We make decisions based on instincts and argue about things we don’t know enough about, and our emotions control us in ways we don’t fully understand. This is only what is happening inside each of us.
On the outside, we constantly are bombarded with fake news, clickbait, and bad researched reports. The question is, how to argument and find in this mess the truth? And when you discover the truth, how can you fully understand it?
There is a tool that can help us explore these issues. This powerful tool is called logic, where you can find new possibilities that resonate with you.
The Structure of Logic
Most people know what logic is simply one thing that connects to another. So on a rainy day, you most likely won’t go to the beach, or when you do not eat, you get hungry.
But logic has greater potential than straightforward explanations. It helps us explore complex issues in a meaningful way.
For logic, you need to ask questions to simplify an argument. With the right question, you can get more clarity. It is possible to ignore certain aspects of reality with logic. So you only see an argument’s important part without the irrelevant details.
An example would be when two people are discussing gender equality. They keep in mind several women are in leading positions, but it is still historically an exception to the rule. So they might agree to put aside this fact and explore the impact of gender discrimination on the majority of women.
You also need to understand logic only works in one direction. An apple is always a fruit, but a fruit isn’t always an apple; it shows the reverse statement is false. There is also the fact an apple might be part of a milkshake or pie; neither of these are fruits.
It is why you need to pay close attention to the structure of a logic statement, so you don´t think the opposite is true. Understanding a little more about logic will help you see how humans behave when we argue.
If you fill out a form or want to enter a website, you sometimes need to click a box on the site to prove you are not a robot. While this is often frustrating and annoying, it shows the difference between humans and machines. We, humans, have emotions; we can’t always regulate them.
When we are in a heated argument, we often get emotional and yell, make threats, or insult. But this doesn’t help you win arguments or consider different sides. Instead, replace this behavior by applying logic to the argument to get more insights into the problem.
While someone states that iPhones are better than other smartphones, you may answer, “No, they are not, … is better” This response most likely won’t change anyone’s views.
But when you use logic, you can find similarities that an iPhone has compared to other smartphones. Then you can explore the why and discuss what is being ignored. Aren’t IPhone more expensive than other high-end phones? But is IOS the better system software?
This will make it a more open discussion when there are more than two polar opposite possibilities. Both people create a space between two extremes. So an iPhone isn’t always better than another smartphone and vice versa. It is useful to keep the gray area in mind because life problems are rarely clear as they seem at first.
Often people make assumptions without knowing what really happened. Take the example of a child that fails a math exam. The first assumption often is the failure is his fault because he was too lazy to study.
But their other possibilities why the child got a bad grade. Maybe the teacher is incompetent? Or the kid was sick that day? Did he have enough time to solve everything?
To overcome this limited thinking, you need to ask “ Why” until you repeatedly find enough possibilities. This logical way helps you to discover the root of any conflict. So if you put your emotions aside, logic can help you find the way to the truth.
Picture yourself on the shore of a lake, and your home is on the other side only accessible by water. But you don’t have a boat, only a bicycle. The conclusion is the bicycle is useless for transport in this situation. However, to use logic, you need to apply it thoughtfully.
Context is important. For a house at the end of a long street, a bicycle would be a great way to get through the traffic. But for crossing a lake, it won’t be useful. With logic, you can seek the truth as long as you understand why it’s difficult to apply it in real-life situations.
In mathematic, complex problems are broken down into smaller statements. These statements are divided over and over again until there is no argument left. Then mathematicians review the argument to find out if there are holes in it.
Of course, our arguments rarely have such a detailed review process. Especially when our emotions influence us, it is extremely difficult to make logical evaluations or decisions.
It is also why, in court, a jury will be easier persuaded by a teary statement than focusing on hard evidence. Or a dominant politician who has no clear statement will outperform someone with better ideas and policies, but who is boring.
When this is happening, you lead yourself back to the logical path. Picture yourself arguing with a very skeptical person about which politician is better. You think Biden is a better choice than Trump, but your counterpart doesn’t agree.
At first, you need to identify why you believe in your choice and then justify each option. What evidence leads you to the statement that Biden is better?
This will help you get the truth of your point of view, and it tests the strength of your argument.
If you are in a restaurant and have three options in your budget that you see as potentially delicious, What will you choose?
With logic, you narrow down your options like what you want to spend and do you want something heavy or light. But in this case, logic rarely leads to definitive options, because you don’t always need to explore every possibility. Rather combine logic with another consideration like tossing a coin. Or ordering a meal you never tried before instead of something familiar.
Another important factor that influences logic and decisions is time. When you are in an emergency, you don’t have enough time to analyze a situation before deciding what to do. If you find yourself in a burning building, you should follow your instincts and evacuate immediately.
In other situations, goodwill also plays a part in whatever logic is useful. For instance, climate change agreements rely on every country that the commitments work towards a better planet. But one country can “logically” argue that they still benefit from a healthier plan even if they continue to use fossil fuel. So they don’t bother to invest in renewable energy.
This country still profits from most other nations that cut their emissions and work towards saving the earth. But these decisions undermine trust between countries and hurt everybody. And if more countries would take this “logical” path, it would damage the environmental recovery even more.
In a case like this, we need to combine logic with humanity to set aside self-serving decisions even if they seem logical for some. Only if we trust that all parties focus on the greater good we can archive the positive change we need.
