A Father’s Wisdom

In 1980, Alan Alda, the actor, spoke at his older daughter's commencement at Connecticut College. The words he spoke were those of a loving father to a daughter, loved and nutured, and now going on to face the world. They contain some amazing advice for us all...

It’s a complex world. I hope you’ll learn to make distinctions. You know how much I love logic. I always felt that the most important parts of my education were learning to reason and learning to use language well. That’s why when you were a very little girl, I started trying to give you lessons in logic. I smile when I think that to this day, you can still remember what I passed on to you as the first rule of logic: A thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. (In your head, you’re saying that along with me right now, aren’t you?) You were kind enough to take a logic course because I had spoken too highly of it, only to find out that they teach symbolic logic now and they never even mention the first rule of logic. But whatever mode you reason in, I hope you’ll always make distinctions. A peach is not its fuzz, a toad is not its warts, a person is not his or her crankiness. If we can make distinctions, we can be tolerant, and we can get to the heart of our problems instead of wrestling endlessly with their gross exteriors. And once you make a habit of making distinctions, you’ll begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while or the light won’t come in. If you challenge your own, you won’t be so quick to accept the unchallenged assumptions of others. You’ll be a lot less likely to be caught up in bias or prejudice or be influenced by people who ask you to hand over your brains, your soul or your money because they have everything all figured out for you."

The First Rule Of Logic

Upon this first, and in one sense this sole, rule of reason, that in order to learn you must desire to learn, and in so desiring not be satisfied with what you already incline to think, there follows one corollary which itself deserves to be inscribed upon every wall of the city of philosophy: Do not block the way of inquiry."
—Charles Sanders Peirce, First Rule of Logic.

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