Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of World Logic Day
14 January 2021
In his novel Nouvelles nourritures, André Gide said that "the fear of stumbling makes the mind hold tightly onto the handrail of logic". This elegant metaphorical statement sums up logic's crucial role in the development of human thought.
Logic is the essence of logos, a Greek term which means, variously, "speech", "language" and "reasoning". It is thus, to use Kant's definition, a science which meticulously sets out and rigorously demonstrates the formal rules of all thought.
We can see it in the treatises of Aristotle, Euclid, Leibniz and Spinoza; it is evident in the founding texts of Mohist philosophy in China and of the Nyaya school in India: the study of logic has fascinated countless philosophers and mathematicians throughout the history of thought.
It is because of its innumerable practical applications – perhaps especially because of them – that logic has been studied so extensively. To be sure, logic has been a key element in the development of the sciences, engineering, cognitive psychology, linguistics and communication. A wellspring of innovation, logic has always been a veritable catalyst for change.
At the dawn of this new decade – indeed, now more than ever –the discipline of logic is utterly vital to our societies and economies. Computer science and digital technology, which provide the structure for today's ways of life, are rooted in logical and algorithmic reasoning.
Artificial intelligence (AI), the unprecedented progress of which constitutes a technological and even anthropological revolution, is itself founded on logical reasoning. Through the drafting of the first global standard-setting instrument concerning the ethics of AI, UNESCO has undertaken to establish an ethical framework for this innovative product of logic.
Logic is ever-present: when you use AI software, when you turn on your computer, when you develop an argument. Logic is a contemporary universal.
Yet despite being surrounded by logic, we remain quite unaware of its ubiquity. We often apply logic without knowing that we are doing so.
Thus, to draw attention to the importance of logic in the development of knowledge, UNESCO has proclaimed 14 January World Logic Day. This date was chosen in honour of two great logicians of the twentieth century: Kurt G?del and Alfred Tarski. G?del, who died on 14 January 1978, established the incompleteness theorem, which transformed the study of logic in the twentieth century. Tarski, who was born on 14 January 1901, developed theories which interacted with those of G?del.
Marking this day affords us an opportunity to reinforce our shared commitment to the promotion of a culture of peace and mutual understanding, a culture based on the principles of logic: conscience, knowledge and reason.