Syllogisms, katas, and triple kicks
Logic and martial arts have a lot in common.
In martial arts, choreographed movement routines are practiced as a way to memorize and perfect one’s technique. These movement routines, known as katas (型 or 形; meaning “form”), come in many styles.
Elegant, flowing weapon dance.
Furious flurries of fists and feet.
And moves that just plain look cool.
Logic has its own kind of kata. We call them syllogisms.
So what is a syllogism?
A syllogism is a deduction in the form of a formal argument. It contains three parts.
- A major premise
- A minor premise
- A conclusion
I know what you’re thinking.
“Dude…I just came for the logic kung fu so I can start trashing bozos over politics on Facebook. Are we there yet?”
No, we’re not there yet.
You gotta crawl before you walk. You gotta walk before you can trash bozos. Trust me, I’m saving you from a lot of mistakes, my friend.
Stay with me here. I’m about to teach you your first logic attack. The premise.
So what’s a premise?
A premise is a proposition that we assume to be true in our syllogism. Here’s some premise examples.
All planets are made of dirt.
Nobody wants Baby Yoda to die.
Your mom is fat.
Oof. Did you feel that last one?
A premise is like a punch or kick in your logic kata. We aren’t trashing bozos or triple kicking boards yet, but hey! We can do some damage now!
When we form a syllogism, we use two different premises in order to form a conclusion.
- Minor premise – A proposition with the subject of the conclusion.
- Major premise – A proposition with the predicate of the conclusion.
Both premises will have their own term, the major term and the minor term. They will also share a common middle term. Think of the middle term as their mutual friend in the middle.
Just so you know, the middle term and the conclusion don’t hang out.
Here’s an example of a syllogism.
Bananas are healthy food. Many people love bananas. Therefore, many people love some healthy food.
- Major premise = Bananas (middle term) are healthy food (major term).
- Minor premise = Many people (minor term) love bananas (middle term).
- Conclusion = Therefore, many people (minor term) love some healthy food (major term).
Pretty simple, right? When you look at a perfectly constructed syllogism, like this one, we can say that it is a valid syllogism.
Not every syllogism is created equal. Even if it’s constructed well and seems witty as a zinger, it’s only as strong as the premises you’re assuming. Maybe everybody laughed when you said that guy’s mom is like the sun, big and round, but what if he whips out a pic and she turns out to be more like the sun in that she’s extremely hot? Thanks for playing, but it’s game over for your syllogism.
Check your assumptions. Master the kata of logic. Put it together well, and someday you’ll be pulling triple kicks of your own. Logically.