Tag Archives: logical reasoning

I’m At a Loss


I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.

Advertisements

Logical Fallacies: Some links to help use overcome our greatest obstacle. Ourselves.


While Hessian continues to write posts on a variety of different arguments she comes across it’s imporant to once again remind everyone about those terrors of logic we all must contend with. Logical Fallicies.

Humans are not naturally include to be rational. We mostly make use of heuristics in our thinking rather then pure logical rationals. A heuristic, in the sense I’m using it here, is a cognitive short cut use to solve problems. These can take forms of, rules of thumb, educated guesses, a “common” sense statement or rule. Heuristics have there place due to them often be relatively accurate compared to guessing at random, but exceedingly fast when compared to a formal system of logic. This optimization towards speed is where the problem lies. When using heuristics we are bound to make mistakes, and while we might generally be able to use heuristic effectively, when we get into difficult cases they often send us spiraling into logical dead ends or mistakenly lead on a wild goose chases. This dependance and affinity towards heuristics is largely why we make logical fallacies, and why understanding them, and logic in general, is so important.

I shall focus on a couple key fallacies which I have been seeing regularly in the comments, as well posting links to useful sources to learn more about fallacies.

The Argument from ignorance: This has been the fallacy I’ve been noticing on this blog lately so I think it is the one fallacy that need to be addressed. The basics of this fallacious argument goes as follow. I don’t know what x is, or how x works, because of that it must be y, or is being done by z. This is exemplified when someone claims an unidentified object in the sky must have been a alien craft, when in fact they have no idea what the UFO was.

The most common form I’ve seen of the argument from ignorance in general is the argument for a deity due to the complexity of life. That argument can usually be condensed as follows.

I look at this flower or at the movements of this majestic animal, and I just know (my) God must exist. Now this can break down in to the following formal argument*.

P1: Living organisms are extremely complex.

P2: The Extreme complexity of life can not be explained by natural means.

P3: The only thing which can bring about things unnaturally is my deity.

C: Living organism were brought about by my deity.

*To be clear this does not represent all arguments of this type, there are others, and some are stronger, but as I will mention later on. This is the formalized version of arguments I have regularly encountered.

Funny enough this has several of the fallacies I wish to discuss. Like you might imagine is this an argument from ignorance because the second premise generally come from ideas such as. “I couldn’t imagine such complexity with out it coming from god,” or “It make no sense for complexity to come from “nothing”.” Because they do not know the answer they assume that their deity (and not some other deity) must have done it. Even though they have no idea why life is as complex as it is they appeal to their ignorance and just assume it must have been their god. Which bring us to the second fallacy.

Begging the question: Begging the question is when you assume the conclusion in to the premises instead of deriving, or in the case of induction, supporting the conclusion with premises.

In the example above the argument just assume that this person’s god exists and it could only be their god that did it. This may seem like I’m making a strawman of my opponent, but I have illegitimately ran into this argument dozens of times, over and over again. They have sew the success for there argument into the premises in a way which is whole unsupported. So while if you grant the premises the argument works, but why would you grant this premises to anyone? Would you let a person of a different faith claim it was their god(s) who made all life and that their god(s) exists? If not, and your trying to use this argument, then your making the fallacy of special pleading.

Though in simplest terms begging the question is a kind of circular reasoning where in you guarantee the conclusion with out adequately justifying those premises which give that guarantee.

Black and white fallacy: Also know as a false dilemma. This goes hand in hand with what I’ve already be writing.  This is where you argue that there are only two options when in fact there are many. The above argument does not technically make a black and while fallacy, but it is an easy fallacy to explain. “Your with us or against us!” A common use of the black and white fallacy. People often try to limit the options to them verse us, good verse bad. Except it’s rare where you a trapped with a true dichotomy. In the common case of “Your with us or against us!” it is often the case that a person is neither. I could be with you or against you, but I could be against both parties, or have a mix of positions from both, or only like some of the argument from one! Suddenly I tuned a situation from 2 limited options to 5 much open positions.

This reminds me of a joke I some times tell amongst other feminist “All Dichotomies are false Dichotomies! Even this one!”

