Logic ( Does it exist outisde of human thought? )

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Discussion by: Confucian Witcher

This is an interesting question that I thought of when I was reading my philosophy textbook on truth. The chapter dealt with answering whether truth is a concept that exists outside of human thought or whether it is merely a product of our senses. Instead I thought maybe to apply this question to logic. Does logic exists outside of human consciousness?

58 COMMENTS

  1. I think logic does exist in the universe. Logic works because it’s the most fundamental rules the universe operates under. We didn’t invent logic, we discovered it. If logic wasn’t embedded in the universe, then it wouldn’t work. There would essentially be no difference between valid and invalid logic.

    I think the same thing can be said about mathematics, which I’ve heard called quantitative logic.

    That said, I’m not dogmatic about this. If someone can give logic :-) that refutes this, I’d be very interested to read it.

  2. No.

    Light will travel at the same speed, even inside stars, whether or not anyone observes it. The fact that “a” photon might take some 200,000 years or so to reach the surface of the sun, and then 8 some minutes to reach the Earth’s surface is “true” whether or not you like it.

    Logic is a useful human construct involving various rules applying to argument. The photons from the centre of the sun will keep streaming our way whether or not we are conscious of them. Without them, there would be no life on Earth, and no possible abstract discussion of “logic” or “consciousness”.

  3. I agree with Mr. Darcy: logic does not exist outside of human consciousness because the universe simply exists, and it does not necesitate itself on human logic. To that point, I would like to refer to the idea of SelfAwarePatterns: I agree that math as quantitative logic is quite a good description, but it is nothing more than a model humans use to understand the universe.

  4. Logic exists only if “truth” exists. ( Each requires the other).
    The only truth is that there is no truth.
    Logic therefore cannot exist. ( Outside of the human mind)

    Logic is a rational perception existing only within the human mind. The brain require logic in order to make decision, it is a basis for rationalisation. Logic is yet another tool that we, as a species, require in order to survive.

    • In reply to #8 by A3Kr0n:

      Interesting. I’ve never thought about that before. Maybe we should define “logic” first.

      Personally I would consider logic as the procedure by which we resolve a dilemma into a unique state.

    • In reply to #8 by A3Kr0n:

      Interesting. I’ve never thought about that before. Maybe we should define “logic” first.

      I looked it up: 1.the science of correct reasoning; science which deals with the criteria of valid thought. (Any misspellings I blame on auto correct). Grammatical errors are mine, kindly pm me.

    • In reply to #9 by Reckless Monkey:

      Would any animal behaviour be logical? Could other organisms behaviour be said to follow logical principles?

      Infact, yes. Considering two things: ogic does not have to be true or factual, it only has to be objectively correct. And, considering the situation. In example, if the alpha male of your baboon troop wants the bannana in your hand, and you, being much less physically capable, relinquish the bannana, you have followed logic. And in that situation, you were objectively correct in doing so.

  5. Logic does not have the kind of existence that we typically attribute to “things.” It has abstract objects in terms of rules and their consequences. Those make nice tools to map out how things work in the world of “things.” The reason such tools are so useful is because we choose the basic axioms to give usefulness. Just like so much of biology gives the appearance of “design,” logic gives the appearance of existence.

  6. Logic exists outside human thought. Computer programs do logical processing just as easily as they do arithmetic processing.
    The computer language Prolog even does searches for sets of conditions that meet some criteria.

    Arithmetic and logic can each be generated by a set of postulate rules. There are just as universal as Group Theory is.

    Another sort of answer is parrots can compute logical expressions. e.g. “Alex, how many things in my hand are yellow and keys?”

    • In reply to #12 by Roedy:

      Logic exists outside human thought. Computer programs do logical processing just as easily as they do arithmetic processing.
      The computer language Prolog even does searches for sets of conditions that meet some criteria.

      I would argue that computers programs are capable of electrical signal processing, not logical processing. If any logical processing exists, it exists only in the mind of the human that develops the program. A computer do not think , they merely execute
      series of predefined instructions.

      • In reply to #13 by MacFR:

        In reply to #12 by Roedy:

        Logic exists outside human thought. Computer programs do logical processing just as easily as they do arithmetic processing.
        The computer language Prolog even does searches for sets of conditions that meet some criteria.

        I would argue that computers programs are capable…

        Computers can design transmission lines better that humans. When humans think, they are just running off their programming too. We just get all gooey about it because we don’t understand fully how it works. Trivially, when you do long division, you are little different than a computer.

    • In reply to #12 by Roedy:

      Logic exists outside human thought. Computer programs do logical processing just as easily as they do arithmetic processing.
      The computer language Prolog even does searches for sets of conditions that meet some criteria.

      Arithmetic and logic can each be generated by a set of postulate rules. There…

      Exactly. Asking if logic exists is the same as asking if Mathematics exists. Logic is just a branch of Mathematics.

  7. I think logic and math are ideas that are true even if we are not around to articulate them. I think if there are aliens half away across the galaxy as intelligent as us they will be doing math and logic much like we do. In fact, this idea that math is something consistent, is used as the basis for most serious attempts to think of ways to communicate with beings with very little or nothing in common with us.

  8. Red Dog:

    Exactly. Asking if logic exists is the same as asking if Mathematics exists. Logic is just a branch of Mathematics.

    But both mathematics and logic only exist because humans have developed them. True alien life elsewhere may use the same sets of rules, but they have no independent existence.

    Jupiter doesn’t “know” that it travels around the sun in an elliptical orbit, it just does it. It took humans to work out the orbit. I’m always amazed at the places where pi appears in nature, but that doesn’t give pi an independent existence. We spot the patterns after the event.

    And yes computers can do amazing things, but first they have to be built and programmed, in our case, – by humans.

  9. Not in my view. As well as the reasons already given, logical argument has no necessary connection with reality.

    For example, ‘Socrates was a man’: ‘All men are fish’: ‘Therefore, Socrates was a fish’ is logically valid – despite being empirically wrong.

