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William Walker Atkinson

The Art of Logical Thinking

The Art of Logical Thinking


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"Reasoning" is defined as: "The act, process or art of exercising the faculty of reason; the act or faculty of employing reason in argument; argumentation, ratiocination; reasoning power; disputation, discussion, argumentation." Stewart says: "The word reason itself is far from being precise in its meaning. In common and popular discourse it denotes that power by which we distinguish truth from falsehood, and right from wrong, and by which we are enabled to combine means for the attainment of particular ends." By the employment of the reasoning faculties of the mind we compare objects presented to the mind as percepts or concepts, taking up the "raw materials" of thought and weaving them into more complex and elaborate mental fabrics which we call abstract and general ideas of truth. Brooks says: "It is the thinking power of the mind; the faculty which gives us what has been called thought-knowledge, in distinction from sense-knowledge. It may be regarded as the mental architect among the faculties; it transforms the material furnished by the senses ... into new products, and thus builds up the temples of science and philosophy." The last-mentioned authority adds: "Its products are twofold, ideas and thoughts. An idea is a mental product which when expressed in words does not give a proposition; a thought is a mental product which embraces the relation of two or more ideas. The ideas of the understanding are of two general classes; abstract ideas and general ideas. The thoughts are also of two general classes; those pertaining to contingent truth and those pertaining to necessary truth. In contingent truth, we have facts, or immediate judgments, and general truths including laws and causes, derived from particular facts; in necessary truth we have axioms, or self-evident truths, and the truths derived from them by reasoning, called theorems." In inviting you to consider the processes of reasoning, we are irresistibly reminded of the old story of one of Moliere's plays in which one of the characters expresses surprise on learning that he "had been talking prose for forty years without knowing it." As Jevons says in mentioning this: "Ninety-nine people out of a hundred might be equally surprised on hearing that they had been converting propositions, syllogizing, falling into paralogisms, framing hypotheses and making classifications with genera and species. If asked whether they were logicians, they would probably answer, No!

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