Thinking Clearly

“When we hear others speaking, or when we read what others have written, we notice two things present in our consciousness: the objective and the subjective, the things said and our emotional reactions to these things. We are bored, interested, moved, scared, irritated, depressed, cheered, disgusted, threatened, or attracted by what we hear or read. It is absolutely essential — not only for log but for all education and in fact for civilization, honesty, and sanity — that we distinguish these two things, the objective and the subjective; that we understand, and concentrate on, not only our own feelings and reactions to what is said but also what is (actually) said, what is given to us, our verbal data. We cannot justly and intelligently react to what is said if we do not understand what is said, what is objective to us; or if we cannot distinguish the objective from the subjective, distinguish what is said from our personal reaction to it. So the first thing we must do is to find out what is said, what truth-claims are contained in this discuss that is spoken or written — that is, what propositions are being uttered. 

“This is simple and obvious core of the art of reading, and this is one of the most useful parts of logic. For the complaints that students can no longer read seem to be increasing every generation. After a century of universal public education, Americans do not know how to read or write as well today as they did a hundred years ago. If you doubt this, compare newspapers or elementary reading textbooks for any grade a century ago with those today.

“One of the best remedies for bad reading and writing is good logic, especially the analysis of propositions. For thinking clearly, expressing your thoughts clearly, and interpreting another’s expressions clearly are three arts that are very closely aligned; no one of them can be done well without doing the other two. And the part of logic that is most directly related to this is the part that studies propositions.”

— Peter Kreeft, Socratic Logic, pgs. 139-140

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