Logic and Truth: According to Chesterton

Logic and truth, as a matter of fact, have very little to do with each other. Logic is concerned merely with the fidelity and accuracy with which a certain process is performed, a process which can be performed with any materials, with any assumption. You can be as logical about griffins and basilisks as about sheep and pigs.On the assumption that a man has two ears, it is good logic that three men have six ears, but on the assumption that a man has four ears, it is equally good logic that three men have twelve. And the power of seeing how many ears the average man, as a fact, possesses, the power of counting a gentleman’s ears accurately and without mathematical confusion, is not a logical thing but a primary and direct experience, like a physical sense, like a religious vision. The power of counting ears may be limited by a blow on the head; it may be disturbed and even augmented by two bottles of champagne; but it cannot be affected by argument. Logic has again and again been expended, and expended most brilliantly and effectively, on things that do not exist at all.

Bonaventura Salimbeni "Glorification of the Eucharist"

There is far more logic, more sustained consistency of the mind, in the science of heraldry than in the science of biology. There is more logic in Alice in Wonderland than in the Statute Book or the Blue Books. The relations of logic to truth depend, then, not upon its perfection as logic, but upon certain pre-logical faculties and certain pre-logical discoveries, upon the possession of those faculties, upon the power of making those discoveries. If a man starts with certain assumptions, he may be a good logician and a good citizen, a wise man, a successful figure. If he starts with certain other assumptions, he may be an equally good logician and a bankrupt, a criminal, a raving lunatic. Logic, then, is not necessarily an instrument for finding truth; on the contrary, truth is necessarily an instrument for using logic—for using it, that is, for the discovery of further truth and for the profit of humanity. Briefly, you can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.

G. K. Chesterton (Daily News, Feb 25, 1905)

Originally posted 2011-10-13 14:48:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

About Darius Styl

Lay Christian theologian and amateur philosopher.
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2 Responses to Logic and Truth: According to Chesterton

  1. Paul Porter says:

    I noticed in the article that very little emphasis is placed upon the differences between reality and fantasy. If we know that humans have two ears (apart from deformity) then it’s logical to state that three humans = six ears. We can only deal with the information we have. If we know that one or more of the humans deviates from the norm then that will inform the conclusion. We can deduce from reality, i.e. if the answer is five ears, that the information is unreliable and incomplete.
    Human ears are not constants, so just knowing that is valuable information in itself.
    Therefore ‘truth’ it may be argued, is the sum of its parts and that only a logical approach provides objective evidence.
    Physical reality exists, it is self-sufficient and independent of any non-physical force.
    When we imagine, or assume a variation of that reality exists. We step outside of reality into the realms of fantasy.
    It’s all very well to imagine that a supernatural component exists, but it can only truly exist if it can be observed in reality. Then it is no longer supernatural, it is part of reality. I realise we have abstract thoughts and experience unexplained phenomena, and that this is a source of inspiration which helps us think ‘outside the box’. But outside the box remains speculation, assumption and myth, until it can be observed and experienced inside the box. Only then can we determine how this expands our perspective on reality.

    • Darius Styl says:

      I agree that physical reality exists, however, how do we know that “it is self-sufficient and independent of any non-physical force”?
      Additionally, why is observed reality the only reality? What evidence do we have to reach these conclusions?

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