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Quotations about
Logic & Reason



But logic, like whisky, loses its beneficial effect when taken in too large quantities. I mean that to throw off a glass of whisky neat, merely because it happens to be standing handy, is not necessarily good; and in the same way a thing may be logically true and yet it may not be always good to apply it there and then. ~Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, My Ireland, 1937


Ethics and Logic should be the most generally studied, because all practise them whether they have studied them or not. ~Richard Whately


"Contrariwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic." ~Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, 1871


Reason. If you follow it far enough, it always leads to conclusions that are contrary to reason. ~Samuel Butler


Logic is one thing, and common sense another. ~Elbert Hubbard


Logic is a large drawer, containing some useful instruments, and many more that are superfluous. But a wise man will look into it for two purposes, to avail himself of those instruments that are really useful, and to admire the ingenuity with which those that are not so, are assorted and arranged. ~C. C. Colton


And further, the vast majority of human beings are not interested in reason or satisfied with what it teaches. Nor is reason itself the most satisfactory instrument for the understanding of life. ~Aldous Huxley


For over two thousand years Formal Logic has been a stock subject of academic instruction... It might be supposed, therefore, that by this time the subject of Logic was completely explored, that every embellishment of technicality had been added, and every logical question settled beyond a shadow of a doubt. Instead of this, what do we find? Not only that ordinary human thinking continues to pay scant respect to Logic, but that the logicians themselves continue to differ widely as to the nature, the function, the value, and even the existence, of their science. ~F. C. S. Schiller, Formal Logic, 1912


Logic... the Science, or the Study, of Thought... ~H. W. B. Joseph, "Of the General Character of the Enquiry," An Introduction to Logic, 1906


...to strengthen his armour by the study of logic... ~The Athenæum, 1868


A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. ~Rabindranath Tagore


The want of logic annoys. Too much logic bores. Life eludes logic, and everything that logic alone constructs remains artificial and forced. Therefore is a word the poet must not know, which exists only in the mind. ~André Gide


REASON: The arithmetic of the emotions. ~Elbert Hubbard


With Joseph Devey, logic is neither a science nor an art exclusively, but a combination of both, comprising at once the theory and practice of reasoning. ~The Athenæum: Journal of English and Foreign Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, 1854


Logic is neither a science nor an art, but a dodge. ~Benjamin Jowett (1817–1893), as quoted in The Nation: A Weekly Journal Devoted to Politics, Literature, Science & Art, 1897


      Charles Dodgson lived in a world riveted with rules and regulations, forms, laws, and reasons, a prison-house of regularity where one's intellectuals and impulses sat with their feet fast in the stocks of propriety and precedent, domineered not only by mathematics but by logic as well. Dodgson himself published a book on logic, and carried on a sharp controversy by pamphlets and correspondence with Cook Wilson, professor of logic at Oxford, charging him with the heinous offense of perpetrating fallacies in his views about hypotheticals. With this rigidly regulated realm there could be no greater contrast than the Wonderland in which Lewis Carroll lived, a frolic realm where logic and arithmetic play leap-frog together, where that dignified, stern and uncompromising precisian, the multiplication table, stands on its head and wiggles its toes in the air, where syllogisms shoot the chute and hang by their eyelids from a trapeze.
      To be in Lewis Carroll's company is to go gipsying through Topsy-Turveydom. The sillier a Wonderland syllogism is the greater the gayety of nations. This is a sample syllogism... "Caterpillars are not eloquent; Jones is eloquent; therefore Jones is not a caterpillar." The logic of Wonderland is as tipsy as that of the Greek inscription over a tavern in old Athens: "He who drinks well sleeps well; he who sleeps well has a pure conscience; he who has a pure conscience is dear to the gods; therefore he who drinks well is dear to the gods."...
      And in Lewis Carroll's company reasoning from analogy is like that of the little girl who was scratching the ground with a stick and said, "There'll be some little birds here soon, 'cause I've planted some fevvers." The expectant little logician had never been warned by Darwin's Origin of Species that "analogy may be a deceitful guide." When Candidate Woodrow Wilson said to an Oregon audience, "I don't care a pepper-corn for logic," he was bidding for the vote of Wonderland, where Professor Jowett is canonized for his most audacious heresy that "Logic is neither a science nor an art but a dodge," which is orthodox doctrine in Wonderland. ~William Valentine Kelley, With the Children in Lewis Carroll's Company, 1917


...there is an art of Logic, based on the science of Logic... ~H. W. B. Joseph, "Of the General Character of the Enquiry," An Introduction to Logic, 1906


When Science at last escaped from the clutches of medieval Scholasticism (which was itself a hybrid between theology and Formal Logic), it happened that 'Logic' remained in the old curriculum. So the students of Science were not taught it, and consequently were not paralysed by its technicalities and ineptitudes. They could therefore go ahead, and advance their subjects by the light of nature, without being blocked at every step by sterile subtleties. ~F. C. S. Schiller, Formal Logic, 1912


