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Author Topic: Logic and political argument  (Read 3077 times)
Karsk
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« on: September 04, 2008, 02:26:57 AM »

When I was in high school, I had the good fortune to have an English teacher that also taught a course in logic.  At grade 10, I had my first exposure to both formal and informal logic.  One of the things that has stuck with me over the years has been an appreciation for the informal fallacies of logic.  This does not mean that my arguments are necessarily more logical, only that I was exposed to the concepts of a course in logic.

http://science.jrank.org/pages/9301/Fallacy-Logical-Informal-Fallacies.html

http://attitudeadjustment.tripod.com/Books/Logic.htm

From the above site:

"The Misuse of Appeal to Laughter: Diverts attention from the central issues and stifles serious thought and analysis.   "Anyone who accepts the conclusions of my opponent would also be forced to accept the view that the tail wags the dog."

The Appeal to Pity (Argumentum Ad Misericordiam): Replaces relevant evidence for a conclusion with a bid for the sympathy of an audience.   "John deserves a 'C' in this class since his parents have sacrificed to send him to college and he will not graduate if he receives a lower grade."

The Appeal to Reverence: Replaces relevant evidence for a conclusion with a bid for respect for traditions.   "We must beware of foreign entangling alliances since Washington, the founder of our nation, warned us against taking such a course of action."

The Bandwagon Fallacy: Appeals to an interest in following the crowd and doing as they do rather than to adequate evidence justifying a conclusion.   "You ought to buy a small European sports car as all members of the smart crowd now own one of these cars."

The Common-Folks Appeal: Appeals to attempts to secure acceptance of a conclusion by the speaker's identification with the everyday concerns and feelings of an audience rather than on the basis of adequate evidence.   "I'm sure that you will recognize that I am more competent than my opponent. When I was in high school I had to get up at four-thirty every morning to deliver papers. In college I was barely able to make C's and had to do janitorial work in order to make ends meet to put myself through school. Therefore, I would make a better Congressman."

Appeal to the Gallery (Argumentum Ad Populum): Seeks acceptance of a point of view by an emotional reaffirmation of a speaker's support of values, traditions, interests, prejudices, or provincial concerns shared widely by members of an audience.   "As you union members know, I am a champion of the labor movement, and seek to eliminate exploitation of the common worker by big business. Therefore, you know you can trust my judgment when I say that this agricultural legislation will be good for the country."


Much of political rhetoric makes use of arguments that are based on informal fallacies.  For example, to nullify an argument by placing it in a disreputable larger category is one example the informal fallacy of logic called "Name Tagging"

"Name-Tagging: Assumes the attachment of labels to persons or things constitute evidence for conclusions about the objects to which the labels are applied."  How many of the above short  list of fallacies can you identify from the recent conventions?


Its amusing to listen to political speeches with an ear tuned to pick up informal fallacies of logic.  Quite frankly that includes some of the arguments put forth on these boards.

Do you think that it is reasonable to purposefully recognize when informal fallacies are being used and to point them out as a means of furthering a discussion?  In other words, if someone is making an argument based on such premises is it a requirement of reasoned discourse to point it out?

Perhaps this is a bit of a rhetorical question.

So I will broach another topic...what constitutes proof?  How do you know when something is true?  How do you distinguish between opinion and fact?  What is a fact?

This kind of "thinking about thinking" is important.  For example, highly persuasive, emotional argument (name calling for example) is not about the truth yet much political rhetoric and even argument that occurs between colleagues is filled with this and other fallacious arguments.  If the average person is not educated in fundamentals of argument then it is harder to find the truth is it not?

When you listen to politics is it possible to identify people who are trying to find the truth versus people who are trying to win?  Is winning what matters?  Do the ends justify the means?  If political speeches become so bent on persuasion that they freely invoke informal fallacies and this is considered to be acceptable, is this not an example of the ends justifying the means?

Perhaps I have been watching too much CNN!  As usual, I offer my thoughts in the interest of open discourse.

Karsk




 

« Last Edit: September 20, 2008, 08:36:45 PM by Karsk » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2008, 04:42:09 AM »

Man has four basic functions: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. Thinking is the dominant function for approximately only 10% of the population.

