Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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The Wrongly Convicted: David Milgaard

In January of 1969, 16-year-old David Milgaard and his friends Ron Wilson and Nichol John took a trip across Canada while under the influence of various drugs. While the friends were in Saskatoon, 20-year-old nursing student Gail Miller was found dead in a snowbank.

“The David Milgaard Story” by Carl Karp and Cecil Rosner

At the time Milgaard and his friends were picking up their friend Albert Cadrain (from his parents home), Cadrain’s family had been renting out their basement to Larry Fisher. Tipped off by Cadrain (who later admitted he was mostly interested in the $2000 reward for information), RCMP officers arrested Milgaard in May of 1969. He was then sent back to Saskatchewan, where he was charged with the murder of Gail Miller. Cadrain testified he had seen Milgaard return the night of Miller’s murder in blood-stained clothing. Wilson and John were also called to testify against Milgaard; they had told police they had been with him the entire day and that they believed him to be innocent but changed their stories for the court. Wilson had later recanted his testimony, saying he had been told he was under suspicion and wanted to alleviate the pressure on himself. David Milgaard was convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life in prison on January 31, 1970 – exactly a year after Miller’s murder. He was 17 years old at the time of his sentencing.

I speak of the plight of David Milgaard,” said Liberal MP Lloyd Axworthy “who has spent the last 21 years of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit. Yet for the last two years, the Department of Justice has been sitting on an application to reopen his case. But rather than review these conclusive reports, rather than appreciate the agony and trauma of the Milgaard family, the Minister of Justice refuses to act.” After twenty-three years in a maximum security prison, Milgaard was exonerated at the age of 40. Using Axworthy’s argument, we can determine that:


Premise 1: The murder of a Canadian citizen is a crime.

Premise 2: David Milgaard is in prison for the murder of Gail Miller.

Premise 3: David Milgaard was wrongly convicted.

Conclusion: Therefore, David Milgaard should not have been convicted.


By analyzing the above argument, we can easily discover if Lloyd Axworthy’s argument is a sound one.

Premise 1: Murdering a Canadian citizen is in fact a crime, therefore this is true.

Premise 2: David Milgaard did spend over 23 years in a Canadian prison after being wrongfully charged with both raping and murdering a young woman. Thus, this premise is also true.

Premise 3: At the time Axworthy spoke out about this case many believe Milgaard was solely responsible for what tragedy had happened, however in 2015 we know that he had been wrongly convicted and is truly innocent.

So when looking at Axworthy’s statement after David Milgaard had been released, the syllogism is true, valid and sound.

 

 

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Definitions

Truth – actual state of matter – applied to premise (if one premise is false, the conclusion is false.)
Validity – correct form – containing premises from which the conclusion may logically be derived.

Soundness
– Argument/theory is valid
– All of its premises are true

Example:
All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Therefore Socrates is mortal

This argument is valid because the conclusion is true, along with the premises, and since the premises are true, this makes the argument sound.

An example of an argument that is valid, but not sound:

All birds with wings can fly
Penguins have wings
Therefore penguins can fly

Since the first premise is false, the argument, even though is valid, is not sound.

Syllogism

Categorical
Correct example: Pro

http://talonsphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/jonathan-toews-a-famous-hockey-player/

Con

http://talonsphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/bedtime-syllogism/

The argument of this example is not true, due to the premises being incorrect. The premises are not true, therefore makes the argument not sound. The conclusion of this syllogism however is valid, as the conclusion follows from the premises.

Disjunctive

Pro
http://talonsphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/disjunctive-syllogismtouchception/

Con
http://talonsphilosophy.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/vonnegut-logic/

Fallacy

A fallacy is an argument/ statement based of false or invalid interference.

Example:
Penguins are black and white
Some old tv shows are black and white
Therefore some penguins are old tv shows

 

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Peter Parker Does Not Like People Looking At His Face. Because of Reasons.

Someone concealing their identity is doing it for nefarious reasons.

Spiderman conceals his identity

Therefore, Spiderman has nefarious reasons.

As a syllogism, this is valid:

A(someone concealing their identity) is(doing it because of) B(nefarious reasons)

C(Spiderman) is A(someone concealing their identity)

Therefore, C(Spiderman) is(doing it because of) B(nefarious reasons).

However, this syllogism is not true, as anyone familiar with the character of Spiderman can tell you. While the second premise is true (Spiderman does, in fact, wear a mask), the second one is not: Spiderman wears a mask to protect his enemies hurting the people close to him, something that is generally agreed to be far from nefarious.

