Archive for October, 2009

“The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.” (Chapter 5)

October 19, 2009

First, we will start off with the basics. Using this article, I will demonstrate the difference between facts and opinions. A fact is a point of information that has been proven by experts to be true (or, if experts do not agree, the matter can be researched to come to a correct conclusion). On matters of opinion, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ because it cannot be statistically proven.

In this article, this statement: “This is a clear violation of constitutional rights and federal and state law.” is a statement of fact, because it can be checked an experts will agree. However, the very next sentence, uttered by the same person, is a matter of opinion: “disciplinary action should be taken immediately — including the revoking of his license.” This is a matter of opinion. Another fact of opinion is the statement “I’m not a racist.” Although this is what he claims, many people who are knowledgeable on the subject would disagree. Another fact is “The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out any racially-based limitations on marriage in the landmark 1967 Loving v. Virginia case,” this is historically documented and agreed upon by people in the know.

Next, we need to talk about arguments and inferences.

This passage from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, is narrative “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. ‘Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door – Only this, and nothing more.'”

This passage about Bend, Oregon is descriptive: “Located in Central Oregon at the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Bend is an energetic city with a fast growing population of over 80,995. Bend is noted for its scenic setting, year-round recreational activities and growing economy. At an elevation of 3,625 feet, the city covers 32 square miles.”

Both of these passages are free of argument. To show some examples of arguments, I will find some literature about the war on drugs, our nation’s most expensive and ineffective war. I got these passages from this website. While this website is clearly written by some dude that is stoned and pissed at the government, and more than likely highly inaccurate, I will refer to what he says as ‘facts,’ for ease of argument. I think that the same analysis can be applied to sentences and statements that are untrue as they can be to true facts.

First example: “Because certain desirable drugs are illegal, organised crime syndicates and thousands of smaller gangs of criminals descend into the underworld to pursue their criminal drug activities and then they also get involved in even more crime! – thus creating channels and resources for other types of crime – prostitution, gun-running, robbery, people-smuggling etc.”

This example encompasses both a premise clue (the word Because at the beginning), and a conclusion cue (“thus”). The conclusion for this argument is that the war on drugs leads to more crime. The premises are that because the drugs are illegal, people have to work in the criminal setting. Another premise is that getting involved in the crime under world leads to more crime.

Second example:  ““There is far too much crime in our society. We need to lock up the criminals and give them long sentences. We need to get them off the streets. We need to come down hard on drugs users, and put them into prison cells.” The conclusion of this argument is that we need to put drug dealers in jail. The premise is that there is too much crime in society. Another premise is that drug dealers are the main perpetrators of crimes. Another premise is that our jail system effectively rehabilitates people and will be effective in deterring crime.

Now, what about inferences? According to Hoaglund, inferences “begin with a body of evidence or group of facts and the need or desire to get some new piece of information from them (101).”

For this, I will continue to draw from the previous website. This is an example of an inference:

“Ooops. I forgot to mention the most important thing about the War on Drugs … The darned thing doesn’t work! And it hasn’t worked for half a century! So why on Earth do we maintain this completely catastrophic war on drugs?” The facts in this statement are that the war on drugs is ineffective, and has been for a long time. The inference is that we should end the war on drugs.

Here’s another example: “Because certain desirable drugs are illegal, young boys, particularly those who have no hope of achieving very much because of their circumstances or their lack of abilities are tempted easily into drugs dealing in order to ‘make something of themselves’ – or to fund their own drug habits. And it is worth pointing out that some 15% of young men and boys in the population have intelligence levels that are pretty low! They often – especially when young – cannot see the full implications of getting involved with drugs.”

The facts are 15% of young men are below average intelligence. Another fact is that people like these often try to compensate for this fact by being successful in other arenas. Another fact is that the drug industry is lucrative for people who have low education and intelligence. The inference is that the drug industry is dangerous for such people because they will usually only see the bright side and not heed the dangers of the industry.

Sometimes arguments and inferences are supported by explanations. Explanations serve a wide range of purposes. According to Hoaglund, “they can tell us what something is for, and how to use it; they can define, resolve puzzlement, elucidate, paraphrase, make clear, fill in detail, supply stages, reclassify or reinterpret (105).”

For examples of these, I will refer to the hilarious website, For an example of explanation, I will refer to #2. Religions that their parents don’t belong to. “White people will often say they are “spiritual” but not religious. Which usually means that they will believe any religion that doesn’t involve Jesus.” This is an (albeit tongue-in-cheek) example of explanation. What is being explained is what it means to be ‘spiritual.’ The explanation is that it involves any religion that doesn’t involve Jesus.

I will take the next example from #7. Diversity. “Many white people from cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York will spend hours talking about how great it is that they can get Sushi and Tacos on the same street. But then they send their kids to private school with other rich white kids, and live in neighborhoods like Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades. But it’s important to note that white people to do not like to be called out on this fact.” This is explaining how white people like diversity, but only in terms of restaurants. The justification is when he says, ‘it’s important to note that white people do not like to be called out on this fact.’ Justifications are “explanation[s] offered to justify some action or avoid some action (107).”

Many white people from cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York will spend hours talking about how great it is that they can get Sushi and Tacos on the same street. But then they send their kids to private school with other rich white kids, and live in neighborhoods like Santa Monica or Pacific Palisades.

But it’s important to note that white people to do not like to be called out on this fact.

