Recurring Evidence of the Need for Logic Education

Logic was eliminated as a required subject in schools during the early 20th century because education reformers thought it was not necessary. But times have changed. No one today can deny the need for critical thinking, effective problem solving, and sound reasoning – all of which rely on logic, and all of which are in decline. An article in warns: 

“The rationality of the world is what is at risk. Too many people are taken advantage of because of their lack of critical thinking, logic and deductive reasoning. These same people are raising children without these same skills, creating a whole new generation of clueless people.”

Basic logic literacy decreased during the first half of the 20th century, and computers were developed during the second half. This ironic turn of history is a source of many modern problems. Computers don't decrease the value of logic literacy, they increase it significantly, just as the printing press increased the value of general literacy. But this value cannot be achieved unless schools start teaching logic again. History is filled with evidence of the need for logic and the value of logic education:

ShannonClaude Shannon, the engineer who invented the information age, might have been the only engineer of his time to understand classical logic, which he learned in a philosophy class. His knowledge of logic, together with engineering, enabled him to unlock the secrets of digital electronics. In his own words, “it just happened that no one else was familiar with both fields at the same time.”   

vonNeumann Shannon’s discovery led to the development of electronic computers, but surprisingly it did not lead to greater demand for logic education. When the world’s first general-purpose digital computer, the ENIAC, was built, the lack of logic training among its engineers resulted in unnecessary complexity and inefficiency. The successor to the ENIAC was the EDVAC, and it was was designed not by engineers, but by a logician, John von Neumann. His insights into the relationship between logic and computing made modern computers possible:

“Although an engineering tour de force, the ENIAC was a logical mess. It was von Neumann's expertise as a logician...that enabled him to understand that a computing machine is really a logic machine.”  The Universal Computer, p xii

Since then, people who understand the significance of logic have made many important contributions, such as programming languages, database software, and artificial intelligence.

Logic is not just important for computers, it is useful for reasoning about everything. For most of modern history, logic was the starting point for all further learning; every student in every school had to learn it. No one could be considered an educated person without mastering logic. Today, it is difficult for most people to understand the importance of logic education because, through no fault of their own, most people do not even know what logic is.  

For the record, logic is a specific academic subject – it is among the oldest, most important, and most intensely studied subjects in human history. It has specific subject matter ranging from basic to advanced. Only the basics are needed for general education, which would enhance learning in every other subject, particularly those that have origins in logic such as business administration and computer engineering. The basics include principles such as the substitution of equivalents, validity, entailment, satisfaction, and proof. They include patterns of inference and logical operations for deductive reasoning. The basics are absolutely necessary for effective reasoning, and we need to start teaching them again. We cannot say a person is capable of critical thinking without skills relating to basic logic, which include the ability to: 

  • Draw valid inferences from evidence and recognize invalid inferences
  • Identify contradictions
  • Recognize ambiguity and unspoken assumptions in ones own communication and that of others
  • Understand the difference between the validity of an argument and the truth of its claims
  • Determine what conditions satisfy a simple set of rules or constraints

These skills do not come naturally, they must be taught. In some cases they can be self-taught to some extent, but a growing number of experts are coming to recognize the importance of universal logic education. Others have recognized the need for logic training within a variety of specializations. A professor at the University of Arizona has written about the importance of logic in information science. A professor at the University of Southern California understands the need for logic in business education. A senior scientist at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition wrote a paper to persuade his colleagues, many of whom have never taken a course in logic, that logic is useful in artificial intelligence. This is progress, but much more is needed. Most experts in most fields have never studied logic and have no frame of reference to understand its significance. This could not have been possible or even imagined in the past, but it is true today. 

Logic is useful in everyday life, for reasoning about things like political arguments, advertising claims, and even one's own assumptions. Philosophers have long recognized a connection between logic and ethics. After all, logic can influence the way we think, and the way we think influences the ways we behave and the things we choose to do.

The laws and principles of logic cannot be applied if they are not first understood. The decline of logic education is without a doubt a major factor, if not the primary factor, in the decline of critical thinking, human capital and dynamism. But there is cause for optimism. A professor at Stanford University is leading a movement to bring logic back as a basic requirement for every student, and he has published a free logic course for high schools. He believes logic education is necessary for effective citizenship and democracy, and that a logic-literate populace will know how to make decisions that truly align with their values. 

We at the Institute for Logic and the Public Interest support this goal and are working to promote it. We urge everyone to learn more about logic and to petition their local schools to start teaching it. Training for teachers is available at Stanford summer workshops, and the Institute offers training for teachers and others on demand, at any location. 

