The [Ninja Turtles] henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady have hijacked the musical genres for us just like the Lone Ranger hijacked the William Tell Overture for our parents.

- xkcd

Thursday, June 23, 2005

limits of logic

So I just had one of those conversations last night. It was one of those conversations you can't quite believe or understand why you're having sober. It was a conversation on the place of logic and reason in human motivations and actions.

I am currently going through a Hume phase. I once took a Scottish Philosophy seminar (don't ask) and I had this quote drummed into my head repeatedly, "Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions." From this, I make the argument that you can make a logical framework to look at and understand things but you can't apply any motivation, any motive force, until you have some values to apply o this structure. These values are innate/environmental/whatever but they cannot be determined logically. Because how can you define love, compassion, respect, or justice logically?

Last night, that was pretty convincing. My conversational combatant was never able to work himself out from behind those initial premises. Of course, this morning it doesn't look quite so clean cut. I'd say it doesn't seem impossible to, logically deduce some kind of self-interest. Perhaps from that you can manage to argue for other values; utilititarian bases for all this is what pops into my mind but I'm sure there are other ways to go about this. Most famously, Kant tried to establish his categorical imperitive, although I don't really buy that myself. I know there is Wittgenstein but I don't know enough about him (add it to the list).

So that's my current intellectual noodle: Can you logically motivate yourself? Or, to try an alternate phrasing, does logic ever provide necessity?

Discuss amongst yourselves.


At 8/08/2005 12:58 PM, Anonymous Chuckles said...

Let us presuppose that sometimes TV and movies get it right. Logic provided nearly all of the motivation of the most famous logician of all time, by the standard that more people know who he is than any other not for any other virtue, Spock. Logic motivated him in nearly every episode. He walked into that reacter and died because he was the logical choice, being somewhat reistant and able to perform the task and be resurrected in the dumbest sequel plot ever.
Or maybe I am just infecting another smart debate with my stupid ideas.


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