Matt: Your question is a good one; perhaps the most basic of all. What’s the point of this whole logic enterprise?
You dont have to inhabit the worlds of economics or politics for too long before you realise that there are major differences between people on fundamental issues. To know what’s what in these matters, it’s not just a matter of opening one’s eyes and taking a look. Different people ‘see’ different things and, as a consequence, do (and recommend doing) different things.
If we decline to use violence as a mind-changer, the only mode open to us is persuasion, and rational persuasion (i.e. not bribery or other inducements) makes essential use of argument.
Logic, then, is a way of coming to grips with the essentials of argument. It’s not a magic bullet that solves all your problems but it will help you to focus on the essential points instead of trivia. It will help you to know what information you would need to definitively establish a point.
As you move to consider what is called informal logic, you will be exposed to a method of organising and evaluating the commonest class of arguments we come across.
And even with a rudimentary exposure to what are called fallacies, you will recognise a whole class of dubious types of argumentative strategies, an acquaintance with which will put you in control of many discussions.
I sometimes say that learning logic is, putting it at its lowest estimate, a little like learning a system of intellectual self-defence.
On an historical note, logic (or dialectic) was one of the so-called ‘trivial’ subjects, called that because it was one of three, the trivium – grammar, rhetoric and dialectic that were considered to be the basic tools of learning. Grammar allowed you to read and to understand what you read; dialectic (logic) gave your control over the processes of argument; and rhetoric enabled you to find the available means of persuasion. Equipped with these skills, a student was ready to take on more substantive matters.
So, I encourage you to stick with it for a while to see what you can make of it.
If you have any particular questions, please do get in touch, either through the forum or directly to me by email. And thank you for the heads-up on starting this thread.