Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I Conceived, I Stated, I Reasoned

Thinking about my experience has made me aware of three kinds of logical tools corresponding to three things I use in language in trying to understand myself and my world. I don't see any way to do without them. I can know something only by having some concept of it and making at least some statements about it and if needed constructing some kind of argument to support those statements.

But why are these tools usable in these ways? Why do I use them? What makes them useful to me for knowing and understanding things?

But wait a minute: What am I looking for in "why" questions? What kind of answer do I want?

I'm looking for a reason, an explanation, a cause.

What and why questions implicitly contain a third question: Is there something?

When a child asks "What is that?", implicit in this question is a further question: "Is that something?" "Is there anything there?", and an assumed answer: "Yes, there is something there." When the child asks, "Why do birds fly?", the further question, "Do birds fly?" and its assumed answer, "Yes, birds do fly", are present as silent determinants. This question as to whether something is such and such is usually tacit because the question concerns things which are immediately sensed and whose "whether" is therefore beyond question. Hence "whether" questions usually increase as my mind extends itself beyond immediate sensation, and consequently as I mature.

But even in children the question is often explicit: "Is it raining outside?" "Do dogs go to heaven?" "Is Santa Claus real?"

What kind of answer does a "whether" question require? Answers using the word "is" or something equivalent, as in:

"Yes, it is raining."
"No, Santa Claus is not real."
"I don't know whether dogs do go to heaven or do not."

A "whether" question asks for an answer concerning the existence, reality, or factuality of something.

So there are three knowledge objects: what, whether, and why.

"What?", "Why?", and "Whether?" are natural and inescapable questions for me. They seek three kinds of objects: a characteristic, a reason, or a fact.

The mind intends three aspects of reality: essence, cause, and existence.

And that is what I'm seeking to know.

So the objects of knowledge are phases of the reality around me, and there are three kinds: The "what" of things is their essence or nature, which I seek knowledge about when I ask "What?" type questions.

The "whether" of things is their existence or nonexistence, which I seek knowledge about when I ask "Whether?" type questions.

And the "why" of things is their cause or reason, which I see knowledge about when I ask "Why?" type questions.

These three kinds of knowledge objects are precisely correlated with and determine the nature of the three logical tools. The tool for knowing a what or essence is an idea or term or concept. The tool for knowing a whether or existence is a statement. And the tool for knowing a why or cause is an argument or demonstration.

Furthermore, since language is designed to convey knowledge, there will necessarily be three types of language tools corresponding to the three types of logical tools and the three objects of knowledge. If I'm asked what I'm reading, I might say "a blog". The language tool corresponding to a concept and to a "what" is a word or phrase.

If I'm asked whether or not this is a logic blog, I might answer, "Yes, it is or claims to be a logic blog." The language instrument corresponding to a statement and a "whether" is a statement, although not always a declarative statement.

And if I'm asked why this is a logic blog, I might reply, "Because it's a blog that is explicitly concerned with the universal tools for knowing, and any blog with this explicit concern is a logic blog."

So the language tool corresponding to an argument and to a "why" is an integrated set of statements.

The parallels between knowledge objects, logical knowledge tools, and language knowledge tools can be summarized in this way:

  1. I conceive an essence or "what", and express it through a word or phrase.
  2. I state an existence or "whether", and express it through a sentence.
  3. I reason about a cause or "why", and express it through one or more sentences called arguments or paragraphs.


  • Knowledge Object --> Logic Tool --> Language Tool
  • Essence/What --> Concept --> Word/Phrase
  • Existence/Whether --> Statement --> Sentence
  • Cause/Purpose --> Reason/Argument --> Paragraph


  • Logic Tools
  1. Concept
  2. Statement
  3. Argument
  • Language Tools
  1. Word or Phrase
  2. Sentence
  3. Paragraph

  • Essence or What
  • Existence or Whether
  • Cause or Why