Logic and Antonelli

So the kerfuffle de jour is a rhetorical counter strike from Puppy nominee Lou Antonelli that can be read here http://louantonelli.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/puppies-in-heartland.html .

There are many issues with what he wrote the most substantial of which are sweeping claims without supporting evidence. Most notable among them being:

In 2012, when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for president, most of the leading lights in the s-f  literary world combined their hatred for people of faith with their hatred for Republicans by attacking Romney in the most vile language. Quite frankly, I personally believe there are some things you should never say to or about people, regardless of the subject. In light of the attacks on Romney, is it any wonder all the Mormon s-f writers went off the reservation?

Which is a powerful statement that you would expect to be followed by equally powerful examples of key leading lights saying terrible things. I can well imagine that somebody somewhere in American SF must have said something unpleasant about Mitt Romney but oddly Antonelli quotes nobody.

There are other examples but this blog is not for puppy kicking per-se but rather talking cats, graphs, stats and logic. Luckily Mr. Antonelli has kindly provided some rich examples to discuss – with the exception of talking cats. Even better, most of the rich ore is contained in one paragraph:

In the places I have been this summer, the fans – if not people of faith and Republicans themselves – know people who are and have friends who are, and they don’t have that visceral hatred towards the average American that the Puppy Kickers have. If the U.S. had a parliament instead of a Congress, we’d have a Republican Prime Minister. As someone who’s followed politics both personally and professionally for as long as I have. I know the only reason the Democratic Party gets as many votes as it does is the relentless ballot box stuffing in the big cities. Most Americans vote Republican.

There are three delightful things for the hobbyist logician there:

  • A counterfactual
  • A case of ‘begging the question’ or circular reasoning
  • A lack of explanatory parsimony

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Intersubjectivity

This is one of those posts on a somewhat abstract topic that I’m putting here for later so that I can point at the post and say “I mean that”.

This blog is interested in both logic and fiction. That is a problematic combination because you would assume logic is about objective truth and the qualities of fiction are subjective.

Objective truths pertain to things whose truth (in theory) is independent of any one person. There are issues with that but for the sake of argument let’s assume that we all know what we mean. If I say that a given novel was written in English, I am making a claim about an apparently objective truth. It isn’t enough to say that it is my opinion.

Subjective truths pertain to things whose truth rest with one person’s feelings and thoughts. I can know when I’m bored by a book but it is a subjective truth that the book is boring.

The gulf isn’t unsurmountable. Feelings and mental states can be observed in various ways and with the right experimental design I can establish truths that are objective but rest on subjective experiences. For example a claim that 90% of a given set of people find a book boring is a claim about an objective truth that can be investigated empirically.

Intersubjectivity is something else. Intersubjective truths rest on agreements between people. They behave in some ways like objective truths but at the same time they seem to rest on quite arbitrary grounds. The most obvious example is the meaning of words.

Words do not gain their meaning from some objective physical properties. The etymology of words might suggest meanings but there is no guarantee that the meaning of the word can be found from looking at it parts. If you find that hard to understand then just consider the word ‘understand’.

So while it seems like you could just pick any arbitrary meaning for a word and change how you would like, in reality you can’t because a word is only useful if other people know what you mean by it.

Intersubjective truths can feel a little baffling – they aren’t necessarily the same as a generally held opinion but they don’t seem to have anything thing else very much underneath them. And many important things like morality, social conduct, word meanings and grammar may rest on this notion of intersubjectivity.

Timothy the talking cat and the libelous comment

It was a quiet day at Felapton Towers. Timothy the talking cat was inspecting his arsenal of chemical weapons whilst composing blank verse in his head. He paused momentarily, troubled that no matter how he phrased it the fourth line would necessarily rhyme with the “orange” in the second line, when the door bell rang insistently.

Shaken from his poetic endeavor, Timothy paced towards the front door, visually checking that the Heckler & Koch HK CAWS shotgun was still in place behind the coat stand.

“You can never be too careful these days.” he thought with visions of future headlines swimming in his head. “Verbose feline foils heinous home invasion with shocking shotgun” would look magnificent on the front-page of the Bortsworth Gazette & Advertiser in Timothy’s opinion and he would almost be ready to forgive the paper for not publishing his 12 page homage to Margaret Thatcher.

With the presence of the prototype military shotgun providing him with much needed reassurance, Timothy opened the door announcing as he did so “Please be warned that I am armed and can become extremely anxious in the presence of unannounced strangers!”

Before him stood a stranger – unannounced. Timothy choked back his instinctive reaction to begin suppressing fire along the drive way while activating the laser defense grid and instead greeted the stranger with a cheery “Good morning”.

“Mr Talkingcat? I am Eugene Sellwart of Sellwart, Sellwart and Munch, solicitors, conveyances and picture framers. I reprsent my client Adolf Smith-Goering who intends to sue you for libel.”

“Libel?” replied Timothy incredulously “how dare you threaten my first amendment rights!”

Eugene Sellwart looked at Timothy puzzled. Perhaps it was only now that he had apprehended that he was talking to a cat or perhaps his fine legal mind was puzzled by references to the constitution of a nation which was geographical and jurisdictionally distant.

“Libel is not a laughing matter Mr Talkingcat” admonished Sellwart “you sir, called my client a neo-nazi!”

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More on syllogisms

I can’t say I expected my last post on logic to make into File770’s daily Puppy roundup but it did 🙂 which gives me the tiny excuse I needed to write more about syllogisms and propositional logic.

Syllogism are certainly an attractive logical structure. They provide a neat logical structure in natural language and forming a good syllogism is lying writing a short poetic form. They also provide a neat way of understanding how some apparently plausible logical arguments are fallacious. For example this is a fallacy:

  • All Greeks are mortal
  • Socrates is mortal
  • Therefore Socrates is Greek

Each part is true but the logical connection between them has not been made properly. Continue reading

A short post about Aristotle and syllogisms

Aristotle is not the first person you would expect to be making regular appearances in a discussion of science-fiction awards but he keeps appearing primarily due to the chief Rabid Puppy’s frequent mentioning of him. A recent post from that quarter has come out battling in defense of Aristotle’s logic:

Now the SJWs are openly coming out against Aristotle’s logic at File 770:

Stevie on June 4, 2015 at 6:21 pm said:
Incidentally, had not Athens been Lords of the Sea then we not have their Golden Age. We would not have the works of Aristotle. For one brief moment I thought wistfully of what an improvement this would be, but came down on the side of sanity….

Chris Hensley on June 4, 2015 at 6:26 pm said:
The works of Aristotle are important. Much of it has been replaced by better knowledge, but we wouldn’t have that knowledge was still built upon Aristotle. It is time that his logic be put upon the shelf next to his physics.

One thing that is readily apparent is that they very much resent how we have correctly identified them as rhetoricals incapable of rational dialectic and ruled by their feelbads rather than reason. Consider exactly what it is that they are rejecting. They are rejecting logic for fantasy because they cannot be instructed by information, they are only guided by emotion.

I don’t know if my experience cosplaying two-syllogisms makes me much of an authority but I promised that this blog would talk about logic and so far it has been more probability than logic (sure probability and logic are best-buds but still I have standards to maintain)

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