Saturday, December 6, 2014

Categorical Syllogisms

Categorical Syllogisms

I. Categorical Terms
The basic unit in categorical logic is the categorical term. Categorical terms are simply the placing of things or concepts into distinct classes based on some specified characteristics.

II. Categorical Propositions
With categorical terms we can build categorical propositions. A Categorical propositions is a statement with two categorical terms which asserts some relationship between them.

There are four parts to a categorical proposition. In standard form, the first term in the statement is referred to as the subject term (the term which we are saying something about) and the second as the predicate term. The relationship between the subject and predicate terms is described through the use of a copula and quantifier. The copula (also referred to as quality) denotes either an affirmative (inclusive) or negative (exclusive) relationship. The quantifier provides how much of the subject term relates to the predicate term by use of universal quantifiers (all, none), and particular quantifiers (some).

A model categorical proposition can be represented as:
Quantifier [subject term] copula [predicate term]

So with the example All men are mortal; the word All is the quantifier, men is the subject term, are is the copula and mortal is the predicate term.

There are four types of categorical propositions:

A - Universal Affirmative
All S are P

E - Universal Negative
No S are P

I - Particular Affirmative
Some S are P

O - Particular Negative
Some S are not P

Here are the four categorical propositions illustrated with Venn Diagrams:

III. Categorical Syllogisms
Combining categorical propositions, we create categorical syllogisms. A categorical syllogism is an argument consisting of three categorical propositions (two premises and a conclusion) and three categorical terms, each of which is used twice.

There are a total of 256 possible varieties of categorical syllogisms but only 15 are valid (per Boolean logic). Two important valid categorical syllogisms are:

1. All M are P
2. All S are M
3. Therefore all S are P

1. All M are P
2. Some S are M
3. Therefore some S are P

Just as important as being able to form valid arguments is the ability to detect invalid arguments. Here are some common examples:

1. All P are M
2. All S are M
3. Therefore, all S are P

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

FCKH8's Insane New Video

I recently watched the controversial (and by that I mean vile) video by T-shirt/activist company FCKH8. It features little girls dressed as princesses angrily shouting about how women are mistreated and abused by our patriarchal society. It does it's best to shock the viewer by making sure the little darlings say the word fuck as often as possible. If you are easily traumatized by offensive language, here is a link to a bleeped version, but I suggest you watch the actual video below to get the full effect.

Even if you agree with its message and accept its controversial statistics (more here and here), there is still plenty to hate this video for. It's implied message is that people who may be offended or critical of the little girls' indignant swearing really have no right to feel that way because of the much bigger gender problems it seeks to address. This type of rationalization seems to me to be a form of the fallacy of relative privation or what is sometimes referred to as the not as bad fallacy. The form of the argument goes something like:

B happened, and is worse then A.
Therefore A is justified.

The obvious problem with this sort of thinking is that the existence of the worse thing does nothing to change the fact that the less bad thing is still bad. Hence the existence of gender inequality or abuse toward women does nothing to change the fact that little girls shouldn't swear and T-Shirt companies shouldn't make vulgar videos which exploit children to push their ideology. I mean any moron should be able to see how completely inappropriate it is to force these young children (the youngest of which was 6) to confront serious adult issues such as rape. I can only hope the backlash FCKH8 receives is enough to keep them from producing future repulsive videos.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Paradise Ghost Town of Varosha

Beautiful sandy beaches adjoin dilapidated high rise hotels making Varosha one of the more intriguing ghost towns. To understand why it was abandoned we have to start with a quick history lesson.

Varosha is a section of the city of Famagusta on the east coast of Northern Cyprus. Cyprus is a Mediterranean island whose population consists of two ethnic communities: Greek and Turkish. The island was under the control of the Ottoman empire from 1571 to 1878 and then under British control from 1878 to 1960.  During British rule there was a growing nationalist movement by the majority Greek Cypriots for union with Greece (enosis). The British opposed the enosis movement which lead to numerous protest, riots and acts of violence. In the late 1950's, Turkish Cypriots responded to the enosis demand by calling for partition (taksim) of the island. In an attempt to deal with increased violence between the two ethnic groups, the London and Zurich Agreements resulted in Cyprus gaining its independence from Britain in 1960. Almost immediately the new government began to fall apart as cooperation between the two sides could not be achieved.

In 1974 there was a coup d'├ętat of the government by the Cypriot National Guard assisted by the military junta which at that time ruled Greece. Then President Makarios III was replaced with a pro-Enosis nationalist dictator named Nikos Sampson. In response to the coup, Turkey invaded the island, taking control of the north. Just hours before the Turkish and Greek Cypriot armies met in Varosha, the entire population fled. Once Turkish forces gained control of the area, it was fenced off and became part of of the Green Line, which is the present day border between the two communities.

To this day the area remains barricaded and patrolled by the Turkish military. Though most items of value were stolen long ago by Turkish soldiers and other marauders, the majority of the areas buildings still exist in various states of decay.

Here are images of Varosha before the 1974 invasion.

Allegedly secret video taken during a U.N. patrol (starts at 1:35)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sci-Fi Short: Yardbird

A really solid sci-fi/paranormal short film from Australian director Michael Spiccia.  Though it doesn't have the most unique story line (with obvious parallels to the classic horror film Carrie), Yardbird is a really put together short with solid acting and beautiful cinematography.

Yardbird from Bridle Path Films on Vimeo.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Straw Man Fallacy

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy where an arguer distorts or misrepresents his or her opponent's position in order to more easily refute it. The obvious fallacy with this sort of argument is that the weaker, misrepresented position which is being refuted (the straw man) is not the actual claim being made.

Though the etymology of the term is unclear, a commonly stated origin is that it comes from the use of straw man dummies by the military to train soldiers. Though the dummy represents the enemy it is of course a far easier opponent to defeat than a real person.

