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The Art of Logic

How to Make Sense in a World that Doesn’t

By Eugenia Cheng
15-minute read
Audio available
The Art of Logic by Eugenia Cheng

The Art of Logic (2018) tackles an increasingly important question: How do we navigate through a post-truth world, where fake news and social media are shaping reality? Mathematician Eugenia Cheng demonstrates how we can use logic to challenge our assumptions and seek truth. And surprisingly, she shows us that when we combine logic with emotion, we’re better able to navigate through our illogical world.

  • Sensitive souls feeling overwhelmed by our illogical society
  • Campaigners wanting to learn how to develop clear, considered arguments
  • People looking to deepen their understanding of other

Eugenia Cheng is on a mission to eradicate humanity’s fear of math. Scientist and academic, Cheng’s YouTube lectures have been viewed over a million times since 2007. Cheng’s other books include How to Bake Pi and Beyond Infinity, which made the shortlist in 2017 for the Royal Society Science Book Prize.

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The Art of Logic

How to Make Sense in a World that Doesn’t

By Eugenia Cheng
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Art of Logic by Eugenia Cheng
Synopsis

The Art of Logic (2018) tackles an increasingly important question: How do we navigate through a post-truth world, where fake news and social media are shaping reality? Mathematician Eugenia Cheng demonstrates how we can use logic to challenge our assumptions and seek truth. And surprisingly, she shows us that when we combine logic with emotion, we’re better able to navigate through our illogical world.

Key idea 1 of 9

In order to unlock the full potential of logic, we must first understand how it works.

Logic. It’s a concept most of us start to understand as toddlers, when we learn how one thing connects to another. A rainy day means we can’t go to the beach. Not eating our lunch means we get hungry. But logic holds far greater potential than merely providing straightforward explanations. It’s a tool we can use to explore complex issues in a meaningful way. We just have to learn how to use it.

The key message here is: In order to unlock the full potential of logic, we must first understand how it works.

So what exactly is logic?

Logic is the process of investigating, or constructing, a complex argument by asking questions. These questions then act as stepping stones that lead us to a place of clarity. Because logic behaves in a particular way, we must first understand that behavior before we can put logic into practice.

The first step to understanding logic is to recognize that it is similar to theater. Logic takes you out of the real world and into somewhere abstract. If you’re watching the play Peter Pan, you won’t question the existence of a fairy like Tinkerbell, or that children can fly in the night sky. You can overlook these breaches of science because you’re in an imaginary world.

In this way, logic gives you permission to ignore certain aspects of reality. This means you can better examine the heart of an argument, without getting caught up in irrelevant details. For instance, say two people are discussing gender equality. In order to fully explore the topic, they might agree to put aside the fact that several women are currently heads of state, since these women are still the exceptions to the rule historically. By doing this, they can then explore the impact of gender discrimination on the majority of women.

The second step is to understand that logic only works in one direction. So if A implies B, the rules of logic state that B doesn’t necessarily imply A. Unfortunately, humans tend to believe it does. But it isn’t always the case. If your friend tells you, “A banana is always a fruit,” is it true? Well, fruit isn’t always a banana, which shows us that the reverse of your friend’s statement is false. He’s also ignored that the banana might be part of a milkshake or cake, neither of which are fruit. Because of this, we need to pay close attention to the structure of logic statements and not assume the opposite is true. 

Now that we understand a little more about logic, let’s shift from theory to reality, and look at how humans behave when we argue.

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