Tag Archives: Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal and the Power of a New Thought

2 Jun

gravel road work

We now live on a gravel road that needs periodic maintenance.  And so we find ourselves dependent on road contractors. We’re  on our second one.  The first we ‘inherited’ from the couple who sold us the house.  My husband had the dickens of a time getting him both to commit  AND show up to work.

The second one has turned out to be unreliable as well.

unreliable

Each day this past week Scott was supposed to have come.  And each day my husband fumed.  Finally he contacted a builder friend to ask for a recommendation for someone else.  A passing comment from our friend changed my thoughts and conclusions.

It turns out that the gravel guy is ‘having problems’.

That’s it –  a new idea!  The possibility that there might be a DIFFERENT REASON than what I had supposed – a cavalier, unprofessional approach to business, changed my conclusion.

Before, I was reasoning like this:

Premise 1 – All ‘no-shows’ in business appointments are evidence of shoddy management and/or poor character

Premise 2 – Scott is a ‘no-show’

Conclusion – Therefore, Scott’s way of running his business is evidence of shoddy management and probably poor character!

No Sow

Now, I reasoned to a different conclusion because my major premise had changed:

New Premise 1 – Some ‘no-shows’ in business appointments are evidence of shoddy management and/or poor character

New Premise 2 – Scott is a ‘no-show’

New Conclusion – Therefore, Scott’s way of running his business might be evidence of something other than shoddy  management or poor character.  It might actually be the effect of personal or family problems.

*

Just the possibility of a different reason that was impeding good business practices changed how I thought about this man.  I actually prayed for him for the first time, instead of impugning his character.

Jumping to conclusions

It remains to be seen just WHO will repair our gravel road, but this experience has reminded me again of the danger of jumping to conclusions.

Question: – When have you made an assumption in error that led to a false conclusion?

 

 

Logical Gal – what affects your conclusions?

24 Feb

Here are some assertions that could lead to two very different conclusions:

  • There is a problem in allowing people with a rigid view of the world to decide the content of schoolbooks.
  • They’ll get some thing right, but they will leave out facts that go against their beliefs.
  • The result will be students not ready to compete with their peers from countries like China and Germany

Who controls our schools - 24 Feb 2014

Who might be this group of people with the rigid point of view?

–My first thought was of those with an agenda, like climate alarmists…..

–Or those who refuse to follow the evidence where it might lead, like militant materialists….

—A third possibility might be those who see the world in black and white terms (wealth = wrong, poverty = noble)

Income inequality - 24 Feb 2014

However, since I happened to come by those assertions in a letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times, I doubt the writer had those categories of people in mind.  Tampa is a ‘blue’ city in the midst of a ‘red’ state.  So it’s a good bet he was thinking of Christians who believe the Bible is authoritative.

It just galls me that most people project onto others this characteristic of skewed sight and limiting pre-suppositions.  Do they truly think they HAVE the truth?

Blind mouse - 24 Feb 2014

Note to self – don’t assume you are neutral and agenda-free and have perfect sight!  Practice humility.

Logical Gal asks why crazy weather is a moral issue

6 Nov

A local letter writer to our newspaper here in Western North Carolina has bundled together a few circumstances to make a case for his point of view.  The events he cites are :

Hurricane Sandy in NJ + a summer-like North  Carolinian day in February + unusual rain this past summer in our local area .  And from these 3 events, he concludes  –  “Something is wrong “.

Then he jumps to this claim and I quote, “At this point, to deny the reality of climate change and its underlying human causes is a moral choice.

So how does a logical gal or guy start to think about this man’s argument?  The best place to start is with TERMS.

Labeling one’s assessment of evidence as a MORAL action caught my eye.  Hmm…better see how ‘moral’  is defined.

Dictionary.com defines ‘moral’ as distinguishing between right and wrong conduct….in the context of what is customary for a culture.  Moral derives from ‘mores’  which are the practices of a culture. Our letter writer who happens to be a pastor (maybe that’s why he has introduced the language of morality?) seems to be saying that how one evaluates evidence and arrives at a conclusion can be considered morally RIGHT or morally WRONG.  He seems to rely on the alleged consensus of a large group of climate scientists.  In essence his reasoning is based on majority thinking. If one sides with the majority, then one has made a morally correct assessment.

But should the opinion of a large group of scientists be the basis for policy change that might have an even broader impact on our world than that of climate change? (think economic repercussions)  These are tough issues that demand clear thinking.

I’ve been greatly helped by a book whose author, Greg Koukl,  is a mature radio show host and head of an organization devoted to good reasoning.  On his show, Greg discusses questions with callers in the area of ethics, values and religion. The fundamental principle Greg teaches (and writes about in his book Tactics)  is this:  Whoever makes the claim has the burden to demonstrate what he means and how he arrives at  his conclusions.

