Three thought-provoking quotes by John Milton (1608-74), author of “On Education”:
I will point ye out the right path of a virtuous and noble Education; laborious indeed at first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospect, and melodious sounds on every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming.
Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making.
The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.
13. Truth. Our last reason for studying logic is the simplest and most important of all. It is that logic helps us to find truth, and truth is its own end: it is worth knowing for its own sake.
Logic helps us to find truth, though it is not sufficient of itself to find truth. It helps us especially (1) by demanding that we define our terms so that we understand what we mean, and (2) by demanding that we give good reasons, arguments, proofs.
Truth is worth knowing just for the sake of knowing it because truth fulfills and perfects our minds, which are part of our very essence, our deep, distinctively human core, our very selves. Truth is to our minds what food is to our bodies. [Adapted from Kreeft, Socratic Logic]
11. Certainty. Logic has “outer limits”; thee are many things it can’t give you. But logic has no “inner limits”: like math, it never breaks down. Just as 2 plus 2 are unfailingly 4, so if A is B and B is C, then A is unfailingly C. Logic is timeless and unchangeable. It is certain. It is not certain that the sun will rise tomorrow (it is only very, very probable). But it is certain that it either will or won’t. And it is certain that if it’s true that it will, then it’s false that it won’t.
In our fast-moving world, much of what we learn goes quickly out of date. “He who weds the spirit of the times quickly becomes a widower,” says G.K. Chesterton. But logic never becomes obsolete. The principles of logic are timelessly true.
Our discovery of these principles, of course, changes and progresses through history. Aristotle knew more logic than Homer and we know more logic than Aristotle, as Einstein knew more physics than Newton and Newton knew more physics than Aristotle.
Our formulations of these changeless logical principles also change. This book is clearer and easier to read than Aristotle’s Organon 2350 years ago, but it teaches the same essential principles.
Our applications of the timeless principles of logic to changing things are also changing. The principles themselves are unchanging and rigid. They wouldn’t work unless they were rigid. When we hear a word like “rigid” or “inflexible,” we usually experience an automatic (“knee-jerk”) negative reaction. But a rigid a moment’s reflection should show us that, though people should not usually be rigid and inflexible, principles have to be. The wouldn’t work unless they were rigid. Unless the yardstick is rigid, you cannot use it to measure the non-rigid, changing things in the world, like the height of a growing child. Trying to measure our rapidly and confusingly changing world by a “flexible” and changing logic instead of an inflexible one is like trying to measure a squirming alligator with a squirming snake. [Adapted from Kreeft, Socratic Logic]
10. Recognizing contradictions. One of the things you will learn by studying logic is exactly what contradiction means, how to recognize it, and what to do with it. Logic teaches us which ideas contradict each other. If we are confused about that, we will be either too exclusive (that is, we will think beliefs logically exclude each other when they do not) or too inclusive (that is, we will believe two things that cannot both be true).
When we consider two different ideas which seem to contradict each other, we need to know three things;
- First of all, we need to know exactly what each one means. Only then can we know whether they really contradict each other or not.
- And if they do, we need to know which one is true and which is false.
- And we do this by finding reasons why one idea is true and another is false.
These are the “three acts of the mind”: understanding a meaning; judging what is true, and reasoning. These are the three parts of logic. [Adapted from Kreeft, Socratic Logic]
9. Testing authority. We need authority as well as logic. But we need logic to test our authorities.
We need authorities because no individual can discover everything autonomously. We all do in fact rely on the human community, and therefore on the authority of others—parents, teachers, textbooks, “experts,” friends, history, and tradition—for a surprisingly large portion of what we know—perhaps up to 99%, if it can be quantified. And that is another reason we need logic: we need to have good reasons for believing our authorities, for in the end it is you the individual who must decide which authorities to trust. It is obviously foolish to buy from every peddler of ideas that knocks on your mind’s door. In fact, it is impossible, because they often contradict each other. [Adapted from Kreeft, Socratic Logic]
Congratulations to the Regents track team, who won honors at the TAAPS 1A State Track and Field Tournament in Waco, Texas, on May 5-6, 2012.
Will Young placed 2nd in the state in both the 1600 meters and the 3200 meters events, breaking the state record in the 3200.
Aaron Bryant placed 2nd in the state in the 800 meters and 7th in the 1600 meters events.
Will Alders placed 8th in the state in the 400 meters event.
Pictured below are the boys with their coaches Michael Kunk and Tim Young.
8. Democracy. There are even crucial social and political reasons for studying logic. As a best-selling modern logic text says, “the success of democracy depends, in the end, on the reliability of the judgments we citizens make, and hence upon our capacity and determination to weigh arguments and evidence rationally.” As Thomas Jefferson said, “In a republican nation, whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of the first importance.” (Copi & Cohen, Logic, 10th edition, Prentice-Hall, 1998) [Adapted from Kreeft, Socratic Logic]
7. Wisdom. “Philosophy means “the love of wisdom.” Although logic alone cannot make you wise, it can help. For logic is one of philosophy’s main instruments. Logic is to philosophy what telescopes are to astronomy or microscopes are to biology or math to physics. You can’t be very good at physics if you’re very bad at math, and you can’t be very good at philosophy if you’re very bad at logic. [Adapted from Kreeft, Socratic Logic]