The final fallacy is one that is rampant through out the internet and that’s the  good old Ad hominium. I won’t spend too much time on this one, but but a common mistake people make is think that an Ad hominium is just an insult. An Ad hominium is when you call into question a trait, action, or belief of a person which has nothing to do with the argument at hand. Then the one making the Ad hominium use that perceived flaw as a counter argument to their claim. Even though that character flaw has not bearing on the argument in question!

What isn’t an Ad hominium is when you call into question a trait which does relate to the argument at hand. Perhaps your arguing against a known lair. When the known lair makes an unsupported claim you can call into question their honesty without committing an Ad hominium. However, if they then substantiate their claim to an acceptable level. Then you can no longer use their dishonesty as an argument, without making the Ad hominium fallacy, until they again make a claim that they could again be reasonably be lying about.

Before we get into the links it is important to reiterate that there a several names for the some fallacies. For example The Black and white Fallacy is the same basic idea as the false dilemma fallacy, and the Argument from ignorance is also called an appeal to ignorance.

The first link I’d like to share is “The Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments” It’s cute and that probably why I’m linking to it first. I don’t like all of the examples, but it does the job of running through a good number of logical fallacies in a memorable manner.

https://bookofbadarguments.com/

Next is a link to the poster “thou shalt not commit logical fallacies!” It’s a fun one with an interactive poster on the website. It’s also where I got two of the images for this post.

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/

And finally for those of you whom are include to watch you tube videos here is a playlist by PBS idea channel about logical fallacies.

I suggest looking into more on logical fallacy if you get through all of those, but the above links are an excellent starting place.

Edit: Here is another link provided by clubschadenfreude

It gives a few more special cases not discussed in the other links as well as more examples.

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/


Science Depends On Philosophy, and practice at examining logical arguments.


This post will be severing two purposes. First as a review for an excellent video Gary Edwards put out on Sunday, and an examination of a deductive argument that I promised on my post about deductive and inductive logic.

Here’s the Video titled “Science Depends On Philosophy” for those interested the video does have a full transcript which can be read by going to the Youtube page clicking the ⚫⚫⚫ More button under the video title.

For ease I will include the definitions and the deductive argument here.

Definitions

A = “The Hypothetical Philosophy Denialist”

P = “A is doing empirical science”

Q = “A has taken a conceptual and evaluative side” (You have agreed to certain definitions of what your looking at and looking for, that you won’t be redefining things as you go along and that you won’t be moving the goal posts if you don’t like any answers you might get. As well you value some thing, general try of evaluation, or forms of evidence, over other kinds.)

R = “A has engaged in appropriate discourse”

S = “A is Hypocritical and conceited”

T = “A is doing Philosophy”

Deductions:

1. “P” [assumption]

2. “NOT S” [assumption]

3. IF “P” THEN “Q” [premise]

4. IF (“Q” AND “NOT R”) THEN “S” [premise]

5.  IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T” [premise]

6. EITHER “R” OR “NOT R” (This is a case of an exclusive or) [premise]

7. EITHER “S” OR “T” (This is also a case of an exclusive or) [deduction 4+5+6]

8. “T” [deduction 2+7]

9. IF (“P” AND “NOT S”) THEN “T” [deduction 1+2+3+8]

Well scared yet? Hopefully not! Though if your needing the refresher I’ll link back to my discussion of logical connectives here, and the the basic form of an argument here.

First I’m going to take this argument step by step and restate each step of the argument, and discuss it’s importance. If you had no problem following Gary then you may wish to skim though this part, but given this is formal logic and may reading this will have little to no exposure to this type of rather intimidating notation. It is best to try to make the argument as clear as possible.

First come the assumptions. For this argument we are assuming 1. Your doing empirical science (P), and 2. you are not a conceited hypocrite (NOT S). Both of these are build in to give the argument charitability to the philosophical denialists (A). I haven’t yet talked much about charitability and I’ll be writing a full post on it soon as it is very important. I won’t go into it much here other then to say that by being charitable Gray has made his fair, and respectful which is always a good route to go.

 

So we know “A” is doing empirical science and is not conceited or hypocritical. Now to the premises.

3. First premise is IF “P” THEN “Q”. Which translated back into English is saying:

IF someone is doing empirical science (P) THEN it is the case that that person has taken a conceptual and evaluative side.

Which is to say that someone has accepted some set of acceptable scientific and empirical methodologies in which they will base their conclusions upon. How do we know those methodologies are acceptable? For that we need to go on to the next premise.

