Thinking Straight

Thinking Straight

Thinking Straight

Thinking Straight

Synopsis

A philosopher sets forth and illustrates the principles of logical thinking and reasoning and considers the use of language as a vehicle of thought.

Excerpt

1.1 The first thing to get straight in thinking about think. ing is the difference between questions about validity and questions about truth. But in getting this straight we shall find that we are also sorting out every other really fundamental notion. For the indispensable notions are all connected. We cannot fully master any one without getting the same grasp upon the lot. Once the essential preparation is complete, we may proceed to the main business of the book. That business is to consider examples of thinking, usually of bad thinking, in order to learn how to do the job better. Here and now we have first to clean and tidy the tools.

1.2 The reason to begin precisely where we are beginning is that thinking about thinking is concerned, at least in the first instance, with the validity or invalidity of arguments, rather than with the truth or falsity of propositions. What is true, or false, is propositions. What is valid, or invalid, is arguments. These notions, and these distinctions, are absolutely basic. To say that an argument is true or that a proposition is valid is as uncomprehending, or as inept, as to say that someone played scrum half in a soccer match or scored a lot of tries at cricket.

1.3 Take propositions. There are, of course, propositions and propositions. Both those mutually advantageous proposals which one businessman makes to another, and those improper but delightful suggestions which Playboys put to their intended Playmates, are called quite properly propositions. But in this book--perhaps regrettably--we shall engage with propositions only in a quite different sense of the word. In this, our relevant sense, the word 'proposi-

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