Logical Thinking in a Three-Almost-Four-Year Old

“I love Disneyland!” Erin exclaimed. This was unsurprising. Of course she loves Disneyland. But she followed this announcement with an example of a perfect syllogism, and I was completely floored.

“At Disneyland there’s nothing I don’t like,” she began.

“I don’t like monsters,” she continued.

“So there’s no monsters at Disneyland!” She concluded.

This is a perfect syllogism, if a little grammatically odd. She had a Major premise “All X are Y”, in this case “All (things at Disneyland) are (things I like)”. She had a Minor premise “Z is a non-Y”, in this case “(Monsters) are not (things I like)”. And she had a conclusion that related the Minor to the Major premise, “Therefore Z is a non-X”, or “(Monsters) are not (things at Disneyland).”

I was so floored by what she’d done, all on her own, that I didn’t have the heart t o point out the difference between a valid syllogism, one whose conclusion follows from the premises, and a sound one, which requires that the premises themselves be true. There totally are monsters at Disneyland.

This is the difference between intelligence and wisdom: an intelligent person can reason correctly all day long. But only a wise person, with substance to add to the form of logic, can use logic to operate in the world. Wisdom requires facts, not just reason. And that’s why we usually attribute wisdom to our elders: they have the most facts, and the ones who combine those facts with keen rationality are our guides.

7 thoughts on “Logical Thinking in a Three-Almost-Four-Year Old”

  1. Most of those monsters are more concerned with laughter levels, so they don't count.

  2. I hated math in school so naturally i had to copy the whole X and Y and stuff into a notepad and inserted the equation. Headache now.

    I heart monsters

  3. Good girl. A thinking woman needs a wise father to love her well. You're surprised that it's gonna rub off from you? Wait til she corners you via Socratic questioning. Won't be long now. Has she used any lawyer stuff on you yet? "Mama, I don't think this a detour. I think this is a frolic." I kid you not. Your kids are gonna give teachers fits – some will be thrilled, others not so much. One of my kid's teachers told me she used to stick her head in the supply closet and pretend to rummage until she could compose herself and come back with a straight face, after some of the amazing things kids come up with.

  4. He was having a temper tantrum after he learned how to add biggish numbers. I said, you have to leave at 8 (It was then 7:30), you spend 20 minutes complaining and 5 minutes getting your stuff done, how much time do you have to play before you leave? He said, 5 minutes. OK, you spend no time complaining and 5 minutes getting your stuff done, how much time do you have to play before you leave? He said. FINE!

    One of my most favorite memories.

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