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List of common fallacies – Aristotle’s Logos

20 Cognative Biases that screw up decision making
Fallacies
Fallacies

Logic (Deduction and Induction)  is one of the three roads from the Trivium.

The Subject of Logic: “Syllogisms”
All Aristotle’s logic revolves around one notion: the deduction (sullogismos). A thorough explanation of what a deduction is, and what they are composed of, will necessarily lead us through the whole of his theory. What, then, is a deduction? Aristotle says:

A deduction is speech (logos) in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from those supposed results of necessity because of their being so. (Prior Analytics I.2, 24b18-20)
Each of the “things supposed” is a premise (protasis) of the argument, and what “results of necessity” is the conclusion (sumperasma).

20 Cognative Biases that screw up decision making
20 Cognative Biases that screw up decision making

The core of this definition is the notion of “resulting of necessity” (ex anankês sumbainein). This corresponds to a modern notion of logical consequence: X results of necessity from Y and Z if it would be impossible for X to be false when Y and Z are true. We could therefore take this to be a general definition of “valid argument”.

When arguing with someone in an attempt to get at an answer or an explanation, you may come across a person who makes logical fallacies. Such discussions may prove futile. You might try asking for evidence and independent confirmation or provide other hypotheses that give a better or simpler explanation. If this fails, try to pinpoint the problem of your arguer’s position. You might spot the problem of logic that prevents further exploration and attempt to inform your arguer about his fallacy. The following briefly describes some of the most common fallacies:

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Ethos, Pathos, Logos – A General Summary of Aristotle’s Appeals

Caesar ethos pathos logos

EthosPathosLogos

Aristotle
Aristotle

Within the Trivium the goal of argumentative writing is to persuade your audience that your ideas are valid, or more valid than someone else’s. The Greek philosopher Aristotle divided the means of persuasion, appeals, into three categories–Ethos, Pathos, Logos.

Ethos (Credibility), or ethical appeal, means convincing by the character of the author. We tend to believe people whom we respect. One of the central problems of argumentation is to project an impression to the reader that you are someone worth listening to, in other words making yourself as author into an authority on the subject of the paper, as well as someone who is likable and worthy of respect.

 

Ethos, Pathos, Logos
Ethos, Pathos, Logos

Pathos (Emotional) means persuading by appealing to the reader’s emotions. We can look at texts ranging from classic essays to contemporary advertisements to see how pathos, emotional appeals, are used to persuade. Language choice affects the audience’s emotional response, and emotional appeal can effectively be used to enhance an argument.

Logos (Logical) means persuading by the use of reasoning. This will be the most important technique we will study, and Aristotle’s favorite. We’ll look at deductive and inductive reasoning, and discuss what makes an effective, persuasive reason to back up your claims. Giving reasons is the heart of argumentation, and cannot be emphasized enough. We’ll study the types of support you can use to substantiate your thesis, and look at some of the common logical fallacies, in order to avoid them in your writing.

 signal text triangleEthos, Pathos, and Logos.

Logos (Greek for ‘word’) refers to the internal consistency of the message–the clarity of the claim, the logic of its reasons, and the effectiveness of its supporting evidence. The impact of logos on an audience is sometimes called the argument’s logical appeal.

Ethos (Greek for ‘character’) refers to the trustworthiness or credibility of the writer or speaker. Ethos is often conveyed through tone and style of the message and through the way the writer or speaker refers to differing views. It can also be affected by the writer’s reputation as it exists independently from the message–his or her expertise in the field, his or her previous record or integrity, and so forth. The impact of ethos is often called the argument’s ‘ethical appeal’ or the ‘appeal from credibility.’

rhetoric[P]athos (Greek for ‘suffering’ or ‘experience’) is often associated with emotional appeal. But a better equivalent might be ‘appeal to the audience’s sympathies and imagination.’ An appeal to pathos causes an audience not just to respond emotionally but to identify with the writer’s point of view–to feel what the writer feels. In this sense, pathos evokes a meaning implicit in the verb ‘to suffer’–to feel pain imaginatively…. Perhaps the most common way of conveying a pathetic appeal is through narrative or story, which can turn the abstractions of logic into something palpable and present. The values, beliefs, and understandings of the writer are implicit in the story and conveyed imaginatively to the reader. Pathos thus refers to both the emotional and the imaginative impact of the message on an audience, the power with which the writer’s message moves the audience to decision or action.

