Monday, December 29, 2014

Thinking Skills

Thinking Skills (Average Joe Edition/Addition)

The following is an attempt to organize my posts related to clear thinking, problem solving and decision making into a coherent, easy to use format. As the title suggests, I'm just an average guy trying to get a better understanding of these topics and as such, have no doubt oversimplified or misunderstood some of these concepts. Perhaps they may be of some benefit to someone out there but please do your own research.

I. Fundamentals of Informal Logic

  A. Informal Logic in a Nutshell: Argument & Argument Analysis

  B. Deductive Arguments
      1) Categorical Logic
      2) Propositional Logic

  C. Inductive Arguments
      1) Inductive Generalization
      2) Statistical Syllogism
      3) Analogical Arguments
      4) Causal Arguments
          a. Mill's Methods
          b. Bradford Hill criteria

  D. Abductive Arguments

  E. Logical Fallacies
     -Ad Hominem
     -Appeal to Authority
     -Appeal to Popularity
     -Argument from Ignorance
     -Begging the Question/Circular Reasoning
     -False Analogy
     -False Dichotomy
     -Guilt by Association
     -Hasty Generalization
     -Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
     -Red Herring
     -Tu Quoque
     -Straw Man

II. Cognitive Psychology

  A. Dual Process Model of Thinking
  B. Cognitive Bias
     -Confirmation Bias and Positive Test Strategy
     -Dunning-Kruger Effect
     -Framing Effect
     -Gambler's Fallacy
     -Outcome Bias

III. Problem Solving
  A. Problem Solving Process

IV. Information/Knowledge Management
  A. Outline

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Name a Star... and lose $54 bucks

Over the last few weeks, during my drive to work, I've been hearing those commercials on the radio where, for $54 dollars you can name a star after someone. Yep, that's right. For the low price of $54 dollars, the very official sounding International Star Registry will provide you with a beautiful, full color parchment certificate personalized with the star's name, date and coordinates along with a detailed star chart showing your star circled in red.

The commercial goes on to say that since 1979 the International Star Registry has named countless stars for celebrities, dignitaries, royalty and Joe Schmoes just like you. The star name is recorded in the Astronomical Catalog which will be registered with the U.S. copyright office.

With Christmas right around the corner, you might be thinking this would be the perfect gift. In this ephemeral world that we live, who wouldn't want something which would provide a sense of permanency. A star in our name, something that would be there long after we are gone. A small reference to our existence, immortalized for future generations to see.

Yes, it would indeed be the perfect gift, if it wasn't largely a scam.

Though the International Star Registry sounds very official, in reality they are not recognized or used by any scientific institutions. They are a private, for profit company which is simply finding a star, labeling it with the purchased name and recording it in their catalog. That's it. The catalog is simply a company database. It is not used by the scientific community. In reality, it seems the International Astronomical Union (IAU) "is the internationally recognized authority for naming celestial bodies and surface features on them. And names are not sold, but assigned according to internationally accepted rules."

It should be noted that there is nothing illegal with what International Star Registry is doing. When I said earlier that it was a scam, I didn't mean that the company was breaking the law, only that what they are doing is deceptive. And while it may seem like a largely harmless deception, there are people that experience a heavy emotional disappointment when learning the truth. As Stuart Atkinson wrote on his blog Cumbrian Sky "I feel very strongly about, I don’t mind admitting. Why? Because I am tired of having to disappoint and upset people who come to me as star parties and astronomy meetings, asking me if I can help find the star they “named” after their deceased mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, fiance, wife, husband, grandmother, grandfather or pet. These people “buy” stars in good faith, thinking, genuinely, that a way out of – or to at least ease – their grief is to buy a star for their dead loved one, thus immortalising them and preserving their memory. They are led to believe by the advertising blurb that “their star ” will be on view in the sky for all to see… so they come up to me at a star party, ask me to point out the star they bought, or, if it’s cloudy, point it out to them on a star chart or in an atlas. And I feel sick to my stomach when I have to tell them that the star they “bought” and “named” only bears that name in that company’s star registry database, and that you need a telescope to see it."

So save yourself $54 dollars and get a present your loved one will really enjoy. Or, if you are still not dissuaded, send me the money and I'll provide a star for you to name. I'll write it down in a book and keep it safe for you. After all, it isn't much less than what the star naming companies do.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Categorical Syllogisms

Term Logic / Syllogistic Logic / Aristotelian Logic

Originating with Aristotle, term logic was the dominant form of logic used till the the late nineteenth century.  It reasons on the basis of the relationships between categories (referred to as terms).

I. Categorical Terms
The basic unit in categorical syllogistic logic is the categorical term. Categorical terms are simply the placing of things or concepts into distinct classes or categories based on some specified characteristics. Each categorical term divides the world into those things included in the category and those things not included.

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 relationship (are) or negative/exclusive (are not) 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 a syllogistic 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

Here is a link to a page which lists all 15 valid categorical syllogisms along with their corresponding Venn diagrams.

The validity of a categorical syllogism can be determined by either applying a set of rules or through the use of Venn diagrams. Here are two links which expand on the subject"
-The six necessary conditions for valid categorical syllogisms
-Testing validity using Venn diagrams

Santa Barbara City College: Philosophy-111 Critical Thinking And Writing: The 15 Valid Syllogistic Forms

Society for Positive Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies (SPPIS): A Classroom Introduction to Logic: Nature of Proposition