8.   Logic and Meaning

Table of Contents

Logic and Emotion

We are like birds.  The bird's body is like our life's direction.  It may be strong or weak, effective or ineffective.  

Our emotions are like the wind that propels the bird and allows it to sail often with little effort of its own.  

Our mind is like the bird constantly adjusting and moving its wings to meet its needs.  The smart bird looks for the winds that fly towards its desires.  It tacks (zig-zags) using some of its own power as the wind is never exactly aligned right where the birds wants to go.

There lots and lots of birds categories, each with its own essence.  Some are timid and hide from strong winds and go nowhere. Stronger birds ride the gales, soaring to incredible heights and freedom.

Types of Thinking

We can divide thinking into three areas: pathological, logical, and psychological.  

Pathological thought does not see itself, cannot see itself, and cannot see other types of thought. When it starts to see itself, it dissolves awash with strong feelings. It is propelled by emotion, but this fact goes unrecognized. Pathological thinking has no psychological insight or logical truth.  It is only an reaction to some passion and passion is pure emotion. The words spoken by pathological thinker do not carry the obvious meaning, therefore trying to reason with the person only stirs up greater more underlying emotions.  Often the best ploy is to simply change the subject.

Psychological thinking is sane thinking and is in harmony with one's emotions and the thinker is aware of this. When awareness diminish, the thoughts are either driven soley by emotion (pathological thinking), or lack of emotion (logical thinking).  

Logical thinking is cold, without emotion.  It is the type of thinking (if thinking is the right word) used by computers.  It is one step above pre-established responses such as "one and one is two."  Logical thought lacks insight, or a sense of hierarchy. It is devoid knowing anything past its narrow realm.  It based on rules and qualitative comparisons.  Nevertheless it is important as it is instrumental to science and mathematics.

Logical Thought

A pure logical thought such as all people have bodies, therefore I have a body is a true premise. This is shown in the illustration below.  A person has a logical thought and it is written in the book.  The arrow shows the process or connection between the thought process and end result.

 

False Statements

Ad Hominem 

When someone attacks the person instead of the argument.

Example:

"Jenny's just a stupid blonde on unemployment. Why would you ever consider her strategy for getting a job."

"Mike cheated on his final exam. You can't trust him to know the answers to any of your questions."

Appeal to Authority

When a statement is considered true because it's made by someone who is considered an "authority" on the topic.

Structure:

Source A says that "Q" is true.  Source A is authoritative.  Therefore, "Q" is true.

Example:

"My doctor says taking St John's Wart everyday will make me less depressed. He should know, he's a doctor!"

"The policeman said it's legal for him to search my car. He's a policeman, so he must be telling the truth."

Appeal to Ignorance

When a claim is considered true because it hasn't been disproven (or vice versa).

Examples:

"Since you cannot prove that Aliens do not exist, then they must exist."

"John said he saw a UFO last night, but he didn't get a photo. He must be lying."

Bandwagon Fallacy

When a concept is considered true because lots of people believe it's true. Here the person is making an appeal to lots of people and to the premise.

Examples:

"9 out of 10 doctors agree that Medicine X is the best. So then Medicine X must be the best."

"This TV show is the best show on TV right now. Everyone is watching it!"

Begging the Question

When the statement is assumed true based on the statement itself.  This logic is recursive in that it calls itself.  In computer programming recursive programming occurs when a function calls itself.

Examples:

"The Bible is the word of God, because it says so in the Bible."

"How do I know he's stupid? Because he doesn't know anything about anything."

"Marijuana wouldn't be illegal if it wasn't seriously harmful to your health."

Loaded Question

When a question contains the presumption of guilt.  In the diagram there is the person, an arrow to a statement that is being made. But tacked on the statement is another statement shown as a red book.

Examples:

"So when exactly did you stop hitting your wife?" (Assumes the person WAS hitting his wife).

"Being that spanking children is a good parenting technique, should it be allowed in the United States?"

Non Sequitor

When a statement's conclusion does not follow from its premise.  The thought process is faulty shown by the red "x".

Examples:

"If you don't buy this type of food, then you are neglecting your children's health."

"I hear loud shouting and rustling noises through the wall. The man next door must be hitting his wife."

Red Herring

When someone diverts the attention away from the topic to a NEW topic to throw you off and win the argument.    

