Evaldo Pauli

Straight Thinking

C) — Mislogical thought and logical thought

The relationship of thoughts must be logical, either among ideas that make up judgments, or among judgments that make up reasons. In view of the ideal relationship of thoughts, some are called logical, because they are perfectly connected, others are called illogical, because they are not.

You should certainly not accept illogical thoughts. By observing your own mind, you should find that it spontaneously discards them. A similar phenomenon occurs with your senses. Eyes prefer some lights and colors. Ears, some harmonies of sounds. Provide yourself, therefore, with logical thinking, for the inner joy and enjoyment of your spirit.

Logic is not an easy thing. Only the logic of the simplest thoughts is easy for our mind. Because of their simplicity, some thoughts always manage to appear according to their direct logical relationships. For example, we understand that everyone and everything are entities; that it is usually better to live than not to live; that something cannot be and not be at the same time in the same respect.

It is completely different in scientific and philosophical matters. Someone not attending to all the details of some piece of extended reasoning may end up with defective reasoning. In children, these defects occur due to not fully developed attention; in adults, not due only to undisciplined attention but to other errors. For example, not paying attention to the small distinctions of similar things, a person fallaciously treats them as the same.

What to do to educate us to be logical? It is only necessary to pay more attention to the diversity of thoughts and to the various forms of relationship connecting them. For example, a judgment is a comparison of a subject with a predicate; here, one must pay attention to the diversity between the two items being compared, so that one knows whether to affirm or deny. Reason compares the various forms of relationship between judgments, to attain consistency; here one must attend to the aforementioned relationship between judgments and to the connection between them and their consistency.

Here is a list of some fallacies to analyze straightaway with the aim of educating our mental disposition, with anthropological ramifications in mind.

At first, a person does not perceive a difference between natural causes (the physical) and internal ones (of will and instinct). Such is the animistic thought.

Primitive man does not perceive a difference between that which follows something only as one after another, and that which follows something as an effect follows a cause. Superstitious thought results from this misunderstanding.

Nor does a primitive person perceive, nor does a child perceive, that the chief aspect of some entity is what it is as an entity, distinguished from the conjunctural relationships in which one finds it embedded. However, a primitive person and a child feel themselves immersed in the mere conjunctural circumstance in which the extant interrelationships, although not essential, simplistically establish its significance. Conjunctural thinking results from this. *

For adults damaged by animistic thinking, re-education is almost impossible. Their whole life-system is based on such concepts. They firmly defend themselves against the arguments of others. From generation to generation, through centuries, magical and animistic explanations are advanced. However, do not be discouraged. Some sooner, others later, will abandon their illogical ideas.

A professor fell into a large river with a fast-flowing current. He swam with frantic arm. An unexpected root emerging from a tree at the edge, allowed him to escape just before tumbling over a large waterfall. Thank God! — his wife shouted, thinking that God had come to save her husband. Thanks to the tree root!—contradicted the professor, remembering the great physical exertion of swimming to finally latch onto the unexpected root. Which one of them was right? How to reason logically about what happened?

Parapsychological phenomena and other uncommon phenomena, because of their strange aspects, favor animistic and supernatural interpretations, if a person lacks logic. For primitive man, suggestions, visions, inspirations, revelations, unknown languages ​​can only have a supernatural cause, on the basis of an animistic and magical formulation. He does not consider other possible causes, for example the subconscious. If conscious phenomena remain hidden in the subconscious, from that subconscious a person can also be guided subconsciously in his action. You know that our action is performed at the same time that we cognize it. So, if we subconsciously ‘know’ something, perhaps we can also subconsciously act with such subconscious knowledge. Such subconscious actions can be even speech and writing of books. Like the diversity of dreams, such actions are sometimes surprising in their trajectory and coherence.

Ancients were not aware of this other hypothetical explanation. Neither is today’s primitive man. That is why he continues to accept supernatural explanations of phenomena, such as vision, revelation, inspiration, unknown languages, etc. The fallacy is not exactly in the supernatural explanation, but in the insufficient examination of this hypothesis and of the opposite one.

Superstitious thought results fundamentally from two misunderstandings. For example, if a bus driving collides with another bus, at the exact place and time where a traditional nun with her head completely covered by a black drape with a floor-length skirt is passing by, someone may think that the collision was caused by that black- and strangely-clad nun. The first misunderstanding is that one event that just comes after the other is not necessarily caused by the other. This confusion stems from the correlation of two consecutive occurrences, with the consequence of cause and effect. The second misunderstanding is based on animistic thought. According to such animistic thought there are only causes based on of volition exist; primitive people are not cognizant of physical causes of natural events. Actually, the bus crash did not occur because of any act of will, thus not connected to the nun walking by, maybe even praying to God to protect travelers.