Children often asked why this? Why that? But adults can’t always answer these questions. So even if you ask why for an eternity, you will never reach the starting point of the truth.
It would help if you found a basis that you consider to be true. And this belief is the starting point to use logic to explore the complete truth.
These are statements you make that you do not question, but they help understand your position in arguments. Your believes and values are typically shaped by how you were raised and educated, what society you live in, and your personal experiences and intuition.
Everybody has their own believes in deciding what is true. So if you choose kindness, knowledge, and extinct, you have ethical views, and you are confident in scientific and historical research and assume that you exist.
So when you trust, for example, in health organizations that the coronavirus is really happening, you can free up space for other why questions.
Your beliefs need to be true and basic, and you can’t break them down further. Also, challenge yourself again with the why question to justify your point of view. Faith is important, and you can’t answer why questions with “just because.”
Now you can explore the depths of arguments. In reality, things are rarely black and white; there is a range of gray in between. We aren’t naturally comfortable with gray areas. Also, logic isn’t handling the gray areas well when you search for the truth. So you need to make time to apply logic to get through uncertain terrain.
When many people hear the words true and false, they think in terms of right and wrong. But the truth is more like an exam that is a grade out of 100, rather than pass or fails.
While we all have our own basis of what is true, there will always be people that disagree with us. And when you want to productively discuss with these people about the different points of view, you need to look into the gray area.
To do this, you need to pay attention to the language you are using. These are words like always, never, and everything that pushes opposite sides even further apart.
As you stop using these words, you start asking a why question “Why do you believe this?” and follow-up the answer with another “Why do you believe this?”. When you continue to ask this question, you eventually find the person’s position so you can understand and evaluate it.
Think of a situation where two people discuss universal income. Person A wants that everybody gets a universal income even if some people cheat the system. Person B believes every adult should take care of themselves. When both set aside their emotions, they can explore where these beliefs come from.
While one thinks money shouldn’t be handed out without question, the other person states that there is already government support for people with social disadvantages. It means both agree one some people deserve universal income. The two persons can further investigate who those people are.
This will help you locally question and create stepping stones from the black or white side into the gray. Letting go of your position is challenging, but it can lead to a constructive discussion.
How to argument with logic?
To argue logically, you need to be as clear as possible, so no misunderstanding occurs. And to establish a solid logical argument, you need an accurate position. This will take a lot of time, consideration, and, sometimes, space. It is almost not possible in our fast-paced world, especially when you try to make an argument with a tweet or even more challenging with a slogan.
Others can replace arguments with something else to destroy your opinions easier.
Only look at the Black Lives Matter campaigns; this slogan represents a complex argument: as you know, black lives are often viewed in society as less valuable than other lives. Of course, this injustice needs to be changed because black lives matter as much as all other lives.
Some people disagree with the argument that All Lives Matter; it dismisses the complexity of the issue. While this is impossible to prove false as all lives do indeed matter, it is partly why the Black Lives Matter campaign is happening.
While the opponent has taken his position to a counter-attack like this, the argument has to break down into three key parts:
1. Black lives have equal value as other lives.
2. They are not currently equally valued as other lives.
3. This injustice needs to be changed.
When someone only disagrees with one point, it reveals he is either a racist, someone ignorant of what is happening to black people, or a person who doesn’t believe in social justice. While these people may not agree with the slogan, it will expose them. And this alone may change the point of view or make it less influential.
To make an argument likes this, you need a calm and structured approach, which is hard on social media sites like Twitter, with only 280 characters to communicate clearly.
Feelings like anger, fear, love, and loyalty are strong emotions that will always triumph over logic. Emotions help us to argue when logic alone has failed.
It is a powerful way to combine emotions with logic to change someone’s point of view. Our feelings can be typically traced back to our fears, which is why they matter so much to us.
But you can use other emotions to combine with logic to show people new perspectives. To do this, you need to create a bridge between what you feel strongly about and what someone else does.
As an example, take Jane, a woman who cares more about racial equality. You can discuss with her about gender equality that, generally, people mistreat other people. When you put aside the obvious fact that men often have more power than women, you can divide the starting point into two groups:
1. Women mistreating men
2. People with power mistreating people without power
It shows that some of these people are men who mistreat women, which aligns with Janes’s views. You can now point out that people with power often mistreat people without power. This, for example, happened in recent events where white police officers use strong violence against people of color.
When Jane has agreed that people shouldn’t abuse their power, she will either see parallels between her views and yours or need to find evidence to disagree with your argument. But when she sees parallels, she may start to feel empathy with all gender discrimination victims. Engaging with Janes’s empathy is the best way to change her point of view.
Our emotions shape our beliefs and guide our behavior, which makes them a bad sidekick to logic. But as logic always comes after feelings, you need to strengthen it with emotions.
If you can show other people the gray areas of arguments, you can help them think more open-mindedly. So everyone can see the world through new eyes, and this will benefit all of us.
While you might not realize how useful logic is to create clarity, you nevertheless need to learn the limitations and how you can logic apply correctly. Try to let go of long-held defensive positions, remain calm, open, and willingly explore other opinions.
It will help you to get away from insults and anger to make more constructive discussions. When everybody does this, logic will lead us to the truth and deeper understanding, and more informed opinions.