    Even utter nonsense can be viewed logically. ‘I own a flibbertigibbet’: ‘No flibbertigibbet eats wumplenuts’: ‘Therefore, I don’t need to buy wumplenuts’ is invalid, since maybe (in my story) Uncle Dewberry adores said nuts.

    Logic concerns the structure of sentences and thought, which entails mind. Without humans to put data into computers or read the results, computers would not be seen to have logic. They would of course follow the laws of physics, but unless one sees the universe as Mind there is no reason to attribute logic to physical events beyond the natural patterns that we call ‘laws’. Some philosophies do claim that Mind exists outside human thought, in effect a philosophical God of some kind. But I do not hold such a view, since there are major empirical reasons not to assert the existence of a ‘philosophical God’ – not least the absence of positive evidence.

    (NB, computer semiconductors use the randomness of quantum processes to function. That is coincidentally ironic, as computers could use non-quantum devices, but maybe that illustrates how the world is not fundamentally logical in the way it might look on a large scale)

    • In reply to #20 by steve_hopker:

      Hi Steve,

      … logical argument has no necessary connection with reality.

      For example, ‘Socrates was a man’: ‘All men are fish’: ‘Therefore, Socrates was a fish’ is logically valid – despite being empirically wrong.

      This is a classic example of an argument from fallacy.

      Even utter nonsense can be viewed logically.

      While it is true that false premises can be entered into a logical form, that does not disprove the ability of logic to validate truth from correct premises. To pretend that the use of false premises disproves the validity of all logical forms is an illicit minor.

      Logic concerns the structure of sentences and thought, which entails mind.

      It seems to me more productive to consider that logic concerns the structure of argument, not sentences. I can enter a logical form into a computer. Therefore, by your definition, a computer is a mind?

      The Questioner asked only about “human thought”, not all forms of ‘mind’ – whatever mind means. Your lack of a definition of mind leaves your argument open to a charge of equivocation.

      Without humans to put data into computers or read the results, computers would not be seen to have logic.

      I could not read. My Teacher put the rules of reading in my head. I can read. Therefore: I am a computer?

      [programmed computers] would of course follow the laws of physics, but unless one sees the universe as Mind …

      Please forgive my ignorance but what has the ability of brains to observe got to do with computers doing what computers are expected to do? It seems to me that we are going off on some tangent that is not connected with the OP: logic inside and outside human thought?

      … there is no reason to attribute logic to physical events …

      Why would I use a form of thought as if it were an applicable attribute? To do so would be to confuse the content of my argument with its form. That’s not a fallacy, it’s a different form of thinking error, a mistake of classification.

      … [we can attribute logic to] the natural patterns that we call ‘laws’.

      No we can’t. Logic is a form, not an attribute. Laws of nature are mathematical descriptions of the logical conclusions drawn from premises that are the results of observations of fact (i.e. verifiable attributes of nature).

      Some philosophies do claim that Mind exists outside human thought, in effect a philosophical God of some kind.

      It is not necessary to invoke a god, or gods, in order to pontificate about consciousness outside our own minds. It is possible to conceive of Alien intelligence. Although we have not discovered any – yet – the evidence of cosmology, chemistry and evolution strongly support the idea that other conscious minds are probably out there.

      Then there is the evidence for animal consciousness which is increasingly persuading the experts that conscious thoughts are not a binary attribute of brains (conscious or not). Rather, they are concluding that conscious minds fall into a continuous scale.

      Then there is artificial intelligence.

      … computer semiconductors use the randomness of quantum processes to function.

      That is an irrelevant observation to the question of logic and minds, even if computers are minds.

      That is coincidentally ironic, as computers could use non-quantum devices, but maybe that illustrates how the world is not fundamentally logical in the way it might look on a large scale

      To draw a conclusion “the World is not fundamentally logical” from the irrelevant observation is a genetic fallacy.

      The fact that the first electronic computers did not use semi-conductors while current models do is not ironic.

      Is the World logical? The World is best described and understood using accurate observations and logical descriptions of those observations – but does that make logic an attribute of the World? Scientists say that we can know truth by attempting to falsify their conclusions, drawn from their logical forms, their repeatable observations and their accurate predictions. Scientists claim their accurate predictions verify their observations and their forms.

      Logic, on the above basis, is at least the best way we have found to truth. Inasmuch as logic describes truth and given that minds are thinking products of the World they observe, I see the World as logical.

      You appear to invoke quantum mechanics as a reason to believe that the World is illogical? I hope I understood that correctly? Assuming, to save me some time, that you did: you’re incorrect.

      Quantum mechanics is a set of theories – scientific conclusions based on observations and logical analysis. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider would not have been built at a cost of about $4 billion dollars if quantum mechanics was illogical. Quantum mechanics is usually described as counter-intuitive. Logical conclusions are often counter-intuitive. It is precisely because the truth is counter-intuitive that logic was independently developed in Greece, India and China.

      Peace.

      • In reply to #25 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

        In reply to #20 by steve_hopker:

        I hope to show that for the most part we agree, ie I was unclear and so have been misunderstood (if so, a salutary lesson!)

        ..While it is true that false premises can be entered into a logical form, that does not disprove the ability of logic to validate truth from correct premises. To pretend that the use of false premises disproves the validity of all logical forms is an illicit minor.

        I was certainly not intending to say that logic is invalid (I didn’t think I had: only that some arguments are logically invalid). I see logical analysis as a means to judge the validity of arguments. However, it does seem possible to construct unreal arguments that are logically valid ie the logical structure is sound but the premises wrong. My claim – not made clear – is that logic itself does not equate to reality – it is only when the premises are true and the argument sound that logic can point to reality. To me then logic is a conceptual tool ie something that only minds can operate.

        I had said: ‘Logic concerns the structure of sentences and thought, which entails mind’.

        It seems to me more productive to consider that logic concerns the structure of argument, not sentences. I can enter a logical form into a computer. Therefore, by your definition, a computer is a mind?

        The Questioner asked only about “human thought”, not all forms of ‘mind’ – whatever mind means. Your lack of a definition of mind leaves your argument open to a charge of equivocation.

