Monday, April 24, 2017

Post Hoc

These Latin tags are addictive, you know. Or, maybe, it is that 'Look how learned he is' looks that I got the last time. Ah! There were sizable component of 'Is it really this moron talking?' mixed in but still...

So, here I come with what is referred to as the 'post hoc' fallacy. 'Post hoc ergo propter hoc', I say knowledgeably, and you all nod in appreciation. Ah! Not appreciation but incomprehension, was it? Well, the phrase says, "Afterwards, therefore because of", that's all. In other words, if you think that just because one incident happened before another incident the second incident was caused by the first incident, you are falling into this fallacy. Unless, of course, it is true.

Well, like you switch on the fan and the fan starts rotating, you are right in assuming 'post hoc ergo propter hoc' - it IS your putting the switch on that caused the fan to rotate. But if you switch off the fan, and the entire area blacks out, can you assume that your putting the switch off CAUSED the black-out? IF you do, THEN you are committing the post hoc fallacy in logical thinking.

Almost all superstition rests on this fallacy. It is Friday the 13th and I stubbed my toe, so it is BECAUSE it is Friday the 13th that I stubbed my toe. Like Friday the 13th has been declared the "Stub my toe' day. He sneezed in the morning when I left for office, and my manager rejected my leave application. So, it is his sneezing in the morning that sent some vibrations over to my manager and disturbed his mind. Chaos theory never works as nimbly as when it comes to personal life and its superstitions.

Add to the mix that thing I discussed earlier in this blog - Confirmation bias (I really must find a Latin tag for this) - and these things get cemented in place. Any day something good happens when the other chap sneezes is forgotten - you do not even bother to think back if he sneezed if something good happens - and every day when something bad happens gets added to the evidence and written in stone. And, of course, when something bad happens and he had not sneezed in the morning, it must only be because he sneakily sneezed silently! So, post hoc IS ergo propter hoc, even if the entire world opposes your conclusion.

Well, sometimes post hoc IS ergo propter hoc, but not as clear to all as the switch-fan combo. AND if you want to tell others that it is so, you should not overstate your case. Like saying, when your favorite party is in government, that everything from the monsoons to the success of Rajnikant's movie is because of that. AND when the party that has earned your antipathy rules, anything from the Indian cricket team's losses to your pet dog's illness is because of that. In all that wide list, SOME things would well be 'post hoc ONLY ergo propter hoc' but a lot of it is likely to be fallacy. If you attribute everything then you become like that chap who cried 'Wolf'. No-one believes you about the wolf, even when you can show the place where a chunk of flesh was bitten off your bottom.

But that has never stopped anyone, has it? People still do it even if it is like saying that the chap standing behind me in a queue is my son (After me, therefore because of me?) AND get furious when they are not believed.

If someone changes after reading this, miracle though it may be, would it still be a fallacy to say 'post hoc ergo propter hoc'?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Random queries

People are so unjust. I, too, am a curious chap and have a lot of doubts about the world around me. If I do not make a nuisance of myself asking people to clarify my doubts, and thereby proving that I am observant and analytical, it is merely because people have this unnatural habit of braying laughter when I ask my most serious queries.

Take this for example. I have never really understood why girls pose in photographs as though someone had yanked the straw out of their mouths just as they were about to suck on their soft drinks. And most times it is not even like it is a soft drink advertisement where I could assume that they are supposed to look angry at being deprived of their favorite drink. I seek clarification on this. The women 'unfriend' me and the men share the post with a 'Can you believe this moron?' Come now, is it fair? Others ask questions and you praise them for raising important issues. When I do...

But then I had not understood this interest in photographing oneself. I mean, even in the past, people used to go to great lengths - tying strings to pull and click themselves, setting timers and running like a hare to position themselves in front of the camera, and what not. So, yes, when the 'selfie' thing came around, making it easy to click oneself, I sort of got why it became so popular. What I never did get is WHY human beings so loved clicking themselves? I mean, the professional photographer would do a better job than you, so why did you so want to click yourself? I raise this query on this important facet of human psychology and all I get is, "Of course you would not know. YOU would dread looking into the mirror, so why would you want photographs of yourself?" Ah! Shades of Narcissus!

Maybe the only way I would learn about the deep meaning of all this would be if I started doing it myself. If you cannot learn from others, you perforce have to learn from experience.

I hold my phone at arm's length and purse my lips as though I was about to suck on a straw. I look at the image on my phone...

You guys thank your lucky stars that I dropped my phone and screamed in fear...before the pic was clicked!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Non Sequitur

There was this time when using Latin tags was the heights of sophistication. So, you would die rather than use 'Therefore', when you could use 'Ergo' and so on. Actually, though, I am mistaken in saying 'was' there - it is still widely prevalent.

