Sunday, October 27, 2013

Logic and Language

Exhibit 1:
X: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Y: Does that mean that half an apple a day keeps half the doctor away?!
X&Y: hahaha!

Exhibit 2:
X: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Y: My cousin eats half an apple a day. She stays ill half the time!
X&Y: hahaha!

(...and so on)

What's happening above? The above two exhibits show the interplay of "Logic" and "Language". In these cases, what's essentially happening is that Logic is being brought down to the level of illogic by a fairly logical usage of Language (for the sake of amusement or similar such end). In other words, Logic is being limited, distorted by Language through misuse or even abuse. Now as a side note, I'd like to admit that using Logic for entertainment via Language is a good thing. In fact, I may allow myself to even go as far as to say that there can't be a better form of entertainment. It's an Art (rhetoric), but as it happens, this game of Logic and Language has only ended up becoming a mere toy in the hands of unthinking populace. That's it for the side-note.

Coming back, isn't this what we observe in our day to day interactions: The emphasis on Language, even if it means a compromise on Logic. People use Logic to engage in mere repartee, or when 'debating', they simply fight over semantics, side-lining or completely ignoring the "idea" that the language is supposed to express. It brings to mind the story of a prophet who's pointing his finger to show his followers a path to paradise. But the followers, instead of following the direction at which the prophet's finger is pointing, merely keep focussing on the finger. Language is the finger here.

Now, it is mostly unnecessary to point out here that both Logic and Language are important as is the case with all 'Content and Form' (Logic being the content and Language being the form), but which is 'more important'? The answer is Logic. It's Logic that's above Language and not the reverse. It's also important to understand that Language is only supplemental to Logic and not complemental. Logic stands on it's own even in the absence of Language. Language is just a tool to facilitate our understanding of Logic. So it's crucial that one should try not to lose sight of Logic even in case Language falters or finds itself inadequate to keep up. And that one should always apply his mind to whatever is being said, focussing on the context instead of in what way the idea is being presented. In other words, if we're to put them in the order of importance, "what's" being said should always hold our attention more than "how's" it being said. That, I think, is what makes conversations worthwhile because after all it should be the exchange of ideas (set in logic) and not of words that we're after when we converse.

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