        I agree. I put too much stress on language – probably my half baked logical positivism creeping in, though I think there is a case to link the structure of language to the structure of thought (and thus some supposed metaphysical conundrums might stem from linguistic errors)

        I also concede my error in not spotting that the OP may have meant just human minds – ie that logic might exist in non-human minds, such as alien intelligences – I agree of course that such extra-terrestrial minds might exist.

        As to computers, I do not exclude that theoretically computers could be capable of being minds but I am not sure that current computers are. Maybe this points to a genuine disagreement, since if logic is simply structure then clearly current computers could be logical. But isn’t logic not just structure, but the structure of ideas? In which case one would have to say that for computers to contain logic, they would have to contain ideas. Maybe future computers could perceive, imagine, be conscious ie have ideas. But can they now? And if they were sentient, ie had thoughts and performed logic then shouldn’t they should be treated like other sentient and rational beings, such as (but not necessary only) human beings? If so, when I switched off my future world laptop, would that be ethically equivalent to involuntary anaesthesia: would trashing such computers amount to murder?
        >
        >

        I said: Without humans to put data into computers or read the results, computers would not be seen to have logic.

        I could not read. My Teacher put the rules of reading in my head. I can read. Therefore: I am a computer?

        ‘Read’ shows my age. In times past computer printouts etc were ‘read’, I was not referring to novels etc. That said, maybe one can compare computer programming to education – see above on sentient computers,

        I said: [programmed computers] would of course follow the laws of physics, but unless one sees the universe as Mind …

        Please forgive my ignorance but what has the ability of brains to observe got to do with computers doing what computers are expected to do? It seems to me that we are going off on some tangent that is not connected with the OP: logic inside and outside human thought?

        Again I was being unclear. I was assuming, perhaps wrongly, that the OP was asking if logic might exist in some immaterial way. There have been various philosophers who have referred to disembodied mind. Some have even suggested that the universe was the ultimate Mind, in which case one might say that logic resulted from the workings of physical laws ie were the thought processes of Mind. This is not a view I share, but for some people leads to a kind of philosophical pantheism, maybe something like this: http://www.goddiscussion.com/59755/astronomer-royal-martin-rees-atheists-should-peacefully-coexist-with-moderate-groups-to-defeat-fundamentalism/

        I said: … there is no reason to attribute logic to physical events …

        Why would I use a form of thought as if it were an applicable attribute? To do so would be to confuse the content of my argument with its form. That’s not a fallacy, it’s a different form of thinking error, a mistake of classification.
        … Logic is a form, not an attribute. Laws of nature are mathematical descriptions of the logical conclusions drawn from premises that are the results of observations of fact (i.e. verifiable attributes of nature).

        I think I had meant to say that reality is empirical, ie it does not follow in deductive logic that because the sun has appeared to rise every day in history it must do so tomorrow. One could then argue that natural ‘laws’ are no such things. Trivially I’d assert there is no Law Maker; but crucially, we cannot deduce the future from patterns in the past. (There is problem with deductive logic, eg the Socrates example, as to if it can ever tell us something new, though some argue that mathematics is a form of deductive logic yet can bring new insights).

        Of course we can point to the myriad number of sunrises, apple falls, etc and thus by inductive logic infer that such things are very likely to recur. Perhaps there is a philosophy of science issue here, in establishing the validity of the inductive logic science uses, as opposed to the deductive logic of strict arguments of, say, biological philosophers or suitably advanced computers.

        However, if one accepts the inductively very likely (but deductively unproven) predictability of nature then on that inductive foundation one can build deductive (mathematical) models of reality that would have so to speak a natural logical. Practically speaking I assume the world is logical. (I happen to believe that the world really is regular, logical and thus predictable: but I have no way to definitively ie deductively prove that belief).

        It is not necessary to invoke a god, or gods, in order to pontificate about consciousness outside our own minds. It is possible to conceive of Alien intelligence.

        As above I agree entirely (also re animal intelligence and theoretical computers).

        That is an irrelevant observation to the question of logic and minds, even if computers are minds

        My point about computer semiconductors (‘using the randomness of quantum processes to function’) was an aside. It is only relevant to ideas of the physical universe itself being a Mind. But even then my point was not well made, as in practice, though quantum events are random at the quantum level those effects average out – eg Brownian motion in gases does not take away the practical validity of Boyles’ Law – and would not affect the natural logic of macro events such as in brains or computer circuits.

        .To draw a conclusion “the World is not fundamentally logical” from the irrelevant observation is a genetic fallacy.

        As above, I was being unclear that problems of saying the world is logical was linked to the deduction v. induction issues around science – which you then set out…

        Is the World logical? The World is best described and understood using accurate observations and logical descriptions of those observations …logic describes truth…

        This raises a number of important and (to me at least) complex issues. I’m not sure one can just say that ‘logic describes truth’. I’d rather say that logically structured evidence asserts truth: Perhaps this is simply my view of logic as a tool towards understanding, not the understanding (knowledge) itself.

        Logic, on the above basis, is at least the best way we have found to truth. Inasmuch as logic describes truth and given that minds are thinking products of the World they observe, I see the World as logical.

        An anti-dogmatic pragmatism I hope I’ve now made clear that I support.

        You appear to invoke quantum mechanics as a reason to believe that the World is illogical? I hope I understood that correctly? Assuming, to save me some time, that you did: you’re incorrect.

        Again, I hope you realise that I was being unclear – I do not think the world is illogical.

        Quantum mechanics is usually described as counter-intuitive. Logical conclusions are often counter-intuitive. It is precisely because the truth is counter-intuitive that logic was independently developed in Greece, India and China.

        Another complex point, but I’m not sure I fully agree that ‘Logical conclusions are often counter-intuitive’. I’d say that if logical arguments are well formulated then ideally the steps would be readily understood, even if they did not yield a common sense conclusion, as in quantum mechanics. However in the case of QM the steps themselves are not clear – at least to non-mathematicians like myself.