[The above text drawn verbatim from Ramage, John D. and John C. Bean. Writing Arguments. 4th Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1998, 81-82.] http://www.u.arizona.edu/ic/polis/courses021/ENGL_102-78/EthosPathosLogos

 Or The Shorthand Version:

Ethos: the source’s credibility, the speaker’s/author’s authority

Logos: the logic used to support a claim (induction and deduction); can also be the facts and statistics used to help support the argument.

Pathos: the emotional or motivational appeals; vivid language, emotional language and numerous sensory details.

The Art of Rhetoric:  Learning How to Use the Three Main Rhetorical Styles

Rhetoric (n) – the art of speaking or writing effectively (Webster’s Definition).

According to Aristotle, rhetoric is “the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.” He described three main forms of rhetoric: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

In order to be a more effective writer, you must understand these three terms. This site will help you understand their meanings and it will also show you how to make your writing more persuasive.

http://www.rpi.edu/dept/llc/webclass/web/project1/group4/index.html

It also has some fantastic example web sites that use ethos, logos, and pathos.  My ACME and Coyote fans will love these examples.

 The following essay “The Appeals: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos” was written by Professor Jeanne Fahnestock of the University of Maryland, College Park, and is a very insightful explanation of the three appeals.  I highly recommend reading it at the following web site . . .

http://otal.umd.edu/~mikej/supplements/ethoslogospathos.html

According to Aristotle, our perception of a speaker or writer’s character influences how believable or convincing we find what that person has to say. This projected character is called the speaker or writer’s ethos. We are naturally more likely to be persuaded by a person who, we think, has personal warmth, consideration of others, a good mind and solid learning. Often we know something of the character of speakers and writers ahead of time. They come with a reputation or extrinsic ethos. People whose education, experience, and previous performances qualify them to speak on a certain issue earn the special extrinsic ethos of the authority. But whether or not we know anything about the speaker or writer ahead of time, the actual text we hear or read, the way it is written or spoken and what it says, always conveys and impression of the author’s character. This impression created by the text itself is the intrinsic ethos.

Institutions, public roles and publications also project an ethos or credibility. We assume, for example, that The New York Times is a more credible source than the Weekly World News or the National Inquirer. And we usually assume that a person selected for a position of responsibility or honor is more credible than someone without official sanction. These expectations about credibility and ethos are occasionally disappointed.

Pathos

The persuasive appeal of pathos is an appeal to an audience’s sense of identity, their self-interest, their emotions. Many rhetoricians over the centuries have considered pathos the strongest of the appeals, though this view of persuasion is rarely mentioned without a lament about the power of emotion to sway the mind.

Appeals to our sense of identity and self interest exploit common biases; we naturally bend in the direction of what is advantageous to us, what serves our interests or the interests of any group we believe ourselves a part of. Even when advantage is not an issue, writers who belong to groups we identify with, or create groups we can belong to, often seem more compelling. We also naturally find more persuasive the speaker or writer who flatters us (especially indirectly) instead of insulting us. Thus skillful writers create a positive image in their words of the audience they are addressing, an image their actual readers can identify with. Who does not want to be the “sensible, caring person” the arguer describes? Especially powerful are devices that create an identity between the writer and reader so that the speaker almost seems to be the audience addressing itself.

The emotions also strongly assist, perhaps sometimes determine, persuasion. If, for example, a writer wants a reader to evaluate something negatively, she or he may try to arouse the reader’s anger. Or to produce action to someone’s benefit (e.q. to persuade us to make a charitable donation), an arguer may work on our pity.

Direct appeals to the reader to feel an emotion (e.q. “You should be crying now”) are rarely effective. Instead, creating an emotion with words usually requires recreating the scene or event that would in “real” circumstances arouse the emotion. Thus descriptions of painful or pleasant things work on the emotions. Or the arguer can work on the natural “trigger” of the emotion. If, for example, we usually feel anger at someone who, we believe, has received benefits without deserving them, then the arguer who wants to make us angry with someone will make a case that person was rewarded unfairly.

Logos

Finally, we come to the “argument” itself, the explicit reasons the arguer provides to support a position. There are many ways to describe the support provided in an argument, but a sample way to begin is to consider all the premises the author seems to supply. These can be scattered throughout the argument and expressed indirectly, so identifying premises is a judgment call in itself.