Further reading:

What Business Leaders Should Know About Logic

Aristotle Logic education can reduce or eliminate the most costly and difficult challenges facing modern organizations. Our goal at the CLBC is to incorporate classical logic into business education at every level and across all disciplines. Here are 7 things every business leader should know about logic:

  1. Logic is not the opposite of emotion. People use the same patterns of reasoning when they follow their heads as when they follow their hearts. Logic helps people make better decisions regardless of their objectives and motivations. Learning logic may even increase emotional intelligence and self awareness by enabling people to reason more clearly.
  2. Logic can and should be used as a common language to communicate requirements between business organizations and IT. Logic allows business professionals to express ideas clearly and in their simplest meaningful form. Ambiguity and imprecision are not possible with logic. When requirements are expressed using the classical rules of inference and standard operators, every stage of the system development life cycle is improved, leading to lower costs and superior outcomes.
  3. Business schools and employers report significant deficiencies of critical-thinking skills among students and employees, despite a prolonged focus on critical thinking in business education. We believe this is due to the decline of logic education during the 20th century. Effective reasoning is necessary for critical thinking, and logic is necessary for effective reasoning. Critical thinking is impaired without logic, and most schools, including most business schools, do not require any courses in logic.
  4. Logic literacy among educated adults is at a 900-year low. For most of modern history logic was considered the starting point for all further learning. In fact, teaching logic was one of the main reasons universities were created in the first place. Unfortunately, logic today is seen as a niche, specialized subject that only a small fraction of educated people know anything about. The standard of logic as a required subject for everyone ended with the education reforms of the late 19th and early 20th century. It is obvious now that this was a mistake.
  5. Logic is not only important for human reasoning, it also provides the basic operating principles of computers. Computers don't decrease the value of logic literacy, they increase it -- just as the printing press increased the value of standard literacy.
  6. Logic, like reading, is easy to learn but it does not come naturally, or even from experience. It must be taught and practiced. It can be self-taught, but many aspects of logic are non-intuitive and for most people are easier to learn with an instructor.
  7. The Center for Logic and Business Communication offers business-focused logic training from highly-rated instructors with university teaching experience. Contact us for more information on logic training for business professionals and managers.

Peter Cardon appointed Director of the Center for Logic and Business Communication

cardonDr. Peter Cardon brings world-leading expertise to our organization as the Vice President of the Institute and the Director of our Center for Logic and Business Communication.

Pete is also the Academic Director of the MBA for Professionals and Managers program at the USC Marshall School of Business, and one of only 3 full professors in the largest and oldest business communication department in the US. He is a former president of the Association for Business Communication, and the author of a leading textbook on business communication.

Welcome from the Director

The Institute for Logic and the Public Interest has filled a crucial need for today's business students by forming the Center for Logic and Business Communication to provide resources and direction on logic education in business. My work as a business communication professor, author, and MBA academic director convinces me that logic education is critically important for business students. Competency in logic underpins effective problem solving and successful communication. More broadly, logic education supports better learning in all disciplines, better decision making in professional and personal contexts, and better public discourse. I look forward to working with the Center and Institute to promote the study of logic at every level of business education.

Peter Cardon, PhD
Professor, Department of Business Communication
Academic Director, MBA.PM Program
Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California

TLA+ as a Business Communication Tool

A number of university business school programs, including one at the USC Marshall School of Business, are in the process of integrating classical logic into their degree requirements. Our research indicates that training in logic has significant benefits for business education, and we recommend that it be incorporated at every level and across all disciplines. The benefits include improved communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to use a logic-based tool like TLA+ to communicate requirements for business systems.

TLA+ is a free tool that allows users to express requirements that are precise and complete. Requirements expressed using TLA+ can also serve as permanent documentation that is precise, complete, and easy to update when systems change. It allows testing to be completely automated. In one case a bug was found 35 steps deep. This degree of thoroughness is impossible with human testing.

Businesses save time and money with TLA+ because it shortens the requirements process and helps engineers improve the efficiency and performance of their code. One engineer reported a 10x reduction in code when developing an operating system for a European spacecraft. Others have reported significant increases in performance and stability. Amazon has used TLA+ in at least 14 major systems.

When a requirement is expressed using TLA+ engineers do not need to understand anything about business knowledge, so they can focus completely on the code. Long and frequent interviews with IT to hash-out requirements become unnecessary. Outcomes when using TLA+ are virtually guaranteed to be superior.

With theses astonishing benefits it may seem surprising that industry adoption of TLA+ has been slow. Few business professionals are even aware of TLA+, and few engineers have ever received a requirement expressed with it. There are 2 main reasons for its low rate of adoption:

  1. TLA+ requires knowledge of classical logic, and the vast majority of business professionals and software engineers have never studied logic.
  2. It also requires detailed knowledge of the system subject matter.

