Fun with fallacies 19: You are like Hitler!

false analogyThe fallacy of a false analogy happens when someone is making an argument in the form of an analogy where the analogy is lacking in certain aspects that make up a good analogy.

The basic form of an argument from analogy tends to be similar to this:

P and Q are similar in A, B, and C

In P we have also observed X

Therefore Q also probably has X

An example of such an argument could be

Ivan and Boris both work out hard, eat right and get extreme results in body composition

We also see that Boris takes anabolic steroids.

Therefore, Ivan probably also takes anabolic steroids.

The factors that either add to or detract from an argument from analogy are:

A) Relevance (positive or negative) of known similarities of the two things to the similarity inferred in the conclusion.

B) Degree of relative similarity or dissimilarity of the two things.

C) The amount and variety of instances that form the basis of an analogy.

This is generally not the type of fallacy you end up evaluating on the fly. In verbal discourse analogies tend to be superficial at best, and used for humorous effect, rather than as a piece of complex reasoning. They serve a purpose in rhetoric by “short-circuiting” a persons mind, by triggering associations.

For instance, when I say that “My opponent is like Stalin” the audience’s minds start doing the X from the argument themselves. I don’t even have to do the A, B, and C for this to happen. This is why good analogies are central to becoming a great orator or manipulator. I remember hearing someone say that the worst way you can punish a child, is by telling them “Go to our room, I’ll be up to punish you in 10 minutes” because the child’s mind starts creating their worst case scenarios for what the punishment will be.

This is what a great orator does with the false analogy, he creates what appears to be an argument, that the audience then convince themselves of in their mind.

Speaker: Trump is like Hitler!

Audience: He said it, so in what ways is Trump like Hitler?

What happens in their mind is that they come up with the best reasons for why Trump is like Hitler, rather than evaluating and dismissing it as fiery rhetoric. This is also congruent with salesmanship tactics, where putting your client in the position where they are selling your product to themselves increases the chance of making a sale.

 

The Axiomatic effect on perception

axiomaticIn occasional debates you end up in an axiomatic Mexican stand-off, where both parties are fundamentally disagreeing on topic, because of the axioms that influence their perception. You may also find yourself in a line of work you hate, yet you keep being in for year after year. Maybe you want to get laid more, but buying flowers and dinners isn’t working. It could be that you want to be in better shape, or perhaps get more education. Your success or failure in these endeavors come from Continue reading

Grounded theory and the PUA community

grounded theoryI touched on grounded theory as a research method in my short introduction to research methodology. To expand on it, grounded theory is an approach that turns the research paradigm on its head. Where a positivist and phenomenologist tend to start by reading exhaustively on a topic, selecting a theoretical framework and then performing experiments to see if the framework applies in the specific case they are studying in. Grounded theory starts with a question or qualitative observations.

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Rhetoric and Propaganda

rhetoric and propagandaIn my post on rhetoric  I went through Aristotle’s breakdown of Logos, Ethos and Pathos. Where logos is the argument, or reasoned argument. Pathos is the emotional wrapping and ethos is the character of the speaker. Propaganda is rhetoric with a heavy focus towards pathos and ethos, while logos is manipulated for a purpose.

Propaganda utilizes a range of logical fallacies, fallacious statistics, misrepresentations and most importantly, it seeks to influence using emotion, rather than argument. The representation can be illustrated with the difference of “information communicated for it’s own sake” and “information communicated with an agenda behind it“.

If you understand the agenda, you can deconstruct the propaganda. In politics they call this spin. Not acting militarily and relying on diplomacy can spun as being a “advocate for peaceful solutions and limiting human casualties” and “A weak man, who fails to act decisively and relies on words.” The same facts ending up in two very different places.

Logic and facts communicated is informing.

Logic and facts communicated with a weight towards rhetoric is marketing.  

If you get the feeling that someone is marketing to you, become immediately suspicious, because numbers, facts and logic can be spun just as easily through rhetoric, through cherry-picking and many other means. To frame truth as a lie and a lie as truth, lies in the cornerstone of propaganda. To mix truth with lie, empowers the lie, as it may be viewed as true by repetition  or association.