To order Greg Koukl’s book

I think I would enjoy meeting face to face with the local pastor who exhorts his fellow newspaper readers to ‘right this wrong’.  After listening to him defend his argument, I would ask him to identify his authority and to explain how he knows that this person or persons are right? After all, has a majority of smart people ever been mistaken? Don’t scientific theories come and go? Before we instigate sweeping policy changes in one area, we need to study potential effects on the larger system, namely our country and the world.

To take vitamins or not, that is….not the question today

2 Sep

Imagine that your office mate has just asserted the most ridiculous conclusion that you have ever heard: that taking vitamins is a waste of time and money!    

    VERSUS ………….    

You, who pop a handful of carefully selected ‘food supplements’ SWEAR by the efficacy of these expensive pills.  After all, how many sick days have YOU taken in the past five years?

But before you give her a piece of your mind, calm down and ask her to explain her claim.  Remember that she who advances a proposition, a claim, a conclusion, an assertion MUST give her evidence, her reasons, her method of arriving at this thought.  If you want some help, click on the link here for a resource by Greg Koukl.  Great Book to Help who does what in an argument

After listening to your office mate, you realize that before you can even GET to thinking about the truth or falsity of her conclusion, you have to guide her in formulating her reasons.  After some coaxing, here is what she has offered:

  • Food provides enough vitamins and minerals to stay healthy
  • No manufactured vitamins can provide the same quality of benefit found naturally in food.
  • Therefore, taking vitamins is a waste of time and money

Your friend obviously needs some help in identifying her terms and organizing her argument into syllogisms that are built on 3 terms each.

But before you pull out your pencil and start sketching logic charts, we can just refer to Rule # 7 to show that her argument is invalid:

What is the quality of premise # 1 (‘food provides enough…’ )?   It is AFFIRMATIVE

What is the quality of premise # 2 (‘no manufactured…’)?  It is NEGATIVE

Rule # 7 of the Seven Rules for Testing Validity states that if one of the 2 premises is negative, then the conclusion MUST be negative.  Your friend has NOT stated a negative conclusion but the AFFIRMATIVE statement that ‘Taking vitamins is a waste of time and money’

Since the argument is invalid based on Rule # 7, you’re off the hook from giving your 2 cents worth.  But spend some time helping her tease out her reasons and re-articulating them and then checking to see that is what she means.  She’ll gain respect for you as a gentle friend and maybe SHE might see some holes in her reasoning.

Meanwhile play around with what YOU believe about vitamins and craft YOUR argument following the 7 rules.

Here they are in summary.  Next time we’ll build an argument about vitamins that is VALID.

Every syllogism to be valid (that is correctly formed), must comply with 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.

Keep thinking! 

Gotta stay positive

28 Aug

All Chocolate is satisfying

Ghirardelli is chocolate

Tf, Ghirardelli is not satisfying   

What???  That doesn’t make sense!

You’re right.  Our mind easily balks because Premise 1 and Premise 2 are both affirmative propositions, they are A statements.  And the senseless conclusion is a negative proposition, an E statement (No Ghirardelli is satisfying).

Below is the chart that shows the 4 kinds of propositions and their Quality (Affirmative or Negative)

Affirmative  Propositions                      Negative Propositions

in this column                                         in this column

A – All dogs are cuddly E – No dogs are cuddly
I – Some dogs are cuddly O – Some dogs are not cuddly

So, back to chocolate and the question of validity – We are continuing with our extended lesson of

  • “How to examine a syllogism and see if it’s valid”

There are 7 rules in our Validity Checklist that we must run down to determine if a syllogism is valid , that is, in the correct form.  Last time, we showed that NO conclusion whatsoever can be drawn from 2 negative propositions.  Today, we see from Rule # 6 that

  • if premise 1 & 2 are affirmative, then the conclusion MUST be affirmative as well.

So what happens if someone has asserted a negative claim about health care such as:

  • No costly plans are possible

and when you ask the person WHY??? (Whoever makes an assertion is required to back it up with reasons) he/she says:

Premise 1 – All government plans are possible

Premise 2 – All costly plans are government plans

They’ve JUST articulated two affirmative reasons for their NEGATIVE conclusion of “ No costly plans are possible”

Before you jump in (or down your conversation partner’s throat) and start giving YOUR reasons why you disagree, you have every right to encourage this person to explain what she has either

  • left out on purpose
  • left out because she is not THINKING

Remember, there is absolutely NO point in arguing about an invalid argument.  And a negative conclusion drawn from 2 affirmative premises is one of the 7 ways an argument can be deemed invalid.

An argument (syllogism) must win the ‘Good Logician’s Stamp of Validity ‘ to be considered ready to meet the next criterion – are the premises TRUE.

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!