Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Logic Assignment Introduction

Logic Lane, Oxford

Photo of Logic Lane at Oxford by Andy Hough on Flickr.

As we move into our unit on logic, the face-to-face participants in Philosophy 12 have been reading about the Basic Concepts of Logic (pdf), which may be defined as “the science of reasoning.” Delving into statements, premises, propositions, as well as truth, validity and soundness, our hope is to greet the weekend with a host of blogged examples of logical arguments in their natural habitat. In past years, the tasks around logic have involved a similar feat of strength, and participants have generated multiple examples of logical arguments and tested them for form and content. Occasionally this has sparked interesting discussions of both the merits of this or that argument, the cultural implications (or origins) of such thinking, and by amending the unit assignment this week hopefully we will see more of this type of discourse emerging around our logical examples.

The Assignment 

  • Summarize and describe an example of a logical argument you have uncovered in a variety of settings: current events, popular media, personal anecdotes or hypothetical thought experiments. Be sure to include enough back-story for people unfamiliar with the milieu of your example to digest the logic at work, and provide links, video, or attached materials so that your audience can follow up or extend their inquiry into your example with ease.
  • Dissect the argument and its form by representing it as a syllogism.
  • Evaluate the argument for Truth, Validity and Soundness and explain your judgements.
  • Reflect upon the origins or implications of your selected argument. Where does it (or others like it) come from (in society, culture, etc)? What are the consequences of the conclusion drawn, or from the argument being framed in this way?

Post your example on the class site no later than Tuesday morning, and be sure to include the proper Category: Logic and Scientific Philosophy.

For your reference and preparation, here is an example of a response to this assignment:

Prime Ministerial Logic 

Image via Transitions, an Advocate for Sociological Inquiry

Following the discovery of Tina Fontaine’s murdered body in the Red River, in August, Prime Minister Stephen Harper faced reinvigorated calls to launch a federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women in Canada. On the heels of reports from the special rapporteur to the United Nations, as well as the RCMP, which each discovered that aboriginal women in Canada face significantly higher rates of violence than non-aboriginals, Harper’s federal Conservative Government continued to reject pressure to better understand the root causes of this trend. The Prime Minister himself stated that “we should not view this as a sociological phenomenon. We should view it as a crime.”

The Prime Minister’s statement might be seen as an argument broken down to the following premises and conclusion:

Premise 1: The murder or abduction of aboriginal women is a crime.

Premise 2: Crime is not a sociological phenomenon.

Premise 3: A federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women would rely on sociological practices of inquiry.

Conclusion: Therefore, a federal inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women would not address crimes against aboriginal women.

By evaluating the various premises’ truth and/or accuracy, we might be able to reveal the soundness of the Prime Minister’s argument.

  • Premise 1 can easily be accepted as true.
  • Premise 2 can be more easily contested, as the study of criminology itself is a branch of sociological inquiry. While it is the government’s prerogative to define and combat crime in terms it was elected to uphold, practitioners in the fields of both sociology and criminology would likely contest the Prime Minister’s assertion that “crime is not a sociological phenomenon.”
  • Premise 3 can be seen to be true, as an inquiry into the trend of murdered and missing aboriginal women would “study social behaviour, its origins, development, organization, and institutions,” which Wikipedia defines as sociology.

As we can see, the flaw in the Prime Minister’s argument is contained in Premise number two, and damages the conclusion reached. While the argument’s form may be valid, an error in its content damages both the truth of its premises and the soundness of the conclusion.

The origins of the Prime Minister’s logic are difficult to trace, though they might be seen in the political ideology of Neoliberalism. Writing in the Toronto Star, Jakeet Singh noted that the Prime Minister’s remarks were

“clearly trumpeting a standard component of neo-liberal ideology: that there are no social phenomena, only individual incidents. (This ideology traces back to Margaret Thatcher’s famous claim that “there is no such thing as society.”) Neo-liberalism paints all social problems as individual problems.”