In most, and possibly all cases where TLA+ has been used successfully, the subject-matter experts were also the engineers who created the systems – as was the case with the Amazon systems and the European spacecraft mentioned previously.

With business-focused systems, however, the subject-matter experts are not engineers, they are business professionals. But there is no reason business professionals, particularly business analysts and program managers, cannot also use TLA+ to express requirements for their own systems. They already have the detailed subject matter knowledge, the only obstacle is that most business professionals have never studied classical logic either.

But that is easy to fix. Logic is fairly simple for most educated people to learn. The challenge is to express detailed and specialized business knowledge using the simple principles of logic. It is important to recognize that logic is not a specialized technical subject, it is a general liberal art that is usually taught as introductory material in the philosophy departments at universities and even most community colleges. This is the kind of logic TLA+ is based on. Leslie Lamport, the creator of TLA+, says that engineers can learn to use it in about 3 weeks. We think business professionals can do it in the same amount of time.

The rules and principles of logic are static -- they never change. They are the same for everyone in every situation. Business knowledge, on the other hand, is not static, and is not the same for everyone in every situation. It can be highly specialized and is not always easy to learn. It can sometimes take years. So instead of asking engineers to thoroughly understand every detail of a complex range of specialized business knowledge, it makes far more sense for certain business professionals to take a course in logic and spend a couple of weeks to learn TLA+. The investment needed is small, and the potential returns are enormous.

Logic Training for Business Professionals

Most business professionals should receive training in classical logic, particularly business analysts and others who decide how information should be organized and shared. Logic training enables business professionals to use logic as a common language to communicate requirements between business organizations and IT. When requirements are communicated this way, engineers can apply formal methods using tools such as TLA+, which allows testing to be automated and ensures that systems do everything they are supposed to do and nothing they are not. This can significantly reduce costs, shorten development cycles, and improve business outcomes. Logic training for managers can help them better understand and communicate about business processes, rules, and their own requirements for information products.

Upcoming courses: Logic for Business Professionals, full course (40 hours), December 9 - 13, Redmond, WA  Register Now
There are no prerequisites for this course. Successful completion is guaranteed. Those not meeting the completion standards can retake the course free when space is available.

All courses are taught by highly-rated instructors with university teaching experience.

For groups of 8 or more, we can deliver training at your location and on your schedule. Contact us for details.



Logic and the Organization of Information

frickeAuthor: Martin Frické
Publisher:  Springer (2012)

This book is not for everyone, but everyone should know why it is important. The author believes that logic is fundamental to the field of information science, but other scholars in his field do not understand this important fact. He opens with a quote from 1929: “That the study of classification extends into logic… should not deter the educated librarian…”, and he discusses how Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz envisioned the use of logic to organize information in the 17th century. But Frické notes that "The monumental and authoritative Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition, 2009, does not have an entry for logic in its 6,856 pages" (p 121).

Modern information scientists do not recognize the value of logic in their field because few of them have ever studied it. Information managers should be able to rely on information scientists for guidance on how to use logic to organize information, but they cannot. Deficiency of logic education is the root cause of many difficult and costly challenges facing modern enterprise organizations.

With the decline of logic education during the 20th century it has become possible to earn a degree in almost any subject, including a PhD in information science, information management, or even computer science, without taking even a single introductory course in logic. This incredible fact highlights the irony of an advanced society that could not have developed without logic as the cornerstone of its education, but that now no longer expects it to be studied or understood.

Applied Mathematics for Database Professionals

AM4DPAuthor: Lex de Haan and Toon Koppelaars
Publisher:  Apress (2007)

The title of this book is misleading. It is not about mathematics, it is about classical logic, which is usually taught as introductory material in philosophy departments at universities and and even most community colleges. It is not difficult. This book teaches how to apply the simple principles of logic to the complex process of database design.

Logic provides the basic underlying principles behind the millions of databases that form the nervous system of modern commerce and management. But unfortunately the vast majority of database professionals have never studied logic, an ironic fact that co-author Toon Koppelaars discusses in his blog. Knowledge of logic does not come naturally or even from experience. It must be taught.

Logic was eliminated as a required subject in schools during the first half of the 20th century and computers were developed during the second half. But computers do not reduce the value of logic education, they increase it. And no activity relies more heavily on the practical application of logic than designing and querying databases. Deficiency of logic education is without doubt the primary root cause of the most difficult and costly information management challenges facing modern organizations. These challenges could be reduced or eliminated by teaching basic principles of classical logic and how to apply them, which is what this book does.

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