Let’s Think Critically… (Chapter 3)

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.


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