Archive | May 2010

Project Logicality | Arguing from Assumptions – The Enthymeme

Many arguments we make in daily life are incompletely stated, and less than completely certain in both structured debates and in informal discussions.

Some such arguments are called Enthymemes, arguments in which one of the premises, or the conclusion, is not stated but implied and needed for the argument to follow.

Why leave these out?

It depends on the situation, and the shared understanding of those involved in the discussion.

Generally, one part of an argument may be unspoken because it’s assumed by both and doesn’t need to be stated. So these parts will need to be teased out by a third-party analyst of the argument to determine fully what is being argued.

This can be an intellectually honest form of argument, and I offer some examples here.

I’m using here standard form deductive syllogisms—conditionally certain three-part arguments with two premises and a conclusion—for ease of presentation. The first is a 1st order, or unstated major premise argument.

The Magna is a mutant.
So the Magna is radioactive.

With the major premise being:

All mutants are radioactive.

This one has a hidden minor premise, or 2nd order enthymeme structure.

Not giving the proper homage to the Nine Who are One will endanger all our lives.
So we should not fail to give proper homage to the Nine.

With the hidden premise given as:

The Nine would wish us to do that which preserves our lives.

Finally, we have one in which the conclusion is left unstated, of the 3rd order:

We must deal ruthlessly with all freakishly powerful threats.
The Mirus is a freakishly powerful threat.

It’s not hard to see where this one will go… The conclusion, though unstated, should be obvious.

In some situations this sort of argument is less than intellectually honest, when the assumptions are NOT shared, or need to be fully expressed, this may be used to obscure matters as a rhetorical fallacy, as a tactic that hides the meaning of an argument and makes misdirection and confusion easy.

This happens when the aim intended, or not avoided, is thwarting honest critical discussion. I’ll provide an example of this as a fallacy, this one from a hypothetical creationism/evolution debate in which the major premise is obscured:

No fossil meeting my (impossible to satisfy) criterion as a transitional form has ever been found,
So there are no transitional fossils, so evolution is false.

But here is the missing major premise, NOT shared or expressed, and assumed only by the creationist:

To count as transitional, a fossil must be an impossible, half-formed monstrosity combining unlikely features of dissimilar species or ‘kinds,’ like a lizard/bird hybrid with incomplete, useless wings… (or the supposedly impossible ‘crocoduck,’ AKA, dinosaur genus Spinosaurus)

‘Enthymeme’ has also been used to refer to probabilistic arguments, such as those used in inductive logic or in much informal logic with language inextricably bound up with an argument’s content, with the conclusion following from the premises more or less strongly depending on the audience.

One such claim may be “Present-day Continental philosophy is not credible,” which could elicit different responses and have differing levels of credibility depending on the chosen philosophical schools of those hearing or reading it.

As can be seen, some of the very same sort of statements used in ordinary argumentation can be fallacies, and indeed, when informal, their fallacious nature depends on their misuse as argument strategies, not so much the the structure of the argument but more often violations of procedure.

Many informal fallacies are not always such, but even otherwise effective arguments, when they are put to specious use, are pure argumentative poison no matter their rational structure.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

(Updated, Retitled, Image Added, Links Removed as of 2017.06.06)

Baloney Detection 101 – the Clever Hans Effect

clever-hansThis is a form of ideomotor reaction, a sort of involuntary cuing done without conscious awareness of which the one doing it may be completely oblivious, even when actively trying to avoid it.

This effect was named for a horse owned and trained by one Wilhelm von Osten, dubbed der Kluge Hans, or in English, Clever Hans, who was indeed clever, in a much different way than was initially thought.

Hans had convinced even scientists, who at first had validated him, that he was every bit as intelligent as a human being, or at least near-human in intellect, apparently able to demonstrate understanding of peoples’ names, perform simple arithmetical computations by tapping the answer with his hoof, tell time, and otherwise know the answers to questions posed to him by attendees of his performances, which began in the early 1890s until 1904 when his secret was discovered by investigator Oskar Pfungst.

The Clever Hans effect involves subtle cuing by posture and facial expression by way of the aforementioned ideomotor action, as well as a remarkable talent often mistaken for psychic ability in humans — hypersensory perception or HSP.

When a control measure was implemented, in this case the exclusion of those persons who knew the answers to questions asked, Hans was incapable of providing a convincing response and would not know when to start or stop tapping his hoof.

His seeming human-like intelligence simply went away until those absent from the test were once again present.

Hans’ trainer, completely sincere in his initial belief, was taken aback by the animal’s failure to perform when controls were introduced. He didn’t even notice the changes in his posture and facial expression that were signaling Hans, so subtle were they.

In the late 1920s Duke University parapsychologist J.B. Rhine looked into the matter of another, similar case, that of a mare in Richmond Virginia dubbed Lady Wonder by her owner.

Rhine was absolutely convince that Lady Wonder was telepathic, and her performance, signaled by her owner by cracking his whip, involved making predictions and otherwise answer questions by pushing over toy childrens’ blocks with her hoof to spell out the answer.

The case was solved by magician Milbourne Christopher, who had identified her seeming paranormal ability as being the the result of the Clever Hans effect, not psychic powers, since she was unable to perform, often turning over the blocks at random, when her owner was not there to signal her, or when the trainer was unaware of the answer to a question.

This case illustrates perfectly why it is necessary to have a trained magician in attendance of a paranormal experiment, as James Randi has so often, and sometimes in vain, noted.

Something similar happened in a series of animal communication studies done during the 1970s, with the Nim Chimpsky incident (sort of an inside joke by the researchers referring to language theorist Noam Chomsky):

In this case, a male chimp subject named Nim, had at first convinced his handlers and researchers that he possessed sign-language abilities of extremely unusual nature, and had seemingly demonstrated the capacity to use complex sentences and create his own jokes.

He was, however, merely, if one will excuse the pun, “aping” the signs made by his handlers in exchange for a reward. In those instances when the signs were intelligible, he was talking, and if not, that he was making a joke.

There is of course, often a lot of shoehorning, selective thinking and confirmation bias going on during the studies of this sort, when those persons involved will frequently dismiss and ignore the wrong gestures and take note of and remember the correct ones.

It happened in this series of studies that the test-subjects would perform a series of random gestures until their handlers gave them a reward.

I suspect that this may have been the case in studies of a female gorilla named Koko, who in a similar situation seemed to invent her own signs and reportedly show an IQ of about the human equivalent of 60.

This is something that has time and again beset early animal communication research.

Note that, as mentioned above, even being aware of the Clever Hans effect and trying to prevent it brings no certainty of actually doing so.

Sigh…Why am I not surprised?

It looks as if Fred Phelps’ merry inbreds are going to make themselves personae non grata yet again, this time planning to picket the funeral of the late Black Sabbath member Ronnie James Dio. As always, they preach the gospel of fear and hate, and indeed, I wonder what the reason is for this: At least one member of the Westboro Baptist Church (not affiliated with any mainstream Baptist denomination, I have been informed) has expressed the view that she hopes that everybody but the Phelps Clan goes to hell. If some members feel that only the WBC should be saved and no congregation but blood relatives qualify for this, they’re just trying to gain attention, not converts, but I could be wrong…

Westboro Baptist Church to picket Ronnie James Dio’s public memorial service

…and I have an image for this occasion that is getting lonely in my media library and wants some airtime…