The effects of this logic being brought to bear on crime and punishment in Canada can be similarly difficult to witness (somewhat ironically even, as the evidence to be found would reside within the sorts of sociological inquiries the Prime Minister is denying). However, Singh’s article describes the casualties of Mr. Harper’s ideology as our societal ability to perceive and confront injustice. “You see,” he writes, “Sociologists often differentiate between “personal injustices” and “systemic” or “structural injustices.” Personal injustices can be traced back to concrete actions of particular individuals (perpetrators). These actions are often willful, and have a relatively isolated victim.”

Structural injustices, on the other hand, are produced by a social structure or system. They are often hard to trace back to the actions of specific individuals, are usually not explicitly intended by anyone, and have collective, rather than isolated, victims. Structural injustices are a result of the unintended actions of many individuals participating in a social system together, usually without knowing what each other is doing. Whereas personal injustices are traced back to the harmful actions (or inactions) of individuals, structural injustices are identified by differential societal outcomes among groups. Sociologists call these “social inequalities.”

By refusing to view crime as a sociological phenomenon, those accepting the Prime Minister’s argument do so within a broader context which should trouble those who believe in our collective responsibility for one another’s well-being. “When we paint all social problems as individual problems with individual solutions,” Singh writes, “we also lose any sense of the social responsibility, rather than personal responsibility, that we need to address them.”

 

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Attribution and the Ethic of the Link

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 8.20.06 PMAs we set out into blogging this term in Philosophy 12, I want to highlight this observation from GNA Garcia on our first batch of posts. For the face-to-face authors’ part, the objective of this first assignment was to tackle the mechanics and navigation of the course site; but I appreciate GNA focusing our efforts as we build on this early success. Such feedback and interaction is what makes our open online participation valuable, as GNA and Stephen Downes have once again shown in this new year by sharing their consistently thought-provoking comments and contributions to the class.

To GNA’s point, citation and attribution of the ideas we use to support our own thinking is indeed how we contextualize, connect, and make sense of ourselves as academics, and as such are integral parts of scholarship. But they are also vital aspects of building knowledge on the web (something Mr. Downes may wish to elaborate on in a comment), something we are similarly involved in here with Philosophy 12, and which we will delve into further in our Epistemology unit.

In the meantime though I would challenge our face-to-face participants to look to the posting of our upcoming “What is Philosophy?” assignments as an opportunity to engage what NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen calls “the ethic of the link.”

 

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Scientific Philosophy Round Up

Soaring into the eye of the gods

Image courtesy of Gardner Campbell (and the Romans)

I thought it might be helpful to round up the Scientific Philosophy posts here so that we might be able to more easily delve into their contents in the future.

Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 1.11.57 PMHeather & Andrea’s Instrumentalism Prezi

Logical Positivism is an outdated, radical idea that started in the Vienna Circle as far back as the early 1800s. The main view that logical positivists held is that no statement is legitimate or meaningful until it can be proven true or false. In the minds of logical positivists, personal opinions and values only warps science, and it can only be objective through the scientific method. During or class discussion, with the help of a spectrum of ideologies such as instrumentalism and postmodernism, the majority of the class came to the conclusion that science is not objective. This agreement was based on the idea that science is about the process of which we come to a conclusion, rather than the conclusion itself. Logical positivists would disagree with this analogy, as they believe that science is about coming to a proven legitimate conclusion rather than the process.

Ashley, Jessica & Sophie on Logical Positivism

As a byproduct of the horrors of the Holocaust, a lost outlook on art, literature, and science arose rampant. From the works of Kurt Vonnegut to Jackson Pollock, a taste for confusion and abstract perspectives is obvious. After the war, in debt and longing for war, the ambiance was rather angsty… skeptical if you will.

The whole objective of science is to create an objective method to find an objective truth. However, how can one be continued objective in this world of context and personal bias. In the post modernist view, the world should be objective, looking and searching for a single truth… or a set of certain truths. But science is a way of thinking, in which no one can be objective. We have a set of lenses in which we choose what to search for. What can we tolerate? What do we need to discover?

