What does a valid argument look like? Well, for those of us who have braved the tediousness of Critical Thinking classes in University (or College, as my American amigos would call it), we know it looks something like this:
((P -> Q) ˄P) -> Q
Also written as:
If P, then Q.
Which reads: “If P is true, then Q is true. P is true, therefore Q is true.
The letters P and Q are variables, just like in basic algebra. The argument is an equation. Input any given variable, and an output will ensue.
If today is Tuesday, then John will go to work.
Today is Tuesday. .
Therefore, John will go to work.
In Classical Logic, this is known as the argument form modus ponendo ponens, which means “the way that affirms by affirming”. It is one of the simplest forms of many argument forms in Classical Logic.
It seems ridiculous. It seems like a waste of time. It embodies the proverb “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy”. In the past, I felt nothing but distain for these argument equations; I harbored resentment toward their seemingly lofty, impractical structure. And yet, like any good student, I forced my mind to open. As it turned out, openness was the seed, patience was the tree, and understanding was the fruit when faced with the challenge of classical logic.
I write about modus ponens because I believe in firm, practical logic. Logic offers us a relatively objective challenger to our subjective world views. Questioning yourself and your world is, in my opinion, one of the humblest pursuits. As the French-Cuban author Anaïs Nin has written, “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.”
If you have a point to make but have trouble making it, modus ponens is here to help. Learn to weave a web of premises and facts; thus, articulating an inescapable truth.Voila.
I think it’s important for us to challenge each other and raise questions.
Doubt incites change.