Friday, September 14, 2007

Square circles

My daughter, Grace, is 8 years old. I've been trying to teach her logic and careful thinking since she was born. One issue in particular that I've taught her about is the law of non-contradiction, and to illustrate it, I often ask her if she can draw a square circle. I told her the reason it's impossible is because it entails a contradictions, and real contradictions can't exist in reality.

Well this weekend, she wanted to prove to me that there could be such a thing as a square circle. She painted this picture to prove it.

9 Comments:

At 9/16/2007 4:19 AM , Blogger Timothy said...

My favorite way of illustrating the law of contraction is asking someone whether they think it's true or not. People will always assume the law of noncontradiction to be true as they ponder the answer! (i.e. They automatically assume that the law can't be both true and false at the same time.)

Anyway, let me also say Hello and that this is my first comment. I starting reading your blog recently, and I imagine I'll be putting my 2 cents into future discussions as well. Keep up the insightful writing!

 
At 9/16/2007 4:20 AM , Blogger Timothy said...

Oops! That's "law of noncontradiction."

 
At 9/16/2007 11:08 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Timothy, what got me on this logic kick was one of my philosophy teacher's objections to what he called "western logic." His point of view was that logic was a matter or preference (or bias). So if you asked him whether he thought the law of non-contradiction was true or not, he'd say it's true in certain contexts, but it's not universally applicable. How would you respond to that?

 
At 9/16/2007 5:34 PM , Blogger de la... said...

I may be missing his real contention but it seems like his answer would skirt the issue. If he says it's true in certain contexts that implies he thinks it is not both true and false given certain criteria. Could he give context for even a hypothetical case in which it would not apply?

By the way, I'm also a new reader and have enjoyed perusing some of the old discussions. I may be contributing in the future as well.

 
At 9/16/2007 7:40 PM , Blogger Timothy said...

I would say your professor's argument is self-defeating, for two reasons. Now, I don't know in which contexts specifically your professor thinks logic (or the law of noncontradiction) does not apply, but let us suppose we have decided to discuss one of those contexts with your professor. Your professor announces that we are going into the "no logic" zone and that logical rules no longer apply. With that very statement he has violated his own rules, as he is using the law of noncontradition to say that the law no longer applies!

This is part of a bigger issue, which would be my second reply to your professor. And that is - without the rules of logic it is literally impossible for us to hold any concept whatsoever. Not only is it impossible to conclude things from premises; it is impossible to even have premises. Even if all you say while in the no-logic zone is that "A" is true, you are unconsciously under the beliefs that A=A (law of identity) and ~A cannot be true (law of noncontradiction). In any case where someone has succeeded in conceptualizing something without logic, that person is doubtless still adhering to certain logical rules without realizing it. Or they are literally insane.

 
At 9/16/2007 7:42 PM , Blogger Timothy said...

This is, by the way, well-established thought in the field of philosphy, so your professor is in the minority if he's got a thing against logic.

 
At 9/16/2007 7:45 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I never was able to get a clear idea of when he thought logic did not apply. The clearest answer I ever got from him on that was "relationships." We went back and forth quite a bit over logic in the three or so years I took his classes.

 
At 9/19/2007 11:17 AM , Blogger Paul said...

My favorite story of addressing a Western logic denier can be found here. Scroll down just a bit until you see the header, "WESTERN LOGIC VS. EASTERN LOGIC?"

BTW, Sam, is it a bad sign to see your daughter already working to refute what daddy believes before she's even had her first date? ;-)

 
At 9/21/2007 5:18 AM , Blogger Psiomniac said...

What a clever daughter you have, you must be very proud.

 

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