How Philosophical Logic Can Be Applied

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A-level Philosophy By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Philosophy » A-level Philosophy
Last updated: 10/01/2018
Tags: a-level philosophy, logic, philosophy, philosophy of language, teaching philosophy

When we have conversations, or discussions with others, we spend the majority of our time inferring things. One type of inference we could make would be that if a friend is crying, they are unhappy. Another type of inference would be, if we know that rich people are happy and we know that our crying friend is rich, then they must be happy.

So how can our crying friend be both happy and unhappy at the same time?

Philosophical logic teaches us about different sorts of inferences we can make. An inference is a conclusion we make about something based on 'evidence'; in this caseĀ crying, or based on 'valid deduction'; we are told that being rich means we are happy, our friend is rich therefore our friend is happy.

This last concept is particularly interesting as it can be applied to any subject matter and used to check whether someone's reasoning is logically sound or not. Philosophical logic teaches us about this sort of reasoning. Once you understand the concept of deductive validity you sort of have a super power! You can check whether an argument is deductively valid, logically sound, or in simpler terms 'truth preserving' even if you do not know what the concepts that make up the argument refer to. This means you can proofread articles, essays, sometimes even entire books and usefully check that the points being made by the author remain sound throughout their work.

Imagine you know nothing about Economics (I don't!) but you are asked to proofread an essay on a particular subject in that field. With a good grasp of philosophical logic, you could pick out the conditions the author puts forward for their argument, or the 'proofs' and check whether the conclusion based on those conditions is logically sound, or a deductively valid inference. If you find that it is not a valid conclusion, you can help the author rewrite the essay so that their conclusion does follow from their premises (or conditions) and you can do this without actually knowing whether what they are referring to is a fact or not - that is up to them to know and to you to find out!

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