Latin tags are a great help in developing jargon. You respect an economist for saying, 'Ceteris paribus' and look down on that stupid wannabe who blabbers, "Other things being the same". As for the philosophical debate, you can scream 'ad hominem' and blame the other guy for bringing in personalities into an intellectual debate. If, on the other hand, you merely said, 'You should discuss the point, not call me names', then you are merely whinging.

Naturally, I was very fond of this phrase - 'Non Sequitur'. It has such wide application, considering how many types of logical fallacies it covers and how prevalent it is in real life. The problem, though, is that you will find it easier explaining Einstein's theory of relativity than why what someone is saying is a 'Non Sequitur'.

It is seemingly simple. All that 'Non Sequitur' means is that there is no logical connectivity between two statements though the chap who was propounding them thinks there is.

Take this - 'Yesterday, he gave me an apple and his name was Rajesh. Now, you gave me an apple, so your name must be Rajesh." Do you think that the second statement follows from the first, logically? That is a non sequitur (of a specific variety called 'affirming the consequent', though that is not really important to this discussion).

Easy-peasy? So you do not see why I find it difficult to explain when something is a non sequitur? Well, how about this one - "A baniya cheated my grandfather. You are a baniya, so you will cheat me". Easy to prove the non sequitur? Not really is it? And even tougher when this whole damn lot gets bundled into "All baniyas are cheats".

Ah! Well! Racism/Casteism is difficult to argue against. It should be easier in other circumstances, obviously. So, let us see.

"Fanatic Hindus think all science has been developed by our ancients. So, anyone who proposes to study our history for ancient science is a fanatic Hindu"

Absolutely logical? Why am I even proposing this as a non sequitur? Quite. Saying that there may be SOME useful science in all those eons of civilization is not the same as saying all science was developed by our ancestors? Mere hair-splitting, of course.

Or, perhaps, this

"Pakistan raises issues about Indian Government's treatment of Kashmiris. Anyone who raises any issues about Indian Government's treatment of Kashmiris is pro-Pakistani"

Quite. I mean, my enemy WILL try to see fault in everything I do, so anyone who points out any fault in whatever I do is obviously an enemy. How can it be a non sequitur? A good friend would point out your flaws so that you can improve? such chap will ever be my friend!

And that accounts for why I found that this term was fairly useless in elevating me as an intellectual in the eyes of my audience. I could not find one single place where I could use it to others' satisfaction!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Straw Men

We, humans, apparently love to give names that are in diametric opposition to the nature of what is being named. Like 'Little John' for someone who towers so high that you need a phone to speak with him even when you are...err...face-to-face, if the phrase may be used even when the two faces are separated by a meter of height. Like 'Common Sense' for the one thing that is so uncommon that people generally react surprised and hurt if they find it in what someone says to them.

So, it is no wonder that everyone speaks of logic, assumes that he is behaving, thinking and speaking logically...and the list of logical fallacies is longer than almost any laundry list you can think of. In fact, it is quite likely that if we blanked out all that is illogical in what is spoken in the world, the world may well be so silent that one would be justified in thinking that it is populated by deaf-mutes.

This straw man thing, though, which we seem to have carried into urban areas in a sort of nostalgia for the rural scarecrows, is so widely prevalent that its absence can single-handedly mute almost every single verbal bully in your vicinity. There is no such mute button, alas, and so...

"This demonetization policy could have been better implemented."
"You are an anti-national supporting the criminals and the corrupt."

Ah! You are not even questioning the impact of the policy, only questioning the implementation so how does it tell the other guy that you are opposing the policy in order to let criminals and the corrupt go scot-free? This sort of thing is a typical use of the 'Straw Man'. You avoid discussing the issue of implementation by distorting the comment and arguing against that distortion rather than the original comment.

"Shut down all illegal abattoirs"
"I am Hindu but I should be free to eat what I want"

Of course, except if you want to turn cannibal. But, pray, why is shutting down illegal slaughterhouses an impediment to your eating habits? Question the implementation if the implementation is spreading beyond the 'illegal' but what in THIS order itself makes it seem like it is against your eating habits? To claim limitation of freedom WHERE it is being limited is logical. To claim it where it is NOT is a Straw Man.

Straw men, though, practically outnumber real men and women in the world. You can hardly wish someone 'Good Morning' without someone getting on your case - "Why do you want only the morning to be good?" You cannot warn someone about even a fire hazard without someone else spouting, "So what? Would you want humanity to go back to hanging from trees and being afraid of fire?" My nightmares are full of countries where Straw Men march up and down, vote in people to power, set the rules by which we need to live.

And I wake up and find that...maybe I am not just dreaming after all.