Logical Thinking LO21859

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Tue, 8 Jun 1999 10:50:18 +0200

Replying to LO21799 --

Dear Organlearners,

John Gunkler <jgunkler@sprintmail.com> writes:

>Yes, he (and others who are excellent at rhetoric -- like Adolf
>Hitler or Bill Clinton, to name just two politicians) have something
>sensible (to their purposes) in mind. But you had better believe
>that my crap detector will be working overtime as I listen to them!

Greetings John,

The above is last paragraph of your reply to Winfried Dressler's
contribution LO21770. In it he wrote:

>Again, in my experience, I have NEVER met anybody who has not
>a very good developed crap detector. But the output-alarm is
>triggered by a set of input-assumptions, so the alarm pattern
>differ widely from person to person. If I call the set
>of input-assumptions the calibration of the detector, then I agree
>with you, that many detectors need a lot of recalibration. Even
>stronger: Any detector, including my own are in constant need of
>recalibration. It is best done in cycles of emergent and digestive

Since you have first brought up the word "crap detector", I have been
thinking of the role which the "crap detector" as well as other kinds
of "detectors" play in LOs.

In my opinion we have to distinguish between "logical thinking" and
"formal logic". I can offer three reasons. One reason is that "formal
logic" is theory based. The two main theories are Proof Theory and
Model Theory. Another reason is that many a theorem of logics or
mathematics was discovered before it was possible to prove it. An
intuitive creativite phase seems to precede the logical formalities.
The last reason is exactly this "crap detector"! "Formal logic" has
been designed from its beginning to prove true statements, i.e
theorems. To designate a statement as false, one first has to prove
that its negation is true. Then one uses the Law of the Excluded
Middle (LEM) to infer that the statement is false.

How do our "crap detector" work? Do it first find the negation of a
statement, then determine that this negated statement is true and
hence infer that the statement itself is false, i.e "crap"? In other
words, does it work like "formal logic" so that "formal logic" is
merely the consistent and coherent articulation of our crap detector?
No. Let me use Winfried's statement to argue the point. Winfried says
that he has NEVER met anybody who does not have a very good developed
crap detector. (I am inclined to agree with him, except that people
can easily "switch" their "crap detector" on and off.) If this is
true, then it stands to reason that articulating "formal logic" is a
formality easily accomplished.

But my "crap detector" rings its alarm, not because Winfried's
statement is unproven and my inference on it is flimsy, but because of
something else -- the LEM. We NOW KNOW that LEM does not hold for
complex systems exhibiting "deep creativity". The first logicians who
became suspicious of the LEM had merely their "crap detectors"
working. Let us think about the NOW KNOW above. It tells us that our
formal knowledge confirms what our experential knowledge and tacit
knowledge had been telling us. In other words, the "crap detector"
works in all the levels of knowledge and not merely formal knowledge
to which "formal logic" belongs.

But there is something else we should also know about our "crap
detector". Although it is very good developed in most people, it is by
far not so reliable to the same degree. We have no better arguments
that the history of scientific thinking. It is a fact that during,
what Thomas Kuhn called the paradigm shift of a scientific revolution,
the crap detectors of most people function adversely. It makes crap
out of food for thought and food of thought out of crap for later
generations. Since the "crap detector" is often unreliable during
scinetific revolutions, it will be fortuitious to seek the
relationship between the "crap detector" and scientific thinking.

Central to scientific thinking is the scientific method. The following
successive stages are essential to the scientific method: (1)
observation (2) speculation (3) falsification. I willing to bet that
every person reading this contribution are capable of indicating to
which stage the "crap detector" belongs -- stage 3!

I have seen many a planned scientific study grinding to a standstill
whith the "crap detector" switched on at stages (1) and (2). This is
why we have to switch off our well developed "crap detector",
trustwothy or unreliable alike, in stages (1) and (2). In fact we have
to switch on a different kind of detector in stage (1) and yet another
different kind of detector in stage (2).

What kind of detector should we switch on in stage (1) -- observation?
Let me call it our "gem detector". Most important of stage (1) is to
observe those things which HAVE NOT YET BEEN OBSERVED BEFORE. I cannot
stress this enough like Louis Pasteur also did long ago. Why "gem
detector"? Any gem prospector knows that gems are not only rare, but
also easily mislooked. New valid observations are the gems by which
our scientific thinking develops creatively. Whereas I am inlined to
agree with Winfried that the "crap detectors" of humans are very good
developed, although often unrealiable, I believe that their "gem
detectors" are far less developed.

What kind of detector should we switch on in stage (2) -- speculation?
I do not know what to call it. All the names which I have considered
so far seem not to be suitable. This stage is characterised by what
might have been called "brain storming" by Osborne or "lateral
thinking" by DeBono. What we do in this stage, is to let our minds
roam creatively on all the possibilities resulting from our
observations in stage (1). These possibilities result through the
"chemistry" between our observations and our existing knowledge (all
four levels). Not even one possibility should be excluded because of
switching our "crap detector" on prematurely. Herein lies another
possible reason why the "crap detector" is not "formal logic". One of
the many ways in which I myself speculate, is to use formal logic in
the argumentative mode -- the "what if" mode. If the LEM holds, then
the "crap detector" cannot be switched both on and off during stage
(2). However, since stage (2) is complex, I am not so sure that the
LEM holds in stage (2).

John, since you have used the metaphor "crap detector", I have thought
a lot of my own university training long ago. It may have been the
goal of my lecturers to develop the other two detectors also. But my
"crap detector" was working over time, often intefering with the other
two detectors. I see it as a main achievement of my own personal
mastery that I succeeded in taiming my "crap detector". It was
sometimes a wild animal.

Best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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