4. IF (“Q” AND “NOT R”) THEN “S”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), but has not engaged in appropriate discourse (NOT R). THEN it is the case that person is a conceited hypocrite (S).

What is means to engaged in the appropriate discourse varies some depending on the particular science in questions, but generally speaking this means that you agree to follow those definitions, and methodologies agree on by the scientific consensus, and to be clear about place where you diverge. As well in mean that you will engage in the peer review process allowing other to look over your work, and that you will do the same, taking into considerations and criticism you get, and make corrections as needed. I could go on, but I think that is a compete enough overview for our purposes here.

5. IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), and engaged in appropriate discourse (R) THEN that person is engaged in philosophy (T).

This is the first place most might object to the argument, but I think this premise fits well for both science and philosophy.

6. EITHER “R” OR “NOT R”

EITHER someone is engaged in appropriate discourse (R) OR they’re not (NOT R).

Another place you might object and say there is nuance, but I’ll save arguments against for later.

Now that we have all 4 Premises. Lets move onto the three deductions.

 

7. EITHER “S” OR “T”

EITHER your a conceited hypocrite (S) OR your doing philosophy (T).

This deduction follows from premises 4, 5 and 6 as follows. First we know from premise 4 and 5 that if someone engaged in appropriate discourse (R) that they doing philosophy, and if they’re not engaged in appropriate discourse they are a conceited hypocrite. With Premise 6 we know you must either be doing appropriate discourse or not, there is not middle group on that issue. Because of that we know that “A” must with be “T” or “S”.

8. “T”

The Hypothetical philosophy denialist (A) is doing philosophy (T).

Due the deduction 7 we know “A” must be “S” OR “T”, and since assumption 2 is that “A” is Not A conceited hypocrite (NOT S) then we know the “A” must be doing philosophy.

9. IF (“P” AND “NOT S”) THEN “T”

This final deduction draws from all the premises and deductions some directly and indirectly. We know that “A” is doing Science from the first assumption. We also know that “A” is not a conceited hypocrite (NOT S) from assumption 2.

As also know that from Assumption 1 and Premise 3 that “A” is doing Empirical Science (P) so “A” must also have taken a conceptual and evaluative sides (Q). Based on deduction  8 and all that came before it we know that If “Q” then we must either have “T” or “S”, but not both. We also know we must have “R” or “NOT R” (6), and that they follow from “Q” (4, 5), and that “Q” follows from “P” (3). Because of all of that confusing mess we know that to do empirical science (Q) we must either do philosophy (T) or be conceited hypocrites (S). We already now we are doing both Science and that we are not conceited hypocrites so we must be doing philosophy! Hopefully that made sense!

Gary Edwards explains line 9 a bit differently and I suggest everyone who’s gotten this far go back and watches again. Both are correct, though his is more concise. My explanation is drawing out the logic more in hope it may help a few people reading this understand.

Though if some this doesn’t make sense, and anyone doesn’t understand why these deductions follow from the premisses and assumptions please ask questions. I’ll do my best to answer, though do try to be specific what line your having issues with. This is formal logic so if it doesn’t make sense the first time though don’t worry it did make sense to me at first either.

Okay know I’m sure people are going to have some issue with the argument and would like to address some of it’s failings, if it has any. I’ll explain the basics of how you would go about doing so, and give an example.

First this argument is sound, the premises guarantee the conclusion. So saying the argument doesn’t work is a no go.The argument does work, if you have an issue you’ll need to indicate why the premise or assumptions are incorrect and how they are incorrect. Another way to think of it is that you can not refute the conclusions of a sound argument. Those are a given and above reproach. Instead you must show that the argument is build on unsound foundations by picking apart the premises.

I pointed out two places, Premise 5 and 6, where one might object. Of these two premise 5 seems the most likely candidate for criticism. That premise was:

 

5. IF (“Q” AND “R”) THEN “T”

IF someone has taken a conceptual and evaluative side (Q), and engaged in appropriate discourse (R) THEN that person is engaged in philosophy (T).

 

This premise is largely undefended, while I do agree with it, it still remains a weak spot. This is an important point to remember, you can criticize your own ideas in this manner, and well as those ideas you like. In doing so all you risk is improving your argument by recognizing its weak points and strengthening them, or finding our your wrong.  And finding out your wrong for yourself eases that awkwardness of someone else doing it for you.

