Lack of Logic: Boon and Bane

Picture this, you’re in a restaurant. A salad arrives, topped with many things……you take a bite off the small beautifully cut red radish and say, Yummm! These radishes are lovely! Moments later, the waiter walks to your table, plate in his hand……full of beautifully cut red radishes! You go Aww……….the waiter smiles and brushes your profuse gratitude aside with a wave of his hand. You leave the restaurant, vowing to come there again whenever time permits because you’re “impressed”. The waiter has something to gain here, possibly. Or maybe, he doesn’t! For what you’re paying, it’s perfectly logical for him to serve what you ordered. Outside it, does it qualify for lack of logic? The voice in our head tells us, he did it because he stood to gain from it.

Now, picture another situation. You’re in a foreign country, you get onto the bus but don’t have enough change to pay for the ticket. Just then,  a lady walks forth, pays the balance and without waiting for a thanks, goes on her way. You may possibly never meet her again in your life, so she stands nothing to gain from paying a small amount for your ticket! This is a neutral situation and it was perfectly logical for her to go about her business without having to bother about a foreigner who didn’t have money enough.

A third situation. There are communal riots and a minority groups family seeks refuge in a majority groups family’s house. Not only does the host family give them refuge, it even tends to the hurt, lies to their friends about their “guests”. It was perfectly logical for this family to refuse shelter to the refugee family as this would mean a threat to their own survival!

Why does it happen that we stray from logic and do things that wouldn’t make sense to a cold-hard-logic-driven-world? And sometimes, even at risk of our own survival? This time, I really am merely posing a question………..though I don’t have an answer, I see the consequences of this ‘deviation from logic’. This makes the world a so much more beautiful place to live in…….full of gestures that touch your heart!

But is all lack of logic in one direction? Now, to the other end of the spectrum……

Picture a society living in harmony. Religion is not a bone of contention at all. And then, a small feud sparks up between two people. One kills the other in a fit of rage and it so happens that the one who died was from a minorty population. It is perfectly logical to treat that situation as a conflict between two people. But no, it sparks communal riots. People who had absolutely nothing to do with either the perpetrator or the victim of the “crime” take to roads. A carnage ensues………people completely unrelated to the event/people suffer and people completely unrelated to the incident go about killing them………

The lack of logic here makes the world a strange place to be in where one never knows when one will be attacked for “happening to be” a certain way! 

Will a perfectly logical world be a better place to live in? Will it be free of the ‘problems’ of an illogical world? Will it also be free of ‘good things’ that an illogical world has?

– Pritesh

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10 Comments

  1. Ram said,

    May 6, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    whats illogical about helping, charity etc, time and money spent on giving is more fulfilling than buying things for oneself.
    So is the case with fighting for a cause (religion, caste, love, “global warming”), it will give you immense satisfaction to take extreme measures to save your kind.

    for more pls read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dopamine

  2. Ananth said,

    May 6, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    There are two aspects that you have touched upon. Logic and War. Even though the two don’t precisely go together, people often couple them with statements like, “It is logical to go to war to save your own kind.” Is it?

    First let us differentiate between logic and common sense. Logic is applying a set of rules to an assumption, while common sense is doing what causes the least problem to you. So going out of your way to gain business is not common sense, but may be logical. Saving someone else at your own life’s cost may not make common sense, but may still be logical. The beauty of logic is that everyone is logical with different assumptions. So if your assumption is that you get maximum satisfaction from killing others, then it is logical to go to war, while if your assumption is that it is of maximum importance to save yourself, then risking helping someone is illogical.

    When it comes to war, it is all about what your purpose is. If youa re convinced that you want your kind to survive, even at the cost of your life, you become a hero. If you are convinced that anyone who doesn’t listen to you is to be killed, then you become a villian. If you are convnced that your life is the most important of all, then you are a civilian. But the hero and the villian are two sides of the same coin and we have the entire spectrum in between these two sides.

  3. Ananth said,

    May 6, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    It is not about lack of logic. It is all about having uniform assumptions. If I am able to convince (or brain wash) someone about an assumption, then everything else he does will be logical.