Logic is a science, in the sense that it seeks to know the principles of some subject which it studies... and if Logic is a science, it must have a subject of its own, in which it seeks for principles and laws. That subject is thought, but thought is always thought about something; and thinking cannot be studied in abstraction from anything thought about. But yet in the same way that we may study the laws of motion, as they are exemplified in the movement of all bodies, without studying all the bodies that ever move, so we may study the laws of thought, as they are exemplified in thinking about all subjects, without studying all the subjects that are ever thought of... [S]o we must have experience of thinking about things, before we can investigate the principles of thinking; only this means, in the case of thinking, that we must ourselves think about things first, for no one can have experience of thinking except in his own mind... [W]hen we investigate the principles that regulate our thinking, though we do not need to study all things ever thought of, we must have before our minds something thought of, in order to realize in it how we think about it and all possible things like it... Logic, then, is the science which studies the general principles in accordance with which we think about things, whatever things they may be; and so it presupposes that we have thought about things... The foregoing discussion will probably become plainer if it be read again at a later stage, when the reader is more practised in reflecting on his thoughts. ~H. W. B. Joseph, "Of the General Character of the Enquiry," An Introduction to Logic, 1906  [I must say, this is my favorite logic literary harvest thus far. —tg]


We know that mathematicians care no more for logic than logicians for mathematics. The two eyes of exact science are mathematics and logic: the mathematical sect puts out the logical eye, the logical sect puts out the mathematical eye; each believing that it sees better with one eye than with two. The consequences are ludicrous. ~The Athenæum, 1868


A wise man neither lets himself be governed nor seeks to govern others: he wishes reason alone to govern, and for ever. ~Jean de La Bruyère (1645–1696), translated by Jean Stewart, 1970


LOGIC, n.  The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. The basis of logic is the syllogism, consisting of a major and a minor premise and a conclusion — thus:
      Major Premise:  Sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man.
      Minor Premise:  One man can dig a post-hole in sixty seconds; therefore—
      Conclusion:  Sixty men can dig a post-hole in one second.
This may be called the syllogism arithmetical, in which, by combining logic and mathematics, we obtain a double certainty and are twice blessed. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic's Word Book, 1906


(1) Every one who is sane can do Logic;
(2) No lunatics are fit to serve on a jury;
(3) None of your sons can do Logic.
~Lewis Carroll, Symbolic Logic, 1897


(1) When I work a Logic-example without grumbling, you may be sure it is one that I can understand;
(2) These Soriteses are not arranged in regular order, like the examples I am used to;
(3) No easy example ever makes my head ache;
(4) I ca'n't understand examples that are not arranged in regular order, like those I am used to;
(5) I never grumble at an example, unless it gives me a headache.
~Lewis Carroll, Symbolic Logic, 1897


(1) Every idea of mine, that cannot be expressed as a Syllogism, is really ridiculous;
(2) None of my ideas about Bath-buns are worth writing down;
(3) No idea of mine, that fails to come true, can be expressed as a Syllogism;
(4) I never have any really ridiculous idea, that I do not at once refer to my solicitor;
(5) My dreams are all about Bath-buns;
(6) I never refer any idea of mine to my solicitor, unless it is worth writing down.
~Lewis Carroll, Symbolic Logic, 1897


Pure logic is the ruin of the spirit. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, translated from the French by Lewis Galantière


When you say, "The burned child dreads the fire," you mean that he is already a master of induction. ~Isaac Asimov


...but a skepticism pointing to the past for its confirmation whispers to us that metaphysics may be, after all, only the art of being sure of something that is not so and logic only the art of going wrong with confidence. ~Joseph Wood Krutch, 1929


When I am told that under this or that régime selfishness would disappear, I cannot but reflect that my neighbor is better nourished by eating his own dinner than by my eating it for him, and I recall the tale of the men of Gotham who got hopelessly tangled up in their public meeting until a philosopher came by and said: Every man pull out his own legs. For the most part men believe what they want to... But reason means truth and those who are not governed by it take the chances that some day the sunken fact will rip the bottom out of their boat. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1923


A good deal of our so-called thinking is incoherent, and breaks down when we criticize it. That we can indeed discover for ourselves without learning Logic... ~H. W. B. Joseph, "Of the General Character of the Enquiry," An Introduction to Logic, 1906


Meanwhile I am consoling myself for your absence by finding my advantage in it — shining like Hesperus when Hyperion has departed... I never held it my forte to be a severe reasoner, but I can see that if whatever is best is A, and B happens to be best, B must be A, however little you might have expected it beforehand. ~George Eliot


The last process of reason is to recognise that there is an infinity of things which transcend it; it is but weak if it does not go so far as to know that. ~Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), "Of the True Righteous Man and of the True Christian," translated from the text of M. Auguste Monlinier by C. Kegan Paul, 1885


Reason has moons, but moons not hers
      Lie mirror'd on the sea,
Confounding her astronomers,
      But, O! delighting me.
~Ralph Hodgson


Nothing is more dangerous than strict logic — which is not quite sure of its premises. ~Woods Hutchinson, A.M., M.D. (1862–1930), Civilization and Health, "Chapter I: The Diseases of Civilization," 1914


If the world were all logic, poetry would starve to death. ~Terri Guillemets, "Harsh sun, soft steps," 1996


Logic is logic. That's all I say. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Deacon's Masterpiece (or The Wonderful "One-Hoss-Shay"): A Logical Story"





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