# How can we arrive at truth through using faulty logic?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by wegs, May 14, 2016.

1. ### wegsMatter & Pixie DustValued Senior Member

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Posted this on the other science forum, but not sure how many here are members there, so thought I'd ask the question here, too. Have been reading about ''faulty logic'' and how despite it being faulty, one can still arrive at a valid and correct conclusion just like someone who employs correct logic. How can this be, though? Might it be a directly reflective of the fact that our decisions are not all based on logic? Does it mean that we arrive at conclusions or make decisions, based on emotion, experience, etc in addition to using logic? But, that still doesn't explain faulty logic, and so my question to you all is how can one arrive at an objectively true answer on something, if that person is using faulty logic?

3. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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I'm not sure where exactly the problem lies. It seems elementary that it's possible to arrive at an objectively true answer with faulty logic.

Stars farther from Earth are older. Older stars are dimmer, therfore the absolute magnitude of a star is proportional to its distance from Earth (this is faulty logic).
Therefore, we should see a sky spotted with bright, nearby stars, against an otherwise dark sky. (true, but not based on the logic used)

Can you give a more appropriate hypothetical example?

5. ### wegsMatter & Pixie DustValued Senior Member

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Okay, here is an example that I found that seems to align with the intent for creating this thread:

By observing 100 birds, we see that all of them took roughly 3 to 7 days to build their individual nests, in total. Therefore, the shortest time for a bird to build a next is three days.

It's assumed that I'm meaning ''all'' birds, and while at times, my faulty logic derived by generalizing based on a one time observation of a small sampling of birds might turn out to be true, I shouldn't assume that I arrived to my conclusion through proper logic, instead it was faulty.

7. ### river

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One time observation ; is more than faulty ; it means nothing; for your data.

Further; all birds nest at different times of the season.

8. ### river

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You can't in the end use faulty logic to arrive any truth ; other than the truth of the faulty logic.

9. ### wegsMatter & Pixie DustValued Senior Member

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But for the sake of discussion, two people using two types of logic, can arrive at the same conclusion, but it won't happen repeatedly.
And my bird example was just an example of faulty logic.

10. ### river

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Is the possible ; wegs?

Is it possible ; two types of logic ; can arrive at the same conclusion ; but is not repeatable.

Give an example.

11. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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This is a bit akin to items like the Gettier problem, "correlation does not imply causation", etc. For instance: An old, mechanical clock that's not working still gives correct time twice a day (if minus PM/AM indicators). But we should not want the broken clock to literally receive gratitude for occasionally dispensing correct knowledge.

So to prevent a process [deemed "logical / illogical" or anything else] from receiving credit for an output, judgement, conclusion, or answer that was actually just coincidental, accidental, or contingent rather than reliable... Just stipulate beforehand that associations grounded in or exposed as such will therefore forfeit the process being held responsible for producing that true or false, desired or undesired, interesting or uninteresting, etc output (whatever the applicable value, degree, or status).

These schemes and methods aren't "sacred" and "untouchable" in either a natural or a supernatural sense; they don't fall out of the sky. Humans invented them and accordingly it's up to humans to append them, tweak them, revise them, outright discard and replace them with something else, etc, when warranted.

12. ### river

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Look at the knowledge and then the reasoning behind the logic.

Logic is based on both; always.

Logic is the consequence of knowledge ; and then reasoning based the knowledge ; logic extrapolate's a conclusion based on the knowledge given and the reasoning .

Last edited: May 15, 2016
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13. ### wegsMatter & Pixie DustValued Senior Member

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The bird example above is not repeatable using that same process over and over again. (using different birds, for example) Also, to say that all birds can build a nest in 3 to 7 days, based on a sampling of some birds, would be using faulty logic. But, is perception 9/10 of the law? lol Sometimes I wonder if the truths we are seeing are what we want to see.

@ CC, that's true, if you state beforehand what requirements would be needed in order to consider the process legit to determining whatever it is you're determining, that would eliminate faulty logic. Do you think theories that gain a lot of recognition but aren't acceptable to the mainstream science community, are arrived at by faulty logic? How about scientists who successfully refute other scientists? Were the latter scientists at one time using faulty logic? (how else would they be refuted?)

14. ### river

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Wegs

Is water a truth?