I’ll end on a quote

“Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”

Nietzsche 

Rhetoric and Logic

rhetoricThis is inspired by a comment I got from Ontologicalrealist who asked me about the quote:

“for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” (Our discussion in the comments)

The quote is often attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi head of propaganda, and thus a brilliant rhetorician. The major difference between logic and rhetoric, is that the purpose of logic is to explore ideas, find new truths, remain rational and objective in your reasoning, and contributing to knowledge. The purpose of rhetoric is to communicate ideas, persuade and to “sell”.

I’m going to start by breaking down rhetoric in the same way I did logic in “The basics of logic 1” and “The basics of logic 2

Aristotle breaks rhetoric into 3 parts:

  • Logos – meaning “discourse” or “reasoned discourse”
  • Pathos – emotional appeals to the audience
  • Ethos – the character of the speaker

Rhetoric is a highly studied field, and has been broken down by many and there are many explanations and breakdowns that differ from the one I’ve used here, however my opinion is that this breakdown gives the clearest picture of what rhetoric is at it’s core.

Logos, or reasoned discourse, can be said to be logical and fact based. However, it doesn’t have to be. It can be valid but not sound, it can suffer from logical fallacies, or many other problems. It is therefore always important to apply critical thinking to any argument made.

Pathos, or the emotional appeals, very often make up the core of the rhetoricians overall communication. Emotional appeals in various forms, from anecdotes, appeals to emotion, identity plays, are effective because they add familiarity and makes the speaker likable to the audience. It is much easier to convince someone who likes you, and they are less likely to engage their critical thinking.

Ethos, or the character of the speaker, adds legitimacy to the pathos and logos. For instance, by having the title “Dr.” adds to credibility, so does having experience and/or education within the field that you are speaking within. However, “Ethos” to some extent has a transitive property. This is frequently seen when famous people take up causes outside of their field, such as Emma Watson for women, or Matt Damon for clean water. Their opinions and words are more credible because the person is famous, despite not having any qualifications and little experience on the topic.

Some key tips for telling rhetoric from logic:

  1. Look for qualifying words, rhetoric very rarely has qualifying words (some, maybe, opinion, etc) logic is full of them.
  2. Look for the emotional appeal, is the speaker actively trying to play on people’s emotions through voice use, loaded words, appealing to “romanticism” or identities.
  3. Would the speech be effective regardless of who speaks or is it effective because of who speaks?

The main branches of philosphy

Now, when I tell most people that I’m very much into philosophy, after their eyerolls subside, I start explaining to their blank faces. How philosophy still has value after what was called “natural philosophy” started being called “science”. There are 4 branches of philosophy, in order of importance:

Aesthetics: The study of beauty and ugliness, this is an entirely subjective branch that I will agree has little value, what is beautiful and what is ugly? That is in the eye of the beholder and quite frankly who cares?

Ethics: The study of what is permissible. A field to which I have devoted a lot of study, only to find that it is an emotionally ruled filed. I have found that people who have authoritarian leanings tend to be more deontological and people who like me have more libertarian leanings tend to be more consequentialist.

Metaphysics: The study of existence. What exists. Typically used a lot in religious debates.

Politics: The study of force. How should you organize society.

Epistemology: The study of knowledge, or rather theory of knowledge. What can we know, how do we know, can we know.

 

 

 

 

5 minutes of research philosophy

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Cartoon from Chrismadden.co.uk

When engaging in research, the research paradigm is one of the more critical choices a researcher will make.This is due to each research paradigm being more suited to different types of research, questions, hypotheses, and methodologies. While there are many methodologies that may be chosen from, each paradigm tends to be focused more towards certain methods and approaches.

One of the reasons for why a person should know this, is that when a journalist or media personality cites research, being able to analyze that research in the

There are many ways to do research, many topics to approach, many ways of approaching those topics. The two branches of research I’m going to look at today are phenomenology (also called interpretivism) and Positivism.

Positivism

Throughout history, most research has been done using the Positivist perspective and it is a method very much suited for the pure sciences. It tends to be highly quantitative, based on empirical evidence, replicability, validation and hypothesis testing plays a major part, in pretty much all research done using positivism.

Due to its roots in pure science and engineering, the methodology tends to concern itself with “how” rather than “why“. We know that Newton’s laws exist, the boiling temperature of water and how a human body tends to react to various infections. Positvist research thus has a tendency to be good at predicting “What will happen if” but can say very little about why something happens.

