The language of the mind

This is a cat. All cats have fur. Therefore this has fur.

There’s a view held by many so-called ‘rational’ people that the world works logically, and if we want to understand the world we must use logic (which is often confused with science).

There are two kinds of logic: deductive logic and inductive logic.

Deductive logic is of this kind:

All fruit grows on trees
This is a fruit
Therefore, this grew on a tree

Deductive logic is not concerned with the assumptions (in this case that ‘all fruit grows on trees’ and ‘this is a fruit’). It simply deduces a logical outcome from the known facts. In reality, deductive logic can’t tell us anything that we don’t already know. It is as true or as fallacious as the assumptions that have been made. Logic is simply a mechanism to understand the world and interpret it with language.

Inductive logic is the process of inducing generalities from specifics. For example, each time I bite into a lemon I find it very sour. I would induce from this that lemons are a sour fruit. At an instinctive level, I may even find myself recoiling when offered a lemon and consciously I may not even know why. Inductive reasoning is dependant on our experience. We can’t induce what we have no experience of.

The mind naturally does not use logic or reasoning to understand, it uses similes and metaphors. It looks for patterns but the patterns are usually not obvious — which, when you think about it, must be the case – if the patterns were obvious then there would be nothing to understand.

Dreams are not logical and the world of the dream does not follow a pattern that can be understood using logic. Things and people transform. One moment you are on a ship, the next you’re in your bedroom. The laws of science as we know them don’t apply in the dream world. The reason is that dreams use metaphor in order to build up associations in our mind. This is real learning. What we learn in schools and universities is simply facts (and too often even these ‘facts’ are disputable).

The idea that people should use logic and science to understand the world is even more absurd when you realise that most people use emotion, habit, unconscious conditioning and possibly intuition to arrive at conclusions, and then justify their opinions by applying reasons. The assumptions and justifications are obvious to those who don’t share them but are usually invisible to the believer. When the so-called ‘rationalist’ talks to a religious person they find their assumptions and justifications absurd, but to the religious person someone who believes that complex life forms came about randomly is equally absurd.

By Philip Braham on .







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