Philosophactory: Strange Conditional

Philosophactory: Intermission

The “If-Then”: Natural Language vs. Formal Logic
Philosophy of The Conditional

The five part EXCITING, and LIMITED, and WHATNOT series on ancient
philosopher occurs at 9am PDT, or whatever o’clock your time zone, every
Tuesday and I’m really hurt you haven’t noticed. There are to be five schools
and here the list. Something said to unify the approach to philosophy in
antiquity, that it was to live a good life, well, and sometimes represented
as a state of calmness or tranquility:

  1. School of Epicurus

    the good life is the simple pleasures, freindships, good meals, walks
    at sunset, I add: if willing to endure hardship, add more extreme
    pleasures like surfing.

  2. The Stoics

    the good life, and ataraxia, follows from living a virtuous life, such
    that one becomes indifferent to hardship, and this is considered serene


    Homemade Conditional

    is being served in the lobby

  4. ??
  5. ???
  6. ????

    free bonus if you act now:

    • ???
    • ?????

(by pyrrho for publishing jointly at MLW and DocuDharma)

Logic vs Natural Language

Ok, this is a strange thing. I put it in a video, because I want to. But I
know many of you are written word junkies, and believe, I mean that
literally, and in the kindest but also you-may-need-help way, so I will
explain my brief point.

The logical form of the “if-then”, such as “if A then B”, is The
Conditional, and it’s a fundamental part of and a basic building blocks of
formal logic, and for that matter, informal logic, and il-logic. But it is
defined in a way that is very different and strange when compared to the
natural language conditional.

A –> B is a way of saying “if A then B”.

A strange thing in logic is that “A –> B” is untrue, false, when A is
true, and B is false. So that leads to two strange things about the
conditional used in formal logic.

Firstly, it means that if both A and B are false, then then A –> B is
true… we wouldn’t think that in natural language. “If bananas are blue then
oceans are made of ginger ale” is true? Maybe, on the theory also supported
in logic that with nonsense you can prove any other nonsense.

Secondly, and what I address in the short video below, meant to either
relax or stimulate you, either way, is the fact that if B is true, then it
doesn’t matter if A is true or false. Contrary to that in natural language it
matters that A is related to B somehow, regardless of the truth value, as
they call it, of A and B.

The example from the video:

If I have viable orange seeds, then I can grow an orange tree.

A = I have viable orange seeds.

B : I can grow an orange tree.

In the historical mainstream of formal logic A–>B here is true because
“I can grow an orange tree” is true. In natural language, it’s also true,
but not for that reason, it’s true because both A and be both mention
oranges, and thus have a relationship, which happens to be true, because
orange trees come from orange seeds.

In logic, this is also true “if I have a puppy, then I can grow an orange
tree”. In natural language that is not true, unless there is some link
between the puppy and the orange tree.

I love logic, but it’s a tool, and I think this is a very serious issue in
terms of what the limitations are for logic as we understand it right now in
terms of applicability to the natural world. It is possibly this logic
holding us back from abstract gains in knowledge in fields other than
physics, due to small errors in ancient logical tools meant, really, to
codify our true thoughts on “if then”.

I believe what we judge is relationships, and by judging the relationships of things, from relative length to relative dependencies, it is always the relationship rather than the thing-in-itself we can really apprehend. The latter is estimated from the former, it seems to me. And so, I like a natural language conditional which relies on the relationship between the two ideas A and B, rather than merely on if they are separately true or not. The assertion is their truth is linked, and not by coincidence.


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  1. I think we need both Spock AND McCoy in equal measures.

    And of course, Captain Kirk to decide between them when there is conflict.

    Logic is inherently limiting, but since the human species undeniably contains a “Marlon Brando in the Wild One gene,” I don’t think we will ever fully become Vulcans.

    Or to abandon the stupid Star Trek metaphor…

    The poet and the scientist not only CAN exist together, we need them to.

    In language as well as society.

    • jim p on October 23, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    made a distinction between “rationality” and “reason.”

    Rationality (with that “ratio” in the heart of it) being a mental phenomena, which breaks a thing into constituent parts. Logic being a particular case of rationality wherein the parts are arranged so as to make conclusions, or at least lead to more accurate questions.

    Reason being a function of the whole being, including rationality, gut feelings, imagination, moral sense and the whole panoply of internal assessment factors assembled simultaneously for the purposes of contemplation, or reverie.

    If that distinction is useful for anyone. So rationality and logic might get you to conclude that “oceans are made of ginger ale” but reason will squash that.

    Although, personally, I find the thought the oceans are NOT made of ginger ale somewhat depressing.

    • Robyn on October 23, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    …of mathematical logic for some quarter of a century, I have to resist.  I do believe in applying formal logic to “real world” situations.  Logic is logic in my view.

    Mathematics is the language of the universe.  The game is to understand what truths are being voiced and to develop the ability to listen to them.

    Robyn (just out of jury duty for the day)

    • Diane G on October 23, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    pot seeds.  I can grow awesome bud.

    Ok, that works in a simplistic a/b logic but most problems are multifaceted. 

    Is your soil too alkali or too acid?

    Do you have enough hours of daylight and a water source?

    The seed, though viable may not produce true, being a hybrid.

    a, if b, if c, if d then possibly e.

    Smoke liberally and apply to politics, and you will find no natural language applies.

    • Edger on October 23, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    but I realized later I was wrong.

    • Diane G on October 23, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    I dig these.  You did awesome on the radio too, just remember as the techno guy to remind people to turn off their speakers when they come on line on the phone!  🙂

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