I am Totally Illogical (Chapter 5)

October 18, 2009

I am not very good at logic puzzles, so to start this activity off, I will do an easy, A level one. This is the puzzle labeled Tastes in Music on page 85 of Hoaglund.The objective is to figure out which kind of music, car, and house each person has. Many people like to make charts for logic puzzles, but I prefer to just hash it out.

I started with Michelle. The text tells me that she likes the Beatles, so the band is figured out. House? Well, clue G says she doesn’t live in a rancher or colonial. And clue F says that the Nirvana fan lives in the apartment, so that leaves only the townhouse. What about car? Well, clue C says that the person who drives the Kawasaki drives the townhouse. So, Michelle is done.

Jan likes the Grateful Dead (this is given to us by the clues). Car? Clue H says that the person who likes the Beach Boys drives the Buick, and clue F (above) proves that Jan doesn’t drive the pick-up, so we know that Jan drives the Geo. House? Well, first we have to learn more about Greg.

On to Greg. All that we’ve been directly told about Greg is that he doesn’t live in the colonial (Clue D). Fortunately, because of clue E, we know that Greg is the only person who can drive the Buick (since the two girls are figured out). Then, according to clue H, we can deduce that he likes the Beach Boys. What about house? Well, if we again utilize clue F, then we realize that the only option left for Greg is the Rancher. With the rancher out of the way, we can now figure out that Jan lives in the colonial.

That leaves all the leftovers to Vic!

Michelle- Beatles, Townhouse, Kawasaki

Jan- Grateful Dead, Geo, Colonial

Greg- Beach Boys, Buick, Rancher

Vic- Nirvana, Apartment, Pickup

Let’s Think Critically… (Chapter 3)

October 16, 2009

Today’s topic is logical consistency. A statement that is inconsistent has a set of statements that either contains or implies a contradiction. If two statements can be true at the same time, they are consistent.

To explain this concept, let’s look at an article about the recent national phenomenon, Balloon Boy. I will be referring to this article, which discuss whether or not the whole thing was a hoax. Which is exactly what I was wondering! I mean he was missing for a long time and then showed up in his house???! Let’s read on to find out.

The first two sentences are consistent. “Cops want to question balloon boy Falcon Heene and his publicity-hungry parents again.” And “Under pressure from skeptics who smell a hoax, a Colorado sherriff announced Friday that he wants to reinterview the 6-year-old boy who riveted the nation in a runaway balloon drama.”

These two sentences seem to be inconsistent. “We believe, at this time, this was not a hoax,” said Alderden. “In light of the boy’s statement, we want to reinterview them and put this to rest.”

Alderden was referring to a CNN interview – after Falcon was found Thursday – in which the boy said he didn’t reveal where he was hiding because his dad told him, “We did this for a show.””

Let’s run a consistency analysis on them to find out!

(from page 39 in Hoaglund) Step 1. Write down seperately the statements or clauses that seem to be suspicious. (Check!)… (Above)

Step 2. Compare the statements to see whether any of them are contradictory. (There are no contradictory statements.)

Step. 3. Draw out those implications of the statements that seem promising for the analysis.

“We believe, at this time, this was not a hoax”: implies that they believe it was an honest mistake.

“the boy said he didn’t reveal where he was hiding because his dad told him, “We did this for a show.””: implies that the family did it for the publicity– NOT an honest mistake.

Step 4. Because the police are simply saying what they believe, the two statements can both be true at the same time. They just send a mixed message.

These two statements seem to be contradictory: “Alderden said that if Richard Heene concocted a publicity stunt, the most he could be charged with is making a false report – a misdemeanor.” and “If this turns out to be a false report we would seek restitution,” said the sheriff. That means Richard Heene could wind up shelling out over $20,000, sources said.”

The statements are contradictory because by saying the MOST he could be charged with would be a misdemeanor, you are discounting the hefty fines that will be placed on top of that.

Next, let’s talk about assumptions. In everyday vernacular, we are told never to assume because it makes an ass out of you and me. However, in philosophy, we learn that assumptions are impossible to function without. First, Hoaglund distinguishes between logical assumptions– “statements that must be true in order for some other statements to be true, or in order for some other discourse to be used appropriately (51)”– and hypothetical assumptions– statements we take to be true because of a lack of better information.

For our discussion of assumptions, let’s use this article.

“A strange halo cloud over Moscow had many in the Russian capital expecting a close encounter last Wednesday.” A logical assumption of this sentence is that there was an unusual halo cloud over Moscow. This may seem overly simple– is that really an assumption!? Yessir, it is! It’s a statement that must be true in order for the whole sentence to be true. A hypothetical assumption of this sentence is that many people thought that this cloud was somehow related to aliens (detonated by the words ‘close encounter’).

This statement is one that people may pull ‘assumptions’ from which are not actual philosophical assumptions. “It’s a purely optical effect, even if a spectacular one. You can see really strange things if you watch the clouds regularly,” weather officials told Russia’s Vesti 24.” One may assume that this statement was said just to cover up an alien landing that the government was trying to keep under wraps. Believe it or not, this is NOT a logical assumption (or a hypothetical one, for that matter). Another assumption one may draw from this statement is that the weather officials have spent a lot of time watching clouds. This seems to be a logical assumption. After all, they’re weather officials. However, this statement does not have to be true in order for the other statement to be true. They could just be speaking from a general knowledge of how the world works.

Okay, well that’s all for today. Hopefully we all had fun and learned something along the way.