The logic that J. Jonah Jameson, as well as many other authorities in the Spiderman mythos, use to justify their persecution of the web-slinger is an example of a logical fallacy, more specifically a fallacy of sweeping generalization. The first premise takes something that is true for some parts of a category, and makes into something that is true for all of a category.

In this case it takes the category of people who conceal their identity, and says that it’s true in all cases that they have nefarious reasons for doing so. While this is true for some them–bank robbers, for instance–it is certainly not true for all. While this is a valid syllogism, it is neither true or sound.

Also, J. Jonah Jameson can be little bit crazy. Look at those eyes. It’s terrifying.

 

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Cliche Quotes

Not all that glitters is gold. That is, unless you’re Smash Mouth or a rich lady in a Led Zeppelin song. The aforementioned quote is quite a famous and rather cliche one featured in the likes of Shakespeare’s plays and Chuck Norris jokes, and many things inbetween.

At a glance one may say yes, the statement is logical. I mean, this argument just breathes soundness. Or does it?

To turn this statement into a syllogism one may arrange it so that it says:

Not all that glitters is gold

Gold glitters

Therefore, gold is not all that glitters

Bam. Valid. I’m sure we can all agree that not all that glitters is gold, however, looking at the other premise now begs the question: does gold really glitter?

And the answer to that, dear readers, is not always. Here is an example of a fallacy of presumption, where it is assumed that all gold glitters when gold, particularly in its raw and impure form, does not always glitter. So then, how could one save this syllogism?

Not all that glitters is gold

Gold does not always glitter

Therefore, gold is not all that glitters

It’s interesting because even though one of the premises are untrue, the conclusion that can be drawn is the same for both syllogisms.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHFxncb1gRY]

 

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Hal Jordan Hates Lemonade

Hal Jordan cannot use his ring on anything coloured yellow.

Some standard tennis balls are yellow.

Hal Jordan cannot use his ring on some standard tennis balls.

In this syllogism, the pattern of

A(Hal Jordan’s ring) cannot be(used on) B(anything yellow)

Some C(standard tennis balls) are B(yellow)

A(Hal Jordan’s ring)  cannot be (used on) C( some tennis balls)

is followed, with A as the middle term, B as the predicate term, and C as the subject form. The logic is valid, and as wikipedia can show us,

“Originally, power rings were unable to affect objects colored yellow,”

proving the first premise as true, and

“Yellow and white are the only colors approved by the United States Tennis Association [as standard tennis balls]” 

proving the second premise as true. As it is both valid and true, this is a sound syllogism.

“Draw me like one of your french girls.”

….Also, after one post on why Stephen Downes is Batman, and another on the limitations of the Green Latern, I’m thinking that I like the whole superhero theme. The things you learn in logic.

 

 

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Particularly Good Finders

In A Very Potter Musical, (a fan-made musical based on the popular Harry Potter series,) the character Cedric Diggory says that Hufflepuffs (the students of Hogwarts sorted into Hufflepuff house) are particularly good finders (which is to say, good at finding things.)

Hufflepuffs are particularly good finders.

I am a Hufflepuff.

Therefore, I am a particularly good finder.

‘Hufflepuffs’ is the middle term of this syllogism. ‘Particularly good finders’ is the predicate term, and ‘I’ is the subject term. This syllogism follows the pattern of:

If A, then B.

C is B.

Therefore, C is A.

This syllogism is valid, though the premises are not true. Not all Hufflepuffs are particularly good finders. I am actually terrible at finding things. Cedric Diggory’s statement is untrue. It should be: Some, but  not all Hufflepuffs are particularly good finders.

 

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Logic in “The Walking Dead”

Recently I’ve been watching a YouTuber play a game called ‘the walking dead”, an interactive version of the popular TV series. Throughout the series, various characters get bitten and each time the main character (Lee) must decide whether to shoot the infected before they turn or to wait and take the chance.

Near where PewDiePie (the YouTuber I watch) left off, the son of Lee’s friend is bitten. Naturally Kenny, the bitten child’s father, does not want to shoot his son. PewDiePie, however, utilises logic when it came to the moment of decision. He essentially put together the following syllogism:

All bitten people will turn into zombies

Duck (Kenny’s Son) is bitten

Duck will turn into a zombie

You may think that there is a problem with the first premise. However, it is essential to remember that PewDiePie arrives at this conclusion through inductive reasoning. No premise drawn from inductive reason can be proved outright. In the walking dead, PewDiePie has played enough of the game to see that every bitten person had turned into a zombie if he had not shot them. Although this may be bordering on a sweeping generalization, every time a bitten person turns into a zombie it corroborates the general statement through specific cases. We can now assume with reasonable confidence that the first premise is reliable. It may not be true, but it at least functional in the vast majority of cases.