The straw man argument has the following form:

Person A has position X.
Person B presents position Y (which is a distortion or misrepresentation of position X).
Person B then attacks position Y (the so called straw man).
Therefore position X is false.

Bob says "It would be a good idea to ban advertising beer and wine on radio and television. These ads encourage teenagers to drink, often with disastrous consequences. John replies "You cannot get people to give up drinking: they've been doing it for thousands of years."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Arguments and Argument Analysis

I. Arguments
An Argument is an attempt to persuade someone of something by providing reasons for accepting a particular conclusion. The general form of an argument consists of a set of claims in which the supporting claims are known as the premises and the supported claim as the conclusion.

The process of drawing conclusion from the premises/evidence is called making an inference.

II. Argument Analysis
The analysis of an argument has two basic parts. 1) Identifying and reconstructing the argument so that it is clearly understood and free of rhetorical distractions. 2) Evaluating whether it is a good or bad argument.

A. Identifying and Reconstructing Arguments
Identifying whether a particular speech or text contains an argument is a matter of determining whether it falls within the definition of an argument. As stated above, an argument is an attempt to persuade an audience of a conclusion by offering premises in support of it.

With this in mind, we can see that many things within the realm of language are not considered arguments. These often include such things as questions, commands, many insults and compliments, descriptions, explanations and so on.

The latest annual inflation rate for the United States is 2.1% through the 12 months ended June 2014.

By itself, this is not an argument but simply a statement used to convey information.

In real world dialogues, it is often difficult to determine exactly what someone's argument is. Perhaps there is a sense that an argument is being presented but it's premises and/or conclusion are unorganized, implied or buried among other elements of the dialogue.

To cut out the clutter and clearly understand just what is being put forward, it is often necessary to systematically reconstruct the argument. When doing so, extraneous material, such as rhetorical flourishes, need to be eliminated. Also, premises and conclusions which are implied but not expressly stated need to be clearly written.

When reconstructing arguments, it is important to adhere to the principle of charity. This means that when seeking to understand someones argument, we seek to understand it in it's strongest, most persuasive form. To do this, we need to maintain a mindset of trying to reach the truth of the matter instead of one where we are trying to defeat an opponent.

One method of reconstructing arguments is to restate them in standard form. Arguments reconstructed in standard form have their premises listed in the order they occur in the reasoning process and the conclusion listed at the bottom. The premises are usually numbered P1, P2 and so on and the conclusion labelled with a C. A line, called the inference bar, is drawn between the last premise and the conclusion.1

P1  All humans are mortal 
P2  I am a human 
C  I am mortal

Identifying the Conclusion
When reconstructing arguments it is usually easiest to first identify its conclusion. This can often be done by carefully reading the passage or listening to the speech and trying to determine what point the author is trying to make. What is it they are trying to persuade you to believe?  Also, locating indicator words is a good way to locate the parts of an argument. Conclusion indicators include "therefore", "as a result", "hence", "thus", "so" and "which means". Note: though indicator words can be helpful in identifying the parts of an argument, they can also appear in context outside of arguments. As such, they should be thought of as a helpful tool but not a guarantee.

Identifying the Premises
To find the premises, ask yourself what reasons are given (stated or implied) which support the conclusion. Just as conclusion indicator words can help you locate the conclusion, premise indicator words may help you find the premises. They include "since", "as indicated", "because","as", "given that" and "considering that". As with conclusion indicators, these should be thought of as usefull tools, not guarantees.

B. Evaluating Arguments 
The goal of evaluating arguments is to determine whether they are good arguments or bad arguments. A good argument is one where the conclusion of the argument logically follows from its premises (proper form) and its premises are true (or plausible). A bad argument of course would fail to fulfill one or both of these criteria. It should be noted that a bad argument doesn't automatically mean the conclusion is false. It just means that the argument doesn't provide a good reason to accept the conclusion.

From this we can see that the evaluation of arguments has two parts: testing the arguments logical structure/form and testing its premises.

1. Testing an Arguments Logical Form
To test whether an arguments conclusion logically follows from its premises, we first assume that the premises are true so that we can concentrate solely on the inferences made. The two primary types of arguments are deductive and inductive.

A deductive argument is one in which if the premises were true, then the conclusion must also be true. This certainty is what distinguishes deductive arguments from other argument forms. A properly formed deductive argument is referred to as a valid argument. An invalid argument is one in which that even if the premises were true, it could still lead to a false conclusion
(More on deductive arguments here).

An inductive argument is one in which if the premises were true, then the conclusion is likely to be true. Hence, inductive arguments are inherently uncertain in that even if the premises were true there is the possibility that the conclusion is false. As such, inductive arguments aren't judged as being valid or invalid, but instead are considered either strong or weak, based on how probable it is that the conclusion is true.
(More on inductive arguments here).

2. Testing an Arguments Premises 
When is it reasonable to accept the premises of an argument? It seems this is a difficult question to answer and an area which many books on critical thinking tend to gloss over or completely ignore. But there are some general guidelines we can use to help us determine what is and isn't an acceptable premise. The following is an outline of acceptable premises taken from the book A Practical Study of Argument by Trudy Govier.

-Premises is supported by a cogent subargument.
-Premises supported elsewhere.
-Premises known a priori to be true.
-Common knowledge.
-Proper authority.
-Accepting premises provisionally.

Argument Analysis Summary 
1. Identify the argument
2. Reconstruct the argument in standard form
3. Evaluate the arguments logical form
4. Evaluate the arguments premises

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Incredible Lion Sculpture

Really amazing lion sculpture I found on Twisted Sifter by Turkish artist Selcuk Yilmaz. The article said it took him 10 months and consists of 4000 pieces of hand cut metal.