(Originally appeared in Lognet 94/3)

The Difficulties of a Logical Language

by Glen Haydon

James Cooke Brown’s article, “Why Is Loglan So Hard to Use ... ?”, in Lognet 94/1 gives another perspective to a continuing dilemma I have been wrestling with for many years. When I talked with him about it, he encouraged me to respond with something for Lognet. Because I have not found a satisfactory resolution of the role of logic in thinking, I hesitate to say anything. But I will try.

What is thinking? I find that thinking is simply rationalization of a gut feeling. That is, thinking is a response to some emotion. Language serves to convey that emotion. The ultimate judge of any emotion is a feeling of harmony. Thus, one might say that rational thinking is a tool for resolving emotional conflict.

An Indian philosopher once said that reason is no path to certainty except in matters that don’t matter. I have taken the view that the role of science, logic, and careful analysis is to help guide something which I call intuition. I take that to be a gut feeling. Gut feelings may be changed with simple logical analysis to provide an inner emotional harmony.

Suppose I suddenly have a very strong feeling of hunger. I can handle that in several ways. Going to the refrigerator and finding something to eat might well serve to satisfy my gut feeling. But I hear my wife in the kitchen preparing dinner. Furthermore, I know that it is approaching dinner time when I expect to have a fine meal. I am logically able to respond to my gut feeling by waiting until dinner is served.

This example demonstrates an internal analysis prompted by a gut feeling. But perhaps I might augment this with some spoken language. I might ask my wife how soon dinner will be ready. Now we have an exchange of language entering into my thinking provoked by my gut feeling of hunger.

Not all thinking is stimulated by the gut. There are many other emotions which can be considered. JCB wrote a piece on the origin of language which I cannot put my hands on right now [“Paternity, Jokes, and Song: A Possible Evolutionary Scenario for the Origin of Language and Mind” Journal of Social and Biological Structures 14(3):255-309, Fall 1991, JCB and William Greenhood]. Again language developed in response to emotions. In any case thinking is a way of dealing with emotions. But not all thinking is rational. Not all language is rational.

Rationality is a tool of thinking and of communication. But not all communication is so complicated that it requires any logical or rational development. In everyday use there are common idioms which often do not seem to offer any relation to the matter at hand or fit into a logical development. The communication transmits some previously established idea. Remember the story of telling jokes: “81, 42, 75”? These numbers refer to previous established ideas.

The basic problem which JCB raises in his article is that logical thinking does not always satisfy emotions. Between two people, where some emotional issue is at hand, natural language is vague. Perhaps some simple idioms are used. Maybe there is a sense of uncertainty between the two which leads to some degree of caution in the discussion. Such cautions may lead to ambiguous statements. Oftentimes the emotional difference can be resolved and inner harmony found without precise logical statements.

Another cause of imprecise use of language is ignorance. The players may not have a complete understanding of the subject of the emotional exchange. Again the development of an exact statement and argument may not even be possible. Natural languages make good use of vagueness for a number of reasons. It is thus not surprising that it is difficult to translate vague natural languages into the precise and unambiguous language of Loglan.

But man is a rational animal, or at least so it is said. He has the ability to learn. The learning is a matter of developing a structure. Logic is a matter of fitting things into an existing structure. Geometry provides a structure from which precisely connected steps can construct a conclusion. The conclusion may be correct within the man-made structure. But the man-made structure may not be consistent with the natural world.

In thinking, rational development must ultimately be consistent with the emotions driving the process if a rational conclusion is to be reached. Perhaps a difference among people is a difference between their emotions. Perhaps it is the emotions which are genetically derived in some way still not completely understood. Logical processes are only learned tools. The ability to learn to use these tools may also be genetically based without the tools themselves having a genetic basis.

The fundamental contribution of Loglan is its ability to refine the steps in a logical structure. With a precise artificial language rather than a more ambiguous natural language, perhaps a more refined logical structure can more efficiently address emotionally-driven thinking about many subjects. It is possible that a lack of agreement is not because of imperfect logic, but rather in a difference in emotions which harmonize in different ways.

One philosophical view is that all men, given the same facts, will tend to agree. The difference might be a question of whether any two men can have the same facts or that no two men have the same genetic emotional makeup. That may be why “tend to agree” is used. In the Loglan dictionary, place structures are given for each word. Often many places are available and often they are not all filled. They are left implied in some sense. My latest thinking is that some such template is required for all data in a data base. Without inclusion of enough items in a template, the data is meaningless. We are overwhelmed with isolated data. Information technology is a matter of dealing with data. Perhaps the filter we need is the requirement of a partial filling of a template associated with each bit of new data.

Metaphors are a sort of template. Perhaps the searching of the informational data base needs to use the structure of metaphor or some other sort of template. Lacking such hooks associated with isolated data, that data should be scratched immediately. Loglan can contribute to the development and utilization of templates and metaphors.

The ease of learning Loglan is in its structure. A template is provided. The difficulty in Loglan is not Loglan itself but that natural languages do not provide the same degree of granularity. The difficulty in going from a natural language to Loglan is simply that the natural language is sloppy and requires much effort to consider the intended meaning. This added discipline is one of the greatest contributions of Loglan.

—Hue Glen Heidn

An excellent book that is deeply relevant to Glen’s thesis is Robert H. Frank’s Passions Within Reason: The Strategic Role of the Emotions W.W. Norton & Co.:New York. 1988 —JCB

Copyright © 1994 by The Loglan Institute. All rights reserved.