6 Jun 2024

How the power of logic can help improve our lives

From Nights, 9:35 pm on 6 June 2024

While we sometimes need instinct as a guide, as the "guardian of coherence" logic is a more helpful tool, says philosopher Patrick Giraud.

In his new book Logic in the Wild, he argues developing a sense of logic can help people make better decisions and become better listeners. 

Patrick Girard looks at the power of logic to improve communication, expand creativity, and solve problems in all aspects of life.

Patrick Girard looks at the power of logic to improve communication, expand creativity, and solve problems in all aspects of life. Photo: Supplied/Patrick Girard

Patrick Giraud is a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland specialising in philosophical logic.

Our instincts are critical for survival but we also need to make peace with the fact they will sometimes lead us astray, Giraud tells Emile Donovan.  

"As I'm ageing I'm realising I keep repeating the same mistakes from my instincts, and I just came to realise that's okay. That's just how we are. But I can slow down and not act on those instincts too swiftly."

On social media, the pressure to rapidly give our opinions on an enormous number of topics actually polarises people, he says.

Facebook's 'like' button doesn't truly indicate a meeting of minds.

"I might share an opinion that's close to yours but not exactly like yours. You might have a slightly more extreme version of my opinion. And when you put it on Facebook or other platforms then I might have to support your version [in order] not to be taken to be on the other side. And then it just keeps pulling us apart."

It's good to keep in mind that arguments which appear logical can be used to fool people, Giraud says.

"You can have perfectly logical reasoning that only has false contents and that gets exploited a lot. What makes sense to us, what sounds like common sense, it may feel like it's truth but it just isn't always."

Another pitfall is that the presence of logic doesn't guarantee the presence of fact or truth.

"Very often people think they agree on the facts but they don't realise that what they actually agree on is how the facts should be interpreted."

To start living a more logical life, we need to first learn to slow down and take more time to think things through before responding, Giraud says.

"If you're not rushing, you do things right … and the value of slowing down just makes you do better. And actually you gain a lot of time and value [more] what you're doing."

Strengthening your own relationship with logic involves having the humility and courage to be wrong, revise our thinking and learn from other people, he says, including those we may not agree with.

Giraud recommends trying to tune in a bit more when someone is expressing their own sense of logic.

"You don't even need to go as far as empathy, I'm not saying that you need to emotionally put yourself in their shoes. More that you can appreciate the coherence in what they're expressing and you might learn quite a lot about, about them and about yourself and just about things in general."