  4. Sujit said,

    May 6, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Hm. Good question posed Pritesh. As mentioned by others, altruism and charity are very much logical acts depending on the context the person thinks in. So is going to war.

    I personally lean towards logic. I passionately believe that the only way ethics can ever be universalised is through logical argumentation. However, I have no logical argument to back my passionate belief! 😉

    I think all argumentations must be made after agreeing upon a set of universal premises (axioms). The above is an axiom for me. It won’t be proper to use logic to prove or disprove it! Trying any method to prove or disprove it would result in circular arguments and will lead to inconsistency. 🙂

    I am sure Ananth will enjoy thinking about that! (see Kurt Godel) 😉

  5. laasya said,

    May 6, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    This is a very evolutionary bio question! 🙂 The general belief (academic) is that wars and large scale deaths are often a consequence of spiralling populations leading to competition over resources, inequality and therefore a sort of reverse trend sets in leading to less people. The factors triggering this could be many and irrelevant to the main cause, like religion and private beliefs. Personally I love the illogical world and would like it to by and large stay that way 🙂 But I’d like it tempered with tolerance, a trait many of us seem to be fast losing..

  6. Sathya said,

    May 7, 2009 at 1:33 am

    We often use logic to justify an action rather than act based on logic. In the case of the lady giving change in a bus, ‘what do I stand to gain?’ is as valid a question as ‘what do I stand to lose?’. It is common sense to use logic only to assess absolute advantage, not impulsive behaviour (or dopamine effect as Ram prefers to call)

  7. Pritesh said,

    May 7, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Hmm…….nice replies from all. I agree with Sujit’s idea about some beliefs remaining beyond question, call them ‘axioms’ if you may. I guess Ananth is also right in some sense, about the uniform assumptions. After all, logic is like maths where certain foundations have to be accepted as is, without proof (Sujit’s reference to axioms). So, I suppose………..it really is about subjectivity……

  8. pushpa said,

    May 9, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Logic or reasoning or what is right and wrong- all are one and the same and all are relative. Discussiong or arguing about anything that is relative only leads to unproductive conclusions or a draw.
    Sometimes it is better to agree to disagree.
    It becomes a matter of concern when such disagreements lead to murder, massacre or annihilation of innocent people and children.
    ‘Live and let live’ is the attitude which possibly everyone should take up.
    It goes without saying, this is my opinion, people are welcome to disagree.

  9. chandra sekhar said,

    May 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Good question! But, there seems to be an implicit contradiction somewhere. According to me, it is illogical to find logic in everything 🙂 The theory of logic (in general, even mathematics) is a little “framed”. One forms a set of rules to explain some concepts and hopes to explain observations based on those limited set of rules. When the observations are indeed explained by the underlying models that fit within the formulated theory, everything is fine and well explained. Otherwise, it turns out that those rules are not sufficient/complete to explain the observations. Therefore, the set of rules have to be expanded. This process seems to be endless. Eventually, we’ll probably end up having a rule for every observation! 🙂 Most “worldly” actions cannot be explained logically, mainly because the real world is driven by emotions, feelings, behavioral traits, humanity, fraternity, cooperation, and the like and sometimes a conspicuous lack of those.

    As a general rule, it appears that if we cannot accurately explain why something happened in such and such fashion, it is better to ask what would have caused that event to not happen? Then, it would probably become somewhat clear what has caused that event to happen—a kind of “explanation by exclusion”. The waiter wouldn’t have done that act if he were rude, careless, cold, robotic, etc. Since he did so, he’s probably not in these categories. So, sometimes, it is easier to explain what something is not than to explain what exactly it is.

    In general, this seems to bring forth a much bigger issue: rational thinking/scientific explanation does not explain most real-world issues. To that extent, it is quite limited. But, the quest to do so should continuously move us forward.

    My two cents.

  10. Pritesh said,

    May 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks Aunty and Chandra for your valuable inputs. Yes indeed within a framework of agreed upon ‘rules’, logic does take up a different form for an individual/group/society…….interesting ideas from everyone. Thank you


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