        One thing I can be sure of from this thread is that clarity of expression is.a maxim I would do well to remember. :)

        • In reply to #33 by steve_hopker:

          In reply to #25 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

          In reply to #20 by steve_hopker:

          Another complex point, but I’m not sure I fully agree that ‘Logical conclusions are often counter-intuitive’. I’d say that if logical arguments are well formulated then ideally the steps would be readily understood, even if they did not yield a common sense conclusion, as in quantum mechanics.

          Forget this point, I’m wrong (again!). Logical arguments should be as clear as possible, but the conclusions may indeed be counter-intuitive.

        • In reply to #33 by steve_hopker:

          In reply to #25 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

          Hi Steve,

          I hope to show that for the most part we agree, ie I was unclear and so have been misunderstood (if so, a salutary lesson!)

          I didn’t mean to turn into a Schoolmaster! My replies were a little terse yesterday, due to a lack of time and because I was using an iPad which is basically not designed for writing. I’m in a similar position, time-wise, today so I’ll cut any conversation where we agree in your latest – if chunks are missing, it’s a good thing (assuming agreement is good, although everyone else on this thread is reading this and thinking: “Yeah, it means that fools never differ”).

          My claim – not made clear – is that logic itself does not equate to reality – it is only when the premises are true and the argument sound that logic can point to reality. To me then logic is a conceptual tool ie something that only minds can operate.

          That seems logical.

          I put too much stress on language – probably my half baked logical positivism creeping in, though I think there is a case to link the structure of language to the structure of thought (and thus some supposed metaphysical conundrums might stem from linguistic errors)

          I may have been a bit too procedural. In the end we express our arguments in language so is it appropriate that we apply logic to the very expressions of our thoughts? You’re mention of logical positivism pulled me up. In the end I think you may be right.

          Let’s take that thought and apply it to my initial response to the OP. An Alien would only be able to understand our logic if they can understand the structure of our language(s). The study of logical forms is largely expressed in language. Logic itself is therefore only useful because we fit it into our language. I would argue that the language of logic is specialised – arcane. We must study logical forms to fully understand the arguments and conclusions of others.

          On the other hand, would our Alien visitors have been able to get here without some form of reaching scientific conclusions that looks a lot like logic? It seems to me that this is a given. Would they have had a need to share those thoughts? Again, it seems inescapable; the Aliens would have a language of their own – and would therefore understand the basic ideas that underpin our languages.

          Would the Aliens be critical of our methods, right down to the details of our language structure? If they were aware of a philosophy like logical positivism I think we can be confident that they might be critical. On the other hand we could also expect them to be aware that languages evolve – their own language might be equally unsuitable to the task of revealing some truths.

          Although my original contention – that logic exists outside human minds – still stands, it does seem that language is a pre-requisite for the development of sharing models of logic. The fact that logic was created several times by humans, however, appears to demonstrate that logic is a thinking method that is a natural consequence of brains capable of problem solving. From what follows, it seems likely that there are levels of logical problem solving.

          As to computers, I do not exclude that theoretically computers could be capable of being minds but I am not sure that current computers are.

          The problem with computers is that everyone talks about ‘intelligence’, which is such a slippery concept. There can be no doubt that all computers are already superior to most human brains – in some limited and specialised ways – such as memory, faultless super-fast mathematical calculation and the ability to work 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We’ve also proved that, if sufficient resources are applied, we can create computers which beat humans at the peak of intelligence and learned expertise in highly specialised fields, like Chess Masters.

          Dr. Christopher Evans wrote what I believe is still the best popular-science explanation of artificial intelligence – in 1979 – The Mighty Micro. More than thirty years later we don’t seem to have got very far … might that be an indication of just how hard it is to create a computer that everyone can agree is ‘intelligent’?

          But it seems to me that, when we consider Confucian Witcher’s question, we can essentially park the presupposition that computers need to be minds in order to use logic.

          Maybe this points to a genuine disagreement, since if logic is simply structure then clearly current computers could be logical.

          All modern micro-processor-run devices that are marketed as “computers” have logic units at their very core. Symbolic logic is at the heart of every computer programming language. Without logic we would, quite simply, not have computers.

          But isn’t logic not just structure, but the structure of ideas?

          It’s not the structure of all ideas. You’re allowed to have sloppy thinking. When I say that I’m not being contemptuous, many new ideas require creativity – which means leaving structure behind, at least initially. However, to judge the validity of a newly created idea we would return to logic and apply the form in order to judge the new idea’s proximity to truth.

          In which case one would have to say that for computers to contain logic …

          (i.e. all of them)

          … they would have to contain ideas. Maybe future computers could perceive, imagine, be conscious ie have ideas. But can they now?

          I don’t know for sure, but what follows are my current conclusions. There are two things I think we need to consider:

          • Definitions

          • The consciousness scale

          If we use a dictionary to try and define these things we tend to find ourselves going round in circles – an idea is defined as a thought, which is defined as an idea … and so on.

          Dr. Evans used an entire chapter in his book to explore the idea of intelligence. He concluded that the main components are: Sensation (data capture ability), Data Storage Capability, Processing Speed, Software Flexibility, Software Efficiency and Software Range. He followed this with a chapter entitled Can a Machine Think? – which (helpfully?) ends with the line: Now, what do we mean by the word ‘Think’?

          To cut a long story short, Dr. Evans was sanguine about the nature of computer ‘intelligence’. On any measure – even creativity, there is every reason to believe that computers can match and, eventually, surpass humans. All of the core factors that underpin intelligence (above) have improved since his day – though if he were alive today I think he would be very disappointed by the baby-steps made in all areas of software since he wrote his book.

          As you can probably tell, Evans’ book still has pride of place on my bookshelf. One reason is this: He clearly demonstrates that any discussion on whether computers can be ‘intelligent’, or not, is redundant. It simply doesn’t matter. Computers have the potential to do many kinds of thinking (incl. applying logical forms) better than humans – and have proved it. Indeed, it may be that computers will eventually help us to gain an accurate and satisfactory explanation of what we mean by ‘intelligence’ – though I’m not holding my breath.

          One last thing: Dr. Evans produced an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) scale to demonstrate how future computers could be so much more than we might imagine. It was his own arbitrary scale – not connected to the commonly used IQ tests – and this is important not for the illustrations he made, but because he was way ahead of his time in another way.