This explains a lot  cheesy
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Karsk
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« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2008, 05:39:16 PM »

What does this explain?  I think I get the flavor of your response.  That most people focus less on thinking and emphasize other ways of interacting with the world than that.  There are several points that can be brought up.

Sometimes I rely on my intuition or my feelings to make decisions.  When is this valid and when is it not?

If people can be influenced by things other than rational argument, then is it ok to use those approaches that appeal to emotion or encourage intuition in order to persuade? 

When I was in graduate school, I had a friend from Iran, named Hank  smiley that worked in the same lab as me. This was right about when the Ayatollah Khomeini took power. My friend returned to Iran at that time to support the Ayatollah so you know that he was strongly influenced towards fundamentalism.   I remember a discussion that I had with him about the media.  It seems that his point of view about the media and "truth" was that the truth was very relative. It was relative to passion, to the capacity to persuade, to the presentation.  He believed that there was no objectivity that really mattered.  He also believed that it was the obligation of the media to support the efforts of the Ayatollah by being as persuasive as possible in that regard.  He believed that "Truth" occurred when everything was done with the intention of doing the right thing e.g. follow the fundamentalist beliefs that he espoused.


So when I listen to political speeches that argue in an emotional way, smoke and mirrors, misrepresenting, appealing to the common man ( example: "Oh, and she has an 80 percent approval rating among Alaskans.” —Doug Patton" the implication being that because she has an 80% approval rating among Alaskans that this is somehow useful or valuable in evaluating whether she is worthy to be a vice president??!!  or "but there’s a tone of contemptuous dismissiveness about the experience that she does have"  which is an emotionally based argument which ultimately also has nothing to do with anyone's capacity to serve)  I have to ask the question....what is the difference?

Certainly, their is justification for paying attention to other modalities of "knowing" and that communicating is appropriately and simultaneously emotion laden as well as rational.  There are times when feelings and intuition are most certainly valid.  But here is the thing.  At the end of the day one thing that constitutes proof and helps to clarify the truth is coherence.  Coherence, or integrity, among the various  methods of observation, the methods of knowing, and the theories.  Coherence in world view.   At the end of the day, if we are really looking at the truth, then feelings, intuition, sensations, and reasoning all mesh in a single coherent understanding.  If science contradicts religion, then something is not yet completely understood.  If the model of the atom is inadequate to explain contradictions then the model is changed until it is coherent with all that we presently know.  The purpose of argument and discourse is to uncover the contradictions and to explain them...to take facts and build coherency.  When emotion and fact contradict figure out the depth. Figure out why. As you do that a deeper understanding occurs. The nature of the observer becomes as important as that which is observed because why someone might feel something helps to explain the context. 

There is this idea that the average person is incapable of thinking in any way.  But even though I said it in a fancy way its more about common sense than anything else.  A cynicism of the age comes from a bunch of people trained in marketing constantly presenting  bull**** to the point where people no longer believe that there is anyone out there that could possibly be a straight shooter or maybe even that straight shooting is a myth.  And so why not lie.  Why not blow smoke.  They could be friends of ol' Hank.  But down deep everyone knows the sensation of having smoke blown up yer *** and down deep lots of people hate that lack of integrity.


Cheers,

Karsk

« Last Edit: September 20, 2008, 08:37:07 PM by Karsk » Logged
Karsk
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« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2008, 05:45:15 PM »

What makes a good leader? 
What should be the qualifications of the President?  The Vice President?





« Last Edit: September 20, 2008, 08:37:27 PM by Karsk » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2008, 05:56:42 PM »

"What does this explain? , , , That most people focus less on thinking and emphasize other ways of interacting with the world than that."

Exactly.

"Sometimes I rely on my intuition or my feelings to make decisions."

Right.  These functions have their purposes.

"When is this valid?"

When things turn out well.

" and when is it not?" "

When they don't cheesy cheesy cheesy

(Secret tip:  Yes I know that additional points can be made with regards to what I just said.  I'm just being silly.)
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Karsk
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« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2008, 09:26:39 PM »

The real difference between liberals and conservatives by Jonathan Haidt

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html


"Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies morality and emotion in the context of culture. He asks: Why did humans evolve to have morals -- and why did we all evolve to have such different morals, to the point that our moral differences may make us deadly enemies? It's a question with deep repercussions in war and peace -- and in modern politics, where reasoned discourse has been replaced by partisan anger and cries of "You just don't get it!"

