Logical Gal and ‘Neutrality’

12 Nov

Neutral

Facts are neutral bits of reality.

Humans give them context and meaning, filling in assumptions to offer explanations.  Sometimes we actually add reasons to our assertions and craft an argument.  But whether we stop short of an argument and just offer a POSSIBLE explanation or craft an intact case, we still carry assumptions that may or may not be expressed for all to see and hear.

The mid-term elections are behind us (Good riddance to all those ads!) but ‘framing’ the results flourishes.  Just like the British headlines after George W. Bush was RE-elected, some people will be scratching their heads to create an explanation for certain wins and losses.

How can 59 million people be so DUMB

Truth is – most facts are neutral.  They take on values (good, bad, stupid, wise….) only compared to something else or based on a pre-supposition.

Look at this conclusion, aka an assertion, which I am inventing for argument’s sake:

  • Senator Joe Blow won reelection because of big oil

‘because of big oil’ is one of those invented explanations.  Possible explanations are everywhere, but they masquerade as arguments. Unaccompanied by reasons, they are meaningless.  But even when the provider shores up her explanation with reasons, not all is uncovered.  We have to dig to find out the pre-suppositions that are BEHIND the reasons and conclusion.   But how do you uncover what is not explicitly articulated?

  • You can ask the person making the claim
  • Or…you can propose an assumption you think might be below the surface and ask the claim-maker to verify or deny it

For example, I might ask:

  1. So you think that Senator Joe Blow won only because those in the oil industry voted for him?

or

2. So you don’t think that Senator Joe Blow might have offered a record of results from his first 6 years or a set of values that pleased his constituents?

Our assumptions (also called presuppositions) heavily influence how we evaluate facts,; they give facts their context.

Hold your horses

(holding one’s horses!) 

Something else that influences our evaluation is our tendency to move from considering neutral facts, to drawing inferences, to making judgments.  Often our conclusions overreach the facts of the particular case.  So we must resist that tendency or habit and ask ourselves if this particular case justifies our conclusions.

Consider the following example I recently read in Senator Hayakawa’s book – Hayakawa's Bk Language

Imagine a hypothetical ‘Pete’ and the following FACT:

  • Pete just got released after spending 3 years in prison

An unwarranted inference might lead one to assume:  Pete is a criminal!

But all we know are 2 facts:

1. Pete spent 3 years in prison

2. Pete has been released

We DON’T know definitively whether or not Pete was guilty of the crime for which he was incarcerated.

If we flow quickly into that inference, however, we might be led to make a judgment such as:  Pete can’t be trusted because he is a criminal.  I would never hire him!

True confessions!  Stopping before I make an inference and slide into a judgment is easier SAID than done!  But anything worthwhile takes effort!  Our world needs more cautious but clear thinkers.

So in this post-election season, let’s exercise calm and rational thinking no matter which side of the political spectrum we land. There’s no room for unwarranted judgments that demonize or boast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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