Tactical Question for the Group Re Terminology In Discussing Reason and Logic

  • Here is something to which I would appreciate as wide and frank a response as possible. Don't be afraid to offend me or anyone else with your reply, just give me what comes to mind, regardless if others post first and there seems to be a trend. This is important for methods of presentation, and I'd like to get as wide reaction as possible. The question is:

    What is your reaction to the statement:

    "When making decisions, don't use logic and reason, use the Epicurean canon."

    Is that a statement you are comfortable walking up to a friend, saying, and then stopping, with the idea that you have made your point? Whether yes or no, please give as much explanation of your answer as you would like.

    ALL are welcome to reply, no matter when you read this, and in fact to some degree the less you have posted and the newest you are to the forum, the better.

  • I would need to explain what the Canon is, but otherwise I have had this conversation multiple times, quite successfully, while teaching med students! I have said uh oh, the answer you just gave sounds reasonable/logical, but what does the evidence say? And they find out what they thought is not accurate. This is an every day thing with new students. I teach them that relying on reason instead of looking to see if there's evidence can have fatal consequences for their patients, and we have a whole discussion on the pitfalls of both formal and informal reasoning. I rarely have the same student mess up in that way twice, because I make such a big deal about it that they start checking themselves before talking to me 😂.

    So you could replace that with "logic and reasoning are prone to error, so instead, use observations/evidence to find out about reality." It's best if you can also give examples (evidence!😂).

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Tactiical Question for the Group Re Terminology” to “Tactical Question for the Group Re Terminology”.
  • I would say to prioritize the Canon and to keep logic/reason subservient. Begin with observations, apply logic/reason as appropriate, check the conclusions with observations, rinse and repeat. I might need to clarify what the Canon is; I probably would say observations and feelings or be more specific depending on the situation.

  • I would say to prioritize the Canon and to keep logic/reason subservient.

    In saying that, do you think that most of your friends with whom you might be discussing that would know what it means to "keep logic/reason subservient?" If they were to ask "what do you mean?" what would you say?

  • Crossposting from FB:

    Generally my friends would agree with that, though theres often the sense of belonging to a higher power or trusting some baseline of reason for them. Most of them know of my preference and belonging with Epicurean Philosophy, and so I trust them to assume that its a matter of belief and epistemology.

    Almost anyone can agree or thinks that using reason over emotion is preferable, and so when one says "don't use logic or reason" it could be squeamish or uncomfortable, and someone unfamiliar with the canon would be turned off. On the other hand, if someone did know about the canon, but was not Epicurean, there is a chance they could view the anticipations/preconceptions as a priori knowledge and thus is a form of logic and becomes a process of reasoning when feelings and sensory experience are brought in.

    “If the joys found in nature are crimes, then man’s pleasure and happiness is to be criminal.”

  • In saying that, do you think that most of your friends with whom you might be discussing that would know what it means to "keep logic/reason subservient?" If they were to ask "what do you mean?" what would you say?

    I would say to start and end with observations. Logic can help to evaluate observations, but for practical real world use logic must be verified through observations. Observations coming from the senses, feelings and pattern recognition.

  • Quote

    "When making decisions, don't use logic and reason, use the Epicurean canon.


    I'm experiencing some heavy resistance to this phrasing. Let me see if I can articulate a response.

    I first take issue with what might be differing interpretations with the word decision. If the word decision means "a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration", and these decisions can either be—according to the prevailing view of psychology—rational or irrational (in the neutral connotation of that last word), then we're faced with a startling apposition! Am I suggesting to my friends that they only make irrational decisions? I hope not. I think we too easily forget how quickly reason encroaches even on the simplest and most absent-minded of choices.

    Here's a decision I often make based on personal pleasure; "I think I'll get a coke."

    And here's only some of the underlying architecture of that decision;

    -Observation 1: "This place sells soft drinks in a range of choices."

    -Observation 2: "My previous experience with soft drinks—and it is extensive—suggests to me that a soft drink will give me pleasure."

    ‐Observation 3 (self evident): "pleasure is the end or goal of my life."

    -Premise 1 (inductive reasoning): "If I get a coke it will probably give me pleasure this time, too."

    -Decision/Conclusion: "I think I'll get a coke."

    So that even if I were to restrict the question only to 'decisions about pleasure', or 'decisions about the proper end of life', I would still have problems with it. But how much more troubling when we move beyond these humble beginnings!

    I have family members who hold to a position they call "Zetetic Astronomy". One of the conclusions of their astronomy is that the Earth is flat. We have very little to learn from what these people think, but there is a lot to be learned from how they think. The basis of Zeteticism is that the traditional Scientific Method is fundamentally flawed. Scientists begin by making hypotheses about their observations, which they then attempt to falsify. From the point of view of the Zeteticist, these scientists are merely introducing a prejudice or bias into their work when they hypothesize. "What they ought to be doing instead (this is me paraphrasing) is performing the observation with an unbiased mind, and trusting the results."

    For example; "I don't observe a gravitational pull when I put two apples side by side. No evidence for gravity."

    "When I pour water on a baseball, it runs off onto the ground. No evidence for spinning ball with water on it."

    "When I ride a merry-go-round, I can feel movement and rotation. I don't normally feel that. No evidence for motion or rotation of Earth."