On the other hand, the second premise that Duck is bitten is true. PewDiePie can clearly see that there is a large bite wound on the side of Duck’s torso, not to mention the fact that PewDiePie witnessed the bite happen.

Now breaking it down further:

Bitten People (A) is the middle term

Zombies (B) is the predicate term

Duck (C) is the subject term

Now once simplified:

All As are Bs

C is an A

Therefore C is a B

From this we can conclude that the structure of PewDiePie’s reasoning is indeed valid. The evidence provided for each premise throughout PewDiePie’s playthrough is consistent, making his premises true beyond a reasonable doubt. In conclusion, PewDiePie’s categorical syllogism is Valid and Sound because his premises are reliable. Tough luck Duck.

 

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This Syllogism Took an Arrow to the Knee

In the world of Skyrim, if one takes an arrow to the knee, then they become incapable of adventuring.

A guard in Skyrim took an arrow to the knee.

Therefore, this guard is no longer capable of adventuring.

 

This syllogism follows the pattern of a hypothetical syllogism:

 

If A, then B.

A.

Therefore, B.

 

The logic of this syllogism is not only valid, but the premises are true. In Skyrim, taking an arrow to the knee in all cases renders an individual useless on the adventuring front. Guards, in Skyrim, have a tendency towards this awful injury due to their dangerous jobs, and will tell you so themselves. Therefore, there are many guards all across the lands of Skyrim who are unable to go adventuring.

 

This syllogism is sound.

 

Taking an arrow to the knee in Skyrim sucks. 

 

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Broken Dubstep and Criminal Surgeons

All Dubstep makes loud harsh electronic sounds

Broken electronics also make loud harsh electronic sounds

Therefore broken electronics are Dubstep

In this syllogism:

“A” (middle term) is Harsh Electronic Sounds

“B” (predicate term) is Dubstep

“C” (subject term) is “Broken Electronics”

In ABC form. This syllogism would be represented like this:

All B produce A

C produces A

Therefore  C is an A

If you read this carefully you will realize that there are major flaws with my syllogism. When I wrote it, I did not take into account validity or soundness. The true fun is here, where I get to dissect it.

Starting off, we can look at the structure of this syllogism. Consider that all B (dubstep) produces A (harsh electronic noises) -bear in mind that “harsh electronic noises” is a subjective term as well. If C also produces A does this mean that it must fall under the category of B? Do Broken electronics or anything for that matter have to be Dubstep to produce harsh electronic noises? No. The category of “things that produce harsh noises” is larger than the category “Dubstep”. Therefore the conclusion is not supported by the argument making the entire structure of the syllogism invalid.

If this argument isn’t valid it, by default, is not sound or true.

Now, let’s dissect in further detail the things that are going on inside this syllogism and what mistake is being made here. By saying that all things that create harsh electronic noises is dubstep, this syllogism suggests that broken electronics, having the ability to produce such noises are classified as dubstep. In doing this, this argument commits the fallacy of Sweeping Generalization. If I say that people who cut others are criminals, does that make surgeons criminals? My syllogism commits the same error: it does not account for the plausible exceptions. Instead, it creates a false generalization that covers the exception.

 

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Political Proofs

The Conservative Party stands for fiscal responsibility and accountability.

The Liberal Party opposes the Conservative Party.

Therefore, the Liberal Party opposes fiscal responsibility and accountability.

First of all, is this syllogism true? Some would argue that the first premise is incorrect; that is, the Conservative Party does not stand for fiscal responsibility and accountability. While I would agree that it is most certainly not those things(responsibly and accountable), others would say the opposite; but at any rate, it is what they claim to be, and we can conclude that it is, indeed, what they stand for – at least on paper.

Is the second premise true? Yes – while the argument can be made that the Liberal Party does not oppose the Conservatives on everything, they are still opposition, and as such, oppose.

But is it valid? This question rests upon the definition of the word ‘opposes’. When you oppose something, do you oppose everything to do with it, everything it says and does? Or can you support something sometimes while still generally opposing it? Take this equation:

Oppose * (A whole)

Oppose * (Individual parts of that whole, which add up to it)

Then we convert the ideas into numbers, taking opposition as a negative number and assigning individual terms different magnitudes of importance.

-1(1 – 2 – 3 + 4 + 5) = -1 + 2 + 3 – 4 – 5 = -5

The result, being negative, indicates that on the whole the feelings toward something remain opposition. But is each individual part opposed? No – because some terms remain positive, indicating no opposition. What does this mean for our syllogism? That opposition to a whole does not necessitate opposition to all its component parts – and thus, this syllogism is invalid and unsound.

Follow me on Twitter: @LiamtheSaint

 
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