Next ask which of the premises are presented as objects of agreement that the arguer considers as given, elements of the argument taken for granted. Objects of agreement are basically either facts or values. Of course, the facts may not be facts and readers may not agree with the values assumed. Some of the premises will be supported further, but basically every argument has got to come down to certain objects of agreement that it presents as shared between arguer and audience.

You can also classify premises into the following categories. 1. Are they arguments based on definition? In other words, does the arguer make claims about the nature of things, about what terms mean, what features things have? 2. Does the arguer make analogies or comparisons? Does he or she cite parallel cases? 3. Are there appeals to cause and consequences? Arguing from consequence is especially common when policy issues are debated. 4. Does the arguer rely on testimony or authority by citing the received opinions of experts? Or does the author create some kind of authoritative reference group, citing public opinion on what most people think as support for his or her position?

 Rhetoric, Logos, Pathos, and Ethos

Caesar ethos pathos logos
Caesar ethos pathos logos

THE THREE “ARTISTIC PROOFS.”

There are three artistic proofs that we can create: the appeals from ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos

Persuasion from ethos establishes the speaker’s or writer’s good character. As you saw in the opening of Plato’s Phaedrus, the Greeks established a sense of ethos by a family’s reputation in the community. Our current culture in many ways denies us the use of family ethos as sons and daughters must move out of the community to find jobs or parents feel they must sell the family home to join a retirement community apart from the community of their lives’ works. The appeal from a person’s acknowledged life contributions within a community has moved from the stability of the family hearth to the mobility of the shiny car. Without the ethos of the good name and handshake, current forms of cultural ethos often fall to puffed-up resumes and other papers. The use of ethos in the form of earned titles within the community-Coach Albert, Deacon Jones, Professor Miller-are diminishing as “truthful” signifiers while commercial-name signifiers or icons appear on clothing-Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Tommy Hilfiger- disclosing a person’s cultural ethos not in terms of a contributor to the community, but in terms of identity-through purchase. Aristotle warns us away from such decoys, telling us that the appeal from ethos comes not from appearances, but from a person’s use of language. In a culture where outward appearances have virtually subsumed or taken over the appeal from inner (moral and intellectual) character, the appeal from ethos becomes both problematic and important. Given our culture’s privileges/rights of free speech and personal equality, however, we have enormous possibilities for the appeal from ethos any writer well versed in his or her subject and well spoken about it can gain credibility. This kind of persuasion comes from what a person says and how a person says it, not from any prejudice (pre-judging) of the author.

Aristotle tells us that three things “Inspire confidence in the rhetor’s [speaker’s/writer’s] own character-the three, namely, that induce us to believe a thing apart from any proof of it: good sense, good moral character, and goodwill. False statements and bad advice come from the lack of any of these elements. Exhibiting these three aspects of character in your discourse can play a large part in gaining credibility for your ideas. As regards the academic essay, be sure to have your writing appear written by a person of good sense by following the format dictated by the Modern Language Association (M.L.A.) or American Psychological Association (A.P.A.) or whatever your particular academic community wants. Citing a bunch of sources always adds to your credibility (sense of good sense) too. Stylistically in your writing, you can show, if not your good moral character, at least some character identification by sticking some little phrase before using “r’ or “we.” Like, “As So-in-so’s attorney, I suggest . . . Or “As a dental hygienist, I advise…… Or “As an elderly snowboarder for the past decade, I see no reason why…… Actually, using “I” or “we” without such identifiers flips the attempt at ethos into a sense of the generic nobody. Many writing teachers, therefore, just say “don’t use I.” Aristotle implies, use “I” or “we” to your advantage with an ethos-appeal sort of phrase out there in front, or else forget it. Despite warnings against believing discourse ‘just because it appears written by someone of good sense or because the ideas “look good,” you should try to create discourse that “looks good.” As a reminder from the Plato chapter (now reinforced by the Aristotelian tip that people judge the credibility of your ideas by your writing skills), you should run your academic essay through the spell checker and bother numerous guinea-pig readers for fixing up the organization and Standard English before letting your essay loose on the world to do its work. If, as Aristotle says, people are going to judge your spoken and/or written ideas by virtue of the appearance of good sense, you’d best attend to that quality.