Superstitiously, many people burn incense at home to ward off evil spirits. These convictions about the good effects of burning incense come from other occurences that have not been sufficiently analyzed.

What are your superstitions? Examine your thoughts and discover where your disordered logic is broken.

Conjunctural thought pays attention only to relations of circumstance. In all cases, however, the circumscribed objects possess their own distinctive character as entities. Conjunctural thought disregards this. Therefore, such thought is defective, because it cannot conceive as unique that which is not even primary.

Especially children think this way, according to conjunctural thinking. For children, a father is not an entity, but only a relation in the structure in which he lives. In other words: a father does not exist, he is only present.

According to that childhood self, father and some other persons or objects only have meaning if they are related to that self-center. Even the child itself does not know that it exists as an absolute ‘I’. It is a presence relating to the outside. During its first years a child does not say ‘I’, because it exists only in relation. That is why a child always cries when perceived relationships disappear, or change completely. Also for this reason, a child keeps as his own the usual objects, toys, plate at the table, even the place where he sits.

If you do not know that mindset in your child, you will surely make them cry often, unnecessarily. That is not the child’s egocentricity: it always needs the same, because it thinks in terms of relationships. Without such a familiar world of relationships, your child cannot settle down. If you need to change something, you have to do it sensibly, a little at a time. A slight alteration is even good, because it educates a child to pay attention to the very alteration of relationships, until he understands something about the objects as entities.

Amazingly, however, we can change relationships of any conjuncture to improve them, even for the child’s pleasure. For example, if you put your father’s hat on your son’s head, what happens? He thinks he has become the father himself. Because the child lives almost only relationally. That hat refers to the father. So, if the child uses it, he becomes subjectively the father himself. In the same way, if a child rides a stick, that stick, analogically simulates the relationship with a horse. The child is not interested in the entity, but the relationships. Therefore he rides merrily with gestures of a true rider.

In an adult, some features of conjunctural thinking may remain. If the degree is great, it is damaging. These persisting features of conjunctural thought in adults occur especially in religious and social matters. Have you ever examined why the places where you pray are considered holy? Holy, the relics of saints?

Certainly, a holy place is in the first instance an entity, entirely absolute. But whoever supposes that it has been sanctified by prayer and religious ceremonies, considers relationships in particular. If, however, you regard that location mainly as a place, surely you will not respect it so sacredly as one who only considers relations. A primitive person is like a child whose mental structure does not separate the ‘mine’ and the ‘objects’ from one other. Indeed, primitives are more afraid than sages to oppose something sacred. That is why churches, although large and useful for many social benefits, remain during most of the week an unoccupied space. Those who don’t have their head on straight lose out.

Relics of saints at first sight are relations, according to the thought of those who do not focus on the objects as entities in themselves. An evolved mind does not value the relics of saints as much as a primitive does. Education of the mind in order to achieve correct thinking, requires attention to the fact that the composition of the objects mainly is what makes it an entity. Certainly the relationships exist, but let’s not value them as much as the primitive man mistakenly does.

In social life, a person values ​​relationships more than entities. If he ignores the entity, he becomes illogical, formally superficial. However, such relationships exist and justify some ceremonies and customs. For example, no one puts their feet on the table. No one enters the house of other family members in disguise. Authorities must be in a senior position and be addressed ceremoniously. Whoever inaugurates a building, for example a school, breaks a ribbon, as if he were doing something essential; but entrering that school is not essential, because we are imagining the relationships exactly as a teacher when he enters to teach. Inauguration imitates, therefore, the actual entrance of a teacher.

If a magician wears a distinctive turban on a theatrical stage, people regard him as a specific performer of magical arts. However, if a magician does not use a turban symbol to relate himself to such arts, acceptance is not so easy. In the same way, a police officer in uniform is more easily respected. A physician, dressed in white and in a special room with devices, is readily granted authority by patients to touch all parts of their bodies, but not in other circumstances. Holy pope, bishops, priests, rabbis, bonzes, ceremonial officials of any religion, when dressed in a peculiar fashion to represent God, manage to play the role of the office taken before the common people. All this happens because of the social tendency of the individual, who values ​​relationships very much. Growth of logical thought more and more frees a person from such a slavish situation.

