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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Nature of Discourse and Argument Part 5

Types of Logic

Logic is the process of making reasons. It is important to distinguish this from making excuses or for attempting to explain something. It has three main forms: Deduction, Induction, and Abduction. These have varying levels of certainty and are useful in different circumstances.  In all cases the argument (remember what I mean by this term) can either be well constructed with each step leading to the next or not well constructed with missing or incorrect connections between ideas.  The measure of these to states is called Validity, which deals with the form of the argument.  Invalid arguments are most often either incomplete or fallacies.  

Deduction: Proceeding only from known information to that which can be directly derived from it.  This deals with the concept of necessary truth, that is things that, given certain other things, must be true.  It is through the conditions of validity that we gain our grasp on what must be necessarily true (or false) based on premises. If you have a valid argument with true premises than the conclusion must be correct.  The technical term used for the conclusion is "sound" for correct or "unsound" for incorrect.   Mind your P's and Q's 

Induction:   Making a  "reasonable" extension from what is known to what is unknown.  Induction is a probability based method of reasoning.  Where, unlike deduction, things are not 'necessary" but assigned varying degrees of certainty or likelihood. The advantage we have over deduction is that we can expand our knowledge base because we are moving often from specific cases to a general case.  If things seem to fit with our inferences they can be said to be "cogent" and assigned a likelihood (depending on the amount of data and strength of connections).  If things seem to not fit with inferences they can be said to be "not cogent".  These terms are the equivalent of sound and unsound in deduction.

Abduction: Basically this is telling a story that seems to fit with the facts. 

Here is an example of abduction.   

There is no pudding in the fridge.   We attempt to say why, by considering that someone ate all the pudding.  This seems like a reasonable explanation.  But first we should consider a few things. What other explanations are there, how about these two. The pudding was bad so someone threw it out; There was never pudding in the fridge.      Here we have three equally reasonable explanations, given the facts at hand. If we get more information then perhaps one or all of them will become less reasonable. For instance, if we ourselves put pudding in the fridge then we can dismiss #3 If we check the garbage and find the pudding #2 grows more likely.     If it is a new fridge still in the store we can bet that #3 is the most likely.

We could also postulate some form of pudding eating phantasm or perhaps suggest that Bill Cosby comes out of the television and eats it while we sleep.  The ability to tell a story the describes the events is simply the starting place.  How we attempt to support our claims is what really matters.

Now the state of pudding in the fridge is perhaps not your main concern (perhaps you've already had dessert).  But the methodology is one to be aware of. 

These three methods of reasoning are useful under differing circumstances and we should have at least a passing familiarity with all three. I am hoping that this basic guide will assist in differentiating the type of reasoning that is being used (if indeed reasons are being given). The evaluation of arguments is based partially on general knowledge and ability to apply these various forms at the appropriate times. 

Additional Reading

The Nature of Discourse and Argument series on this blog
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Friday, March 16, 2012

Grounding of Morality

I hadn't heard of Shelly Kagan before but this is interesting:

Lane uses a definition of god here that makes it the basis for moral values by describing it with moral values.  It seems like in this case we could then remove the god and leave moral values as the basis for moral values.  I am not saying that I think this is sound, just that by the reasons he is using I can see no real objection to doing so.

The real question that Lane seems to ask is; How if they not universal can we say rights and ethics and morality truly and objectively exist?  I must recycle my previous answer that I think we tend towards emergence.  Replace ethics with consciousness or oxygen based metabolism and you should see the point I am trying to make.  It may simply be a part of our nature.  Conversely it may be a construct that could have developed differently under different circumstances.  We then have to wonder if the circumstance is unique to humans, unique to certain types of consciousness, or unique to conscious beings of any kind.

Some of my own ideas from prior to watching this debate

 from Game Theory

Thursday, March 15, 2012

2 ways of moving from a premise

You have a premise you can reason out what is necessary for the premise to be true ( either the premise is a direct consequence or shares ascendant cause with these ideas), and you can reason out what is a consequence of the premise. While these two types are in most respects the same, I find that it is useful to address the time domain; where the first would be hints already in place and the later being things that follow after. This distinction is one of personal preference for addressing causal determinants.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Truthiness and critical thinking.