          To the extent that consciousness can be said to be equivalent to ‘intelligence’ (while it’s possible to distinguish, most definitions demonstrate quite a large overlap) let’s consider the consciousness scale.

          It seems to me that the Cambridge Declaration on animal consciousness, where it concludes: ” … the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness” is equally applicable to computers. Computers, just like animals, may lack the ability to communicate their experiences and if they could their experiences would probably seem extremely banal to us, but that doesn’t alter the fact that animals are judged to be capable of ‘lower levels’ of conscious thought. If that is true of animals then it is true of computers.

          Dr. Evans recognised this. His scale ran (in part) from rock (IQ: 0) to rats (IQ: 200,000), to human (IQ: 1,000,000). This means he could put 1970′s computers at about IQ: 1,000, and he speculated, from a solid foundation, on the IQ (again, using his own definition) of future computers.

          To me these two lines of inquiry lead us, logically, to an inescapable conclusion: Machines do not just have the potential to develop thinking in the future – they think now.

          Today’s best computers are clearly only capable of general-purpose and flexible thinking, roughly, on a par with rats. But they still think. Are they, then, capable of logical thinking? They are certainly capable of logical calculation – which, on a scale of consciousness, is a low level of thinking – but it’s still thinking. We can also program computers to apply logic flexibly, to test data inputs for validity, and more, by which I mean that there are several ways in which we can show evidence for logical thinking in computers.

          … if they [computers] were sentient, i.e. had thoughts and performed logic …

          Which I contend they do …

          … then shouldn’t they be treated like other sentient and rational beings, such as (but not necessary only) human beings?

          I don’t know. That’s a moral question which goes too far from the OP – I think discussing it would bring down the ire of the Moderators upon us. Very briefly: I think we’re approaching the point where we need to have that discussion. If computers start to exhibit thinking that is comparable to other great apes – like the Gorillas and Orangutans – then there is a case to be answered.

          By the way if computers are capable of logical thought, turning my above argument on it’s head, then so too must animals.

          If so, when I switched off my future world laptop, would that be ethically equivalent to involuntary anaesthesia: would trashing such computers amount to murder?

          Again, straying a bit too far from the OP.

          … there is no reason to attribute logic to physical events …

          I think I had meant to say that reality is empirical …

          No argument here.

          Of course we can point to the myriad number of sunrises, apple falls, etc and thus by inductive logic infer that such things are very likely to recur. Perhaps there is a philosophy of science issue here, in establishing the validity of the inductive logic science uses, as opposed to the deductive logic of strict arguments of, say, biological philosophers or suitably advanced computers.

          I may be guilty of hubris here, but it seems to me that modern science has no difficulty embracing probability, or with working from fact to theory. It seems to me that deductive reasoning has its place in modern science too.

          From what I read the ways in which science funding is allocated vary greatly. Deductive reasoning is sometimes applied to ‘measure’ the possibility of success of this or that proposed project. I recently read a blog by an experimental Scientist (I don’t seem to be able to find her in my Browser’s history, sorry) in which she said that her day-to-day work was based on deduction and some assumed premises. Falsification was not, therefore, a daily concern and her basic assumption was that her data was hard facts.

          By and large, in reality, this is how most experimental scientists proceed – though, of course, by not applying induction occasionally they run the risk that there data sets (which could amount to months or years of work) could simply end up being trashed.

          There’s also creativity in science to be considered – as noted above. But exploring all the ways scientists think will take us too far from the OP.

          However, if one accepts the inductively very likely (but deductively unproven) predictability of nature then on that inductive foundation one can build deductive (mathematical) models of reality that would have so to speak a natural logical. Practically speaking I assume the world is logical. (I happen to believe that the world really is regular, logical and thus predictable: but I have no way to definitively ie deductively prove that belief).

          I hear you. If I understood you correctly, I explored these ideas in a post for DArcy (Comment #36).

          My point about computer semiconductors (‘using the randomness of quantum processes to function’) was an aside. It is only relevant to ideas of the physical universe itself being a Mind.

          Okay, running out of time so I’ll drive by that one.

          Is the World logical? The World is best described and understood using accurate observations and logical descriptions of those observations …logic describes truth…

          This raises a number of important and (to me at least) complex issues. I’m not sure one can just say that ‘logic describes truth’. I’d rather say that logically structured evidence asserts truth.

          That seems a bit pedantic to me [cue: gasps of astonishment and ironic laughter from some regular readers].

          Perhaps this is simply my view of logic as a tool towards understanding, not the understanding (knowledge) itself.

          Steve, you’re bang on mate. My turn to apologise for being too fast and loose with my definitions.

          Cheers.

          • In reply to #40 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

            If we use a dictionary to try and define these things we tend to find ourselves going round in circles – an idea is defined as a thought, which is defined as an idea … and so on.

            Ideas are what thoughts look like objectively when I manage to type them out.

  10. Hi Confucian,

    Short answer:
    Yes: logic does exist outside human minds. Logic is a set of rules for thinking from premises to correct conclusions. We write them down and, thus, export them from our brains. Conceivably an Alien Race could then decipher those rules and understand our best arguments.

    Medium answer:
    Logic is a set of rules for defining the validity of an argument, by determining the correctness (or otherwise) of the argument’s format. This is called the study of logical form. Thus; an arguments validity (the truth or falsehood of the argument) is being determined by its logical form, not by its content.

    A significant part of the study of logical form is the search for logical fallacies in arguments.

    Note that studying the correct principles of reasoning is not the same as studying the psychology of reasoning. Logic is the discipline that studies how we ought to reason in order to extract truth from our reasoning.

    Therefore: Yes, logic exists beyond the range of human thought – we can teach logic to computers, and see them come to correct conclusions. Computers help us to see the difference between the content of an argument and it’s logical form. We enter a logical form that is correct, then a series of data. The answer that emerges (the computer output after it applied the logical form to the content [data]) is wrong. This is known as the garbage in = garbage out problem. Logic, on its own, is no guarantee of a true answer. To reach truth we must be sure that our content and logic are both valid.