Pathos

Persuasion from pathos involves engaging the readers’ or listeners’ emotions. Appealing to pathos does not mean that you just emote or “go off’ through your writing. Not that simple. Appealing to pathos in your readers (or listeners), you establish in them a state of reception for your ideas. You can attempt to fill your readers with pity for somebody or contempt for some wrong. You can create a sense of envy or of indignation. Naturally, in order for you to establish at will any desired state of emotion in your readers, you will have to know everything you can about psychology. Maybe that’s why Aristotle wrote so many books about the philosophy of human nature. In the Rhetoric itself, Aristotle advises writers at length how to create anger toward some ideal circumstance and how also to create a sense of calm in readers. He also explains principles of friendship and enmity as shared pleasure and pain. He discusses how to create in readers a sense of fear and shame and shamelessness and kindness and unkindness and pity and indignation and envy and indignation and emulation. Then he starts all over and shows how to create such feelings toward ideas in various types of human character’ of “people” of virtue and vice; those of youth, prime of life, and old age; and those of good fortune and those of bad fortune.” Aristotle warns us, however: knowing (as a good willed writer) how to get your readers to receive your ideas by making readers “pleased and friendly” or “pained and hostile” is one thing; playing on readers’ emotions in ways that make them mindless of concepts and consequences can corrupt the judgment of both individuals and the community.

Logos

Finally, a writer appeals to readers through the appeal to the readers’ sense of logos. This is commonly called the logical appeal, and you can use two different types of logic. You can use inductive logic by giving your readers a bunch of similar examples and then drawing from them a general proposition. This logic is pretty simple given this, that, and the other thing-poof, there you go, a conclusion. Or, you can use the deductive enthymeme by giving your readers a few general propositions and then drawing from them a specific truth. Like, “because such-‘n-such is true and such-‘n-such is true and such-‘n-such is true and everybody agrees on this other thing, then-poof, stands to reason, a new truth.

Since the time that a bunch of guys called “The Royal Society” (Hume, Locke, Bacon, etc.) rejected deduction, our culture has generally favored induction because it’s often called the “scientific method” and we like science. Historically, people have also attributed feminine metaphors to deductive logic and then easily dismissed it or dismissed the general propositions as “not documented” or “old wives tales.”

Source: Henning, Martha L. Friendly Persuasion: Classical Rhetoric–Now! Draft Manuscript. August, 1998.http://www.millikin.edu/wcenter/workshop7b.html

 A student sample that uses these three proofs to analyze a contemporary speech given by George Bush can be read at the following web site.  You can agree with or disagree with the author’s interpretations, but the sample might provide you with an example of how you can use these terms to help you analyze your own article.   Remember it’s not the issue, it’s the way the issue is presented by the author.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Applied: George W. Bush Speaking at ‘Ground Zero’
http://hyper.vcsun.org/HyperNews/battias/get/cs327/s02/thought/1.html

The following web site presents student sample paragraphs that have been revised and, as a result are much stronger.  I strongly suggest looking at these paragraphs in order to fully understand how Ethos, Pathos, and Logos can be used to analyze your articles.

Paragraph Development (for Ethos, Logos, Pathos Essay)
http://www.merced.cc.ca.us/pirov/paraethos.htm

Source: http://courses.durhamtech.edu/perkins/aris.html

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Goethe on seeing

Goethe
Goethe

The ear is mute, the lips deaf. But the eye senses and speaks. In it the world is reflected from without, and man from within.

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Venn diagram

Venn diagrams are today’s mostly used method for solving syllogisms. With some practice they can be drawn fairly quickly making them a valuable tool in solving syllogisms in timed aptitude tests. Venn diagrams show all possible and hypothetically logical relations between a collection of finite and infinite statements. By means of an overlap between some certain assumptions conclusions can be made using the (in)finite statements. Two examples of the use of Venn diagrams will follow to clarify the above.

Example 1:

  1. All Canadians are right handed
  2. All right handed are opticians
  3. Conclusion: Some opticians are Canadian

To check the validity of this statement first the different terms are appointed.

Subject:        Canadian
Predicate:      Optician
Middle term:    Right handed

We will start with the first out of the two given statements from above. The first thing to do is draw two circles and write the terms Canadian and Right handed in them. The circle with the word Canadian without the overlap represents only Canadian people, while the part within the overlap with the right handed circle represents all Right handed Canadian people. Everything outside these two circles represents everything not connected to these two terms. With this one can think of plants, animals, cars but even you and me.

statement-a-1

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philosophers’ egg

Rebis

 noun

1
:  the first matter of the philosophers’ stone composed of salt, sulfur, and mercury

:  gripe’s egg

2
:  a medicine made of saffron and the yolk of an egg and once considered a cure for plague and poison
Considered to be a form of the Philosopher’s Stone.

