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The Limits of Logic:

Should we embrace the irrational?

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  • The Debate

    The Limits of Logic

    Logicians don't rule the world or get the most done. Could it be that a consistent world view is neither desirable nor achievable? If we abandon the straightjacket of rationality might this lead to a more powerful and exciting future, or is it a heresy that leads to madness? 

    The Panel

    Shahidha Bari asks Cambridge philosopher and author of Think Simon Blackburn, psychiatrist and author of The Master and His Emissary Iain McGilchrist, and radical journalist Beatrix Campbell whether we should embrace the irrational.

    In association with:

    British Humanist Association

  • Find out more about speakers

Jump to what you want to see in the debate
  • Iain McGilchrist
    The Pitch
    Consistency causes problems, inconsistency is crucial
  • Simon Blackburn
    The Pitch
    Without consistency anything can be justified
  • Beatrix Campbell
    The Pitch
    Obsession with reason and consistency is prejudicial against women
  • The Debate
    Theme One
    What does it mean to be consistent?
  • The Debate
    Theme Two
    How consistent are we in real life?
  • The Debate
    Theme Three
    Does logicality impede happiness?
Want to learn more about our speakers?
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Jonathan Smith on 02/04/2016 6:35pm

On the one hand (yes, I did study philosophy), learning about logical consistency may seem to have nothing to do with experience, but terms such as "consistency", "contradictory", "true", have a role in evaluating both what people may say, as well as the nature of one's experience in the light of one's beliefs. Kant claimed for truth a central principle of moral behaviour and whilst it may become necessaryl for someone to violate that principle, in a society where truth has become almost an empty word, then that society has no trust. Statements by leaders and politicians then become worthless as a guide to action. Beatrix Cambell in particular talked of the unspeakable harm that rejection does to children and the lack of trust involved that receiving abuse engenders. Yet at a very basic level it is as if a basic truth about human development has been violated - that those who have been abused and rejected carry forward as a yardstick for all subsequent encounters - basically a lack of trust towards others who they might engage with (and essentially disengage). One can claim that this is not logic; though some might recall the efforts of Bateson and Laing to see a contradiction at the heart of schizophrenic experience - the I love you/I do not love you. This laid great stress upon the Mother in particular and was roundly rejected by studies on schizophrenic twins separated at birth. But the - X is not X is more at the heart of schizophrenic experience and McGilchrists work has opened up the internal relationships of self in his work - where we interpret our inner feelings (or mistake and ignore them) . In cognitive therapies being true (and eventually) consistent with oneself is central to its work. Of course being inconsistent may be a matter of prudence and or ignorance, but consistency has a central binding force in our lives. Interesting talk.

robbit on 07/12/2015 9:03pm

We have all, left, right and centre contributed to the creation of the this world where we know the price of everything and the value of nothing. This unanimous elevating of Margaret Thatcher to the status of the prime mover or at least sine qua non for all the ills of the modern world is (1) a kind of demonizing which is the other side if the coin of deification and amounts to a embuing her with demon/god like powers that I doubt she ever possessed and (2) clearly a case of the sort of mimetic scape-goating theorised by Rene Girard.

JRDAGO on 25/05/2015 10:23pm

Did we develop logics thoughts only for organizing our lives or could it achieve the extension of the global existence of life? Could logics in the future become a common sense?

The theme “The Limits of Logic” must raise opinions for everybody. Isn’t it?

So, maybe it is necessary to happen a kind of thread of ideas flowing among our knowledge and intuitions for us to build up logical ways of think.

Logics can vary for different people, because it may well depend from own perceptions about one's outside world. Nevertheless, logic is obligatory for everyone who needs to take decision and after certain age it is a case of free will coming up with our individual conclusions.

It must be natural to perceive reality in more than one way through different periods of our lives, so our logics interpreting things tend to change, time to time. Apart of that, normally there are situations interfering with our reasoning, therefore logics may also vary when we are in some singular mood, as being in stress or stages of fear, etc.

Another interesting aspect could be observed concerning questions and answers, because logics may be just part of formulating questions and some answers could happen to be so peculiar that the matter would end-up looking illogical at first glance. But eventually, even if it could look an illogical answer after we listen to it repeatedly it could end-up looking logic.

In these cases it is incredibly that we must allow ourselves to practice a constant democratic revision of opinions in our internal world, considering that through our lives we accept new ways of logical thoughts about one same subject.

So, for sure there are numerous ways to perceive the external world and maybe for creating good solutions we could identify the “democracy” we may articulate in our internal world and then externalize it.

Positively logics belong to people’s inside worlds but looking for other possibilities to discover logics we will find the use of computers filing things that afterwards been validated or invalidated as possible combinations by the use of some software that also will structure those things as information in reasonable ways. But the logic behind commands of programming or bits and bytes at the end carry on belonging to people’s minds.

It could also happen some questions, when we look the scenario described above: So, could any artificial mechanism provide enough proficiency for simulate logical responses for situations as we normally do. Or could a machine react properly finding good ways to solve problems using own judgments or forms of intuitions?

Maybe if one day an artificial device gets the option to make judgments instead human beings it may destroy the possibility for us to carry on perceiving logics in our own attitudes and to continue defining paths to improve better internal stability to understand what can really be happening in the World and so finally achieve a healthier humanitarian convivial.

Well, if our logics of thinking could achieve an extension of a global existence of life it is a big questions, considering the fact that we reached a phase of activities where many of our attitudes disregards completely the continuation of a natural world!

And looking to find where the rest of the natural world would get logics in its own existence, it could definitely be in keeping itself in equilibrium. What illogically we live in reverse, considering that any other being but humans appears to try suicides to the point to destroy it owns environment.

devinology on 21/04/2015 6:23pm

finbae, but statements are about the world, they generally aim to say something true about the world. The world has a logic to it such that a circular square cannot exist, A cannot not equal A, P and not-P cannot both be true, etc. The linguistic logic we use, although probably never quite perfect, does derive from the way the world is. There is a reason we haven't developed a logic model in which A does not equal A: in reality objects are always identical to themselves.

Yeshua on 14/02/2015 5:45pm

Solid conclusions are concrete in reality but not ultimate reality . Concrete is ultimately an energy field of particles that flicker in and out of existence between our time now and space . We live on the same endless field of ultimate reality. Does irrationality exist in ultimate reality? I say no . Irrationality certainly exists here and now in this reality. It can all be explained even the really really weird stuff. Time is too precious to waste explaining. Thus magic or faith puts explaining off the calander. Time is up. Gotta run.

lewmay on 21/12/2014 10:19am

I believe the management of now requires logic that is self serving rather than following provided paths. This was a good, thoughtful debate.

Wicked Weirdo on 16/09/2014 7:43pm

I liked Simon Blackburn's opening statement very much.

finbae on 29/07/2014 1:00pm

Logic only applies to statements, not to the real world. It deals only with the validity of arguments, not with the truth value of the premises of those arguments. That is its limitation.

Roger.Cavanagh on 22/07/2014 4:30pm

I gave up after 25 mins.

sacrifice_mc on 14/07/2014 2:00pm

Interesting - Beatrix's opening pitch reminds me of a classical problem in philosophy. The traversing mind from the principled nature of philosophical discussion into the realms of practical reality.

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