Thursday, June 9, 2011

Imagination and logic

There is a particular style of thinking which annoys me. This style of thinking advocates the imagination/logic binary. It often advocates other binaries along with it, such as women=emotional/men=rational. I never accepted this binary. I did accept that some people are simply not suited to logical, rational thinking. I believed this because I did not understand math. It just did not work. Other things came naturally, but not math. It was not easy and I did not trust myself, as I do now, to struggle with it and succeed. This is to say that the imagination/logic binary is something I consider to have done me some personal harm.

There are a few ideas associated with this style of thinking. Firstly, logic is limited. It can only get you so far. It allows you to get you into a rut and it cannot get you out again. People who use logic are close minded and frightened to go beyond it. Second, logic is dangerous. It can shut people down. If I tell someone they are not being logical it puts all that they claim into question. It is a tool of the bad people.

To the first, yes, it is limited. It can only get you so far. For the second, logic is a tool. But it is not a tool of the bad people, those nasty bureaucrats, who ever it is you want to attack. It is a sword. It is a sword because it can be equally used to fight for freedom against an oppressor, or to oppress the oppressed who are fighting for freedom. Today we do not think killing is ever right and I really ought to use a hammer, but I like to use a sword better because using a hammer to do harm is not using it for it's proper purpose and as such the metaphor is weaker.

From what I can understand when people attack logic they really mean to be attacking particular people. They want to attack bureaucracy, the scientists, and suchlike. Sometimes they want to attack the philosophers. With the other attacks I do not have personal experience, but as I have knowledge of philosophy I can see that their attacks are usually quite ill-managed. Philosophy is not easily understood. Sometimes their points are somewhat valid, but for the most part any complaint made about the use of logic has also been made, more cleverly, within the discipline itself.

By saying this I do not mean that people should not keep talking about logic and imagination. What I mean is that it would be better to seek allies then enemies. My mother, being a non-academic poet, would sometimes discuss how the academic poets did not take her seriously because she did not have a university degree. Logic is present everywhere. She saw them as overly logical. They see philosophy as overly logical.

Most of the time I might agree with half of what the person is saying, but as they are making an attack I have yet had the presence of mind to turn the discussion to more fruitful directions, addressing the problems inherent in logic. These are interesting questions. The imperative that we do away with reason and it's ruler ship over the passions is not a discussion, it is an order given by someone who has not bothered to find out if I have any association with either of those things. Being told that I should be less logical is similar to being told I should "batten down the hatches, and levy the tug rope". I'm just not sure what you mean.

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