(The). A preservative against poison, and a cure for the plague; a panacea. The shell of a new egg being pricked, the white is blown out, and the place filed with saffron or a yolk of an egg mixed with saffron.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894

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Tau Teh Ching ch 42

Beck The Way produced the One; the One produced two; two produced three; and three produced all things.
Blackney The Way begot one, And the one, two; Then the two begot three And three, all else.
Bynner Life, when it came to be, Bore one, then two, then three Elements of things; And thus the three began – Heaven and earth and man – To balance happenings:
Byrn The Tao gave birth to One. The One gave birth to Two. The Two gave birth to Three. The Three gave birth to all of creation.
Chan Tao produced the One. The One produced the two. The two produced the three. And the three produced the ten thousand things.
Cleary The Way produces one; one produces two, two produce three, three produce all beings:
Crowley The Dao formulated the One. The One exhaled the Two. The Two were parents of the Three. The Three were parents of all things.
Hansen A guide generates ‘one.’ ‘One’ generates ‘two.’ ‘Two’ generates ‘three.’ ‘Three’ generates the ten-thousand natural kinds.
LaFargue Tao produced The One The One produced Two Two produced Three Three produced the thousands of things.
Legge The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things.
Lindauer Tao gives birth to one One gives birth to two Two gives birth to three Three gives birth to the 10000 things.
LinYutan Out of Tao, One is born; Out of One, Two; Out of Two, Three; Out of Three, the created universe.
Mabry The Tao gives birth to one. One gives birth to two. Two gives birth to three, And three gives birth to all things.
McDonald Dao gave birth to the one; the one gave birth successively to two things, three things, up the everything, everybody and the whole world we know.
Merel The Way bears sensation, Sensation bears memory, Sensation and memory bear abstraction, And abstraction bears all the world;
Mitchell The Tao gives birth to One. One gives birth to Two. Two gives birth to Three. Three gives birth to all things.
Muller The Tao produces one, one produces two. The two produce the three and the three produce all things.
Red Pine The Tao gives birth to one one gives birth to two two gives birth to three three gives birth to ten thousand things
Ta-Kao Tao begets One; one begets two; two begets three; three begets all things.
Walker Nonbeing gives birth to the oneness. The oneness gives birth to yin and yang. Yin and Yang give birth to heaven, earth, and beings. Heaven, earth, and beings give birth to everything in existence.
Wayism
Wieger When the Principle has emitted its virtue, the latter begins to evolve according to two alternating modalities. This evolution produces (or condenses) the median air (tenuous matter). From tenuous matter, under the influence of the two modalities yin and yang, all sentient beings are produced.
World Infinity is oneness. Infinity is the potential of all things. All things are one with Infinity. Distinguishing creates the two
Wu Tao gave birth to One, One gave birth to Two, Two gave birth to Three, Three gave birth to all the myriad things.
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vitalism

Paul Joseph BarthezBarthez, Paul (1734-1806)  proposed a Vitalism Theory  in which humans were composed of three parts: the body (which decayed upon death), the soul (which went to heaven), and the “principle vitale,” or vital principle (which was returned to the universal store).

© 1996-2007 Eric W. Weisstein

Vitalism

(17TH-19TH CENTURIES)

Nicolas LemeryAny of various views insisting, in contrast to mechanism, that life involves a special principle and cannot be explained in terms of physical and chemical properties alone. The theory has its origins in the classification of compounds in 1675 by the French chemist Nicolas Lemery (1645-1715). He considered them as animal, vegetable or mineral according to how they originated. Antoine Laurent LavoisierAnother French chemist, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794), grouped the animal and vegetable compounds together but still retained the original classification.

By the start of the 19th century, it was believed that definite and fundamental differences existed between ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic’ compounds, as substances had come to be known.

Johan Jakob BerzeliusIn 1815, the Swedish chemist Johan Jakob Berzelius (1779-1848) proposed that the two classes of compounds were produced from their elements by entirely different laws. Organic compounds were produced under the influence of a vital force and so were incapable of being prepared artificially.

