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Logic, Plato and Aristotle

// notes from a discussion group thread //

I was involved in a thread that included the statement: "so much of the non-attorney dispute resolution literature that I read does not follow strict logical analysis and does not read easily." when CONFLICTING WORLDVIEWS AMONG ENVIRONMENTALISTS by Stephen C. Garon came up. If you've missed that essay, Garon writes well and his logic is solid. I intended to refer to it as a counterpoint to bad writing and bad logic. (From teaching writing and editing, I can state that some times one example of good writing is much more effective than ten examples of bad writing).

Analyzing the essay led me to hope that Garon might revisit the topic. Applying a cross-disciplinary approach, I was struck that the core conflict he is describing in his essay is a conflict between a Platonic and an Aristotelean philosophical set. I think that the points he makes would benefit from comparison to other clashes of those two sets, and the various efforts that have been made to harmonize movements that have spit into Platonic and Aristotelean halves.

These clashes seem to occur over and over again, as those two philosophic sets seem to corrupt (seduce? — rewrite?) various movements on a regular basis. It would be nice to see conflict analysis address a modern conflict in light of the historic issues and interactions.

//

Not to leave the issue of logic untouched (philosophic sets do not necessarily have anything to do with logic, just explanation). Attorneys tend to think that they use solid logic. In truth, as the law school teaching model falls apart (see http://members.aol.com/Ethesis/mw3/reformb1.htm for more on that), and as law schools rely on the LSAT (which is basically a logic test) for admissions, attorneys are starting to use more and more logic, but the "lawyers as logical, the rest of you as idiots" model is as much myth as fact.

It is important to consider that most disciplines, and most lines or schools within a discipline, have a grammar of logic that functions with substantial assumptions and gaps. Analytical professions (especially statisticians, lawyers and the like) tend to see the gaps in others much more readily (that is the essence of litigation in many respects) but often miss their own subsumed points and gaps. (Much of the evolution of the law consists of filling those in and then revisiting prior legal precedent based on the implications of the filled in gap.)

True, "the bulk of the earth, though, does not use statistical evidence to believe something, but believes things that simply make sense" whether it be that the earth is flat, that women are inferior to men and deserve no human rights, or the belief that violence in pursuit of a good cause is just. There is a great deal of reliance on unexamined "good sense" — my favorite example being medicine. Critical path analysis reflects that until about 1987 or 1988, if you went to a doctor, on the average, you were more likely to have your health hurt than helped. The slow triumph of analytical analysis over "good sense" has been what is changing medicine from religion to engineering.

And it is the change from religion to engineering (not the change from "art to science" -- good engineering is good art) that marks a legitimate profession from other things.

//

"I am in search of different ways of saying things, and realize I am more effective when I take into account how my listener/reader "hears": Does she understand better with her sensing self (the one who needs stats)? His reasoning self (e.g. relies on analysis and connections, cause and effect, common sense), or intuitive self (depends on the part of the self that understands the whole and the end points before understanding the connections in between)? So, how we know something, our episteme, makes a big difference in how we communicate and for some, it determines how we judge whether something is valid or not. It is difficult, I think, for some to conceptualize the world with another world view, but like learning one's first wordprocessing program, if you've done it once, successive tries are easier."

(I'm quoting that because I wish I had said it myself. I think it fits well with the general GAVSD culture I like).

//

"The legal culture is a strong one. But that it does not have application everywhere does not make it invalid in my book."

The legal culture is much like the highway system.

//

One thing the legal culture does support is associational analysis. Brazil, Chile and Peru have serious initiatives going based on redefining the legal structure to accept and understand the associational relevances of ethnic connections. Ethnic issues are more than just legal or social problems, and more than just rights or needs based conflicts.

An Indian tribe is more than a racial, family or ethnic grouping. It is an associational form that has a corporate identity and ethos independent of membership or outside society. We need better forms to deal with those issues before we all become isolated, autistic, rational men.

//

Anyway, thought that these excerpts might be of interest.

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Copyright 1998 Stephen R. Marsh

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