting that our premises are arrived at and accepted by our sense experience. I can even grant the Axioms of Objectivism and totally agree that you can reason perfectly well without accepting the existence of a deity. But isn’t it obvious that those things can be true AND there is a God?

        Also, it does not follow that if an archetype exists and a story fits in to an archetype that the story is not true. As for all the other tired disproofs of Mormonism, there’s too much to go into at present. But it’s convenient for us faithful loons to remember that a) archaeology is an inherently non-testable/non-replicable science and b) the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

        Also, it does not follow that just because one has not experienced heavenly manifestations, seen visions, received revelation, been visited by angels etc. that no one else has. My own sense experience is undeniable. God exists and is involved in my life. He grants revelations of one kind or another to all who diligently seek Him. You may not be able to accept that not having experienced it yourself (presumably), but surely an Objectivist would not begrudge me my premises which are based on my own deeply personal and extensive sense experience. I don’t begin with God as first cause and reason from that “firm base.” My faith is proportional to the evidence I have accumulated over a lifetime of personal sense experience.

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