Mid-Summer New Honey Extraction Moon
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein
Logic revealed itself to me in Symbolic Logic I at Wabash College. Professor Larry Hackstaffe taught it and I struggled like a flopping fish for six weeks, right up to the first test. I studied and studied, but it made no sense to me. On the day of the first test I went in and Bam, it was there. Locked into place and flowing.
This anecdote shows a strange reality about logic. You have to learn how to use it and when you do the learning curve is not necessarily progressive, moving from one logical step to another, rather it proceeds in the manner of insight and intuition. After you get, logic will get you from A to Z and show you how you got there. You can also show others how you got there. You can use it suss out weaknesses in the arguments of others and in your own arguments.
Here’s the rub, though. Beginnings. Assumptions. What do you assume when you begin your logical journey? If we accept the two ideas of mortality and Socrates, we can use the famous syllogism, if all men are mortal and Socrates is a man, then Socrates is mortal. If, however, we believe in, say, reincarnation, then this syllogism cannot make sense. Or, to take a more current example, if the debt ceiling is not a critical political issue to you, then all the arguments in the world about how to control it will be nonsense.
Logic has a power in its crisp, repeatable steps and its ability to say whether one thing truly follows from another, but it has only limited use in the realm of the good, the true and the beautiful. Truth, even. Yes, truth lies outside logic’s realm. Logical can tell whether you a conclusion follows from its argument, but it cannot tell you whether it is a good conclusion or a bad conclusion. That is the realm of value.
Imagination allows us, encourages us, to consider conclusions not dreamt of in your philosophy. Or mine. Imagination allows to go all non-Euclidean on geometry. It pushed past Newton and into General and Special relativity. Imagination flows into realms never conceived and into ideas never before entertained. Our imagination may be the most wondrous organ of all. The imaginal lobe, wherever it resides, dreams and schemes, rearranges and redesigns with no necessary allegiance to fact, truth, goodness or badness.
Imagination is dangerous, yes, but also beautiful. I’m with Einstein, I want to go every where.