Real and Reason

Matthias Carroll 1/10/17

first 100

How can we know what is real? Can our eyes observe everything, will our ears deceive our mind, will our mind accept an argument for no other reason than preference for an authority? Civilizations throughout time have attempted to discover, to hone their formula for resolving truth from evidence, and none more famous than the Greeks. The Greeks defined three forms of argument: retroduction, induction, and deduction. A retroductive argument is one that makes conjecture about the past on the basis of evidence; it draws on patters to adduce a logical explanation. The fatal flaw, the crux of this method is coincidence. One needs to look no further than the similarities between United States president Lincoln and Kennedy to see the hands of fate. The dilemma, then, could possibly be how much information on the subject is available. To say these two individuals were popular is an understatement. Let us proffer another example, the terrorist attacks occurring on September 11th, 2001. The twin towers were ubiquitous with the New York skyline, and the date was chosen not out of coincidence. It is any surprise television shows depicted airplanes headed towards those iconic towers? There is more to this argument that doubtless will continue throughout generations, but I’ve harangued on a tangent long enough. Retroduction is undoubtedly the weakest form of argument because no matter how true the major premise(s) the minor is but an observation; we are allowed no assurance of accuracy, not even a probability, merely a suggestion.. .

         Retroduction does promote a reflective survey, precisely why this reasoning is used prominently in innovation and discovery, to be verified by induction. An inductive argument draws a conclusion on the association of a part to a whole: of a subset to the greater class. The conclusion of such an argument is a generalization: a probability that cannot account for aberrant, deviant specimens. The example which I learned from consisted of a man removing a handful of jellybeans from a container. His handful contained a majority of red beans; he concluded that this was indicative of the jar, that this survey reflected the jar maintained a preponderance of red jellybeans. This is a valid conclusion, but we cannot assume it to be truth: who is to say the jar did not contain an equal amount of every color? By drawing a sample of largely red it stands to reason the jar would have a diminished amount of red relative to the other colors present. The scientific community lessens the speculation of this form of reasoning by using multiple test samples, often with a control group. The undermining factor is the connectivity of the group with the whole; this collective is ultimately the second weakest.

         Our third argument form relies heavily on reference, the connectivity of words. In 1998, 42nd president of the United States Willian Jefferson “Bill” Clinton made his infamous deposition to a grand jury where he responded equivocally, “it depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”. He was referencing Black’s Law Dictionary alluding to the ambiguity of terms. Peirce uses the term syncategorematic: an expression which maintains definition in a certain context. Clinton argued the word ‘is’ has variable contexts; when used in the present tense someone could have asked him about his relations with Miss Lewinski later that very day and he would have been truthful in denying everything. The major premise of a deductive argument is typically an axiomatic, universal law or a definition. In the latter case it is paramount that the language be congruent and explicable, this is why in forensic argument an ideation of terms is typically agreed upon. The major premise necessitates the conclusion be true, provided the minor premise logically follows, this is why the deductive argument is the most sound.

         Now that care has been taken to provide you with a clear, cogent definition of each argument form, allow me to discuss a vague aspect of equal importance. Fallacies are used colloquially as erroneous argument forms, even mathematically expressed as that which does not logically follow: a non sequitur. While this is true, there are incorrect argument forms that are properly called fallacies, this in but a part of the picture. A fallacy is also used to denote a logically valid argument that fails to arrive at a statement of truth because of compromising conditions. It should be noted, however, that fallacious arguments sometimes provide a realistic, valid model of reality, but should ultimately be thrown out because the procedure is not reproducible: the methodology followed is compromising.



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