I think the concepts in this video relate to a lot of things that have been discussed on this forum including why a tribe is appealing.


The audience is  attending a conference called TED (Technology, Education, Design?)


Karsk


« Last Edit: September 20, 2008, 08:37:41 PM by Karsk » Logged
tankerdriver
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« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2008, 11:03:39 PM »

I recommend both of you read the book The Art of Speedreading People. This would explain a lot!
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2008, 11:07:44 PM »

TD:

Please expound!!!

TAC,
Marc
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tankerdriver
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« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2008, 11:13:27 PM »

Who needs logic I let the beer do my thinking for me. Hey haven't been wrong yet.
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Karsk
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2008, 04:54:06 PM »

From Science the Journal of the AAAS:

"The Politics of Fear
By Constance Holden
ScienceNOW Daily News
18 September 2008

Why do people have the attitudes they do toward social issues such as welfare, abortion, immigration, gay rights, school prayer, and capital punishment? The conventional explanations have to do with their economic circumstances, families, friends, and educations. But new research suggests that people with radically different social attitudes also differ in certain automatic fear responses. Political scientists say the work is evidence that certain attitudes are conditioned by fundamental traits of temperament, which could help explain why it's hard to get a donkey or an elephant to change its coloring.
Quite a bit is known about the physiology of response to threat, and some of this can be measured by simple noninvasive tests. So the researchers, headed by Douglas Oxley of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, decided to test the idea that liberal and conservative (or "protective") social beliefs are related to individuals' sensitivity to threat.

The authors first conducted a random telephone survey of Lincoln residents to find some who held strong political opinions. Then 46 selected respondents were invited to come in to the lab and fill in questionnaires to reveal political beliefs and personality traits. Participants were then given two types of tests to measure physiological responses to threat.

First, they were attached to equipment to measure skin conductivity, which rises with emotional stress as the moisture level in skin goes up. Each participant was shown threatening images, such as a bloody face interspersed with innocuous pictures of things such as bunnies, and rise in skin conductance in response to the shocking image was measured. The other measure was the involuntary eye blink that people have in response to something startling, such as a sudden loud noise. The scientists measured the amplitude of blinks via electrodes that detected muscle contractions under people's eyes.

The researchers found that both of these responses correlated significantly with whether a person was liberal or conservative socially. Subjects who had expressed a high level of support for policies "protecting the social unit" showed a much larger change in skin conductance in response to alarming photos than those who didn't support such policies. Similarly, the mean blink amplitude for the socially protective subjects was significantly higher, the team reports in tomorrow's issue of Science. Co-author Kevin Smith says the results showed that automatic fear responses are better predictors of protective attitudes than sex or age (men and older people tend to be more conservative).

How are body and belief connected? The authors point out that family and twin studies have revealed strong genetic influences both for liberal-versus-conservative views and for people's sensitivity to threat. They speculate that the correlation could have something to do with the patterns of neural activity surrounding the amygdala, the seat of fear in the brain.

"These findings are extremely important," says political scientist James Fowler at the University of California, San Diego, who has been doing research linking certain gene variations to political activity. "In essence, the authors have filled in a 'missing link' between genes and brains on the one hand and psychological personalities and political attitudes on the other." He adds that the subject pool is limited to "a handful of white subjects from Nebraska, ... but many great ideas start with a simple test."




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The editors suggest the following Related Resources on Science sites:
In Science Magazine
REPORTS
Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits
Douglas R. Oxley, Kevin B. Smith, John R. Alford, Matthew V. Hibbing, Jennifer L. Miller, Mario Scalora, Peter K. Hatemi, and John R. Hibbing (19 September 2008)
Science 321 (5896), 1667. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1157627]
 |  Abstract »  |  Full Text »  |  PDF »  |  Supporting Online Material »



Link is here:  http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/918/2



Karsk
« Last Edit: September 20, 2008, 08:38:07 PM by Karsk » Logged
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