Who We Are
Logic for Progress is a registered non-profit that aims to advance the quality of deliberation on contentious social issues, in part by leveraging the high standards of formal deductive logic, which are much higher than the standards of applied statistics and philosophy, and when used properly i.e. Formal Deductive Deliberation; see below, help to avoid flawed reductionist mathematical modeling as usually found in economics and game theory.
We carry smartphones that rival supercomputers of days past. We’re witnessing the birth of space tourism and driverless cars. A surgeon can replace your knees with titanium and have you walking around the next day. And yet, it seems that we have made no overall progress, in a hundred years, on how we deliberate and decide on the most important problems for society. When we discuss and debate the most critical and contentious issues (those related to justice, economics, health, environment, war, etc) we do so either in a highly rhetorical manner intended to persuade, or in a highly obtuse manner that can only be understood by specialists. In either case, it is difficult to differentiate between fact, assumption, and logic. The biases and misconceptions we all possess, even the most conscientious of us, have too great an opportunity to exert themselves. In order to reduce their influence in significant and difficult decisions, we must use methods that force them to be examined openly.
Our Approach - Formal Deductive Deliberation
Logic for Progress is distinguished from similar deliberation-facilitating efforts on the web Deliberatorium, Carneades by its use of formal logic, specifically predicate logic, to constrain what counts as a valid argument, and to define the rules of Formal Deductive Deliberation (FDD), which are aimed to forbid or penalyze behaviors, which we're all familiar with, that so often block progress in debate on contentious issues.
Usage of FDD starts with a document, called an Interpreted Formal Proof, which lays out some reasoning in support of a position. The reasoning must conform to certain standards, which are checked automatically by software. The main component of the standards is formal deductive logic, which makes the standards close to what mathematicians use when they prove theorems about numbers/geometry/physics/etc. We use the standards for the same reasons that mathematicians do - to make it easier to find and correct flawed reasoning.
Of course, unlike in mathematics, contentious issues are rife with vagueness and subjectiveness, and uncertainty. And crucially, we understand fully that those difficulties cannot be eliminated completely unlike movements in analytic philosophy such as Logical Positivism. Definitions cannot be settled on before reasoning begins; rather we must tolerate vagueness and gradually sharpen definitions only as-necessary during the course of our reasoning. Finding a reusable, common moral framework before attempting to compromise is equally infeasible; instead, we must constantly reason about our opponents' subjective beliefs, as well as our own. Even when uncertainty arguably a kind of subjectiveness -- about the likelihood of events and the consequences of partial and errorful knowledge is the only problem, so that we can utilize the crucial ideas of Bayesian Statistics, it is impossible to analyze all possibly-relevant factors in one argument; rather, we need a system that helps to regulate how new factors are introduced into an argument, especially to protect from delaying tactics. This is why the full program of Formal Deductive Deliberation involves Interpreted Formal Proof Dialogues, an enhanced form of dialogue that we are all familiar with, where:
- A first group, the proponents, put forward an initial argument.
- Others, or the proponents themselves (when scrutinizing one's own reasoning), respond with criticisms of the argument.
- The proponents address the criticisms, possibly modifying their argument to accomodate them.
- The process repeats: the critics respond with new criticisms of the modified argument and to the proponents’ responses to their previous criticisms.
- Some fundamental source of disagreement is found, often involving morality, which wasn't apparent before the dialogue began. Future dialogues can start from there.
- Some line of argument is formally proved to be flawed or fruitless. The proof can be reused in later dialogues.
- The disagreement is found to hinge on differing guesses about the likelihood of future events or events from the past that we have too little decisive information about. There is almost always some element of this. It is the major difficulty in our ongoing work on wrongful conviction.
- The partcipants find that the disagreement was not a disagreement at all, instead being a result of the different sides using words in different ways. Much of modern professional philosophy falls into this category, but there are incentives to not recognize that, since the ongoing disagreements support careers in the field.
Though Logic for Progress is already several years in the making, development of this page has only just started. Until there is more here, these PhD thesis materials are the best source for more information.
If you’re knowledgeable and passionate on a subject, and you have an argument (or just a point of view) that you believe is very strong but isn’t recognized as such, we can work together to try to express it as an Interpreted Formal Proof, to kick off the Formal Deductive Deliberation (FDD) process. You don’t need to have a background in math.
If you’re skilled in writing, we want your help, and you can have a huge influence on the direction of LFP. You will have full permissions to modify this website and our FDD examples. We will always have a backlog of prose from examples that needs to be made easier to understand and more eloquent. You don’t need a background in math to do this. There is also a lot to do in improving the quality of educational material on logic and the FDD process, and in outreach.
If you're a programmer or designer, you can help build Structure Together, soon to be the most advanced realtime collaborative structure editor, which serves as the user interface for Formal Deductive Deliberation.
If any of the above describe you, or you are simply interested and want to be kept in the loop, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
What if there was a system of rules that makes lying with statistics much harder, that facilitates the use of expert knowledge without having to trust the overall judgement and reasoning of the experts, and that can be used methodically to uncover fundamental sources of disagreement? How much extra effort would it be worth to use such a system?