One of the major benefits of positivist research done well, is that it can be used to predict what will happen through having a knowledge of how the variables interact. This serves as a major source of credit for this type of research. When compared to phenomenology, it also tends to utilize much larger sample sizes, and therefore the knowledge obtained from the research is more likely to be generally applicable to a larger population.

A common example of positivism in action is demographics research and research conducted by most governmental bodies. For instance the DOJ crime research, FBI crime research and the Office for National Statistics (UK) are all examples of positivist research using large sample sizes, concerned with what is happening, with little concern for why this is happening.

Phenomenology

To address the inherent weaknesses of positivism, phenomenology was invented. This method is frequently used in the social sciences, and often forms the backbone of social science research. The main reasoning being that the rigid, variable oriented, and hypothesis focused approach of positivism is not suited to investigate situations involving humans, because there are too many complex variables involved in a lot of the cases.

This comes from the fact that in social sciences especially, the question of “why” becomes more central to the thinking of the researcher. Rather than attempting to establish the earning differential between men and women as a positivist would do, the interpretivist wants to know why it exists.

The weaknesses of phenomenology can include a high degree of the researcher interfering with the sample, for instance by interacting with the people who are being observed. Frequently this is by design as the researcher embeds him or herself with the sample. Unlike positivism that tends to produce “mind-independent” information, research done using phenomenology may frequently be influenced by the subjective mind of the reseacher. Due to common research methods such as structured interviews or case studies, the sample will be quite small, and data may not be applicable to the general population.

Also, unlike positivism that to a lesser degree may be influenced by the “wants” of the researcher, positivist research has a major issue with researcher influence, but also from research being designed in a manner that it would confirm the researchers initial perspective. If a chemist had an initial perspective that if you mix copper and arsenic you get an explosive, this would rapidly be proven as wrong by simple experiment. However, if a positivist has an initial perspective that sexism is rampant within the western world, it would be easy to manipulate the research to show just that. Picking biased samples, limiting the data sets, influencing the sample, and so on.

Summary and Conclusions

So, to summarize, the main risk with positivism is that the research done using it as a philosophical framework in social sciences research is that it may miss relevant variables, due to the impersonal nature. A somewhat reductionist view is that for a positivist, that which cannot be observed and quantified does not exist.

However, when applied properly and for suitable research, the conclusions made by a positivist research project are generally applicable to the general population, leads to the discovery of new facts and can allow the construction of a framework for predicting events.

The main risk with phenomenology is that the research may include the wrong variables, it may seek to come up with conclusions based on faulty data or small sample sizes. It may be highly subjective and, is less replicable. The main risk with phenomenology, is that in the worst cases, it becomes a case of “Cecilia down in accounting told me that Todd from shipping has been sleeping with Joanne in billing, it’s a fact I promise, I’ve done my research”

Thus, a research based in phenomenology, is generally less applicable, may suffer from subjective or other forms of bias, and is very prone to affirming the consequent.

Basics of logic part 2

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In the first post, I dealt with deductive arguments, which is the “classical” form of arguments. They are such that if their premises are true the conclusions are true. Deductive reasoning forms the core of the scientific method, is what most people regard as being logic. Deduction is most famously cited by Sherlock Holmes as his method of inquiry, the process of deduction is reasoning from one or more premises to reach a logically certain conclusion. In the application of the scientific method, the premises are often data regarding observations.

Inductive arguments on the other hand, are such that the truth of their premises, makes the conclusion more or less probable. Inductive arguments are either strong or weak. The premises within an inductive argument are viewed as supplying strong evidence for the truth of a conclusion, unlike the deductive where the premises are viewed as being true. In colloquial use, inductive reasoning is often defined as progression from particular/individual instances to broader generalization. While the philosophical definition is more nuanced, it is sufficive for this article to outline that an inductive argument indicates some degree of support for the conclusion, but does not entail it.

Abductive reasoning, is a form of inference which goes from observation to a theory that accounts for the observation. As with inductive reasoning, the premises do not guarantee the conclusion, and a colloquial way of understanding it would be “inference to the best explanation“. Continue reading