Fuzzy Logic

We don’t always know the thought processes that underlie our intuition. The very real risk is that if those thought processes are limited, so are we.

Our world is non-linear. That does not mean it is curved, that means that the connections are not as they seem. Cause and effect are not tightly connected, outcomes are not proportional to inputs and there is far more to know than we do know.

We are like Spock. We trust logic. But, also like Spock, we trust only a single logic system. Socratic logic. There are others and they may be more appropriate as the real world becomes more complex.

Most of our intuitive thought processes are based on classical ways of thinking. These are “right,” but only within the designed context.

  • Euclidian geometry is quite accurate in small spaces. It is not accurate at all in large ones.
  • Newtonian physics won’t describe atoms or galaxies but it works very well in Omaha.
  • Socratic logic works quite well in simple societies or in computers. It is less perfect in large and differentiated societies.

Today I want to look at how Socratic logic leads us away from the non-linear world.

Socratic logic deals with truth and not-truth. There is no room for variance. A thing is true or it is not true. The law of the excluded middle says it must be one or the other. That limit is not as big a part of other systems. The real world is certainly not like that.

Most Asian societies developed from another logic system. They find and analyze “truth” differently than we do. It is not hard to see why we cannot always communicate effectively. Asian philosophy and logic is more subtle. They can accommodate more depth or maybe it is the continuity in the space between true and not true. There is no excluded middle. Consider this.

A stapler is not a hammer. But it has a certain “hammerness” about it. How many have used one to hang a calendar? A log is not a chair, but around a campfire, it has a certain “chairness.”

These violate the law of the excluded middle, yet we understand hammerness and chairness intuitively. They are outside the Socratic logic box. Unfortunately this type of intuition is not always operational. We tend to revert to contrasts for decisions. Truth and not truth. Included or not included.

We develop the idea of polarity or opposite as ways to describe, simplify and decide. As discussed a few days ago, these extremes become tokens. Part of the essential meaning disappears in the summary. Liberal-Conservative, right-wrong, black-white may be a good way to compare and contrast, but they are not sufficient to think about complicated situations.

It is possible that Asian logic may be more suited to complex societies. For them, the true-false contrast and the excluded middle are strange concepts. An Asian does not see black as the opposite of white. The opposite of white is not-white, thus “It is a black and white decision” has little meaning. For us it seems clear, but the high-contrast presentation forces us to ignore other more subtle choices.

Variations like these can make it hard to communicate with, or even understand, someone who does not share the intuitive background of thinking.

Language structure and vocabulary limits what you can say and it limits how you can think as well. Even art and music are affected. “Asian Picasso” Chinese artist Chang Dai-chien art sold for $506.7 million in 2011.


Clouded Mountain By Chang Dai-chien does not look the product of western thought.

Western classical thought processes require a limited world. Fuzzy Logic began with the 1965 proposal of fuzzy set theory by Lotfi A. Zadeh at the University of California, Berkley. It is worth the trouble to introduce yourself to it.

In a non-linear world, you should be very careful before deciding that the two ends of the contrast scale are the only choices. Somewhere in the middle may lie workable fuzzy logic as opposed to classic logic. For many, that is all that creativity is about.

One Comment on “Fuzzy Logic

  1. Agreed truth lies somewhere between your truth and the truth of the person ypou are arguing with!

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