Julie on Postmodernists’ Science

In science, a paradigm is a theory or set of thoughts that is widely accepted and practiced as the truth at that time. A paradigm shift is a total change in your set of view about a particular paradigm and it is most closely related to scientific progress but you could use it as a way to describe your own personal beliefs. We all exist in our own different paradigms. We all have our own personal beliefs on certain things and our outlook on the world is affected by those beliefs. And we can experience paradigm shifts in our own lives where our views on certain things are turned upside down. And as well, the scientific community and society exists in certain paradigms through out history at all. For example, right now we exist in the paradigm that landmasses are being moved constantly by continental plates. This is different from the old theory that the continents were always where they are. Thomas Kuhn believed that there are so many different paradigms going around, and that all the time they are changing, that there is no way that science can just settle on one of them. The existence of paradigms and paradigm shifts make it so that science isn’t just based on one total truth, but instead many different ideas of the truth.

Dylan, Katherine & Aidan on Kuhn’s Paradigms

Karl Popper stated very simply that science can only get as true as long as one cannot deem it false. This is his theory of falsification, regarding that in science, one can never reach 100% objectivity; that a scientific theory will infinitely approach this asymptotic mark we call truth. For example, Galileo disproving that our planet is the center of our solar system and Einstein redefining the method of which we consider the gravitational pulls among interstellar masses from Newtons original gravitational theory.

Although Popper nicely answers our question, which I do mostly agree with, I still remain persistent and a little disagreeing with the concept of science being nonobjective. With that, I went and searched for the definition of science, which states:  knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation (Note: this is only one definition, there are many, however they all float around the same vicinity). The thing about science is that it is used to create facts, with the least subjectivity as possible, and to distinguish these facts with the most accuracy as possible. In the out come, a fact is only one element, meaning, that even though many different people can view and consider the function of a box in many different ways, in the end, it is still cubic object and that doesn’t change. It will be the same shape for everyone, the only difference is other’s may name it differently and use it differently.

Lazar and Deven on Karl Popper & Scientific Objectivity

In one of my reports I was writing for Quebec called: La Condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir (The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge) I simplify narratives of narratives that are called meta-narratives which are essentially big, universal theories and philosophies. The one I will be discussing is the meta-narrative of the knowability of everything by science.

The first question I have is why is this theory putting all of us under the same category? People in developing nations don’t have access to learning about science or performing science, or what we perceive to be science.  They survive and know how to survive, not by science, but by the need to live. This leads to the question: isn’t needing to survive a primal instinct? Isn’t it science? Well yes, but is it an objective truth? Do we know what the earliest humans were thinking? How do we really know what primal instincts are for everyone? There different for people in countries in African and they’re different for people living in Canada. I’m sure we could all come up with ideas and words that were said by the earliest humans, but we don’t know. However what we do know is that every word or idea we think is different than what another person thinks.

Aman’s Ghost Report 

Quine in lesser words basically said that it’s hard to find an exact definition of a word, so it becomes impossible to use as a basis for a hypothesis or a theory. Every word has a definition, but the it’s hard to know the exact definition of the word. For example,  a definition of a word is someone’s opinion and everyone’s opinion is unique; therefore there are many types of definitions for every word. The definitions are not correct nor incorrect because its an opinion and opinions vary for every individual.

Van Ormine Quine by Imtiaz, Leon & Tyler

Dear readers. My name Martin Heidegger and my work as a philosopher was instrumental in understanding postmodernism and their views on science. My book, Being and Time, is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century and my work is said to have played a crucial role in the development of existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, postmodernism, and continental philosophy.

Is science objective: No, of course it is not.

Emily’s look at Martin Heidegger

I will update this post with quotes and links to both the Feminists’ view on Scientific Objectivity, as well as the Anarchistic Epistemologists, when they are posted.

 
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