    Long answer:
    For an excellent introduction to logic read this article from Hong Kong University.

    Peace.

    • In reply to #21 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Hi Confucian,

      Short answer:
      Yes: logic does exist outside human minds. Logic is a set of rules for thinking from premises to correct conclusions. We write them down and, thus, export them from our brains. Conceivably an Alien Race could then decipher those rules and understand our best arguments…

      My argument didn’t last long!

      I of course concede that non-humans might know and use logic. I am still not convinced that logic itself can exist in writing, programme codes etc, but rather that such symbols can be interpreted logically by sentient beings. In other words, I think that reality can have structure, but logic is a conscious endeavour.

      I may indeed have misinterpreted the OP as asking if logic can be disembodied ie immaterial. But if such immaterialism was the meaning of the OP, then we might yet agree, i.e. if not that logic can be outside sentient minds, then it must at least be in something eg a computer.

      • In reply to #24 by steve_hopker:

        Hi Steve,

        I’m afraid that as we’re both online simultaneously my detailed critique of your first post may seem a little uncharitable.

        Not my intention.

        Thank you for a post that was ideal for demonstrating how the study of logical form is applied to arguments.

        Peace.

      • In reply to #24 by steve_hopker:

        Yes: logic does exist outside human minds. Logic is a set of rules for thinking from premises to correct conclusions. We write them down and, thus, export them from our brains.

        How do you learn logic? By reading books. Logic is a set of rules that appear to describe various real-world situations. Mathematicians don’t look at them that way. They say, “Here are a set of hypothetical rules. If we presume them, what follows. It need have nothing to do with the behaviour of the real world”

        I remember getting my math prof quite annoyed with me when I asked for some examples of groups/rings/vector spaces. I figured it would be easier to understand with some concrete examples. He argued I must not do this. These were abstract concepts, and if I tied them to examples I would project features of the examples onto the abstractions. All thinking must be done in terms of the pure abstraction.

        The way I looked at it these abstractions were created after noticing common patterns. We should not try to hide the scaffolding used to create the abstractions. My objection was similar to the way mathematicians presented polished proofs utterly unlike the ones they actually used. Mathematicians were always trying to hide how they did their proofs.

        • In reply to #32 by Roedy:

          In reply to #24 by steve_hopker:

          Yes: logic does exist outside human minds. Logic is a set of rules for thinking from premises to correct conclusions. We write them down and, thus, export them from our brains.

          The quote is from Stephen of Wimbledon, not me. (See my very long post in reply – I think I generally agree with him).

          How do you learn logic? By reading books. Logic is a set of rules that appear to describe…

          Basic logic might be said to be instinctive – as one might say of basic arithmetic (counting) or basic geometry (spatial awareness).

          I agree that logical structure can be abstracted from content. However, I do find examples help – then again, I’m not a mathematician.

  11. Does Hamlet exist outside of human thought?

    It’s been written down and recorded in many different media, just as the rules of logic have. The point surely is that logic is the product of human thought, just as Hamlet would not exist without the author having penned it. IMO logic has no independent existence outside of human thought, and I don’t care how sophisticated the computers are. But then I’m a materialist, and don’t “do” idealist abstractions. I regard logic as a useful tool, and not as some great truth about the universe just waiting to be discovered.

    • In reply to #22 by Mr DArcy:

      Hi DArcy,

      Does Hamlet exist outside of human thought?

      Rephrase your question: Does God exist outside human thought?

      Now rephrase your question: Does table exist outside human thought?

      I suggest that this is a good way to approach your question because now we have embraced almost the entire history of western philosophy!

      There are not enough hours in the day for me to explore all the options.

      Just a thought: Is your question a useful one?

      Peace.

  12. If logic exists outside of human thought, where did it come from ? Where did it reside before humans discovered it?

    Sorry, but I can only see it as a useful tool developed by humans. But then I’m not a philosopher.

    • In reply to #28 by Mr DArcy:

      Hi DArcy,

      If logic exists outside of human thought, where did it come from?

      From a thinking machine; brain or other computer.

      Logic is a model, a framework, a set of rules – an abstraction. It helps us provide a way for thinking observers to ensure that the way in which they think is true, and to communicate the observations, structure and conclusions of our thoughts.

      Where did it reside before humans discovered it?

      Logic may be integral to the Universe in the same way that M Theory or Gravity are part of the Universe. My reasoning behind this is that brains evolve from what the Universe is, and what it does. Thus; brains are an integral part of the Universe and so are the ideas of brains.

      On the other hand, can we say that thinking minds only come into existence when layer-upon-layer-upon-layer (etc.) of abstraction has taken place (massively over-simplified: Physics gives rise to stars, to chemistry, to carbon-based chemistry and planets, to evolution, to brains, etc.)? And if we can say yes to that, are the thoughts of brains disconnected from some (or all) physical laws b y those layers? As Christopher Evans noted in The Mighty Micro (1979), even those who program computers can be surprised by what those programs do – and not just because the Programmer made a mistake. Or can we at least say that a certain ‘abstraction-distance’ mitigates the effects of physical laws to the extent that thoughts become decoupled from physical laws?

      The short answer would appear to be obvious: No. Universal laws are universal … etc.. On the other hand, layers of abstraction add uncertainty because each layer introduces a broader scope of probability. It seems to me that, within the approximate 20 billion cells in an individual human brain, and the billions of human brains (not forgetting those that have lived and left a thought legacy) we have plenty of room for chaos theory to throw up thoughts that are, at the very least, not directly connected to physical laws. Einstein agreed with that hypothesis:

      “Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.”

      Fly in the ointment: Logic was developed independently in Greece, India and China. Of course all the brains in those three places – involved in the development of logic – were human. This suggests that the rules of logic that we have are human constructs. They are a human model of how the Universe can be explained.

      As per my first post, however, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that any Alien coming to Earth – providing they were sufficiently intelligent enough to understand human language – could understand our logic. Would they point out that our logic is flawed thinking? Could we understand them if they did?

