Monday, March 12, 2007

Critical Muse

Well, I didn't do too badly on that list - and I'm still working on it. So far:
-Took steps in finding apartment
-Took steps in finding job
-Clothes/room cleaned? Er...
-Five Alive has been bought! And drank! Now I need more.
-Shirt and light obtained, although due to modifications to our plan, I no longer need them
-Facebook not stayed off of. (why does that look so wrong? Sarah, help.)

On course selection: It turns out that I can't register for my courses yet, according to WebAdvisor. However, I can make a little course wish-list so that all I have to do is hit "Register for All" when they become available. Right now I'm planning on taking:

Reading the Past (First year standard English course)
Europe and the Early Modern World (First year standard History course)
Intro to Technical Theatre (Second year, small, exclusively hands-on class)
Acting II (Third year, requires audition...second part to my current Acting I)

These selections are based on my recent idea that I should seriously consider doing a double major in English and Theatre. Nothing's set in stone yet, but that's the direction I'm leaning in.

The fifth course is still up in the air. The one I should take, Intro to Computer Applications (for one of my science compulsories) is looking pretty unattractive right now because one of the labs is at like 8am on a Thursday. I've found out this year that anything starting before 10 doesn't really jive with me, so I try my best to avoid those. (Where I live now, a class at 10am means getting up at 8, and that's usually without breakfast unless I'm being very speedy.) The other science course I'm planning to take is Zoology, which I investigated for this reason last week by attending a lecture with a friend. It's available next semester too, but at the exact same time as Acting II. Anyhoo, I'm rambling. Sorry.

What I actually wanted to talk about here is the Critical Thinking midterm I just wrote. I did quite a bit of studying last night, and learned more from one single concentrated effort than I have all year in the course. (My fault of course, not theirs.) Although I may be alone on this one, I find this content pretty darn interesting.

For example, I've mentioned here before the concept of valid arguments. Despite what you probably think, a valid argument is technically an argument whose conclusion can't be false if the premises are true. That's it. This, then, is a valid argument:
"All zebras eat airplanes. Zack is a zebra. So, Zack eats airplanes."

We've heard this before. But, did you know that it is impossible by definition for a valid argument to also be strong or weak? A valid argument can also be bad. Conversely, an invalid argument can be (and often is) strong, and also a good argument. Confused yet? I was. As it turns out, "strength" is a scale that marks how well the premises support the conclusion, regardless of whether they are true. Consider:
"A girl in my Logic class, Lisa, normally wears tattered old shoes. Today she is wearing nice new-looking Prada shoes. So, Lisa bought new shoes."

This argument is invalid because there are ways the conclusion is false even if both premises are true. Lisa could have stolen the shoes or borrowed them from a friend. However, the most likely case is that she did buy them. (And it's correspondingly unlikely that she stole them, being as it is that she's a university student and has presumably been making good decisions thus far in order to get where she is. You get the idea.) So, from all this we can conclude that the argument is strong.

Determining whether the "Lisa Argument" is Good or Bad is more difficult because it's just a story. Let's see if I can think up a strong, good argument...
"University is expensive. Most university students can not work full-time while in school. So, most university students are poor."

So. I've come up with this, but I'm not 100% sure about how I should classify it. I know it's invalid for sure. I think it's also fairly strong, but one could argue that most university students are not poor, despite the premises being true. (Due to receiving financial backing from parents, banks, and so forth.) But for the sake of enlightenment, let's just accept this as a strong argument. The argument's premises are also true, and they are more plausible than the conclusion. These are the criteria for a Good argument, so the argument is Good.

Does your brain hurt? Did you stop reading long ago? That's ok, I understand. I should look into professions involving this kind of thing, I guess. I'm assuming people as weird as me are hard to come by. I was about to tease myself here for exhibiting wishful thinking, but it occurred to me that wishful thinking is also a technical fallacy in logic. An example of wishful thinking is: "My plan to crawl out of here through the pipes is going to work, because I can't stand being in prison any longer."

Anyhow, I guess I'd better call it quits before anyone decides to commit to never reading my blog again.


At 11:52 AM, Anonymous paul said...

Interesting...I remember a few of those kinds of type questions in dumb tests eons ago. Or at least as kinds of 'brainteasers' in puzzle books. My opinion is that the logic and such as displayed in those scenarios doesn't really have any real world application. I mean, would you really think 'If George Bush is a republican, and George Bush enjoys donuts, all republicans enjoy donuts'. I suppose it's the approach that's applied to debate/argument in real scenarios. That's my take on it.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Brillo said...

Yeah, that's the thing, it's all pretty much useless unless you're going to be a lawyer or teaching Logic. I can't imagine this exchange in a kitchen table table discussion:
"I think I have a valid point."
"Actually, your point is invalid, but it is strong."
"...Ok then."

At 3:19 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Saying "off of" is grammatically incorrect. Just drop the of.

Yeah, we do that argument stuff in philosophy. I was always disappointed when we didn't cover logic in high school, so now I'm in heaven.

As for your university argument, yes, it's invalid, and its strength is questionable. It sounds as if you learned different criteria for a Good argument than I did -- validity is considered a (possibly THE) basic component to a good argument, so if the argument's invalid, that's the end of the story.

Paul -- logical thinking IS real-world application. The world may be absurd, but that doesn't mean we have to talk about it absurdly.

At 9:19 PM, Blogger Spunk Maestro said...

Its not useless at all.

This stuff is a direct link to elementary logic which is basically Boolean algebra and is critical to computing and programming.

For example, The statement: "All zebras are striped. Zack is a zebra. So, Zack is striped." can be broken down into:

1. (for all)x(Z(x) -> S(x))

Which is our hypothesis saying that for all zebras [x], if there is a zebra [Z(x)] then it is striped [S(x)].

2. Z(zack)

Our next hypothesis is that zack is a zebra.

3. Z(zack) -> S(zack)

Using universal instantiation from 1 we can say that If zack is a zebra then zack is striped.

4. S(zack)

Finally using modus ponens from 2 and 3 we can conclude that zack is indeed striped.

Gotta love elementary logic for making things a hundred times more complicated than they are. But this is needed to program those stupid computer things.

Paul - your George Bush scenario is a fallacy of logic. Without me going through another proof, the only thing you can conclude from your hypotheses is that there exists a republican that enjoys donuts.

wow I can't believe I’ve said this much.

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous paul said...

Fair enough, I suppose I meant to put 'all republicans enjoy donuts, George Bush is a republican, therefore, George Bush enjoys donuts. Maybe thats still wrong anyway, whatever.

However, it doesn't even really matter, the example was meant to illustrate that its not really a *true* real life scenario. The use of logic in computer programming is understandable, but when I hear things like 'inflation is higher' I know that prices of goods are going to eventually be higher, it doesn't require you to sit down and philosophize about why it might or might not be true.

What I'm trying to convey is that I think there's over-analysis on simple scenarios. Real life demands quick, concrete answers with concise proof.


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