By nature, I tend to think very logically. I don't mean like Spock from the original Star Trek. Emotion can sway me. I mean, I am a person who has difficulty if things don't fit or they contradict other known facts. I work in Information Technology so I understand causation. Add to that, I am an IT auditor so like to analyze things. I have been accused of being obsessive and a little anal about certain things. For example, I have a library and I will go though and make sure all the bindings are aligned on the shelf and the books are properly cataloged and categorized. Yes, I have a data base of all my books, too.
I really can't watch a movie without analyzing it. I don't accept the face value of claims of the paranormal. I always look for alternate explanations. I try to see things as systems; like how things connect and their interrelationships. I am even willing to change my opinion or beliefs if I have new insights, information or understandings. In fact, I have done so many times in my life. I guess, in a way, that makes me a bit of a philosopher.
On the other hand, I also realize that logic isn't the end all, be all, for truth. I am a very logical person, but, sometimes I have to suspend my analytical tendencies. That is not to say that I follow illogical paths of thinking; it simply means I recognize our human limitations. It would be the height of arrogance to presuppose my logic is perfect, that I have all the facts, that I have considered every potential, or that bias does not influence my thought patterns, whether consciously or unconsciously.
I see more and more, as I get older, that it is important to recognize our limitations. I grant the human race has accomplished many great things like putting a man on the moon and harnessing the power of the atom. I even think we will do things we cannot even imagine. Granting that, we will never cross the chasm to an all-knowing state. There will always be something we do not know.
What a downer. How can we know anything at all then? How do we operate with less than 100% certainty? What level of certainty can we obtain and still operate effectively? How much skepticism should we have?
In light of this, I think it is logical, prudent and perfectly appropriate to proceed with caution, charity and with as little dogmatism as possible. I do this, typically by viewing things as a probability of being correct or true and not black or white. For example, for all I know we can all be in the Matrix, however, I do find that while it is possible, it is not probable. If I had to give it a number, I would give it less than one percent, maybe like 0.01%.
I am not holding two contradictory beliefs, I am recognizing my limitations. After all, isn't that the most logical thing to do?
Update: Facebook Comments
DT: You write very, very Don! I enjoyed this piece on logic. Yes, you are logical, which I find to be a great quality, as well as organized and highly articulate. You are also a systems thinker like I am, seeing patterns, commonalities, and the whole as well its parts. You ask good, thoughtful questions. I like what you say about probability and caution and that is important to realize our limitations and not be dogmatic. Very, very well said, Don! Thanks for sharing!
RR: Lately, I've been reading about confirmation bias; that phenomenon where rational people subconsciously filter out data that does not fit with their bias. Or, rather, give higher priority to data that does.
RR: I've also been reading about cognitive dissonance where people, step by step, rationalize their way past the discomfort of having two conflicting opinions in their minds. This, it is opined, is one way people work their way into cults and what we call wingnut beliefs like the notion that judgement day will arrive on May 21, 2011. Or that Christ will return at any day, for that matter. We work our way around the tough, chewy bits, one rationalization at a time. We are logical, reasonable and rational and yet lacking. At the end of the day, life is full of scary shit. We need to believe there's a plan, even if we don't like the plan (see Joker with Harvey Dent, Dark Knight); we need to put order to what is, essentially, an often senseless and meaningless experience. That's not to say we shouldn't try. But, at some point, it makes sense to give in to the senselessness. Sometimes the effort to make sense out of the chaos only produces a different form of chaos.
DT: @RR, in response to your first posting: that's easy to do! We all see things through our own paradigm. Anais Nin wrote that "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." So true! I think we seek out that which we agree with as a way of validating ourselves, which is much simper and easier than being open to new, opposing information which we may need to think through, analyze and come to terms with from a new paradigm.
DT: @RR, to your second posting: Buddhists call what you talk about as 'giving in to the senseless' as "non-attachment" and yes, it does make sense at some point to embrace things as they are, to un-attach, if you will, from giving some things meaning and our time, rather than cause ourselves suffering (from the Buddhist perspective, samsara), or what you cause 'chaos.' (See http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/samsara.html)
Me: I didn't think I would have inspired such a stimulating discussion, great thoughts.
SC: Finally had time to read this. Thank you. For a long time I pursued conviction as a way of understanding the world/existence, meaning I sought intricate logical constructions that I would convince myself explained reality. As I got older though, I realized each time I achieved a mental equation that explained everything ... events the next day refuted my equation, however carefully constructed. This disillusion is somehow amplified by parenthood. With time I have come to understand that explaining everything is impossible and the burden of attempting logical explanation of everything is quixotic at best, and distracting at least. With time I began to understand that the world unfolds around me, largely as a mystery, whether I impose logic on it or not. And looking at it from that angle, I began to more and more appreciate the mystery rather than to ruthlessly impose logic on it. Certainly there are core convictions and truisms that we must live by, but those tend to be simple and deep, requiring little logic. Beyond that lies a world filled with mystery that in time I have become convinced that I can never fully understand. The mystery that surrounds me is the purview of God. And I am comforted by that. **Thanks for helping me think like this on a Thursday night a midnight ... really.
DT: I appreciate and enjoy the deep thinking that has happened in these postings! Thanks everyone!
Me: DT, Me too. SC, Sorry for keeping you up at night. I hate trying to fall asleep and then get into some deep thinking because I never get sleep them.