Last edited: May 15, 2016
15. ### C CConsular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy"Valued Senior Member

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Logic doesn't uncover or validate "truths" about the scientist's world.[1] But many also discount it -- and even an overarching method -- as playing a significant (if any) role regulating the initial conceiving of theories and explanations.[2] For instance, Einstein's fixation with overall coherence and "logical flaws" may have been a driving muse behind his work, but it was an eccentric trait both then and now.[3] Once done or commencing the task of setting to paper for publication, however, a scientist is of course devoted to her "idea" having internal consistency (especially if it depends upon or is expressed by mathematics). Of it hanging together properly within itself and meshing at least semi-comfortably with whatever consensus / accepted views are already resting on the current table of authority in her specific field.

Experimentally testing a hypothesis and it failing to yield evidence for itself is what discards it. But in technical matters on paper beforehand it could, again, be exposed as not hanging well together within itself (mathematical errors, conflicting with mainstream views, etc). It could also be replaced or subsumed by a newer theory, construct, explanation that makes sense of the data better. Also, in recent decades the postmodern idea of a physics model (or something like string theory) being justified by "beauty" has been bounced around, much to the horror of traditional corners of science.[4]

- - - - - - - - -

[1] Donald E. Simanek: Aristotle understood that logic can be used to deduce true consequences from true premises. His error was his failure to realize that we have no absolutely true premises, except ones we define to be true (such as 2+2=4). Aristotle thought that the mind contains (from birth) some innate and absolutely true knowledge that can be used as premises for logical arguments. Medieval scholastics, who brought Aristotelian modes of thought to a height of absurdity, thought that absolutely true premises could be found in revelations from God, as recorded in the Bible.

Another error was to assume that the conclusions from a logical argument represent new truths. In fact, the deduced conclusions are just restatements and repackaging of the content contained in the premises. The conclusions may look new to us, because we hadn't thought through the logic, but they contain no more than the information contained in the premises. They are just cast in new form, a form that may seem to give us new insight and suggest new applications, but in fact no new information or truths are generated. This is especially noticeable in mathematics, for without considerable instruction in mathematics, the deductions from even a small set of premises are not at all obvious, and may take years to develop and understand.

The bottom line is that logic alone can tell us nothing new about the real world. Ditto for mathematics, as Albert Einstein observed: 'Insofar as mathematics is exact, it does not apply to reality; and insofar as mathematics applies to reality, it is not exact.'"
--Uses and Misuses of Logic

[2] Percy W. Bridgman: "What appears to him [the scientist] as the essence of the situation is that he is not consciously following any prescribed course of action, but feels complete freedom to utilize any method or device whatever which in the particular situation before him seems likely to yield the correct answer. In his attack on his specific problem he suffers no inhibitions of precedent or authority, but is completely free to adopt any course that his ingenuity is capable of suggesting to him. No one standing on the outside can predict what the individual scientist will do or what method he will follow. In short, science is what scientists do, and there are as many scientific methods as there are individual scientists." --Reflections of a Physicist

[3] Lee Smolin: Physicists I’ve met who knew Einstein told me they found his thinking slow compared with the stars of the day. While he was competent enough with the basic mathematical tools of physics, many other physicists surrounding him in Berlin and Princeton were better at it. So what accounted for his genius? In retrospect, I believe what allowed Einstein to achieve so much was primarily a moral quality. He simply cared far more than most of his colleagues that the laws of physics should explain everything in nature coherently and consistently. As a result, he was acutely sensitive to flaws and contradictions in the logical structure of physical theories.

Einstein’s ability to see flaws and his fierce refusal to compromise had real repercussions. His professors did not support him in his search for an academic job, and he was unemployed until he found work as a patent inspector in Bern, Switzerland. The problem was not just that he skipped classes. He saw right through his elders’ complacent acceptance of Newtonian physics. The young Einstein was obsessed with logical flaws that were glaringly obvious, but only to him. While the great English physicist Lord Rayleigh said he saw “only a few clouds on the horizon” remaining to be understood, the 16-year-old Einstein wondered what would happen to his image in a mirror if he traveled at the speed of light.