Scientific knowledge never attains definitive certainty. Something is considered certain, only until one day evidence to the contrary appears. But we can never know for sure whether it will come or not. Humanity had already believed much as certain, but one day had to abandon it, for example, that the Sun orbits the Earth.

The reasoning of a primitive is often deficient, because he believes the results to be definitive. He is not primitive only because of his most common mistakes. Even when he succeeds in thinking like a scientist, he errs in believing definitive conclusions.

What is the reason for the indeterminacy of scientific knowledge? The problem lies in the method itself, reasoning by induction. The data collected is analyzed to separate out what is the same in all the data. The singular elements are left to establish only the general aspects. It is induced that these general elements are the most essential, the nature, the law, the cause, the structure itself. These general elements explain the singular ones, the effects, the results, via induction. Do you believe that scientific explanation can be definitive?

Science, for example, examines the speed of light. Whoever measures the speed once, discovers it to be three hundred thousand kilometers per second. If the second time, the third time, the fourth time, etc. the same result persists, a scientist induces that this result will always be the result. But this generalization is not logically impervious. It is only a better-bolstered hypothesis than the first singular datum. No one can know for certain if one day light will actually be able to move at a different speed.

You have heard of miracles. Surely you have never yourself detected one. What exactly is a miracle? It assumes a dualistic system, this nature and another, the supernatural or God. A miracle would be, therefore, a phenomenon whose explanation would not find a cause in this nature, but in the other, the supernatural or God. If there were a miracle, the existence of that other supernatural being would be proven.

However, according to logical thought, it is not possible to decide that any phenomenon has no explanation in natural causes. Therefore, miracles remain only hypotheses never tested. Religions based on the supernatural also remain propositions of mere hypothetical validity.

Analyze the claim: here is an extraordinary phenomenon that has no natural explanation. If we examine nature, that examination never reaches a conclusion. So, if some extraordinary phenomenon does not find an explanation today, it may be due to a lack of examination. It is always possible one day to find that elusive unknown explanation in natural causes. If you educate a well-developed intellect to think logically, you will judge miracles only as hypotheses.

Do natural laws exist? Should we obey such natural laws? We act morally if we obey some law. Here is a problem that has some connections with correct thinking.

We could prove natural laws only by inductive reasoning. Well, induction provides only plausible hypotheses, never absolute certainties. So, as an imposition of nature, morality does not exist. On the other hand, we know that nature transforms. So-called natural laws are only circumstantial with a certain duration. As long as such impositions continue, we must act coherently. This is relative morality, which changes according to the circumstances.

In order for a completely absolute morality to exist, we cannot base it on inductive reasoning, nor on the so-called natural laws. No one sins if he does not obey such so-called natural laws. He just has to accept the consequences. He too can devote himself to the altering of circumstances.

A primitive perceives that certain actions turn out well because they please him. Others turn out badly because they result in hurt and unhappiness. One considers what pleases one as obligatory and moral. What is not pleasing, forbidden, immoral, bad. Here too, this is not a logical way to think. No one necessarily acts morally when something pleases. And you do not have to, when something  does not please you. You must look elsewhere for proof of the existence of the absolutlye obligatory, if you want to think rightly.

* Boldfacing is mine. I had to translate this paragraph more freely than others, as it is even more awkwardly expressed than the rest. The point here is the converse of the better-known criticism of cognizing individual entities atomistically, i.e. only in isolation. If one cannot make proper distinctions within a complex phenomenon or haphazard conjunction of circumstances, then fictitoous, superstitious essential relationships become fixated out of some ephemeral or inessential combination of elements. Philosophically, this is the cosmological system of correspondences (as above, so below), the notion of fate, mystical holism.

This was for me the most interesting aspect of this section of the book. Conjunctural thinking exists when one cognizes only the relations between objects in specific contexts, without understanding their natures as entities. This is mislogical thinking of both children and superstitious and/or religious adults, resulting in the slavish mystification or deification of events, places, objects, or persons.

My translation is awkward largely because the original is badly written and in some spots unclear. I do not endorse all of Pauli’s assertions, but the criticism of conjunctural thinking is important and I have not seen it concisely explicated elsewhere. Pauli was undoubtedly reacting to a Brazilian environment in which a certain kind of religious and philosophical tendency dominated. — RD

SOURCE: Pauli, Evaldo.  Rekta Pensado. Chapecó: Fonto, 1983. Ĉapitro II, § 3, C: Mislogika penso kaj logika penso [#44-50], pp. 78-85. Translated from the Esperanto original by Ralph Dumain.

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