Archive | July, 2013

True or false: Bananas are the most popular fruit.

8 Jul

Well, what do you think? Can you even say?  (yes, you can!)  Isn’t that being….. narrow or intolerant to say?  Besides who are YOU to say that!  Horrors!

Most Westerners in the 21st century don’t like to come right out and make categorical statements.  They are afraid of being labelled the J-word!  judgmental

Put your mind at ease:  saying that something IS or IS NOT is perfectly logical!


We’ve looked at terms, one or more words used to describe a concept (something one can either see or picture in one’s mind) and discussed how terms are either CLEAR or UNCLEAR.  (not T/F, not  logical/ illogical not  right/wrong)  This is the Question you should be asking as you choose your terms:  Does your language recipient understand what you mean, you the originator of the spoken or written term?  That’s clarity.

Next in constructing a logical argument come the propositions.  A subject term, a copula (is/am/are) and a predicate term are the parts of a proposition.  There are 4 possible propositional forms:

  • All S is P  – All girls (subject)  are people who wear skirts(predicate)
  • Some S is P – Susie is a person who wears a skirt or  Some girls are people who wear skirts  (1 or more exemplars of your subject , but not all)
  • No S is P – No boys are people who wear skirts
  • Some S is not P –  Some girls are not people who wear skirts

What all these have in common is that they are either True or False statements/sentences.

That is how we evaluate propositions.

For example:   All killing is condemned by God   (as in, ‘Thou shall not murder.)

We can’t say:  That statement isn’t logical….that statement isn’t clear.  But we CAN say:  That statement is true or it’s false.

So how do we prove the proposition true or false? :  All killing is condemned by God.

This is what is so cool.  All we have to do is find ONE SINGLE SOLITARY CASE where a killing is NOT condemned by God. That one case will make our proposition false.  What we DON’T have to show is:  No killing is condemned by God.   That is TOTALLY and extravagantly unnecessary.  Let’s take just one example of God-approved killing, say defending your family. THAT would render the proposition false.  The proposition that IS true, i.e that corresponds to reality  would be this:  Some killing is condemned by God.  (or equally true:  Some killing is NOT condemned by God)

This principle is called the Law of Non-Contradiction.  It goes like this:  Contradictory statements cannot both be true or both be false at the same time and in the same way.  This specific stipulation means that you can’t equivocate (change the meaning) of the term, “Killing”.  You have to be referring to the exact same concept in both propositions.  (All killing is condemned by God and Some killing is NOT condemned by God)

Truth (aka ‘reality’) is so clean and precise, if you handle it correctly. 

PS:  there is one other contradictory pair – and we’ll talk about that next time.

HW: Listen for and notice a ‘general statement’ that are not true and see if you can come up with the counter-example that proves it false.

Don’t you emote all over me!

5 Jul

“Shame on you!” they screeched from the atrium outside the full gallery of the NC Senate floor in Raleigh. 

The topic was a rider concerning abortion clinics that was attached to a Senate bill without much notice.

Emotions bubbled over as slogans were hollered in one direction.  Little to no discussion took place between the legislators and the protestors.  That would require listening and thinking and an actual give and take CONVERSATION!

No one thinks anymore.  We feel.  And sometimes we emote loudly and clobber you.  Other times we sentimentalize our ideas in a more quiet way.

You can tell from our language.  Count how many times both you and I employ the words, “I feel that….” instead of “I think that……”

Why is that?  Could it be that we have changed our verbs as a defensive move?  Do we believe that no one will attack our feelings?

You’ve often heard it repeated, “Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just ARE.” Thoughts, on the other hand, CAN  be labeled as wrong or racist or judgmental or arrogant, and the worst epithet of all, ‘INTOLERANT’!   But not so feelings. If what you’ve served up is just one of your ‘feelings’, then to attack THAT is to attack YOU.  People hold back somewhat if you swim around in the feelings pool.

Therefore, camouflaging our positions with feeling language is a strategy to ward off attacks, thereby giving us a go at lobbing the last word and possibly……….. WINNING.

Maybe it’s all about the adrenalin rush that comes from besting someone emotionally.


Your Homework for the weekend:

Tally up in a 24 hour period how often you hear or use I feel that..” in lieu of “I think that…”

How to hold onto your money, using logic

3 Jul

Advertisers count on the fact that we don’t understand basic logic! 

They appeal to our desire to be like the ‘beautiful people’. And we fall for their offer to transform our ordinary lives into something more exotic, like the people we admire.

