American Culture

# Wherein I “prove” logic can be fun, for me at least.

Welcome to Day 1 of Logic 101. Don’t worry. It’s a one-day class. Actually, the “class” is only as long as it takes you to read this post. Homework may take anywhere from 0 seconds to a lifetime, depending on one’s tolerance for such exercises.

For my working definitions, I will mostly rely on Introduction to Logic by Harry Gensler with an assist from Fundamentals of Logic.

According to Rev. Gensler, “logic can be defined as the analysis and appraisal of arguments.” That’s exactly what we’re going to practice here in short order. Don’t worry. There’s no testing for a grade, but you are encouraged to submit your brief analysis in the comments. Ready? Here we go.

Arguments are sets of statements comprising premises and a conclusion. Premises are essentially the evidence you present in support of your conclusion.

Example:

I’m in Montana.
Montana is in the U.S.
.’. I’m in the U.S. (.’. means “therefore”)

Simple, no?

An argument is considered valid if the conclusion has to be true if all the premises are true. That doesn’t mean that the premises are necessarily actually true. It just means that if they were, then the conclusion would have to be the result and nothing else could be true instead.

All moons are made of green cheese.
Our planet has a moon.
.’. The moon we see in the sky is made of green cheese.

From what we actually know of moons, we know that none of the moons of which we are aware are made of green cheese, so we know that first premise is false. Even so, if it were true, then logically the conclusion would have to be true…the moon we see in the sky would have to be made of green cheese since our planet has a moon and that’s the moon we see in the sky. As ridiculous as it is, this is a valid argument.

What we really want when we craft an argument to make our case is what’s called a sound argument. A sound argument is a valid argument in which all the premises are actually true. My first example is also a sound argument as I actually happen to be in Montana, Montana is actually in the U.S, and, as of this writing, Montana could be in no other country or be a country of its own.

Easy peasy.

One of the most fun things about arguments is encountering one posed by someone else and trying to tear it to shreds. Some of us are just ornery like that. Don’t worry. It’s all in good fun. When you’re trying to rip someone’s argument to pieces, what you’re trying to do is show that it is not sound. There’s two ways to show that an argument is not sound. You can either demonstrate that at least one of the premises is false, or you can show that the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises.

The air we breathe is made of flatulent flamingos.
I am breathing air.
.’. I am breathing flatulent flamingos.

I think it’s safe to say that first premise is as false as can be. The structure of the argument is valid enough, but since it has a false premise my argument is not sound. Does that mean that whoever is being a jerk and rebutting my argument has disproved my conclusion? No. My conclusion may still be true. It might just be that I have a really cruddy argument for it. Good luck proving I’m not. I might claim that they’re special flatulent flamingos, detectable only to the enlightened.

What if the premises are true, but they don’t necessarily have a damned thing to do with the conclusion, much less prove it, even when the conclusion is true?

Humans eat food.
Food may be yummy.
.’. The human body is covered in skin.

“Well, damn, Frank,” you may be thinking. “Now you’re just getting weird.” Doesn’t matter. The conclusion is a true statement, but I picked just about the dumbest argument in the world to make it. Pointing out that my argument isn’t sound at all, even a little, doesn’t make your skin vanish in a puff of falsehood. It just means I’m dumb and need to go back to the drawing board. I might still come up with an argument with the same true conclusion, but with true premises that necessarily result in that conclusion.

But what do you do when faced with a challenge like this?

I’m putting food in my mouth, chewing, and swallowing.
That is called eating.
.’. I’m eating potato chips.

That conclusion could very well be true. But is it necessarily true? For all you know, I’m eating steak. Or ice cream. Or a fish sandwich. Or…

Those other entirely possible things are called counterexamples. If you can supply even a single counterexample, you demonstrate that the argument is not valid. If you demonstrate that the argument is not valid, you simultaneously show that it is not sound.

Don’t just take my word for it. From Fundamentals of Logic:

Thus, to tell whether or not an argument is valid, we try to conceive or imagine a possible situation in which its premises are true and conclusion is untrue. If we succeed (i.e., if we can describe a counterexample), the argument is invalid. If we fail, then either we have not been imaginative enough or the argument is valid. We appeal to counterexamples almost unconsciously in everyday life.

Consider this mundane argument:

They said on the radio that it’s going to be a beautiful day today.
So, It is going to be beautiful today.

One natural (albeit cynical) reply is, “they could be wrong.” This reply demonstrates the invalidity of the argument by describing a counterexample – that is, a possible situation in which the conclusion (‘It’s going to be a beautiful day today’) is untrue even though the premise (‘They said so on the radio’) is true: namely the situation in which the forecasters are simply wrong.

There is a downside to all of this. To “win” an argument, it’s not enough to show that premises are false or that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. You must propose a sound argument of your own that has a conclusion that completely excludes the possibility of the conclusion you are trying to disprove.

Got all that? Good.

For our “try this at home” exercise, we’re going to use an article I found about Jade Helm 15. Haven’t heard of it? Google it. It’s glorious.