    You get the gist. I've had wearying hours of such "arguments", and have no stomach for them any longer. This particular individual used to drive me to distraction by failing to meet one simple demand; articulate your argument in the form of a syllogism. He never agreed to do it. C'est la vie!

    TL;DR—The point I'm laboring to make is that reason and logic impend rather quickly in any decision-making process. Epicurus was right to exclude them from the canon, but they become inescapable fast. No, that's not advice I would give to my friends.

  • "When making decisions, don't use logic and reason, use the Epicurean canon."

    Thoughts off the top of my head:

    1) Nobody outside a small circle knows what the "Epicurean canon" is. Avoid jargon.

    2) Epicurus taught to use words that everyone agrees on the definition.

    3) Use the word logic OR reason, not both.

    4) I actually like Elayne 's use of "evidence." But...

    5) Joshua brings up a VERY good example of misunderstood evidence. :/ How to correct that?

    6) What is the intent of using the word "decision"? Do you actually mean that or are you asking people to live their life based on the canon? When you say "make decisions" it sounds like discrete individual instances. Is that what you mean? Or do you mean something more general?

    7) How about these?:

    - When choosing a course of action, which choice gives you pleasure?

    - You can *think* a choice to death. Instead... What's there feeling you get from your choice? Is it positive? Good, *now* think about the ramifications. Is it negative? It's probably not the right choice.

    Okay, so nothing seismic there, but that's my contribution off the cuff.

  • When choosing a course of action, which choice gives you pleasure?

    I will admit I've actually done this in making life decisions, specifically career choices. And I think I've made the right decision. Reason has entered in and made need second guess, but I still think I made correct initial decisions then was able to reason out that it was correct for these additional reasons.

  • On misunderstood evidence-- there is evidence 😂 that giving more accurate evidence to stubborn people does not change their mind. It makes them dig in their heels. If they are determined to believe nonsense, they'll do it, and logic doesn't work any better than evidence. I deal with this when it comes to immunizations. Appeal to feelings and values is actually more effective when folks are just hesitant.

    Sometimes it's just a matter of finding the evidence which has emotional salience. For baby walkers, I noticed a long time ago that parents didn't react when I explained about injury risk. I might as well have said blah blah blah. They just figured they could prevent it. But when I mention other evidence, that walker use is associated with developmental delays, their eyes get big and they appear alarmed. They don't know how to prevent that, so it has emotional salience. Once I realized what worked (by observing), I was more successful in achieving behavior changes.

    I completely agree on imagining the options and noting the feelings that arise. I do lay out the pains and pleasures, but not as an abstract thing-- I have feelings in the evaluation process. So it's primarily non-rational. I won't say irrational-- that has a bad rap. Irrational is against logic, but non-rational is just using other brain functions. It's evidence and feeling based, not like a math problem. And it's not completely non-rational, but reason is not the primary tool.

  • Before we leave this discussion, I am interested to know how someone could square a total rejection of the words reason and logic with the wording of PD16. The Epicurus wiki says that Epicurus used the Greek word *logismos* for what is translated as *reason* here. How would someone who doesn't want to separate "practical logic/reason" from "formal logic/reason" respond to someone who asked that?

    "Chance has little effect upon the wise man, for his greatest and highest interests are directed by *reason* throughout the course of life."


  • Here's the LSJ entry for λογισμός (logismos) http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/h…9.04.0057:entry=logismo/s

    As you'll see, it references PD 16 specifically (Epicur. Sent. 16) as "reasoning power." This does not refer to "formal" logic. Here's an article about Aristotle's formal logic:


    The word most often used there is sullogismos συλλογισμός


    This has more to do with calculation, computation.

  • Looks like sullogismos and dialekticos (sp?) are going to be two of the primary culprits.

    I am beginning to think that those two are best described to "laymen" as "formal logic" and "the Socratic question-answer method."

    Such as "Epicurus opposed the use of formal logica and the Socratic question-answer method of teaching."

  • Hmmm...

    Logismos appears to be just the mental faculty to "reason" things out in everyday life. I think of it as the decision-making ability of the mind. Logismos would be the colloquial name of the ability people use when someone has made a "reasonable" decision. I **think** it would equate to your "everyday" understanding of the word "logic" you've been using, Cassius .

    I would concur with your last two paragraphs. I think Epicurus would include formal logic within the paideia (enculturation; instruction; indoctrination) he criticised, ex. "Set sail in your own little boat, free from all paideia."

  • colloquial

    That's an important word in this discussion too.

    . I think Epicurus would include formal logic within the paideia (enculturation; instruction; indoctrination) he criticised, ex. "Set sail in your own little boat, free from all paideia."

    And yes that is also a saying that cries out for explanation. Epicurus was certainly not against ALL culture/instruction, it was only certain kinds to which he objected, because he had a "correct" version of his own.

    To allow the suggestion to stand that Epicurus was against ALL such things is to guarantee that there's no way to resurrect the philosophy as an active force today.

  • Agreed.

    I see him against the enculturation or education of the assembly-line variety that obscures one's ability to learn from nature and observation. But I may be fantasizing.

  • But I may be fantasizing.

    No I don't think so. ;)

    Relevant to this discussion to is this below. I don't know that I agree with this division, but I do think that a division exists that needs to be articulated