Structure:

Topic A is being debated. Topic B is introduced as being related to Topic A.

Topic A is abandoned. Now Topic B is being used to discredit you.

In the diagram the red book is topic A.  The orange book is topic B.

Examples:

"So you think abortion results in lower crime rates. Well, we've all see what happened in Nevada with that abortion doctor who killed his patients with dirty equipment. You want that? You want to see patients killed in dirty clinics? Then go ahead and support abortion."

Slippery Slope

When it's assumed that a small step leads to a larger chain reaction of events resulting in a greater impact.

Examples:

"Once the government has passed this gun law, they'll pass other gun laws resulting in total confiscation."

"If we legalize abortion, then next thing you know we'll be killing new born babies."

Straw Man

When someone ignores the argument and replaces it with a distorted or exaggerated version of that argument.  In the diagram the process starts all over again, thus two people, and two books.

Examples:

Person A: "Evolution states that humans developed over a long time from the same common ancestor as the gorilla."

Person B: "Everyone listen to Person A. He's saying that we descended from baboons!!

Appeal to Authority -Catholic Style

Authorities use big words as they can be in themselves impressive.  The Catholic Church is a prime example.  The pope does not wear a dress and a hat, but vestments and papal tiara or mitre.

When an adult wants to join the Catholic Church there is much pump and ceremony, at least in terms of wordage. If the person wants to be a Catholic has not been "baptized", they must go through a "Rite of Christian  Initiation."  The process consists of the "Precatechumenate" (an exploration),  the "Catechumenate"  (a year of learning to live as a Catholic), "Purification and Enlightenment" (admission time during Lent) and "Mystagogy" (a period of learning).

Making up words is one of the main ways of creating propaganda.  The word "propaganda" became popular in 1622, when a new branch of the Catholic Church was created, called the Congregation for Propagating the Faith).  

In the Catholic world a certain type of ritual becomes the "Mass".  A wafer of bread becomes a Host represents God or for some it is God.   After you die, you can go to hell, purgatory or heaven.  Want heaven, just pay the church and they will reserve a seat for you.

According to Wikipedia, propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist. In other words it uses emotion instead of reason.  

We all use words to evict emotions, so in the broad sense of the word, we all engage in propaganda.   But when we are looking for truth, propaganda in any form, is exactly what we must overturn.  When dealing with how the physical world works there is no place for emotional interference.  Discovering the laws of nature is an equal opportunity adventure. Water flows down hill, if we are happy, sad, or in any other state of emotion for sure.

Words only point to things.  We don't eat the menu.  Unless we are talking about words, as we are here, words are only a substitute for the things they represent.  The words make the unreal seem real. If the word "ghost" or "unicorn" are in use, it implies that there are really such things.  

There is More To It

But we are emotional thinkers.  Emotional thinking means we care about what we think and do.  We do not insult a person's faith. If we do we lose a friend.  For some must people certain words are sacred and deserve veneration.

When we are in high consciousness, certain words like Jesus or God, are so close to the heart.  In believers they evoke powerful feelings. For these people, these words are associated with spiritual love, and cleanse the soul.  

The Brain Works with Stories

Stories create realities. Roger C. Schank in his book "Tell Me a Story" explains that we remember and learn through the use of  stories. This is in contrast to the way computer equipment remembers in ones and zeros. Stories are data with an added dimension of time.  

The Brain Works with Simpletons

Robert Ornstein in his book Evolution of Consciousness talks about how the simple parts of the brain work together and sometimes apart to keep us alive and functioning.  We have divided minds and brains.  The mind is a world simulator and is sensitive to important things especially things that change.

Computers and OOPs Programming

Modern computers are programmed with Object Orientated Programs (OOPs).  An OOP program waits until the user does something like click on the mouse. Or it might wait until a key is pressed on the keyboard.

To start a program, the user double clicks on a icon on their desktop.  The icon is called an object.  The icon is given meaning in that it is given a name, and a description.  It is also given methods, like responding to a certain type of mouse click.  The description describes how big the icon is, and what file is to be displayed as a picture for the icon.  

Perhaps portions of our brain uses something like OOPs programming.  Note that a computer always has an operator, just as the brain has a soul.

