Friday, January 25, 2008

Gide's Logic

I stumbled upon this quotation from Andre Gide this morning:

The want of logic annoys. Too much logic bores.
Life eludes logic, and everything that logic alone constructs remains artificial and forced.

I knew I loved it from the start, before knowing why or what it meant.

First of all, the truth in each individual statement is remarkable. "Want" in this context means "lack"; we become frustrated when simple logic is missing in an idea, argument, or scene. Some of the most annoying people are the ones who fail to use basic logic before speaking or acting, especially when we know its use would yield a different, often better, end.

Regarding the second sentence: you've already got someone in mind! Every group of people, every office, every extended family has one of those guys who's just too "smart" to be real. He's too logical to be artful. He's too methodical and scientific to be spontaneous and intuitive. He's boring as heck, and you know it.

And then Gide says life itself isn't logical. Sometimes weird stuff happens, and we just can't explain it, no matter how hard we try.

Some folk do try, though. They try with all their might, sucking every ounce of creativity out of the matter and boil it all down to reason. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, "Pure logic is the ruin of the spirit." Gide agrees. Because even life isn't logical, anything born from logic alone is unnatural.

I also like this quotation for aesthetic reasons. "The want of logic annoys" is a great start to this series of thoughts because it's so short and simple, and it justifies a feeling of annoyance. (I believe humans like to be irritated, and we can justify anything.) It grabs the attention of the potential reader.

The second sentence is as short and iambic as the first, lending to the poetic quality of the whole. The poetry is furthered by the near rhyme and the relative positions of "bores" and "forced." When the lines are separated as follows, there is a limerick-like quality in the rhythm and shape:

The want of logic annoys.
Too much logic bores.

Life eludes logic, and everything that logic alone constructs
remains artificial and forced.

It's hard to tell whether an author or thinker plays these tricks deliberately, but there's a reason snippets like this are found, collected, and pondered. This quotation from Gide, who was probably just telling what he knew, contains a profound truth and beauty that the soul also knows to be real.


Dan said...

If life eludes logic (which I can get behind), then why is it that want for logic annoys? Why would be be set up with a desire for logic in our lives?

Is logic the tool by which we attempt to qualify the unqualifiable universe, or is there some part of that universe that is logical, some underlying ideal?

Kimberly Pye said...

Russian author Ivan Turgenev wrote, "Nature cares nothing for logic, our human logic: she has her own, which we do not recognize and do not acknowledge until we are crushed under its wheel."

Perhaps our only tool, for now, is our human logic. We may one day have a better logic with which to work.

Danielle A. said...

Wow. This is a really great, insightful post. And I also love the quote, though I think I would have to sit and think about it before offering any sort of well-articulated opinion like you did.

Awesome post. :)

Kimberly Pye said...


(It feels good to write more academically on occasion!)