How We Think

Chapter 5: The Means and End of Mental Training: The Psychological and the Logical

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I. Introductory: The Meaning of Logical

Special topic of this chapter

IN the preceding chapters we have considered (i) what thinking is; (ii) the importance of its special training; (iii) the natural tendencies that lend themselves to its training; and (iv) some of the special obstacles in the way of its training under school conditions. We come now to the relation of logic to the purpose of mental training.

Three sense of term logical

The practical is the important meaning of logical

In its broadest sense, any thinking that ends in a conclusion is logical -whether the conclusion reached be justified or fallacious; that is, the term logical covers both the logically good and the illogical or the logically bad. In its narrowest sense, the term logical refers only to what is demonstrated to follow necessarily from premises that are definite in meaning and that are either self-evidently true, or that have been previously proved to be true. Stringency of proof is here the equivalent of the logical. In this sense mathematics and formal logic (perhaps as a branch of mathematics) alone are strictly logical. Logical, however, is used in a third sense, which is at once more vital and more practical; to denote, namely, the systematic care, negative and positive, taken to safeguard reflection so that it may yield the best results under the given conditions. If only the word artificial were associated with the idea

(57)  of art, or expert skill gained through voluntary apprenticeship (instead of suggesting the factitious and unreal), we might say that logical refers to artificial thought.

Care, thoroughness, and exactness the marks of the logical

In this sense, the word logical is synonymous with wide-awake, thorough, and careful reflection thought in its best sense (ante, p. 5). Reflection is turning a topic over in various aspects and in various lights so that nothing significant about it shall be overlooked almost as one might turn a stone over to see what its hidden side is like or what is covered by it. Thoughtfulness means, practically, the same thing as careful attention; to give our mind to a subject is to give heed to it, to take pains with it. In speaking of reflection, we naturally use the words weigh, ponder, deliberate terms implying a certain delicate and scrupulous balancing of things against one another. Closely related names are scrutiny, examination, consideration, inspection terms which imply close and careful vision. Again, to think is to relate things to one another definitely, to "put two and two together" as we say. Analogy with the accuracy and definiteness of mathematical combinations gives us such expressions as calculate, reckon, account for; and even reason itself ratio. Caution, carefulness, thoroughness, definiteness, exactness, orderliness, methodic arrangement, are, then, the traits by which we mark off the logical from what is random and casual on one side, and from what is academic and formal on the other.

Whole object of intellectual education is formation of logical disposition

No argument is needed to point out that the educator is concerned with the logical in its practical and vital sense. Argument is perhaps needed to show that the intellectual (as distinct from the moral) end of education is entirely and only the logical in this sense; namely,

False opposition of the logical and the psychological

(58)  the formation of careful, alert, and thorough habits of thinking. The chief difficulty in the way of recognition of this principle is a false conception of the relation between the psychological tendencies of an individual and his logical achievements. If it be assumed as it is so frequently that these have, intrinsically, nothing to do with each other, then logical training is inevitably regarded as something foreign and extraneous, something to be ingrafted upon the individual from without, so that it is absurd to identify the object of education with the development of logical power.

Opposing the natural to the logical

The conception that the psychology of individuals has no intrinsic connections with logical methods and results is held, curiously enough, by two opposing schools of educational theory. To one school, the natural[1] is primary and fundamental; and its tendency is to make little of distinctly intellectual nurture. Its mottoes are freedom, self-expression, individuality, spontaneity, play, interest, natural unfolding, and so on. In its emphasis upon individual attitude and activity, it sets slight store upon organized subject-matter, or the material of study, and conceives method to consist of various devices for stimulating and evoking, in their natural order of growth, the native potentialities of individuals.

