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Vitamins DO make a difference – creating our first valid syllogism

9 Sep

So, have you taken your vitamins yet?  Are you convinced that some taking of supplements is a habit that improves one’s health?

Last time we set out our conclusion by identifying 2 of the 3 necessary terms.  And we narrowed down our quantifier to SOME vitamin taking, not ALL.

Today we need to finish fleshing out the syllogism by adding a 3rd term.

You will most likely think that our syllogism doesn’t communicate a strong and complete case in support of the conclusion.  You will be right!  This syllogism is just a 1st step.  The 2 premises that we write will simply show your thinking process, how you are arriving at that first conclusion.  An entire argument involves a series of syllogisms.  By focusing on just this ONE LITTLE step, we are staying ‘ honest’ in our reasoning.        

Think about Math Teachers whose litany rings in our memories, “You must show ALL your work to get full credit!”  

Here is our conclusion from last time, properly labeled:

I statement – Therefore, some taking of supplements (Su) is a habit that improves one’s health (Pu)

By the end of our session, we had established the following information about our syllogism:

  • S term of the syllogism (aka Minor Term)  = taking of supplements
  • P term of the syllogism (aka Major Term)  = a habit that improves one’s health

Today we have to come up with our 3rd term (Rule 1), which will be the M or middle term.  This term will LINK the other two terms (major & minor terms), enabling a conclusion.

After playing around with some terms to determine the IDEAL one, I think I found the one that can link the other ideas.  What we are talking about are those daily activities that make a difference in one’s health.   Thus I chose the following for a Middle Term:

Doctor-endorsed daily practices

Next I had to choose the affirmative quantifier.  Did I intend the term to be UNIVERSAL as in ALL or particular as in SOME?

For argument’ s sake, let’s suppose that I happen to think that ALL doctor-endorsed daily practices are habits that improve health (we’ll talk about TRUTH later)

Here is what our syllogism looks like:

All  doctor-endorsed daily practices (Md)  are habits that improve one’ s health (Pu)

Some taking of supplements(Su)  is a doctor-endorsed daily practice(Mu)

Tf, some taking of supplements (Su) is a habit that improves one’s health (Pu)

 

Let’s go through our checklist to see if the syllogism is at least valid.  Remember that we haven’t even addressed the truthfulness of each premise.

1. 3 and only 3 terms? YES
2. Does the Middle term illicitly show up in the conclusion? NO
3. If a term is distributed in the conclusion, is it Distributed at least one other place NA (both terms in the conclusion are Undistributed)
4. Middle term Distributed at least once? YES (in Premise # 1)
5. Are Premises 1 & 2 negative? NO
6. If Premises 1 & 2 are affirmative, is our conclusion also affirmative? YES
7. If either of the 2 premises negative, is the conclusion also negative? N/A

Therefore, we have written a VALID syllogism!  Yay!

Once you have a valid syllogism, THEN you can look at the truth/falsity of each premise.  But that’s another discussion!

The takeaway?   Those little quantifiers REALLY make a difference.  Be precise with your words.

Do you take vitamins? Creating an argument in support

4 Sep

Food supplements – to take or not to take, voici la question!

Last time we analyzed an argument by applying the 7th rule for checking a syllogism’s validity.  We showed that if one of the 2 premises is negative, then the conclusion MUST be negative as well.

I asked you to think of how you would argue FOR the position that taking vitamins makes a qualitative positive difference in one’s health.  If we are to formulate an argument in its correct form, we need to comply with ALL 7 rules for validity.

Here they are again in a summary list:

Every syllogism to be valid (that is correctly formed), must abide by all seven rules:

  1. Has 3 and only 3 terms
  2. No middle term in the conclusion
  3. If a term is ‘distributed’ in the conclusion, it must be ‘distributed’ in one of the premises
  4. The middle term must be distributed once.
  5. No conclusion can be drawn from 2 negative premises
  6. If the 2 premises are affirmative, the conclusion MUST be affirmative as well
  7. If one of the 2 premises is negative, then the conclusion MUST be negative as well.

On to constructing OUR argument.  Remember, that when we formulate a syllogism, we start with our conclusion and work backwards.

Here is our hypothetical conclusion in ordinary language:

  • Therefore, taking supplements improves one’s health

Before we go any further, we have to add a quantifier and rewrite the proposition so that a copula appears.  First we reflect  – Do we  intend to defend the assertion that ALL taking of supplements improves one’s health or just SOME taking of supplements?