I made an earlier post about truth and lying but I thought that it would be worth mentioning this article and exploring the idea of cognitive bias a bit more.

I reference fallacies quite a bit. But they are more about specific structures that are incorrect. Certain cognitive biases are more about the way we handle information in an intuitive manner. And why we are so bad at it. Going with how you feel about an idea is not typically a good criteria. Relying on the impression is only useful towards the end of a concentrated training and if that overlaps with specific areas of bias we may never be able to rely on instinct but only its second guessing.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Color for other physiologies

If we imagine a different spread like for bees which see UV but not red.
If we imagine an extra set like for pit vipers or octopus 4primaries to match receptors or directional color for polarization.

We must remember that color and our visual field is a psychological construct based on our physiology and evolutionary adaptations in the way our vision was used by our ancient ancestors.

We must also not make the mistake of simply applying additions to our own gestalt constructions and ascribing these to other (alien) minds. There may be some basic overlap in the availability of sensations from certain physical phenomena but there is a variety of qualia available to construct a seamless enough representation to imagine worlds that do not overlap aesthetically from the same set of stimulus.

There may be certain necessary ideas in the development of intelligence that require structural overlap. While at the same time the stimulus conditions exclude agreement in what we might call "harmonious".
Reference to the intense olfactory experiences of most mammals And the auditory experience of bats may be of use here. Without a better understanding of how the cortices map sense data into a representation we can only speculate about the muliarray of colors beyond 3

A quick reference to the difference between place (location) and direction (polarization). Does our own experience have an analog for this? Perhaps in the directionality of hearing, we find it. This would suggest that polarization would be more akin to our atmospheric blue shift but colorless.

The conjecture of this entire article is only to begin the speculation. We may not be able to answer this until we communicate with a being that has different sensory apparatus; even then without the language and mental constructs in place we may not comprehend their view.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sensation and Perception

Notes from my morning commute in obvious need of development.  

The illusion of a continuous reality. Gestalt the feeling that we have complete and discrete experiences unedited at the time but ultimately prone to the distortions of memory, or do you think that too is concrete ?

Count the passes video (take the test)
Magic tricks
Optical illusions
Hearing your name at a party
Touch your nose touch your toes
A shot in the dark (random firing of nerves )
The visual blind spot
The "event window" .1ms-10mins
The shifting baseline or what it means to be adaptive.

Sensation is not perception perception is not understanding understanding is not action.

The physiological responses of our sensory apparatus are regulated by a feedback loop with our brains. Nowhere is this more clear than in hearing. A person with normal hearing at a noisy party is still able to concentrate on a nearby conversation but if your name is spoken a cross the room there is a good chance you will pick it up all while hearing very little of what is going on In-between.

The important thing about this gestalt is that it is seamless until it breaks down. Showing someone a blind spot is fairly easy. But no matter how many times you see things vanish into it you will still not see that it is there. The amount of time it takes each of your senses to reach your brain depends on where the sense takes place. There is a recent example that should become as famous as the blind spot. We will call it the temporal continuity illusion. Touch your toes, now touch your nose (like in the children's song but without the rest) now touch them both. Funny didn't it feel like you touched them both at the same time when you touched them both at the same time? Bu there is a difference in how far that sense data must travel. So either the graininess of your sense is such that you can't feel things below that threshold (a measure of your perceptual present and its limits) or your experience of time is being rewritten to make the sense data synchronize.

You don't have the ability to interpret the information you don't have.

I will give you both.

When discussing a topic it's important to have some information on it. More important still is the ability to interpret and produce similar data.

In a recent debate on climate change a friend challenged me that they could cite many articles that referenced figures in comparison to the two that I gave them. The difference between the articles was clear to me and I challenged her on this. It seems that it was not clear to her.
The two articles I supplied were both of a scientific nature; the first described a simple experiment and somewhat more complicated math to demonstrate that carbon emissions lead to global warming. The second was a scholarly article including its data set. She supplied, in return, three opinion page articles from popular online news sources, one of which had an image of a chart in it.
I could spend some time debunking each of the claims in each of these articles but my experience suggests that this just leads to dropping those articles and not the ideas. (also great debunking is likely already on offer, links?)