Neglect of the innate logical resources

The other school estimates highly the value of the logical, but conceives the natural tendency of individuals to be averse, or at least indifferent, to logical achievement. It relies upon subject-matter upon matter already defined and classified. Method, then, has to do with the devices by which these characteristics may be imported into a mind naturally reluctant and re-

Identification of logical with subject-matter, exclusively

(59-bellious. Hence its mottoes are discipline, instruction, restraint, voluntary or conscious effort, the necessity of tasks, and so on. From this point of view studies, rather than attitudes and habits, embody the logical factor in education. The mind becomes logical only by learning to conform to an external subject-matter. To produce this conformity, the study should first be analyzed (by text-book or teacher) into its logical elements; then each of these elements should be defined; finally, all of the elements, should be arranged in series or classes according to logical formulae or general principles. Then the pupil learns the definitions one by one; and progressively adding one to another builds up the logical system, and thereby is himself gradually imbued, from without, with logical quality.

Illustration from geography

This description will gain meaning through an illustration. Suppose the subject is geography. The first thing is to give its definition, marking it off from every other subject. Then the various abstract terms upon which depends the scientific development of the science are stated and defined one by one pole, equator, ecliptic, zone, from the simpler units to the more complex which are formed out of them; then the more concrete elements are taken in similar series: continent island, coast, promontory, cape, isthmus, peninsula ocean, lake, coast, gulf, bay, and so on. In acquiring this material, the mind is supposed not only to gain important information, but, by accommodating itself to ready-made logical definitions, generalizations, and classifications, gradually to acquire logical habits.

from drawing

This type of method has been applied to every subject taught in the schools reading, writing, music, physics, grammar, arithmetic. Drawing, for example,

(60) has been taught on the theory that since all pictorial representation is a matter of combining straight and curved lines, the simplest procedure is to have the pupil acquire the ability first to draw straight lines in various positions (horizontal, perpendicular, diagonals at various angles), then typical curves; and finally, to combine straight and curved lines in various permutations to construct actual pictures. This seemed to give the ideal "logical" method, beginning with analysis into elements, and then proceeding in regular order to more and more complex syntheses, each element being defined when us ed, and thereby clearly understood.

Formal method

Even when this method in its extreme form is not followed, few schools (especially of the middle or upper elementary grades) are free from an exaggerated attention to forms supposedly employed by the pupil if he gets his result logically. It is thought that there are certain steps arranged in a certain order, which express preeminently an understanding of the subject, and the pupil is made to " analyze " his procedure into these steps, ie. to learn a certain routine formula of statement. While this method is usually at its height in grammar and arithmetic, it invades also history and even literature, which are then reduced, under plea of intellectual training, to " outlines," diagrams, and schemes of division and subdivision. In memorizing this simulated cut and dried copy of the logic of an adult, the child generally is induced to stultify his own subtle and vital logical movement. The. adoption by teachers of this misconception of logical method has probably done more than anything else to bring pedagogy into disrepute ; for to many persons " pedagogy " means precisely a set of mechanical, self-conscious devices for replacing by some

(61) cast-iron external scheme the personal mental movement of the individual.

Reaction toward lack of form and method

A reaction inevitably occurs from the poor results that accrue from these professedly "logical" methods. Lack of interest in study, habits of inattention and procrastination, positive aversion to intellectual application, dependence upon sheer memorizing and mechanical routine with only a modicum of understanding by the pupil of what he is about, show that the theory of logical definition, division, gradation, and system does not work out practically as it is theoretically supposed to work. The consequent disposition as in every reaction is to go to the opposite extreme. The " logical " is thought to be wholly artificial and extraneous; teacher and pupil alike are to turn their backs upon it, and to work toward the expression of existing aptitudes and tastes. Emphasis upon natural tendencies and powers as the only possible starting-point of development is indeed wholesome. But the reaction is false, and hence misleading, in what it ignores and denies: the presence of genuinely intellectual factors in existing powers and interests.

