Not Logic, Not Prose and Not Really Poetry


I have been teaching Geometry this year, 

and trying my best to explain logic,

deduction vs induction,

and the ever present,

always faulty,

always useful, abductive “reasoning.”

Without abductive reasoning, life itself

would not be possible for humans.


Induction and deduction?


Entirely optional.


Our car, (which only had 3 out 4 cyliders working)

started to turn itself off,

at apparently random intervals.

There you’d be, changing lanes, in what you thought was a car,

and poof

no car, just a large metal box that looked like a car,

with a seatbelt, a driver’s seat, and a silent engine, 

rolling to a final velocity of zero.


I drove the box / car to five dealerships in town,

while searching for the best replacement for the box.


I can now say, what others have noted before;

“Pure logic,

when considering a car,

(or any thing else other than numbers)




Comments | 8

  • Johann Wolfgang von

    Where does Goethean phenomenology fit into all of this, Rolf? The practice of coming to know something through protracted, detached observation. “The human being himself (sic), to the extent that he makes sound use of his senses, is the most exact physical apparatus that can exist.”

  • to Abduce the point

    Trying to get the gist of this post. Is it that logic matters, is critical, but it’s optional?

    Why is something so basic, such a staple of everyday life, so elusive? Or not more highly cultivated?

    • My persona take is . . .

      Humans appear to be the only living thing that is SOMETIMES capable of pure logic.

      However, actual pure logic is both exciting and foreign to the human mind, (very much including mine. ) I love Algebra and Geometry proofs, but if you tried to make ALL daily decisions using deduction or induction alone, you would go insane, or starve.

      Guessing is crucial to life. Logic is essential for technological invention, and scientific discovery, but you can catch fish, plant tomatoes and find a mare, without it. Trying to think purely logically, (while playing chess, or constantly framing possible outcomes as quantifiable probabilities, can be very mentally tiring. Eventually even when doing something like playing chess, the human mind frequently says, “ENOUGH THINKING: MAKE A DECISION” and stops all attempts at further logic and moves on;

      Guessing is what we do all the time, just to get through the day, just t get though the week, the month, the year, a lifetime, mostly in tact.

      • logic

        Plato does an interesting thing in the “Parmenides”; after a fairly brief demonstration that logical analysis is necessary, he proceeds to an exhaustive (I believe that is the mot juste) demonstration that it (logic) is not sufficient.

        • Plato I need to read

          I definitely should read the Parmenides.

          What did Plato say logic was necessary for ?

          It would seem, on the face of it, that logic is not necessary for existence. I mean, animals as simply as insects or jellyfish seem to obtain food without it. I am making the assumption, (perhaps wrongly) that humans could manage find sufficient food to eat, without it, and at least some would survive without it.

          There is no purely logical reason to choose to continue to live, or purely logical reason to make and sustain friendships and human relations, or to be act compassionately. My personal reasons to do is that I enjoy doing so, and I believe that these things are intrinsically good. But there is no algebra to support living and living decently.

          Thanks for pointing me in the right direction with Plato. I can;t wait to have time to do so. Just a few more weeks now. . . .

        • Parmenides

          That is dense stuff.

          Or I am dense when reading it.

          Or, that piece of writing proves that I am dense all the time.

          I wonder if it were possible to channel Plato, or better, bring him here with a time machine, and if he were to learn english, ( all of which is more likely than my learning ancient Greek),

          and he were to explain it to me directly,

          whether I would have a better chance of understanding it.

          I am not sure.


          • Parmenides

            The first time I read it (in one night, to meet a silly deadline) I found it mostly exhausting. The second time, more leisurely, the first part opened up some interesting contrasts between space & time, & the “not sufficient” section just had me giggling with delight (ok, I’m weird that way). But the third time, as I met with two friends so we could read it aloud in turn, I found it blissfully clear.

            I’ll grant you that we might not need logic to eat; though I’m not sure of that – thoughtless hunter-gatherers probably meet the gene police & get yanked out of the pool. But pretty much any task can be done more efficiently if one can see what is essential, what is connected to what, what steps can be eliminated, etc. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who uses free association instead of logic? Or, god help you, tried to teach a student whose mind worked that way? I have. How much less trouble would the world be in if most people followed ideas through at least a few steps to see what the consequences might be down the road? Too many folks act as if the chain of causation ended an inch past the tips of their noses.

            I think logic is essential if we want to move as freely and effectively as possible through the world; to make progress toward recognition of truth; to understand how our actions affect us & others. But we cannot depend on it exclusively. And we should not confuse it with thought – it is the analysis of thought, & is certainly not the quickest form of mentation.

            I hope at least some of that made sense; trying to summarize decades of observations & ideas in a few words doesn’t always work so well.

            Thanks for this conversation. And if you try the Parmenides again sometime, I’m sure it will feel less like running head-first into the great wall of China! margo

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