This distinction was ended in 1828 when German chemist Friedrich Wohler (1800-1882) synthesized the organic compound urea from the purely inorganic ammonium cyanate. In Friedrich Wohlerphilosophical terms, the life principle involved may take the form of entelechies within living things, which are responsible for their growth and development (according to Hans Driesch (1867-1941)); or of a general life force like the elan vital of Henri Bergson (1859-1941), who rejected the kind of vitalism that postulated individual entelechies.

Compare with: reductionism
Also see: emergence theories, holism, CONCEPT OF HUMORALISM

Source:

E Sinnott, The Bridge of Life: From Matter to Spirit (New York, 1966);
H Driesch, The History and Theory of Vitalism (1914);
I L Finar, Organic Chemistry (London, 1973)

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Three Marks of Existence

Three marks of existence (Pali, ti-lakkhana; Sanskrit, tri-laksana) in Buddhism is the collective term for anicca, “impermanence,” dukkha, “suffering,” and anatta, “no-self.” Although each comprise a topic of meditation in its own right conceptually they are interrelated: there is “no-self” because there is “impermanence,” and because there is “impermanence” there is “suffering.” The reflection upon dukkha serves to dispel the illusions about the world and of life. A.G.H.

Source:

Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 973

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Number as Archetype

Carl Jung
Kurt GodelBy Robin Robertson

Excerpts:

  • … Because human beings are capable of counting (“one, two, three…”), we imagine that is how numbers were arrived at.
  • … The story seems to demonstrate that a crow (or at least the crow in the story) has a sense of “one”, “two”, “three”, and “many”.
  • … In brief, one corresponds to a stage of non-differentiation; two—polarity or opposition; three—movement toward resolution, as expressed, e.g., in the Christian trinity.

Carl JUngThis paper has been adapted from the final chapter of Jungian Archetypes: Jung, Godel and the History of Archetypes, Nicolas-Hay, 1996, with the permission of Nicolas-Hay. Copyright Nicolas-Hay Publishers.

The sequence of natural numbers turns out to be unexpectedly more than a mere stringing together of identical units: it contains the whole of mathematics and everything yet to be discovered in this field. — Carl Jung[1]

It has turned out that (under the assumption that modern mathematics is consistent) the solution of certain arithmetical problems requires the use of assumptions essentially transcending arithmetic; i.e., the domain of the kind of elementary indisputable evidence that may be most fittingly compared with sense perception. — Kurt Godel[2]

 

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Charles Sanders Peirce

Excerpt on Deduction, Induction, and Abduction

The most important extension Peirce made of his earliest views on deduction, induction, and abduction involved was to integrate the three argument forms into his view of the scientific method. As so integrated, deduction, induction, and abduction are not simply argument forms any more: they are phases of scientific methodology, as Peirce conceived this methodology. In fact, in Peirce’s most mature philosophy he virtually (perhaps totally and literally) equates the trichotomy with the three phases he discerns in the scientific method.

Scientific method begins with abduction: a conjecture or hypothesis about what actually is going on. Then, by means of deductive inference, conclusions are drawn from the hypothesis about other things that must obtain if the hypothesis is assumed to be true. These other things, it is hoped, can be experimentally tested-for. Finally, hypothesis-testing is performed by seeking experimentally to detect something that has been deduced to obtain from the hypothesis. The entire procedure of hypothesis-testing, and not merely that part of it that consists of arguing from sample to population, is called induction in Peirce’s later philosophy.

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Ethics

The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. Philosophers today usually divide ethical theories into three general subject areas: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.

Metaethics investigates where our ethical principles come from, and what they mean. Are they merely social inventions? Do they involve more than expressions of our individual emotions? Metaethical answers to these questions focus on the issues of universal truths, the will of God, the role of reason in ethical judgments, and the meaning of ethical terms themselves.

Normative ethics takes on a more practical task, which is to arrive at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct. This may involve articulating the good habits that we should acquire, the duties that we should follow, or the consequences of our behavior on others.

Finally, applied ethics involves examining specific controversial issues, such as abortion, infanticide, animal rights, environmental concerns, homosexuality, capital punishment, or nuclear war.

 

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The Three Primary Virtues

The Three Primary Virtues
By Brian Tracy

Adam Smith, in his important book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, wrote
that excellent people have three primary virtues: prudence, justice, and
benevolence, in that order. Each of them is essential to the others and
to the living of a full life in society.

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