Just in case you’re running out of time or patience, I have summarized the premises as presented in the article, well, as well as I could. And I have summarized the various conclusions that are posed based on those premises.

Premises:

• Walmart is closing stores “because of plumbing”
• Containers are being used to block rear entrance of Walmart in Brandon, FL
• Parking lot of Walmart in Roxboro, NC has new grate/asphalt installed
• Many shipping containers were just recently dropped off at Walmart in Roxboro, NC
• Peco Rivera Walmart closed, some believe for “suspicious reasons”
• Peco Rivera Walmart did not apply to county for permits
• Peco Rivera Walmart has covered windows with black tarp
• Peco Rivera Walmart “surrounded by cops”
• Cops not needed to defend plumbers
• Pharmacy at Peco Rivera is still open, but a wall has been erected that blocks view of the rest of the store
• Las Vegas Walmart tearing up floor, replacing with thick cement floors
• Las Vegas Walmart remains open while shelves are being cleared
• Las Vegas Walmart does not appear to be receiving continued “just in time” deliveries
• Las Vegas Walmart walls appear to be stripped of advertising and signs
• Las Vegas Walmart has had main outdoor electric sign removed
• Las Vegas Walmart has cameras all along roof area of store
• One “analyst” of video evidence claims that above noted container placement, tarps, and walls are not just evidence of closures, but of closures atypical of their experience of such closures
• Same “analyst” claims that when they have observed similar levels of concealment and secrecy, the intent is normally “quite evil in its manifestations.”
• Same “analyst” has observed many store closures but never with so many cops
• Jade Helm is contracting with local law enforcement to provide security and maintain secrecy
There’s an ISIS camp eight miles from El Paso according to Judicial Watch (completely unsubstantiated claim)
• Same “analyst” claims to have received anonymous letter from Texas Ranger “confirming” that local authorities are bracing for an ISIS incursion
• There are surface to air missiles 45 miles southeast of Lubbock, TX (probably debunked, probably dummies)
• Scott Bennett of Special Operations Forces claims that US government sponsors ISIS (note: a thoroughly compromised source of any “intelligence,” thus demanding extra scrutiny, see here and here
• Someone named Allen Hall claims that an anonymous source “in government” claims that ISIS is part of DHS/CIA
• Similar suspicions held by many in Iraq/Iran as per this and by Russian propaganda outlet RT , among others.
• These claims revealed in Snowden leak. Pants on fire according to Politifact
• One James Miles claims that he has previous experience with similar training exercises and that, based on his experience, since the military is taking over and closing Walmarts, this might actually be the establishment of “command centers.”

Conclusions:

• If Peco Rivera Walmart surrounded by cops and cops are not needed to defend plumbers, cops are there for nefarious reasons
• If Las Vegas Walmart is tearing up flooring and replacing with thick cement flooring, it must be to support heavy military equipment
• If Las Vegas Walmart is open while clearing shelves and removing signs, it must be closing
• If containers are placed at rear of stores, they are used to fortify stores against incursions
• If stores are being fortified, large reinforced steel doors are to be expected
• If Jade Helm is contracting with local law enforcement, it must be because they would rouse fewer suspicions than would military personnel
• Walmart stores are being retrofitted for military purposes
• Texas is preparing for an invasion by “hostile forces and ISIS and their allies”
• Government is going to initiate a false-flag event as a pretense for martial law
• Based on the “evidence,” ISIS incursions will be huge

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to determine if:

a) The argument presented is valid
b) The argument presented is sound
c) If any counterexamples exist
d) If this is an argument that can be won.

Counterexamples (whoops, I cheated)

The Truth Behind Jade Helm 15

Extra credit exercise

Isn’t it just awesome that, based on such incredible reasoning, not only is the governor of Texas squandering hard-earned taxpayer dollars, but Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are looking into it. Because reasons.

Don’t worry, though. Former Texas Governor and presidential also-ran Rick Perry said it’s all on the up and up. We can trust the military, if not the government.

### 4 replies »

1. Dr. Denny Wilkins says:

You’ve just written a quiz for my opinion writing class this fall, Frank. Thanks.

2. Frank Balsinger says:

*strut* I’ve hit the big leagues!

3. otherwise says:

we laugh, but i have a nephew in law that is one of those “gun hoarding, paranoid, never been north of dallas, boot wearing” texas morons. I will absolutely guarantee you that this fool is in the crawlspace under his house right now, burying saran wrapped boxes of ammo.

(Of course, because he’s too fucking stupid to understand how cookies work, he doenst realize that because of all those wingnut websites he hangs out on, the government will come for him first.)

finally, not too long ago i heard a welsh cook in the caribbean explain how the world will be taken over by the chinese, because all chinese restaurants are part of a conspiracy to establish footholds around the world. easy to bring in troops and hide them as dishwashers, easy to import weaponry, etc, etc. and before we laugh too hard, remember that once upon a time the mafia did use italian restaurants to distribute heroin, so it’s not completely crazy. at any rate, my point is why are these Texas fuckwits planning to defend themselves from restaurants instead of walmarts? or maybe the chinese are too clever for them, making them fat so tehy die on thier own?