Friday, November 28, 2008

Mind Tool Inventory 1

I never can know anything without already having some idea or notion of what I'm dealing with. An idea, concept, term, or notion is a prior logical tool that must be used to know anything.

Whatever the exact definition of ideas may be, I still can't know anything without having some idea of what the thing in question is. Otherwise I could not distinguish the thing in question from nothing at all. Any alternative ends up being a rose of a different name, as well as love's labor lost.

Now while ideas, such as "eternity", "logic", "higher than", "evanescent", "fortitude", or "parallelogram", are knowledge tools I can't do without, they're not the only ones. I could multiply my ideas indefinitely, but they still would not be knowledge in the usual sense of the word, although they do assume knowledge about themselves and general reality.

The Idea of the Statement

Suppose I have the ideas of "dull" and "logic". I still have not arrived at the truth that logic is dull, not until I've combined my ideas in a way that will make them capable of being true or false. The notion of parallelogram in itself is neither true or false. Nor is the notion of "logic", "dull", or "angiosperm". And even in combination, ideas do not necessarily become true or false.

Suppose someone were to ask me, "Blue people whom Caesar trusted---is this true or false?" the question could not be answered. But if someone were to ask me, "Caesar trusted blue people," that would present to me something I could believe to be true or false.

So to find truth or knowledge I must also combine my concepts into statements., because only through statements can ideas be true or false and be enough to call knowledge. Just as I can't know anything about anything unless I formulate a statement about it, saying whether the thing in question is this or that, or what is true about it. The tool I use to come to know whether or not something is this or that is the statement. Truth and knowledge are obtained only by using statements.

Another tool is argument. Suppose I have the ideas of logic and "a waste of time", and suppose I've temporarily formulated the statement "Logic is a waste of time". Do I know this for a fact? Am I certain? After all, a statement is susceptible to either truth or falsity. But which is it? Is it true or is it false that logic is a waste of time? The ideas and the statement aren't enough to answer the question. I have to look for some evidence of the truth or falsity of the statement. And to advance evidence is to construct an argument in support or refutation of it.

So I might say "I talked to my friends and they say logic is a waste of time. Therefore I believe it's true." Or I might say, "Any subject that deals with thoughts and words and not with laboratory-testable facts is a waste of time."

There are many arguments that logic is a waste of time, but they're still arguments.

And as arguments, they assume that logic is crucially important. Argument has to be used in the daily process of trying to know and understand things.


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