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The Formal Fallacy Reexamined

"As modus ponens, the following argument contains no formal fallacies.

  1. If P then Q
  2. P
  3. Therefore Q

A logical fallacy associated with this format of argument is referred to as affirming the consequent, which would look like this:

  1. If P then Q
  2. Q
  3. therefore P

This is a fallacy because it does not take into account other possibilities. To illustrate this more clearly, substitute the letters with premises.

  1. If it rains, the street will be wet
  2. The street is wet.
  3. Therefore it rained.

Although it is possible that this conclusion is true, it does not necessarily mean it MUST be true. The street could be wet for a variety of other reasons that this argument does not take into account. However, if we look at the valid form of the argument, we can see that the conclusion must be true.

  1. If it rains, the street will be wet.
  2. It rained.
  3. Therefore, the streets are wet.

This statement is both valid and sound."

Except in the case of a hot summer day, in which it rains very lightly, and only for a few minutes, in which case the rain may evaporate entirely. The air will be very humid and muggy, but the streets will not be wet. So we see a case in which the context of a logical argument may not be the "normative" context, and the argument may be valid, but the conclusion is possibly false. We have to include some assumption of context.

  1. If (S & C) then T
  2. (S & C)
  3. Therefore T

where S is a statement and C is a context. Without a grounding in context, no statement can be held to be true. The final measure of the truth of a statement is that it is confirmed by the evidence to be had. (The Correspondence Theory of Truth has its own problems, which I need to look up further.

Authority, Evidence, and Context


"... any appeal to authority used in the context of deductive (general case to specific instance + closed-world) reasoning" Wikipedia:Closed world assumption

In other words, the argument gives the same level of confidence as the evidence IF the Kennen an Sich is identical to the Ding an Sich (which it ain't!)


It becomes clear why, even in the best case, an authoritative argument can only be right in a statistical and probable sense, as the context can be unprecedented!

Further, the expertise of an authority does not diminish the superior luck, skill, efforts, or evidence of a novice. If a veteran darts player is very likely to hit a bullseye, the novice is no less likely to hit one as well.



Reason, Argument, and Expertise

  • Evidence is remote
  • Context is remote
  • Consequence is absent
  • Improbability is excluded
  • Reason is normative
  • Prevailing arguments are normative
  • Unknowns are non-existent

Context, Evidence and Naivete

  • Evidence is at hand
  • Context is at hand
  • Consequence is imminent
  • Improbability is distinctly possible
  • Reason is performative
  • Adaptive arguments are normative
  • Unknowns are perceived, but either not comprehended or incommunicable, or both


Analogy and Metaphor as Expertise

Even a novice can draw upon an extensive body of informal knowledge, life experience, analogy, metaphor, fresh examination, etc.

In other words, a novice forms a context of his own: either a "normative" novice, whose opinion can be measured as "average" or even "below average", or can be deeply informed on a particular subject in a wide variety of ways.


Performance and Learning Continuum

The question of whether to use an Open world assumption or a Closed world assumption would seem to depend on whether the questions are matters of Performance (Is the job being done properly and are results correct?) and Learning (What is the proper thing to do, and what valuable results can be obtained?). In a new endeavor, the moving back and forth through a continuum is likely, but in a mature and well-developed activity, these will often be two separate and simultaneous efforts. In a VUCA world, taking charge of your own learning is a necessity, Ricky Recruit. P:D


Us Versus Them and the Closed-World Fallacy

In an adversarial system of political relationships, the Closed-World Fallacy serves to sever both parties from any perception of the real sources of problems. Neither the Left nor the Right, neither Conservatives nor Liberals, neither Labor nor Management -- no party whatsoever can acknowledge the damage done to our public educational system through the continuing division of the population into Rich and Poor by the system of dividing the land and the populace into districts in which real estate taxes are collected and participation is mandatory. The problem will continue to be invisible so long as it is in neither party's interest to acknowledge it, and to address it in a forthright and courageous way.

Not only can problems be ignored, making them "Wicked Problems", problems which can be made to seem insoluble in a Closed World, but other problems can be made to exist which, in an Open World, would not exist at all. Such problems can be debated endlessly, with no resolution to be offered by either side -- an endless conflict without any hope of one side or the other ever being required to admit defeat -- because neither victory nor defeat is possible when the problem does not exist outside the context of the conflict itself.

Thus two entirely different sources of Wicked Problems emerge, serving only to reinforce each other; the problem that can never be resolved because it can be made to disappear entirely from the public discourse, and the problem that never did exist, but continues to be fought over remorselessly.

All that is truly required to begin to resolve both sorts of problems is to require those in power to adopt a policy of affirming the Open-World Assumption, and its merits when used properly. If they are unwilling to do so, then perhaps we ought to open their world for them.


Music to Contemplate Dialectics By: Arkasia


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