 

First and post obviously you could argue the “T” does not necessarily follow from “Q” & “R”, so far from the discussions those thing seem to be important only too doing “empirical science” (P). Though in order to make this an convincing counter point you must explain why “T” Does not follow from “Q” & “R” what about philosophy make those two things unnecessary? And when you think of that reason why do you think might be the response from Gary? I’m actually drawing a blank, on a good reason, but that might be because I biased anyone have some ideas?

 

I also suggest any interested parties try to tackle the argument from Premise 6 which in retrospect may have made a better example ;).

Next time I’ll be talking about charitability in arguments and more specifically counter arguments.

 

Withteeth


Logical reasoning and argument, few introductory points.


It’s always good to look back at the basics, and I know some folks need the lesson. For this post I’m going to talk about the general shape of a proper argument.

First I’ll start the basic structure of an logical argument. This is no single type of logic, but most logics anyone will be exposed to will follow the following format. I’m not getting into formal logic, but will be using some formal logic ideas to hopefully  help make some of this clearer.

Some number of premises.

A conclusion or conclusions.

Formally show in the following manner.

P1.

P2.

Pn. (where n is the total number of premises)

___________

C (often there is only a single conclusions and this is more manageable then trying to defend many conclusions)

or

C1

C2

Cm (where m is the number of conclusions)

 

Premises are the base for your conclusions and are what the conclusion stands on. They are the foundation, so if your drawing a big conclusion you best build a sturdy foundation

Premises can take a few different forms. Contextual statements, assumptions, and evidence.

Contextual statements set the scene. It’s it fair to say the certain conclusions can only be drawn under.

Generally such premises sound like. “In the case that…” Or “It is the case that when A happens and B happens” or a wide variety of If Then or other conditional statements. If you argument is in some way context depended they it’s in your best interest to point out clearly what the context is.

Assumptions are best called necessary evils. You ought avoid them where ever you can. Though it basically impossible to avoid them altogether, but I’ll get into that in my next post where I discuss inductive and deductive reasoning. Also never assume your conclusions. That is a horrible argument are will only convince the extremely gullible. Assumptions should only be used when unavoidable, and then only when you can defend those assumptions. If you can’t then you best take a step back and look into it deeper.

Evidence is somewhere in between assumption and context. Such premises are basically arguments in themselves, and each need case where evidence is brought in it is up to the arguer to make sure that it’s both relevant and reliable, and once again are able to defend both points. There is such a thing and strong and weak evidence. Where thing like anecdotal, hearsay, eye witlessness testimony are weak evidence, and thing like Peer reviewed research, expert testimony, and the personal writing of a person when arguing about what they thought on a given subject. Though Evidence deserves a whole post to itself so I’ll leave that for a more in depth discussion for later.

 

Conclusions:

Well these can be tricky, you have to make sure that you arguments are valid and sound.

An Argument is valid if the true premises always lead to a true conclusion. This is a fancy way of saying does your argument even make sense?

P1: It is the case that I have only seen purple eggplants.

C: Cats are the best animal.

I hope it’s clear to everyone here that this sort of argument makes no sense. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise, and they are independent from each other.

But the following example is also invalid because while the premise might well be true, not all eggplants are purple (some are white), so the conclusion is incorrect independent on the truth value of the premise.

P1: It is the case that I have only seen purple eggplants.

C: All Eggplants are purple.

An argument is sound if it is valid, and all of it’s premises are true. Now it is not always going to be clear if an argument is sound, and that’s why (hopefully) we argue. To determine the soundness of our and others arguments.

Now for example here is a valid and sound argument.

P1:Based on observations made by astrophysicists it’s is likely that some Planets are tidally locked with their suns. (evidence)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_locking#Bodies_likely_to_be_locked

P2: Such Planets have one side perpetually facing the sun and another in darkness rotating at a rate which prevents a day night cycle. (context)

P3: To experience sun rise and sun set on a planet. That planet needs a day night cycle. (context)

C: It is likely that some planets do not experience sun rises and sun sets.

That’s it for now. More later. I haven’t decided if I’ll talk about inductive and deductive reasoning, or evidence. I am taking suggestions though.

 

Withteeth


%d bloggers like this: