Is logic relative like Einstein's Special Relativity or is it absolute? I am thinking it is absolute, but at the same time I am inclined to think that it's not as simple as you may think.

  • This question is not much more specific than "is mathematics invented or discovered". There is already enough material for both that and your question on this site and the internet. – William Oct 31 '20 at 3:56
  • There are different types of logic. Which type did you gave in mind? It is NOT the case logic is just logic. Here are some distinct types of so called logic: Aristotelian, Deontic, Modal, Mathematical, etc. There are several academic disciplines that use the same word LOGIC in different contexts: Philosophy, Psychology, Rhetoric, Law, Political science, Mathematics, Computer science, etc. Some terminology has the same spelling & pronunciation (it looks like the same word & sounds like the same word) but in reality it has a different conceptual meaning in a specific subject matter. – Logikal Oct 31 '20 at 4:01
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    Does this answer your question? Is logic subjective? – Conifold Oct 31 '20 at 4:26
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    Einstein's Relativity is not "relative" in the sense you are alluding... – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 31 '20 at 12:57
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    Well, hmph. As people approach the speed of thought, their capacity for reason does seem to get distorted; ask any meth-head... – Ted Wrigley Nov 2 '20 at 16:39


  1. (Logic) the branch of philosophy concerned with analysing the patterns of reasoning by which a conclusion is properly drawn from a set of premises, without reference to meaning or context. See also formal logic, deduction4, induction4
  2. (Logic) any particular formal system in which are defined axioms and rules of inference. Compare formal system, formal language
  3. the system and principles of reasoning used in a specific field of study
  4. a particular method of argument or reasoning
  5. force or effectiveness in argument or dispute
  6. reasoned thought or argument, as distinguished from irrationality
  7. the relationship and interdependence of a series of events, facts, etc
  8. (Logic) chop logic to use excessively subtle or involved logic or argument
  9. (Computer Science) electronics computing a. the principles underlying the units in a computer system that perform arithmetical and logical operations. See also logic circuit b. (as modifier): a logic element.

So logic is also and essentially a natural capacity of the human brain, the result of natural selection over millions of years, possibly billions. So, in that sense, it is contingent on life itself, possibly life on Earth.

This also means that every human being has the same logic and that personal experience, training, learning, cannot affect this capacity. We can think of it in the same way we do languages. You can learn different languages, you can become more articulate, fluent, talkative etc. but your native linguistic capacity is not affected. Same for logic. You can invent any number of arguments or reasonings, you can create any number of mathematical theories, but your innate logical capacity is not affected.

Perhaps the question is whether there could be a better logic. Maybe yes, but then who is going to make it? Nobody on Earth is going to beat natural selection. No engineering company could come anywhere near emulating the process of natural selection.

So, maybe some Alien species somewhere in the universe got better logic, but maybe the snag is whether your logic is good for the kind of environment you live in. So better logic over there may not translate as better logic here on Earth. We are probably incapable of producing ourselves a better logic. We are aware of logic broadly since Aristotle 2,500 years ago and we still cannot produce a correct formal model of it, so improving on it would be not for any time soon.

So, logic is not absolute. It is contingent on life, or perhaps only on the kind of physics our universe has. Maybe there couldn't be any better logic than the one we have. It is easy to conceive of the possibility of the same logic implemented on a bigger and faster brain, in particular a machine, but improving on human deductive logic itself seems beyond even our power of imagination.

And for people who think that my view is irrational or somehow unfounded, this is not just me saying this. Here is what a research scientist from the Innovative Computing Laboratory (University of Tennessee) says about logic:

Logic is inherent in the structure of neurons.

So, no, we cannot claim we know that this is true, but it is way more plausible than anything else, and indeed the only rational perspective to have on the subject given what we know about logic.

  • Just curious, why the down votes? I upvoted one. Seems a perfectly plausible position to say that logic is biologically or even historically contingent in at least its relative completeness, and in some sense "relative" to the spacetime framework of "consciousness," however that may be defined. An analogy might be Kant and nonEuclidean geometries. Anyway, I'll look at the question/answers cited by Conifold. Maybe the down voters explain themselves there. – Nelson Alexander Oct 31 '20 at 19:59
  • @NelsonAlexander Maybe because of the lecturing style. Maybe because it is almost void of any references supporting the claims. Or, apart from these stylistic factors, because it seems to confuse an almost platonic account of THE logic (hardwired laws of thought) and a more nuanced account of the contextualisation of logic, which very much implies a plurality of problem-adjusted systems of logics as practiced by mathematicians/logicians. I refrained from voting, but I guess these are relevant factors – Philip Klöcking Nov 2 '20 at 11:58
  • @NelsonAlexander Too much of this answer is simply false. It conflates logic with reasoning. Reasoning is what people do; logic is the study of the relationships of consequence between sentences. To claim that everyone has the same logic is so obviously incorrect that it barely needs comment. Likewise that human beings do not learn logic. Most people are poor at logic: it needs to be taught and learned. When it comes to reasoning with uncertainties, people are quite spectacularly bad at it. There has been a lot of progress in logic: Frege's logic is a vast improvement on Aristotle's, etc. – Bumble Nov 2 '20 at 13:15
  • Okay, thanks, don't disagree, parts of it are indeed wrong, and I was casually over-generalizing, taking the main point to be biological-historical contingency. – Nelson Alexander Nov 2 '20 at 15:40
  • @Bumble I don't conflate logic with reasoning. Logic is only a mode of reasoning. Further, it is mathematicians who conflate logic and formal logic, as if the word "formal" was there just because it is pretty rather than really meaningful. The word "logic" is polysemous. Most people are poor at formal logic, including mathematicians. But it is obvious that the human brain has a logical capacity just like it has a linguistic capacity. – Speakpigeon Nov 2 '20 at 17:08

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