Julia L. Keefer, Ph.D. Copywright, 1997

Traditional logic was first systematized by Aristotle in Classical Athens, B.C. and has been renewed and developed by Westerners such as Rene Descartes in the French Enlightenment of the eighteenth century and subsequently by British and American logical empiricists. It is still the basis of our judicial system and most academic disciplines. While it is important to have a thorough understanding of traditional logic and be able to detect the logical fallacies of ambiguity, relevance and presumption in your writing and political and media rhetoric, it is now becoming equally valid to study the "fuzzy thinking" which is the basis of much of our global culture.

Bart Kosko, the leading proponent of fuzzy thinking, has degrees in philosophy, economics, mathematics and electrical engineering but even in his book there is a clear-cut thesis that ties all this complex thinking together: to explore the paradigm shift from black and white to gray, from bivalence and binary (either/or) thinking to multivalence, a less simplistic but more accurate way of thinking that responds to life in matters of degree, integrating probability and ambiguity in all modes of operation. (Kosko, Bart. Fuzzy Thinking. New York: Hyperion Press, 1993.) Instead of the Aristotelian A or not-A mode of thinking, fuzzy logic is defined mathematically as including statements that are true to some degree between 0 and 1. What a switch from judges who keep demanding us to answer the question, yes or no, or scientists who say that if a hypothesis cannot produce an experiment with quantifiable results that can be repeated, then it is not true and valid! The history of western thinking shows that most of are scientific "truths" have been proven false or at best, incomplete. For thousands of years, Oriental thinking has embraced the unity of opposites in philosophies such as Buddhism, Taoism and the various Yogas of India. Marx and Mao-Tse-Tung based their dogmas on the law of materialist dialectics in political change. But it was not until Einstein, the quantum mechanics theorists and the physicist Stephen Hawking developed the new physics, that the old Grecian deductive formulas were seriously questioned. Nonlinear physics has had repercussions in hypertext and especially adaptive fuzzy systems in our modern technology such as air conditioners, copy machines, auto parts, televisions, refrigerators, etc.

For some reason the fields of law, religion and classical scientific research are still avoiding or denying this type of thinking. Perhaps the word "fuzzy" is misleading for undergraduates. Gratuitous ambiguity due to laziness is not the goal, but rather an inclusion of degree, probability and ambiguity in the formulation of structures that respond to phenomena. In other words it is harder and more intellectually demanding to engage in fuzzy thinking. Kosko has a thorough understanding of traditional logic and its fallacies as well as all the specific scientific applications of fuzzy thinking. Traditional logic, with all its artificiality, is based on language, but the irony is that the flesh of language is our bodily experience, the cries and sighs and gurgles of needs and wants that slowly grow into more complex sounds that usually connote more than they denote. Nature constantly speaks a language that is homospatial and homotemporal, layered and nonlinear in space and time, and this language still resides in our subconscious world of dreams. While expository writing necessitates so-called logical, grammatically correct sentences that grow into coherent, well-developed paragraphs integrated by a thesis, this type of writing should not exclude the multivalent nature of experience, of our bodies, our dreams and our environments. Clarity in expository writing is important so you must redefine words in the context in which you are using them but it's okay to struggle with solutions, to end with answers and to obfuscate a cause-effect relationship with a provocative "what if?" Centralized television and radio programming still opt for binary, simplistic thinking but the internet confuses and enlightens us with its multivalent nature. The secret of uniting traditional logic and fuzzy thinking, so that we too are not guilty of that either/or fallacy, is in seeing the thread that connects all things. Start to do this by integrating themes in your creative writing with your expository project. How can a dramatic scene help identify some of the central conflicts in your work? What does poetry say about the aesthetics, ambiguity, totality of your experience? How does personal writing help you develop your point of view on an issue? How can fiction create a world that might be a partial solution to a problem?

Another word for uniting opposites is Janusian thinking, the ancient idea that the door opens both ways. If you feel strongly about an issue, find someone who disagrees violently with you, try to see it from that point of view, and then explore some weird and wonderful way of uniting the opposing theories. Fuzzy thinking demands that you increase your options. What are all the possible things or events or conditions that could occur as you explore something? You must use your imagination much more actively than usual. Fuzzy thinking comes from fuzzy math sets in which endless possibilites have been explored. So to unite fuzzy thinking with traditional logic, you need to know more, feel more and think more exhaustively. While random and chance operations are popular in music and poetry, expository writing should not be random and episodic, but rather grow organically like nature with an inclusive logic that makes its own sense of all the wildness.

Fuzzy is also the name of my cat whose curiosity and imaginative antics know no limits as he responds unpredictably to every stimulus in our changing environment.

back to syllabus