The Importance of Logic and Philosophy

Together they provide a means for thinking deductively

Socrates
Socrates. Hiroshi Higuchi/Getty Images

Few people in society today spend much time studying either philosophy or logic. This is unfortunate because so much relies on both: Philosophy is a fundamental component of all areas of human inquiry, while logic is the basis that underpins philosophy. Understanding the relation between logic and philosophy will help you grasp the importance of each.

Philosophy

Philosophy comes from the Greek word Φιλοσοφίαfor (filosofía), meaning "love of wisdom," providing two important starting points: love (or passion) and wisdom (knowledge, understanding).

Philosophy sometimes seems to be pursued without passion as if it were a technical subject like engineering or mathematics. Although there is a role for dispassionate research, philosophy must derive from some passion for the ultimate goal: a reliable, accurate understanding of ourselves and our world.

Philosophy has something to say when it comes to science, art, and even religion—where philosophy provides some useful concepts on objectivity versus subjectivity—politics, and medicine.

Logic

Logic is the science of how to evaluate arguments and reasoning. Critical thinking is a process of evaluation that uses logic to separate truth from falsehood, and reasonable from unreasonable beliefs. If you want to better evaluate the various claims, ideas, and arguments you encounter, you need a better understanding of basic logic and the process of critical thinking.

Logic is not a matter of opinion: When it comes to evaluating arguments, there are specific principles and criteria that you should use.

If you use those principles and criteria, then you are using logic; if you aren’t, then you are not justified in claiming to use logic or be logical. This is important because sometimes people don’t realize that what sounds reasonable isn’t necessarily logical. This reasoning process—using principals of logic in your reasoning, thinking, and arguments—is critical to the practice of philosophy.

The Logic of Philosophy

Rick Lewis writing in "Philosophy Now" explains why logic and philosophy are so intimately intertwined:

"Just as philosophy ... underlies all other branches of human enquiry, so logic is the most fundamental branch of philosophy. Philosophy is based on reasoning, and logic is the study of what makes a sound argument, and also of the kind of mistakes we can make in reasoning. So study logic and you will become a better philosopher and a clearer thinker generally."

Logic is a way of thinking clearly and basing your reasoning on objective facts that you use in practicing philosophy. Lewis uses the example of Mr. Spock—the logic-spouting alien on the starship U.S.S. Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" series. Spock, explaining logic to Capt. James T. Kirk in one episode, noted that:

“Logic, captain, is the general science of inference. Deductive logic, in which a conclusion follows from a set of premises, is distinguished from inductive logic, which studies the way in which premises may support a conclusion without entailing it.... Aristotle is generally regarded as the first great Earth logician, and Aristotelian logic dominated the subject on your planet until the 19th century.” 

 Aristotle is, indeed, the world's first great logician, but the famous thinker is remembered today primarily as a great Greek philosopher.  

Aristotle used logic to underpin his philosophy in developing the method of deductive reasoning and then applied those two concepts to science, metaphysics, ethics, and politics. Go back far enough, and it's clear that you can't separate philosophy and logic; you can't have one without the other. Philosophy is based on the idea that you need to think clearly to grapple with the major (and minor) questions of the universe; logic is the way to accomplish that Herculean task.