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A thought inspired by Sunday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 75

A thought inspired by Sunday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 75

Where does logic come from?

This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.

Even the simplest biological organisms use logic. For example, when an antelope hears a rustling in the grass, it will start to flee. The antelope follows a logical “if… then…” rule. Those antelopes that did not develop the biology that encodes this logic were eaten a long time ago and did not reproduce. However, there is no need to look for such sophisticated examples. If the sun shines on one side of a flower, it will grow in that direction. Even the simple single-celled amoeba can follow the logic that says if there is a nutrient gradient, then start wiggling protrusions to swim in that direction.

Humans have always used such logic, but once we could speak, we learned to formulate explicit “if… then…” statements. At some later stage in human civilization, we started studying the process of logic itself. The systematic study of logic achieved results that human intuitive logic often confuses. For example, there is a difference between saying, “I will eat an apple if it is red” and saying, “I will only eat an apple if it is red.” The latter is called the bidirectional conditional or “if and only if” (sometimes abbreviated as “iff”). Using the bidirectional form implies that if I am eating an apple, it must be red. On the other hand, using the simpler form does not prove that the apple is red. It is easy to trip people up, make them look dumb, and give yourself the feeling that you must be smart, by posing your friends puzzles that depend on this distinction.

We can use our power to process words to work carefully through symbolic or numeric logic. However, this process is slow. If we guess or use our intuition, we can significantly speed up the process, which will often succeed in simple uncontrived cases.

Our intuition is good and fast because our brains are made up of a vast amount of logic circuits, but these circuits specialize in correlation. While learning that A comes along with B seems like logic, correlation is not the same as symbolic logic. Correlation is fast, while logic processing is slow.

We invented computers to run through the careful and accurate process of numeric and symbolic logic billions of times faster than we can. Eventually, this process came full circle as we learned how to build computers that can emulate the biological circuits so effective at finding correlations.

Why would we want to do that? Firstly, because correlation systems are very good at learning and adapting. Secondly, logical problems, when applied to large systems with many moving parts, quickly require more computations than there are atoms in the universe.

Correlation is better for learning and handling complexity, but it requires misleading simplifications and is very prone to errors.

The modern human is stuck between correlation and logic. Starting a few hundred years ago, our scientists did so well using logic that we thought it could be applied everywhere. But it doesn’t work that way. As scientists threatened to become the only elite worth listening to, every other elite assumed they could use the same tricks. Today, some leading scientists speak about non-scientific subjects unaware that they are not using the tools for which they have been given so much credit. They imagine that it is their cognitive superiority that makes them so capable, but it is just the choice of subject matter.

Our simplistic intuitive “logic” is not able to master the challenges created by our large societies or the planet-destroying power that we now have. However, it is not possible to marshal the computational power for rigorous logic to make these decisions, as even much simpler puzzles are rigorously solvable only in theory.

Not all is lost. The fact that we cannot guarantee solutions does not mean we cannot make success a little more likely. If we develop more empathy and increase our ability to think rationally on a global level, we may yet have a chance.

submitted by /u/eliyah23rd
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Source: Reditt

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