Take for instance the lucrative business of make-up.  What woman DOESN’T want to look better?  So we fall for emotional appeals to browse Sephora or use a product, convinced that if we do, we’ll look more like our favorite model/actress.

Here’s what these companies count on.  They make a statement like:

·         All models use La-di-dah Lipstick

What goes unstated explicitly (but they count on you to implicitly absorb it) is the false corollary:

·         All women who use La-di-dah Lipstick (just might end up being gals who…) are models

In symbolic form that is saying

·         All S is P……All P is S         where  S = Women who use LL   and             P = Models

But one CAN’T just interchange the subject and the predicate and have the converse be true.
Let’s suppose that Cindy wants to look like her favorite model who uses La-di-dah Lipstick.  She believes the advertising and emotionally responds with the belief, ” If I buy and use La-di-dah Lipstick, maybe I’ll be a model too!”

Unfortunately, the advertisers have NOT given Cindy enough information in their claim for her to know if this is true.

Here’s what the first proposition (claim)  and our dilemma look like:

All models use LLAnswering that question in the above diagram: “No, we do NOT know to which group Cindy belongs if she uses their product L.L.”

 You can easily see for yourself that the two propositions are not equivalent if you just switch the S and the P

  All women who use LL are modelsThis drawing shows that all women who use La-di-dah Lipstick are in fact models.  Remember, the diagrams are different and the marketing claims are different.  ( in fact – our advertisers will NOT state the latter, that All women who use their product will be models – they can’t guarantee that at all!)

But as I said above, marketing  managers want to by-pass your rational mind and get  right at your emotions in order to pry your fingers off of your hard-earned money and invest it in your pipe-dream, courtesy of their product!

Your homework for the week – watch for and see if you can spot the implicit lies bandied about in commercials, either on TV or in print.  Let us know of a particularly blatant one!

Whatta you sayin’? – or how to form a proposition

2 Jul
  1. Cats show affection.
  2. Ice cream makes me fat.

What you just read are ‘propositions’.  These statements or sentences are essential building blocks in a logical argument.

Who said anything about an argument?   Actually every time you assert something and give a reason for it, you’re making an argument.  The statements are the ‘propositions’.

Propositions comprise two terms.  One is the subject – what you’re talking about.  The other is what you are saying about the subject!  That term is the predicate.

So in our first proposition, ‘ice cream’ is the subject term and (a food that) makes me fat is the predicate term.

“Hold on a minute”, you say, “where did those 3 other words in italics come from?

Good question!  To look at a proposition clearly, we need to isolate the terms. Therefore, we rearrange it a bit and force a ‘copula’ to emerge.  The ‘copula’ is the neutral verb ‘to be’, but in one of 3 conjugated forms: IS, AM or ARE.

Dogs bark becomes Dogs are animals that bark.

Boys stink becomes Boys are kids who stink.

I sing becomes I am a person who sings.

How do you figure out the word after the copula?  Just ask what kind of set or category of ‘things’ your subject term might belong?  You can choose from several appropriate categories.

Ice cream is a……. food/dessert/snack/treat/concoction/item……. that makes me fat. YOU pick what you think communicates effectively, given the context.  Some fancy logicians might say, “Ice cream is THAT which makes me fat” (Whatever works!)

Something else to consider when looking at propositions – we need to add something to our subject term for accuracy.

Let’s go back to our example – Cats show affection.

  1. 1.   First – add the copula (the ‘is, am, are’ form of the verb TO BE) Cats are animals that show affection.
  2. 2.   Now – ask yourself this:  do ALL cats show affection?  Do SOME cats show affections?  Do NO cats show affection or do SOME cats NOT show affection?

What I’m asking you to discern is called the quantifier.  Too often we inaccurately misrepresent someone, a group or something by asserting falsely, “All teens text while driving.”    

-do we truly mean ALL?

-how do we know that EVERY SINGLE teen in the universe texts while driving?

Unless we can document that claim, we owe it to our audience to pull back and say SOME teens text while driving.  That is truthful.  As long as we can prove that ONE SINGLE INDIVIDUAL teen somewhere DOES indeed text while he or she drives, then we are safe to use the quantifier SOME.

Your homework for the week:

1)    Practice ‘translating’ statements/sentences into propositions with a copula (is/ am/ are)

2)    Question yourself when putting FORTH a proposition without a quantifier.  Can you spot how misleading that communication could be?   As my dad used to say, “You can’t make a general statement, you’re not a General!”  He had the correct intention, but not the correct reason.