To be on the safe side, it is more truthful and easier to defend an I proposition, or SOME taking of ‘vits’.  After all, some vitamins might be so poorly made NOT to be efficacious.

Next , in order to uncover the copula, we need to ‘tweak’  our second term resulting in:

Therefore, some taking of supplements is a habit that improves one’s health

Now 2 of the allowed 3 terms pop up clearly.

We can label them and determine the distribution based on our ‘DUDU & UUDDs’ chart.  Remember that a term IN FRONT of the copula is in the subject position and a term which FOLLOWS the copula is in the predicate position.  We determine the TYPE of proposition by the quantifier (All, Some, No, Some…not)

Type of Proposition Subject position Predicate position
A (All) D U
I (Some) U U
E (No) D D
O (Some….not) U D

Another reason for starting to create or analyze a syllogism ‘bottom up’, that is to say WITH THE CONCLUSION, is that the minor term (represented by S FOR THE ENTIRE SYLLOGISM) is always the term that precedes the copula in the conclusion and the major term (represented by P FOR THE ENTIRE SYLLOGISM)  always follows the copula in the conclusion.

Here is our conclusion properly labeled:

I statement – Therefore, some taking of supplements (Su) is a habit that improves one’s health (Pu)

So as we end this discussion, we have the following information about our syllogism:

S term = taking of supplements

P term = a habit that improves one’s health

Next time, we will come up with our 3rd term (see rule 1) which is the M or middle term.

Until next time, keep thinking!

Let’s get tough! Analyzing those arguments

12 Aug

Let’s imagine you’ve heard an argument that just doesn’t sound right,

but you can’t put your finger on the reason.  The major and minor premise are even

true statements!  So what could be wrong?

Formal Logic rules to the rescue!  Applying a few simple tests to an argument can help you determine if it is indeed ‘valid’, that is in the correct form.  (remember that formal logic doesn’t deal with the truth of propositions, but the structure of an argument)

Today we’re going to look at the first 2 of 7 rules that are easy to use in analyzing the structure of an argument.

Rule # 1 – Three and only 3 terms

       Some boys are strong

       My brother is a baseball player

       Therefore, my brother is strong

Let’s count the terms.  Remember that a term is the number of words necessary to describe a concept. Terms must contain at least one word and can have several (mint chocolate chip ice cream is one term containing 5 words).   

When we identify and label terms, we start at the bottom of the syllogism and label the terms in the conclusion

Our conclusion above is:     Tf, my brother (minor term) is strong (major term)

Next, we label the same terms elsewhere in the syllogism.  The unlabeled term will then be the middle term


As we look for that middle term, we see our problem, which term do we label as the middle term?  We have two remaining terms and they are different!

      Some boys ( ? term)  are strong (major term)

      My brother (minor term) is a baseball player ( ? term)

      Tf, my brother (minor term) is strong (major term)

You can see our problem: we have 2 terms, both different (boys, baseball player) so we don’t know WHICH one will be the middle term (the 3rd official term after we have identified the minor and major terms).

So we can say with assurance, this syllogism is NOT valid because it has 4 terms.

*

Rule # 2 – the middle term must not be in the conclusion

Again, we start to label ‘bottom up’. (this takes a while to become automatic for we are conditioned to start at the top and label down )

      Some baseball players are strong

      My brother is strong

      Tf, my brother is strong and a baseball player

We barely get started  labeling the conclusion and we see that we have a problem.  Not only are there 3 terms in that one proposition (brother, strong, baseball player), but we have a term, ‘strong’, that shows up 3 times.  That is the tip-off that our middle term strong’ is in the conclusion.  The entire syllogism is convoluted.  So we shout out: “INVALID!!”

Next time, when we look at Rules 3 & 4, we will measure how far an attribute or term extends.  We will be asking questions like,

  • Are we talking about the category or set of ALL baseball players?
  • Are we talking about the category or set of ALL that which is strong?

If we say ‘yes’, then we say that a term is ‘distributed’ – that the quality in question applies to ALL, or that we are addressing ALL the members of a set.

In the meantime, watch your words and how others use words.  We must strive to be precise with our language if we intend to communicate clearly and with as few words as possible.

Excessive and unclear verbiage is wearying!