Logic of subject-matter is logic of adult or trained

What is conventionally termed logical (namely, the logical from the standpoint of subject-matter) represents in truth the logic of the trained adult mind. Ability to divide a subject, to define its elements, and to group them into classes according to general principles represents logical capacity at its best point reached after thorough training. The mind that habitually exhibits skill in divisions, definitions, generalizations, and systematic recapitulations no longer needs training in logical methods. But it is absurd to suppose that a mind which needs training because it cannot perform these opera-

(62) -tions can begin where the expert mind stops. The logical from the standpoint of subject-matter represents the goal, the last term of training, not the point of departure.

The immature mind has its own logic


Hence, the psychological and the logical represent the two ends of the same movement

In truth, the mind at every stage of development has its own logic. The error of the notion that by appeal to spontaneous tendencies and by multiplication of materials we may completely dismiss logical considerations, lies in overlooking how large a part curiosity, inference, experimenting, and testing already play in the pupil's life. Therefore it underestimates the intellectual factor in the more spontaneous play and work of individuals the factor that alone is truly educative. Any teacher who is alive to the modes of thought naturally operative in the experience of the normal child will have no difficulty in avoiding the identification of the logical with a readymade organization of subject-matter, as well as the notion that the only way to escape this error is to pay no attention to logical considerations. Such a teacher will have no difficulty in seeing that the real problem of intellectual education is the transformation of natural powers into expert, tested powers: the transformation of more or less casual curiosity and sporadic suggestion into attitudes of alert, cautious, and thorough inquiry. He will see that the psychological and the logical, in- stead of being opposed to each other (or even independent of each other), are connected as the earlier and the later stages in one continuous process of normal growth. The natural or psychological activities, even when not consciously controlled by logical considerations, have their own intellectual function and integrity; conscious and deliberate skill in thinking, when it is achieved, makes habitual or second nature. The first is already logical in spirit; the last, in presenting an ingrained disposi-

(63)-tion and attitude, is then as psychological (as personal) as any caprice or chance impulse could be.

2. Discipline and Freedom

True and false notions of discipline

Discipline of mind is thus, in truth, a result rather than a cause. Any mind is disciplined in a subject in which independent intellectual initiative and control have been achieved. Discipline represents original native endowment turned) through gradual exercise, into effective power. So far as a mind is disciplined, control of method in a given subject has been attained so that the mind is able to manage itself independently without external tutelage. The aim of education is precisely to develop intelligence of this independent and effective type a disciplined mind. Discipline is positive and constructive.

Discipline as drill

Discipline, however, is frequently regarded as something negative as a painfully disagreeable forcing of mind away from channels congenial to it into channels of constraint, a process grievous at the time but necessary as preparation for a more or less remote future. Discipline is then generally identified with drill; and drill is conceived after the mechanical analogy of driving, by unremitting blows, a foreign substance into a resistant material; or is imaged after the analogy of the mechanical routine by which raw recruits are trained to a soldierly bearing and habits that are naturally wholly foreign to their possessors. Training of this latter sort, whether it be called discipline or not, is not mental discipline. Its aim and result are not habits of thinking, but uniform external modes of action. By failing to ask what he means by discipline, many a teacher is misled into supposing that he is developing

(64) mental force and efficiency by methods which in fact restrict and deaden intellectual activity, and which tend to create mechanical routine, or mental passivity and servility.

As independent power or freedom


Freedom and external spontaneity

When discipline is conceived in intellectual terms (as the habitual power of effective mental attack), it is identified with freedom in its true sense. For freedom of mind means mental power capable of independent exercise, emancipated from the leading strings of others, not mere unhindered external operation. When spontaneity or naturalness is identified with more or less casual discharge of transitory impulses, the tendency of the educator is to supply a multitude of stimuli in order that spontaneous activity may be kept up. All sorts of interesting materials, equipments, tools, modes of activity, are provided in order that there may be no flagging of free self-expression. This method overlooks some of the essential conditions of the attainment of genuine freedom.

