Introduction to Logic and Argumentation

“Logic is the use and study of valid reasoning.” That’s from Wikipedia and it sounds uselessly formal.
Logic is a process that our brains use to figure out right and wrong, true and false. There are formal names for how we do that: Inductive reasoning, Deductive reasoning, and Abductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is a sort of “if this then that” type of reasoning. Joey posts an article every Wednesday (premise one), today is Wednesday (premise two), therefore an article will be posted today (conclusion). If there is any situation where both of the premises are true but the conclusion is false then the reasoning is not valid. It’s a little technical, but its important to understand that in deductive reasoning we’re not actually looking for true and false we’re looking first and foremost for something called validity. Validity just means that the conclusion MUST necessarily follow from the premises.
On the other hand, inductive reasoning is not about certainty or validity, but it is about degrees of certainty. This is called “cogency”. An inductive argument would sound something like, “we’ve never seen something appear out of nothing, therefore everything comes from something that already exists.” This is a strong argument based on the fact that no one has ever observed something appearing out of nothing, the premise is actually true in the real world. So not only is the argument strong, but it is cogent.
Abductive reasoning is what some have called an “educated guess”. We look at a situation and see something that needs an explanation (a conclusion). We quickly go through a short list of possible explanations (premises) we weigh the pros and cons of each and select one that seems to us, based on a variety of factors, to best explain the situation. An abductive argument might sound like, “my wife is an hour later than usual getting home from work, therefore she must have had an accident”. You know and I know that there are many possible explanations for why “my wife” might be late, but in this case I have concluded that the most likely reason is an accident.
“Why does any of this matter?”, you might be asking. It matters because logic and argumentation are things you use every day. Everything in this article are just fundamental breakdowns of what runs your daily life. It’s how you make every decision from whether to buy that house in that neighborhood to what to have for dinner. Understanding how to use logic and argumentation intentionally and how it is intentionally being used on you will improve your grasp of what you think and why you think it making you more sure of yourself. It specifically impacts faith in God because we’re told repeatedly and often that faith is illogical and unreasonable. Some of you probably agree wholeheartedly with that statement. The arguments for this conclusion are unfounded, and my aim is to educate you and convince you of why they are. This understanding is one of the ways we begin to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). Over the next several weeks we’ll go deeper together and get specific about different types of logic and some falicies in order to show you how to use all of this in your everyday life to strengthen your faith.


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