Logic: The Original Thinking Skill

We have a tendency to put academic subjects into separate and unrelated categories which have little to do with each other. We have our curriculum chart where we put things such as Reading, English, Math, Science, each one dealing with a different skill and a different body of knowledge. Logic seldom finds a place in our lists, although it may be … Continue reading

A Whale of a Distinction

Several years ago, a killer whale at the Orlando Marine Park drowned his trainer. Tilikum, the whale, made national headlines by dragging Dawn Brancheau, his young female caretaker, by her ponytail underwater to her death. And it wasn’t the first time. It was, in fact, Tilikum’s third such indiscretion, giving him a rather unattractive personality … Continue reading

How to Get to the Real Issue in an Argument

Have you ever found yourself having a hard time responding to someone in an argument and not exactly knowing what the problem is? Many times, the problem is that your opponent is making an assumption that you have not identified. And many times, it is this very assumption that is at issue. If you knew what it was, you could attack it and … Continue reading

What is Classical Rhetoric?

This meant that, in his education, a great man must not only study the rules and principles of eloquent expression, but he must know and do the good; he must not only have mastered certain techniques, but he must be familiar with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. The discipline that taught a man … Continue reading

How Not to Insult an Angel

I once got an e-mail from a friend who took me to task for something in my Traditional Logic text. I had said that angels are not rational. He thought this was a sort of insult to angels. Angels are indeed rational, he said, and to argue otherwise was to argue a non-Christian position. Is this true? … Continue reading

The Difference Between Books About Logic & Logic Books

If you wanted to learn to be a mathematician, you wouldn’t want to just read about mathematics; you would want to actually do math. If you wanted to learn how to write, you wouldn’t settle for just reading about writing; you would want instruction that involved actually writing yourself. The same thing goes for music … Continue reading

The Grammar of Logic

Why a Knowledge of Grammar Is Indispensable for an Understanding of Logic I meet a lot of homeschool mothers at conventions all over the country and one of the most common questions I get is this: “What do you do for a critical thinking skills program before we do your logic program in the seventh grade?” … Continue reading

A Horse Is a Horse, of Course, of Course

When I was in junior high school, I had a horse named Lady Anne that could count to three. I would say, “Count to three!” and she would scrape the ground three times with her right hoof. She could do it for one and two as well. She also nodded her head when she was … Continue reading

Aristotle’s Explanation for Why We Make Excuses for Ourselves

As Ariel Castro was being sentenced to 1,000 years in prison without parole for keeping several women hostage in his Cleveland home last year, he unwittingly articulated a view of human responsibility that is championed by many of our intellectuals. Castro insisted he did nothing wrong and blamed his crimes on addiction. This is a … Continue reading

Logic & Reality: Why Traditional Logic Doesn’t Use Truth Tables

One of the questions people ask about traditional logic is why it doesn’t teach truth tables. Modern logic, the most common kind of logic encountered in high school and college, uses them, so why does traditional logic ignore them? Many people encounter a smattering of logic in high school math courses. Here, more than likely, … Continue reading

Go Socratic

The oracle at Delphi stated that no man was wiser than Socrates. Socrates was so shocked by that claim that he went around questioning everyone in Athens, hoping to find someone who was wiser than he. He was such a nuisance, such a “doubter,” that he was put on trial. Like the Athenians Socrates questioned, … Continue reading

The 5 Canons of Rhetoric

Rhetoric. To most modern minds, the word smacks of cunning – the empty polemic or self-aggrandizement of a political figure, or perhaps the crafty prose of a present-day sophist selling overpriced or unnecessary products to the unlearned. To those who have delved a bit into classical education, rhetoric is the third liberal art, the top of the trivium, the noble art of persuasion, a … Continue reading

The Three Modes of Persuasion

The United States is in the midst of a presidential election. Like all such elections, it involves two, sometimes three, major candidates, each of whom tries to persuade the voters to vote for him or her. Some candidates do this well and others don’t. But they could all do it better if they knew Aristotle’s principles of rhetoric. Classical rhetoric is … Continue reading

How to Teach Logic

Every subject that is systematic has a certain inherent order to it that dictates how it should be approached. In some subjects this order is more explicit than others. In mathematics, for example, there is a widely acknowledged sequence in terms of what should be learned and when it should be taught. In other subjects, … Continue reading

The Fallacy of Teaching Fallacies First

One of the most common mistakes I see in logic instruction in many schools is to begin teaching it by having students study informal fallacies. It’s not that it does them any damage; it just doesn’t do them as much good as many educators seem to think. The Two Kinds of Logic There are two … Continue reading

The Two Ways We Argue

Each of us in our daily lives hears a lot of arguments, and all of them are different. But, in one respect, there are only two basic ways to argue. We might call these two kinds of argument “arguing forward” and “arguing backward.” The First Way: Modus Ponens Arguing forward involves beginning with a principle … Continue reading

The Five Most Common Arguments

One of the things a logic student learns is that, of the 64 possible kinds of arguments (also called syllogisms), only 19 of them are valid. Let’s take the most common argument form of all: PREMISE #1: All flowers are plants (A) PREMISE #2: All roses are flowers (A) CONCLUSION: Therefore, all roses are plants … Continue reading

The Four Questions You Can Ask About Anything

The most basic thing we can ask about anything is “What is it?” Young children explicitly ask this question all the time. But even adults do it, although they may not do it explicitly, or even think about doing it at all. We ask this about words we don’t know, and things we encounter for … Continue reading

The “A Study Has Found …” Fallacy

There is one argument today that seems able to trump all others. It is not really an argument, though we tend to treat it as one, and it is one that is often considered definitive: “A study has found.” This phrase seems to many people to have an almost religious gravity to it, lending … Continue reading

Lord, Liar, or Lunatic

Some of the most interesting things to study when it comes to logic are the arguments for the existence of God. They come in all shapes and sizes. There is the Ontological Argument, which argues from the very idea of God to His real existence. There is the Cosmological Argument, which argues from the fact … Continue reading

Why Logic?

When you begin to study a subject, it is always helpful to know two things: first, what it is you intend to study and, second, why it is important to study it. When it comes to the study of logic, you must have some idea what logic is, and what a study of logic consists … Continue reading