Thursday, May 9, 2013

My philosopher's closet

I am a philosopher, and spent countless evenings pondering the meaning of certain life events. My passion for logic grows every year. Logic is the basic tool of our lives. Words represent thoughts, we need correct words and correct thoughts to form cogent arguments. If we are unable to form cogent arguments, we will live our lives as ignorant people. 
I am also apologetically judgmental. When I encounter a person who is so ungodly stupid, I judge them. Unless they are disabled, or deprived education - you better believe I judge them. Philosophy is the study of the  fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence. My favorite area of philosophy is epistemology. Plato defined it as "justified true belief." I describe it the study which answers the following questions, "how do you know what you know? what qualifies as knowledge?
In a world of liars, dim-wits, charlatans, superstition and millions of people willing to believe anything because it "feels good", or because they just "want to believe", how can we ascertain real from not real? This is where epistemology comes in.

In future essays I will discuss epistemology, in this essay, we will examine three basic ways to reason and discuss some of their flaws.
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Inductive Reasoning by Generalization
  • Inductive Reasoning by Analogy

Deductive Reasoning starts with a major premise, usually a broad and generally applicable truth. Then, you have a minor premise, which is more specific and narrow. Then you have the minor premise, which is usually a more specific and narrowly applicable fact. It starts with the general and goes to the specific. 
The principle is that what is true of the universal is also true of the specific. In deductive reasoning, you reason from the general to the particular, so it is essential that the general statement is a  the universal truth. 
One of the things we know about Deductive Reasoning, is that if we later learn that the general premise was false, all 'true' conclusions drawn from that false premise must also be false. 
Inductive Reasoning By Generalization is uses when one cannot rely on universals or settled law to provide a major premise to compel a conclusion. I do not like this logical system because it requires one build their own major premise through inductive reasoning.   Inductive reasoning by generalization uses several specific facts to create a theory that explains relationships between those facts and supports your conclusion. 
I wrote a paper in for a Philosophy of Science class, discussing the flaws of inductive logic. In short, when one's predictions do not come out as they expected, the entire system of logic must be replaced. With inductive reasoning, you can never be certain that your conclusion is true, but through your supporting facts, you should be able to establish that your conclusion is highly probable. This is the most common forms of reasoning in Court, and when the courts make mistakes, it is because this form of reasoning was used.
Inductive Reasoning By Analogy is another form of inductive reasoning common in law, in which you make one-to-one comparisons and draw similarities between two different things. Rather than reasoning from the general to the specific (deductive reasoning) or from the specific to the general (generalizations), analogy requires reasoning from the specific to the specific.

To correctly use an analogy one must do the following things:

 (1) establish similarities between two cases;
(2) announce the rule of law embedded in the first case; and
(3) apply the rule of law to the second case.

Successful analogy depends on the relevancy of the comparison.One thing I say to people is that the two things being compared must be similar in Form and Function. Reasoning by analogy is a dangerous path because many people mistakenly think that if two things are alike in one or more respects, they are necessarily alike in some other respect. Once, a man tried telling me that no two men were alike. He showed me his hand, and asked "are any two fingers alike?" No, they are not. Men are like fingers, no two are alike.

Although I agree no two men are exactly alike, his analogy was faulty. The analogy is correct only to the degree that fingers and men are similar to each other.

It is important to detail the similarities between the cases and to acknowledge their differences. You must establish that the relevant similarities outweigh the relevant differences and therefore the outcomes should be the same. This can be tricky for people who see what they want to see.


  1. What you're talking about here, with major and minor premises, is not deductive reasoning itself, but only a particular form of deductive reasoning, the syllogism.

    The difference between the major and minor premise in a syllogism has nothing to do with "a more specific and narrowly applicable fact". What distinguishes the major premise from the minor premise is that the major premise contains the term which is the predicate of the conclusion. That's all. Look at the conclusion and then you've identified the major premise. It has nothing to do with the content of the premise, specific, narrow or otherwise.

    Also, deductive vs. inductive reasoning is not defined as general to specific or specific to general. Yes, most deductive arguments will proceed from general statements to particular statements and most inductive arguments go the other way. It's one of those incidental correlations, so it's a convenient way to think of it. But it's not the correct way to think of it. It's very easy to construct a deductive argument which goes from particular to general.

    The defining difference between a deductive argument and an inductive argument lies in what level of support the premises provide for the conclusion. A valid deductive argument, with true premises will guarantee the truth of the conclusion. The best inductive argument, with true premises, can only offer evidence for the truth of the conclusion. That's the difference.

    1. Thank you

      I appreciate comment such as yours. They make me smarter and better when it comes to understanding the world.

      These kinds of posts are very important and meaningful.



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