My focus instead should be supplying the tools to analyze the information in these articles and an explanation of how to find the full data sets. If this sounds more like an introduction to the scientific method than a conversation about climate change that is because it is. The title suggests, rather rudely, that my opponent does not posses the
Requisite skills to discuss this topic; these are general skills that will be useful in dealing with any information that you wish to present or that has been presented to you.
There are some basic things that you need to start. Since discussions of this kind often involve charts I will start there.
Charts are tools to make data easier to interpret they are a form of info-graphic. The important things to know about graphics is the scale and data set used.
What is important is a continuous representation that Enhances the intuition of the situation. If the chart is misleading or obfuscates the information than it can give a bad intuition. Additionally if it extrapolates too much from too little information then it may mislead due to graininess.

It's relevant to mention Nyquist Theorem here. The essential part is that you need to take samples at least twice as often as the period of the thing sampled. Imagine a sine wave that you sample at the same period as the wave. You will end up with a line.
If you over extrapolate from this limited information you may end up drawing the wrong conclusions.
There are also various ways to graph information. Depending on what you are comparing and how much data you have you will want to pick a specific type. Bar graphs are useful for comparing relative points and do well with limited data. Pie charts should only be used when representing the percentage of something when all the numbers are known (if you are projecting say so). Line graphs are very useful when you have enough information to not smear out the important trends.

The next key to making informed choices is understanding information sources. How do you separate good information from bad? How do you know when you have enough data to successfully model a given instance? There are a few strategies that we can employ. The first simply being if we trust the source ( this of course can lead to lots of creeping errors if we trust the wrong source so let's put a low information value on this). The second being the availability of said information ( how difficult is it to check for yourself? How many independent sources can provide this?) troubles arrive in this verification process and you may be in a situation where there is only one source of good information. But in a free and open society you should have multiple places to view the same basic information from. If the information is experimental are you viewing the whole result or just part, can you recreate the experiment? If you have multiple confirmations from independent sources and you are unable to reproduce the result (historical results for instance) then you must weight the value of your sources and the story they are giving you. We should use the idea of attempting to fit to the simplest explanation for the information at hand. If his contradicts something known we should seek more information on both the new idea and the known one. If only one can be true we should take the one which is better supported. The principle of simplicity and elegance in explanation is called Occum's Razor. This is he assumption that given otherwise equal evidence the description with less "moving parts" is the least likely to break down. This can be seen in reasoning the premises from the conclusion ( my practice of determining what is required to be true for a given belief, the domain of necessary truths given a certain set of premises).

What is the basis for rights?

This is a continuation of some of the other previous posts.  But the content stands on its own.

What is the basis for rights?  (framing the question)

Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that we are "endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights"  Can we state this without the appeal to authority? Isn't inalienable rights would be that more so if they are not granted by some force but are instead intrinsic?

It then becomes a question of if we can find a more rational basis for deeming them rights other than considering them intrinsic. For psychological reasons I think that it is important to consider them intrinsic even if they are instead something we developed as a culture. This is because I suspect that they are necessary for flourishing and the danger in considering them mutable is in revoking them at convenience. This is he role that the state takes on to greater or lesser degree with criminals and dissidents. The degree is equivalent to the amount of freedom inherent in that society.

So what else might we ground this idea in? Does it need to be grounded or is it enough to call them immutable and inalienable? Can we assume a natural aspiration to freedom in societies or is it a chance occurrence?
I have suggested before that our ethical intuitions may be evolutionary holdovers in combination with cultural reinforcement. I see no reason here to not continue that idea. In fact, w may have developmental ideas that can point out pitfalls we may encounter in creating true freedom and equality.

Let me be clear that when I refer to things as developmental from the evolutionary point of view that I am attempting to reconcile what we think about our own ethical live with what we know about our past. Additionally I am NOT suggesting that evolutionary heritage should be the basis for morality any more than waiting to see if people die from whatever happened to them should be the basis for medicine. Evolution brought us to culture and its tools, a powerful one called rational thought has developed. We can now discover what we evolved doing and decide if it's worth carrying over. With the admission that some things may be difficult to rid ourselves of without rewriting our biology.