From the outset, Einstein’s single goal in science was to discover what he called theories of principle. These postulate general rules that all phenomena must satisfy. If such theories are true, they must apply universally.
Einstein's Lonely Path; Discover magazine, Sept 2004 issue

[4] Donald E. Simanek: The notion that we can find absolute and final truths is naive, but still appealing to many people, especially non-scientists. If there are any underlying "truths" of nature, our models are at best only close approximations to them—useful descriptions that "work" by correctly predicting nature's behavior. We are not in a position to answer the philosophical question "Are there any absolute truths?" We can't determine whether there is an underlying "reality" to be discovered. And, though our laws and models (theories) become better and better, we have no reason to expect they will ever be perfect. So we have no justification for absolute faith or belief in any of them. They may be replaced someday by something quite different in concept. At least they will be modified. But that won't make the old models "untrue". All this reservation and qualification about truth, reality, and belief, doesn't matter. It isn't relevant to doing science. We can do science quite well without 'answering' these questions—questions that may not have any answers. Science limits itself to more finite questions for which we can arrive at practical answers.

Also, we've learned that not all questions we can ask have answers that we can find. Any question that is in principle or in practice untestable is not considered a valid scientific question. We like to think that scientists don't waste time on those, but they seem to pop up in discussion and in books quite often. (Many people think unanswerable questions are the most profound and important ones. Questions like "What is the meaning of it all," or "What jump-started the universe?" I think that scientists should set these aside for the philosophers to chew on, and get on with the business of answering more accessible questions.)

Many who write about science emphasize the "beauty" and aesthetic appeal of successful theories. I used to naively think that to achieve intellectually and emotionally appealing theories was a goal of science. Maybe it is, on the subconscious level, as a scientist may be more enthusiastic about developing an appealing theory than an "ugly" one. And if the appealing one "works" all the ugly alternatives are dropped and forgotten.

But there's no reason why nature's operations should be beautiful or appealing to us. There's no reason why nature's operations should even be fully comprehensible to us. It could be that when we achieve an even more successful theoretical description of nature it may turn out to be messy, difficult to understand and use, and totally devoid of emotional or aesthetic appeal. We may not be capable of devising more satisfying alternatives.
--Scientific Method

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16. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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An argument is logically valid if, when its premises are all true, then its conclusion has to be true too.

For example:

P1. If it rains, the street will get wet.

P2. It rained.

therefore

C. The street got wet.

Assuming that both P1 and P2 are T, the conclusion C has to be T too.

Logicians study valid patterns of inference and this very simple one was named 'modus ponens' long ago by the medievals.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modus_ponens

It takes the form:

If A then B.
A
Therefore B

Fallacious arguments are such that it's possible for all of the premises to be true and the conclusion to still be false.

P1. If it rains, the street will get wet.

P2. The street is wet.

C. It rained.

This second example is fallacious since it's possible for P1 and P2 to both be T, while C is F. The street might have been sprayed with a hose. Logicians study different kinds of fallacies and this particular one is called 'affirming the consequent', because it's based on affirming the truth (in P2) of the second part of the if-then conditional in P1.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirming_the_consequent

It takes the form

If A then B
B
Therefore A

It's important to notice that the validity or fallaciousness of arguments is entirely a function of their form. In the example of affirming the consequent right up above, it remains possible that it did rain and C is true. But that wouldn't suddenly make the argument form valid since it's still possible for premises P1 and P2 to be T, while the conclusion C is F. So it's important to note that a fallacious argument can still have a conclusion that happens to be true. That often happens.

The facts of the matter can make C true, even when the argument that preceeded it doesn't logically imply C's truth.

Last edited: May 15, 2016
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17. ### river

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Because the knowledge and the reasoning is incorrect.

Logic is based and dependent on knowledge and the reasoning given.

Logic is the last line of thought.

river

18. ### YazataValued Senior Member

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Duplicate post deleted

19. ### wegsMatter & Pixie DustValued Senior Member

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I really love that explanation, Yazata. It has an Occam's Razor-esque feel to it. All things being equal, more often than not, simpler theories tend to be easier tested.

@ CC - thank you for your well thought-out input, I'm confused by Aristotle's claims - so was he is basically insinuating that much of what we consider to be truths, to be perceptions? Is everything one, big illusion? lol That would be a kick.

20. ### river

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Simplicity does not necessarily lead to truth.

21. ### wegsMatter & Pixie DustValued Senior Member

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Not always, no. But, usually, when eliminating obviously implausible possibilities, the simplest answer is the right one.

22. ### wegsMatter & Pixie DustValued Senior Member

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In terms of being a body of something objectively real, quantifiable and testable, yes.

23. ### river

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Depends.

The simplest thing I know is the hydrogen atom. It has one proton and one electron.

The complexity is understanding this atom.

Last edited: May 15, 2016