Some obstacle necessary for thought

(a) Direct immediate discharge or expression of an impulsive tendency is fatal to thinking. Only when the impulse is to some extent checked and thrown back upon itself does reflection ensue. It is, indeed, a stupid error to suppose that arbitrary tasks must be imposed from without in order to furnish the factor of perplexity and difficulty which is the necessary cue to thought. Every vital activity of any depth and range inevitably meets obstacles in the course of its effort to realize itself a fact that renders the search for artificial or external problems quite superfluous. The difficulties that present themselves within the development of an experience are, however, to be cherished by the educator, not minimized, for they are the natural stimuli

(65) to reflective inquiry. Freedom does not consist in keeping up uninterrupted and unimpeded external activity, but is something achieved through conquering, by personal reflection, a way out of the difficulties that prevent an immediate overflow and a spontaneous success.

Intellectual factors are natural

(b) The method that emphasizes the psychological and natural, but yet fails to see what an important part of the natural tendencies is constituted at every period of growth by curiosity, inference, and the desire to test, cannot secure a natural development. In natural growth each successive stage of activity prepares unconsciously, but thoroughly, the conditions for the manifestation of the next stage -as in the cycle of a plant's growth. There is no ground for assuming that "thinking" is a special, isolated natural tendency that will bloom inevitably in due season simply because various sense and motor activities have been freely manifested before; or because observation, memory, imagination, and manual skill have been previously exercised without thought. Only when thinking is constantly employed in using the .senses and muscles for the guidance and application of observations and movements, is the way prepared for subsequent higher types of thinking.

Genesis of thought contemporaneous with genesis of any human mental activity

At present, the notion is current that childhood is almost entirely unreflective a period of mere sensory, motor, and memory development, while adolescence suddenly brings the manifestation of thought and reason.

Adolescence is not, however, a synonym for magic. Doubtless youth should bring with it an enlargement of the horizon of childhood, a susceptibility to larger concerns and issues, a more generous and a more general standpoint toward nature and social life. This development affords an opportunity for thinking of a more com-

(66) -prehensive and abstract type than has previously obtained. But thinking itself remains just what it has been all the time: a matter of following up and testing the conclusions suggested by the facts and events of life. Thinking begins as soon as the baby who has lost the ball that he is playing with begins to foresee the possibility of something not yet existing-its recovery; and begins to forecast steps toward the realization of this possibility, and, by experimentation, to guide his acts by his ideas and thereby also test the ideas. Only by making the most of the thought-factor, already active in the experiences of childhood, is there any promise or warrant for the emergence of superior reflective power at adolescence, or at any later period.

Fixation of bad mental habits

(c) In any case positive habits are being formed: if not habits of careful looking into things, then habits of hasty, heedless, impatient glancing over the surface; if not habits of consecutively following up the suggestions that occur, then habits of haphazard, grasshopper-like guessing; if not habits of suspending judgment till inferences have been tested by the examination of evidence, then habits of credulity alternating with flippant incredulity, belief or unbelief being based, in either case, upon whim, emotion, or accidental circumstances. The only way to achieve traits of carefulness, thoroughness, and continuity (traits that are, as we have seen, the elements of the "logical") is by exercising these traits from the beginning, and by seeing to it that conditions call for their exercise.

Genuine freedom is intellectual not external

Genuine freedom, in short, is intellectual; it rests in the trained power of thought, in ability to " turn things over," to look at matters deliberately, to judge whether the amount and kind of evidence requisite for decision

(67) is at hand, and if not, to tell where and how to seek such evidence. If a man's actions are not guided by thoughtful conclusions, then they are guided by inconsiderate impulse, unbalanced appetite, caprice, or the circumstances of the moment. To cultivate unhindered, unreflective external activity is to foster enslavement, for it leaves the person at the mercy of appetite, sense, and circumstance.


  1. Denoting whatever has to do with the natural constitution and functions of an individual.

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