Islands of Meaning

For the brain to work properly, all its parts must work together and not divided into warring fractions.  Isolated stories that do not connect to the rest of the brain are things that the brain does not understand.  These are the islands of meaning.  They are not tied down to reality, but just float.  If a student learns something, but does not understand it, the stories learned do not really make sense, as the rest of the brain cannot use the information.

Religious dogma creates islands of meaning.  How can God have three parts? (Father, Son and Holy Ghost).  It is a matter of blind faith.  Blind faith is not good for the brain.  Things need to understood so the brain works as one healthy unit.

Magic

Invocations of magic such as "abracadabra" are nonsense phrases used in fantasy or stage productions.  Some magic we know is make believe, but we can extend this idea to include the words used in religious circles as magic too.  There is the pseudo effect where if you believe enough, you can be healed with a sugar pill.  Words are often sugar pills.


Fuzzy Words

Words should point to meaning.  When the pointer is not clear, then the meaning becomes cloudy, and the word becomes blurred.

A word like "liberal" that is not defined in context, is a blurred word.  In politics, blurred words are employed so to increase their appeal.  Everyone hears their own truth. 

A preacher once wrote: "Scripture is a certification of orthodoxy."  The words "certification" and orthodoxy" are blurred words.  They seem to be full of meaning and importance.  But using a dictionary we find that

  • Certification implies authority has been given to a selected group and he is affirming that this group is believable. 
  • Orthodoxy means marked with conformity.

So we could translate this statement "Scripture is certified (based on authority) and is marked with conformity.  In other words scripture is certified conformity.

The word "authority" derives from the Latin word "actoritas" meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence or command.  It is imposed by a superior hierarchy by force or force of argument.  It is supposed to have sapiential force, or command wisdom.  


General Semantics

I studied General Semantics and learned a great deal.

General Semantics teaches that words are maps. General Semantics was first formulated by Alfred Korzybski in his major cumulative work, Science and Sanity, published in 1933.

According to the general semantic people the word "is" is a troublemaker. The word "is" implies that nothing changes. In the real world everything is in flux. Moreover, the word "is" throws a blanket noun over what we are talking about. "This IS a chair", masks all the stuff beyond chair-ness. There are straight chairs, high chairs, and beanbag chairs. Is a sack of beans really a sack or a chair? (Maybe if we set in it, it's a chair; if we put the beans in a pot its a sack.)

Through language we can throw a "word blanket" over a person reducing the person to a few words or even a number.   For example, the words on a tombstone, reduces 100,000 or more moments in ones life-time to a few words.  An IQ reading reduces the intelligence formed by trillions of brain cells to just one number.  Are there not better ways to remember someone, and are there not many types of IQ?

Verb can also do their damage. For example the word "is" can take a person and reduce them to a simple description.  "She is good" or "He is bad" measures everything about the person as it they were a rock instead of a complex, changing body and spirit.

The verb "is" or its infinitive "to be" has so many meanings. Here are some of the meanings of these words:

     

  • Equal in meaning
  • Constitute the same idea
  • Constitute the same class
  • To have a meaning that includes
      or implies another meaning
  • To belong to a larger class
  • Signify
  • To show as an outstanding example
  • To constituted genuinely
  • Actualize well the type of
  • To seem to consist of
  • To be covered
  • To exist absolutely
  • To exist in relation to
  • To have an objective existence
  • To undergo continuous action
  • To live
  • To have
  • To maintain
  • To occupy a space
  • To show a certain characteristic
  • To remain unmolested
  • Happen
  • Occur
  • Take place
  • Journey
  • To make a stay
  • To come around in due course
  • To undergo an action
  • To have changed place
  • Become supposed

The International Society for General Semantics has gone so far as to invent a new dialect of English called GS7 which avoids the various forms of "to be."

Double Meanings

Words generate two meanings at once. Take this example: "All words in this sentence are false." One meaning is the sentence is false and the other meaning is the sentence is true. Here the sentence conflicts with itself.

Context

Words are written or spoken in context.  Thus words are part of larger matrix of meaning.  Japanese does not have plurals or define articles.  In Japanese context is very important.

In any language, if one were to quote just a few words out of context (e.g., a sound bite), the meaning can be totally reversed.  

Words as Tools

In summary, language is a shorthand for the meaning being expressed.  Without meaning the words are only marks and sounds. Meaning itself is just what it is..

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Copyright 2005 -2013 George Norwood

November 29, 2013 
Version 10.