      My personal conclusion from all that is: Whether our logic is a limited understanding of good thinking, or whether it’s the full nine yards, it appears to be an integral part of the Universe, directly related to the way the Universe throws up thinking machines. That puts me at odds with Einstein, who said:

      “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

      If the Universe has laws that make the evolution of brains possible then there is no mystery in brains understanding the rules of how to describe the working of the Universe.

      Sorry, but I can only see it as a useful tool developed by humans. But then I’m not a philosopher.

      The great thing about philosophy – the only great thing in my opinion – is that anyone can do it.

      Thank you for a brilliant comment that really made me think.

      Peace.

  13. There are many kinds of logic. Even within mathematics there are multiple kinds. We’re most familiar with the bivalent one.

    We use mathematics to describe the universe. In those “descriptions” (models, axiomatic systems, theorems, proofs, etc.) bivalent logic plays a small but central role. The axioms needed to construct the bivalent logic alone (not, say, quantum physics on top of that) are so few and so basic that it would be presumptuous to think that only human mind is capable of imagining them. It “only” takes intelligent enough self-awareness.

    As we describe the universe with our logic, one could argue that the universe itself is “observing” logical laws. Then we could say that the laws (and therefore logic) exist outside human mind. We have to step back a little, however, and realize that what we’re describing are just our models of the universe. We could escape this trap by generalizing the logic in question by saying that the description of the universe is valid only if described by all the possible (imaginable?!?) models. But then we’re already sailing in philosophical waters, where logic is not so strictly “defined”.

    As for Roedy’s argument that computers can “do” logic: computers (as we know them today) are merely a tool, facilitating human mind. Some say that quantum computers, once developed enough (or shall we say evolved enough) could “think for and by themselves”. We’ll have to wait and see what logic they’re going to invent. ;-)

    As for Mr. Darcy’s reasoning about the fact that photons reach the Earth’s surface in certain amount of time being “true”. It is good that you put the true in quotes. Because it doesn’t have much with being true or not. It’s just a factual observation. Facts themselves don’t require logical qualifications. The statements describing the facts, however, can be true or false. And we shouldn’t mix the two.

    As for adiroth’s wording about logic and math being close relatives and the latter really being the offshoot of the former. Well, all logic (excluding the “philosophical” one) is mathematics. There’s more to mathematics than logic, though.

    And, Mr. Darcy, where did it come from? It didn’t come from anywhere. It’s an integral part of our universe.

  14. What is this “human logic” some of you are talking about? Are you implying that 1+1=2 is a construct of human culture? I’m pretty sure the basic rules of logic and math are true without people around to talk about them. Humans did not “construct” logic, we discovered it. Logic isn’t aesthetics.

    Pythagoras’s theorem is going to be true even if everyone on the Earth dies tomorrow.

    A more interesting question is why does logic work? Why does math work? Why does geometry work? Would they all be different in a universe with different physical rules and constraints?

  15. Perhaps Confucian Witcher might like to lay down a definition of “logic”, so that we are not all talking at loggerheads ? I took it to mean the various rules of argument used in rational discussion. Perhaps I’m a dumbbell ? S/He was talking about a philosophy textbook after all. I don’t think I was out of place in interpreting the question as I did. “Truth” was also mentioned in the OP, which is why I introduced the photons from the sun. They will always (for the next few billion years) take some 8 minutes to reach the Earth from the sun’s surface. The speed of light is a universal “truth”. Science has defined such “truths” more closely over the years.

    Pythagoras will always be true in 2D geometry, Pi will always be an irrational number, a square will always have 4 right angles and 4 equal sides in 2D, 1 + 1 will always equal 2. So what ? It has taken human endeavour to find these “truths”. OK Chimps or aliens might also do it, but not as far we know to date.

  16. Let’s start our argument by defining what logic is.Logic is nothing but it is a method we apply to describe the objective world in consistent and systematic manner. However it describes the objective manner in valid forms, which has an existence out of our sensory organs, it is developed by our brain, either empirically or in pure form of it.
    Suppose there are two individuals whose level of education is by far unmatched: One have fated to have sophisticated knowledge about science, either natural or social. Whereas, the second man is clean ignorant: who has no rudimentary knowledge except a blank head to think and hands to write if he is assisted by education.(my focus in this argument is on logic that demands expert reasoning, not common sense)
    Taking the above scenario in to account, give them a chance to expound about certain object in logical manner. For sure, the uneducated fails miserably unlike the educated one since his brain is barren of such tools.

  17. I would say you need 3 things in place for logic to exist:

    • A consistent set of laws
    • A level of comprehension of those laws
    • An ability to make predictions through calculation

    So I would say, no, logic does not exist outside of thought, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be human, just anything that has some ability to comprehend laws and make calculations.

  18. To all rational thinkers, please listen to my grevience and have the courage to support me, or if you feel my complaint has no merit, tell me why.

    The author of the discussion “the nature for miraculous claims”, “achromat666″, first had my account deactivated, then when I created a new account he had my ip blocked. I can only assume he complained of spamming or harassment, both of which are baseless accusations. Read the thread and you decide whether I was simply having a rational back and forth (meaning he was responding to me and so I responded to his response) or if I was spamming nonsensical posts with total disregard for rational discussion. Unfortunately, achromat666 also manipulated the thread by deleting several of my posts, which ofcourse does nothing to help his argument, but only shows his lack of respect for truth and debate. How is this not like the religious who resort to anger towards any challenges to their perspective. My point to archomat666 was to offer him a fresh perspective on the common assumption and claim made by many like him that evidence will convince him of the truth of a supernatural claim, which is the same as saying I don’t believe in the supernatural explanation for phenomenon x because there is no evidence. The perspective I was offering him was this:
    The unique property that real things have (which is the potential ability to be proven true or false because evidence and reason is capable of acting on it) should not be surrendered to irrational views and claims like the supernatural, which by very definition (one that is as intellectually vacuous as the definition of the trinity) claims that the validity to the truth of itself is outside of reason and evidence. What a fancy way to say made up purely from imagination. Are the convinced by the philosophical hogwash that anything imagined must possibly exist in reality? Aren’t we easily capable of stringing words together to conceptualize things that are completely irrational?
    Basically, asking for evidence for the supernatural reinforces the notion that rational evidence can act directly on their claims, thus affording the supernatural the possibility of truth and the weight of reality. What evidence can act on the supernatural claim that, for example, an old shroud somehow contains the physical spirit and healing powers of an ancient man-deity. How can we say, without denying everything we know about reality, that we have to wait for the evidence to decide if its true or not. Is that really a rational stance?
    I understand it is a fine line that separates the two perspectives, but it an important distinction to understand because much like how the general acceptance of faith by even the nonreligious undermines rational criticism of religion, the general acceptance that the supernatural could, with evidence, be true, undermines science by creating skepticism towards its position as the only method to understanding truth. If we allow for an alternative reality outside of scientific understanding, first its not a coherent concept, but more importantly we disempower truth and reason from claiming the unique status they deserve.

