Logic can be defined as the systematic study of the methods and principles of correct reasoning or arguments. Logic teaches us the techniques and methods for testing the correctness of different kinds of reasoning. It helps us to detect errors in reasoning by examining and analysing the various common fallacies in reasoning.
Let us examine some of the proposed definitions of logic. Some logicians define logic as an art of reasoning.
According to this view since logic develops the skill or ability to reason correctly, it is an art. As an art, logic provides the methods and technique for testing the correctness or incorrectness of arguments. Music, dance, cooking are instances of art. They aim to develop our skills. In these disciplines practice makes a person more skillful.
A student of logic is required to work out the exercises as a part of his or her learning the subject. So logic is an art. Some define logic as both science and art of reasoning. A science is a systematic study of phenomena which are within the area of its investigation. It undertakes to formulate the laws or principle which holds well without exception.
Logic is a science as it is a systematic study of the method and principles of correct reasoning. Logic also studies and clarifies the different types of fallacies which are committed in correct reasoning.
A distinction can be drawn between positive and normative sciences. A positive science describes how the facts in its area of investigation actually behave. It arrives at general laws by the methods of observation and experiment.
A normative science, on the other hand, investigates the norms as standard that should be applied. Logic is not a positive science, since it does not report how people actually reason or argue. Since it deals with the standards or principles of correct thinking, it is a normative science.
The use of the word ‘reasoning’ in the above definitions may be misleading. The term ‘reasoning’ may signify a mental process or a mental product. In logic, we are not concerned with the actual process of reasoning rather with arguments which is a product. A thought when expressed in language becomes an argument.
Thus, the statement that logic is an art and at the same time science of reasoning gives important insights into the nature of logic but as a definition, it is not very accurate.
Some logicians claim that logic is the science of laws of thought. But such a view is not correct because all reasoning involves thinking but all thinking cannot be called reasoning. Logic deals with correct reasoning and not with all types of thinking. There are many mental processes such as remembering, imagining, day-dreaming etc. which can be instances of thinking without involving any reasoning. Psychology studies all these phenomena, but logic deals only with reasoning.
Further logic does not discover any descriptive laws but it formulates the principles of correct reasoning. We can sum up by stating that logic helps one to improve upon the quality of reasoning. It provides technique to strengthen and polish the skill of reasoning. It aims at providing a solid foundation by which one can distinguish between correct and incorrect reasoning.