A syllogism is a form of argument in which a conclusion is inferred from a set of premises. Often, this logical and rhetorical construct begins with a major premise, followed by a minor premise, and ends in a conclusion—as follows:
The first premise shares something with the second premise and forms the conclusion. If one of the premises is incorrect, the logic of a syllogism is considered flawed—as follows:
Major premise: All animals have tails.
Minor premise: Gorillas don’t have tails.
Conclusion: Therefore, gorillas aren’t animals.
Here, the major premise is incorrect, the minor premise is accurate, and the conclusion is faulty. Now, consider an example of a syllogism that uses a true major premise, questionable minor premise, and nonetheless results in a plausible conclusion:
Major premise: No men are capable of bearing children.
Minor premise: Pat—having transitioned from a woman-to-man, though without undergoing a phalloplasty or taking hormones—simply identifies as a man.
Conclusion: Consequently, Pat may be capable of bearing children.
Here, it depends on how a person conceptualizes what the words “men” and “man” actually mean. If a biological female can merely identify as a man, it is presumed that the individual could be capable of bearing children.
Now, consider a far less controversial syllogism—one that is based on a factual major premise, accurate minor premise, and leads to a correct conclusion. According to one source:
The most famous formal logic is about Aristotle himself.
Premise one: All humans are mortal.
Premise two: Aristotle is human.
Conclusion: Aristotle is mortal.
One important point to make in regards to syllogisms is that whether or not the premises are accurate, the conclusion at which a person arrives may flow from sound logic. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the syllogistic outcome is reasonable—as follows:
Major premise: If a person advocates terrorism, that individual endorses the loss of life concerning sociopolitical opponents.
Minor premise: Person X advocates terrorism.
Conclusion: Hence, person X endorses the loss of life concerning sociopolitical opponents.
The logic follows, though the result of this form of argumentation is unreasonable to most people. As such, in and of itself, logic may be balanced with reason—justification for an action, event, or perspective.
To expand upon this proposal, consider what I stated in a blogpost entitled Logic and Reason:
Suppose I were to program an artificial intelligence (A.I.) bot with an aim to eradicate cancer worldwide. The A.I. solution may be to kill everyone with cancer.
This is a reasonable conclusion from an instrument that doesn’t retain worth often placed on human life. Therefore, while a stance may be well-reasoned and make sense on its face, it doesn’t necessarily lead to an ethical, moral, or even legal conclusion.
Thus, simply because something is logical doesn’t mean it’s reasonable or proper. Likewise, when portions of a major or minor premise are predicated on irrational beliefs—as is the case in the example of Pat—the conclusion may be called into question or disputed altogether.
A syllogism is valid (or logical) when its conclusion follows from its premises. A syllogism is true when it makes accurate claims—that is, when the information it contains is consistent with the facts. To be sound, a syllogism must be both valid and true. However, a syllogism may be valid without being true or true without being valid.
Major premise: If only qualified experts can opine on public health matters, unqualified people shouldn’t question the opinions of experts.
Minor premise: During the COVID-19 pandemic, qualified experts endorsed ineffective masking, untested vaccines, and detrimental social distancing practices for lengthy periods of time in regards to public health matters.
Conclusion: Therefore, unqualified people shouldn’t question the opinions of experts who promoted these practices.
Considering philosopher David Hume’s is-ought problem, actual science describes what is though doesn’t prescribe what ought to be done. The so-called experts who promoted reverence for “the science” during the COVID-19 pandemic played an illogical trick upon the world.
Breaking down the rhetoric used to infringe the rights of billions of people across the globe, a syllogism may be used to reveal how irrational it was to have placed blind trust and unwavering allegiance in such individuals. The use of demandingness only complicated the matter.
In conclusion, consider the following syllogism and its accompanying form:
Most S are not M.
Many P are M.
Some S are not P.
Most people are not proficient with the use of syllogisms.
Many critical thinkers are proficient with the use of syllogisms.
Some people are not critical thinkers.
When you comprehend how logic and reason function, in association with syllogistic use, you may realize how effortlessly it is to self-disturb through application of irrational beliefs. Perhaps more importantly, you can better understand how to stop continually upsetting yourself.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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