    All that being said,
    Please understand that I have to post this to discussions other than the one this is about because the author has proven that he does not have the courage nor ethical conviction to deny himself from acting on the urge to silence and reshape arguments that hurt his ego. Please consider again, whether I was spamming his discussion or engaging in a rational debate with the author. (Please forgive this one spam) Also, if anyone thinks I am misunderstanding his position please let me know how. I’m always open to rational debate as thinking rationally is more important than shielding my ego from the devastatingly shattering blow of being wrong.

    I’m not asking for a march or boycott, just please show support or tell me why you won’t. I just want to quiet that fear that any rational thinker has, that I am obliviously making some illogical leap in my reasoning that completely discredits my argument. If you have the power, please ask administrators to review the complaints of achromat666 towards me.

    Hey crookedshoes, notice how your post in support of my stance on the supernatural was deleted. I hope you or anyone else that is here to have a rational discussion, never has to feel the disappointment of being forcefully silenced by a site that champions free thought and debate.

  19. Bad philosophy can be easily confusing, as words and definitions can be used in a sloppy manner by assigning multiple unrelated definitions of a word to the one being used so that it can be both vague but still have the credibility of coherent ideas. Let me suggest clearly defining the language of this philosophical question. First, what does exist mean in this question? Physically? or simply as an idea that is the product of our material brains rationalizing what our senses take in about reality? What type of existence, if not physical, is being proposed for a rationalized concept if it is said to exist outside of human thought or conscious? How do you see logic or truth existing in another planet where only rocks and gases exist? If logic isn’t a labeling and application of the human process of thought that rationally takes into account the definition of truth (which itself can only exist in a world that foster’s universally agreed observation made possible by the observable consistency of physical laws and our brains that evolved in that world) then how is logic or truth defined? If a concept isn’t born in the material brain and “exists” independently of being a product of our brains and thoughts, what kind of place do philosophers say it can exist? Metaphysical? is that world “real” in any way like how the natural world is “real”? This is the big confusion that philosophy imparts on educated people. It muddles up definitions to words like “exist” or “reality” so that the confidence and clarity in our rational understanding of those words can then be used to afford credibility and truth to vague philosophical thought experiments.

  20. The Logic is a set of rules to work with linguistic objects.
    The logic is the same “kind of thing” that rules of chess or rules of football.
    It is a set of rules.
    A set of rules for “do-something” exists only if some type of system (like a brain, or a machine) apply them (can understand it or not, but the minimum is to apply).
    Do not look for a mistery, it is very simple.

  21. Yes of course it exists outside of human experience. If by logic you mean modal and symbolic logic then perhaps not, as far as we know, but you are asking “does logic exist outside of human consciousness”?. If you have ever seen a cat hunting a mouse you will know that it employs a great deal of cunning which obviously implies logic, even if that logic simply amounts to sitting on top of a box watching the only escape route the mouse can take.

  22. I want to say a heartfelt “thanks” to the OP[er], and the contributions, you all have helped answer questions I’ve puzzled over. (: and I have to say it was revelatory to find out a logical question isn’t dependent on truth to be internally logical. In my mind, that causes me to speculate. 1) Logic is a construct (which i dont like for aesthetics) or 2)the discovered logical laws are incomplete, or flawed.

  23. Ask yourself this: does causality only exist in the human mind?
    Another, give me an argument demonstrating that you don’t need logic without using logic.

    Without logic and reasoning; not even one letter, word or thought can follow another. Without causality and logic all is reduced to chaos and insanity.

  24. Isn’t logic simply the name for our method of distinguishing trueness from falseness and vice versa? If logic is a method of going about something, then the question would be like asking if long division, or “trial and error” exist outside of human thought. It’s an abstract concept not a physical thing. If we could say that computers are using “logic” to accomplish their work, then perhaps you’ve uncovered good evidence for “thought” and “information processing” being one and the same.

    j.h.

    • In reply to #56 by hitchens:

      Isn’t logic simply the name for our method of distinguishing trueness from falseness and vice versa? If logic is a method of going about something, then the question would be like asking if long division, or “trial and error” exist outside of human thought. It’s an abstract concept not a physical…

      Logic is a branch of mathematics. Logic and set theory are formal disciplines just as calculus, statistics, etc. Just as in those disciplines you can prove various things about any logical system. For example, Godel’s incompleteness theorem is a very significant proof that any logical system will be incomplete, there will be some statements that you can form in the system that can’t be either true or false.

      Computers do use logic, it’s the essence of any CPU and there is no reason to put quotes around it, it is the same logic as I was describing above. It is possible to describe any computer program as a set of statements in first order logic. It’s a lot of work to do that and people seldom write programs that way but it can and is done. When you describe the program using first order logic you can prove things about the program, e.g. prove that it will always terminate. The reason some programs are written that way is usually when the software is extremely important and the economic or human cost of even one error may be catastrophic.

      • In reply to #57 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #56 by hitchens:

        Isn’t logic simply the name for our method of distinguishing trueness from falseness and vice versa? If logic is a method of going about something, then the question would be like asking if long division, or “trial and error” exist outside of human thought. It’s an ab…

        I’m not sure that’s quite what the original questioner was getting at, but okay.

        j.h.

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