View Full Version : Long Chain Arguments

03-09-2006, 03:26 AM
"Long chain arguments are not worth considering" according to a man I was talking to the other day. The idea is that there is a significant chance of error in each of the propositions making up a long chain which argues to some end, thus the odds of a correct conclusion are minimal. It sounds reasonable, kind of. If it turns out to be true, it would be handy at parties for shutting up bores. It agrees with Occam's idea that simpler explanations should be preferred. I'd be interested in your opinions, gentlemen, and ladies, and in particular, is such a proposition provable?

03-09-2006, 04:40 AM
you meen like Hillery Clintons dealing in cattle futures starting with an investment of $1000 (which they never produced the check to show she actually invested the grand) and never before having traded in cattle futures made just under 100,000$ in a series of trades I belive in which she never made a single losing trade. the number 14 trillion to one bubble in the back of my mind as what some one calcularted the offs of that taking place. well shucks it happens all the time <G>

actually mathamaticlly if two events have to happen in secuence for the outcome to happen and both events are 50/50 then your chances of the predicted outcome are 1/8th because if the events happened the other way around it wouldn't work
then if you have three events all 50/50 the chance falls to either 1/64th , 1/72nd or 1/512th

on the other hand have you seen the movie "europia europia" the story of a german jew about 10 in 1938 when crystal night took place who'sfamily moved to poland, wno managed to get to the russan zone of ocupation axceped into the young comunists schooling. then when germany invaded russa in 41 he does a service for the german army reading the identy papers of stallens son and joins that army. latter in trying to defect to the red army he ends up helping the germans win a battle and the CO decided to send him home to germany so he can complete school. he is part of the hitler youth. a racial eduicater uses him as an example of racial purity and while deciding he is not aryian of the highest cast marks him as an ayrian of a general cast. a fellow hitler youth girl wants him to father a child to give to the goverment to raise. a question about his papers is riased but the town of his birth is now beyond russan lines. he is sumoned by the gestapo because of the unsure paperwork andjust before he gets there the americans bomb the gestapo headquarters and the mater does not come up again. twice he is recognised as jewish once by an amorous german solger once by the mother of the girl he had to refuse to sleep with. and neither turned him in. then in the last days the hitler youth are armed and sent out to fight. this time when he tries he does defect and the russans nearly kill him for being a traitor when he tells him he had been a member of the red bergade before being captured in 41 ( the russans where brainwashed into beliving any one captured was a traitor to the motherland and almost all of the russan POWs liberatorated at the end of the war were sent to soviet prison camps) and he life is saved when amoung the solgers of the company he had defected too( managing not to get shot by his fellow germans when he defected was a chancy thing in its self) but in that company was his older brother. the only other member of his family to survive the war and his brother not only recognised him, not having seen him since 39 but had enough influance to keep him from being arrested as a traitor.

this jewish fellow had how many close calls? and yet survived and I doubt their was another as lucky

long shots can happen but you can't count on them

03-09-2006, 04:57 AM
Shamus, while I respect William of Occam's principle I don't necessarily think that the simplest solution is always the best.It might be the easiest to get across in a 30 second TV doorstop but the world is complex.If simplicity is pushed ....ask why.The truth is usually somewhat more convoluted.

Ask Honest John,our own Lying Rodent :(

03-09-2006, 07:41 AM
Eschew obfuscation.

cedar savage
03-09-2006, 07:48 AM
"Long chain arguments are not worth considering"Arguments are only possible when the facts aren't known or aren't accepted by one of the parties. If the facts are known there should be no argument.

If a long chain argument requires multiple factless propositions then the argument can never end. Therefore, not worth arguing. They are however, worth considering. If only to consider whether you would get some pleasure out of participating in an endless argument.

03-09-2006, 07:57 AM
when Andrew Wiles of Princeton University first released his proof for Fermat’s Theorem it was 200 pages long and as more flaws were discovered, Wiles withdrew his proof , saying it was incorrect

Wiles then realized a much simpler proof which is now generally accepted

[ 03-09-2006, 07:59 AM: Message edited by: popeye ]

Ian McColgin
03-09-2006, 08:33 AM
I disagree with cedar savage that: "Arguments are only possible when the facts aren't known or aren't accepted by one of the parties. If the facts are known there should be no argument." (posted 03-09-2006 07:48 AM)

I also do not see how lessons learned from mathematical arguments, especially formal logic proofs in an axiomatic-deductive system, can be uncritically applied to arguments about human choices pursuing the good, the true and the beautiful.

Matters of human choice are not just about facts. Other dimensions of choice include formal and informal value systems, how we reason or otherwise manipulate the fact and value pieces, and how we resolve conflicts between values.

A good example might be a police officer's use of deadly force in stopping a suspect.

Included in what may be a lightening fast reflex made better, one hopes, by lots of training to bring all this stuff out are:

How likely is it that the suspect can be stopped without killing?

How dangerous is the suspect? Armed?

What are the consequences if the suspect escapes?

These aspects feed through the conflicting values. Police, unlike military personnel, are expected to contain or capture a threat, not kill it. So there's a high value on not killing a suspect except as a last resort to the suspect posing an immanent deadly threat, a value conflict between safety and capture.

The reasoning process in really fast, hard to notice, but is based on training and simulation mainly to get the observations and reactions to line up in the formal box of the department's policy answer for meeting the conditions of deadly force.

If the policy is really clear and agreed upon, then it's only factual distinctions that lead to whether or not deadly force was proper.

But take an example of the Boston coed (a journalism major from Emerson) who was killed by a pepper ball in the eye.

Were the kids celebrating really a dangerous unruly mob that required an armed response?

More to the point, how is it that a senior police officer made the first mistake of an unseasoned soldier and fired high, thereby turning a generally sub-lethal crowd control weapon into an instrument of death?

As we pull this incident apart, we find a widening pool of factual problems in a deepening pit of value confusion.

Back to long-chain arguments. Nothing in Occam's rather abused and dulled by time razor forces logical brevity for brevity's sake. We all know - take unpacking an auto accident - that a chain of events may be anything but simple. People who a priori dismiss all long-chain arguments without pointing out a value or factual problem in the individual argument at hand are not actually interested in truth. They are just too lazy to test their own prejudices.

03-09-2006, 08:47 AM
I also do not see how lessons learned from mathematical arguments, especially formal logic proofs in an axiomatic-deductive system, can be uncritically applied to arguments about human choices pursuing the good, the true and the beautiful. “Everything at all that can be the object of scientific thinking falls under the axiomatic method, and thereby indirectly under mathematics, when it becomes mature enough to form into theory.”

-- David Hilbert

[ 03-09-2006, 08:47 AM: Message edited by: popeye ]

Ian McColgin
03-09-2006, 09:08 AM
Hilbert's dictum about axiomatic method places him firmly in the tradition of Continental Rationalism, really an idealism, stretching back through Hegel to Kant. Hilbert and Einstein had some interesting correspondence on just this point after General Relativity was published.

For those without a math and science background, one way to demystify the interesting interplay of mathematized logic and physical reality would be to read "Einstein's Heroes: Imagining the World through the Language of Mathematics" by Robyn Arianrhod.

cedar savage
03-09-2006, 09:25 AM
As we pull this incident apart, we find a widening pool of factual problems in a deepening pit of value confusion.
This is where we differ on the "value" of fact. You see some need to "pull this incident apart" and turn the incident in a long-chain argument. I see only a need to ask a single question of fact to the superior officer: "Did the students ignore a lawful order to disperse?" The officer says "Yes". Sh!t happens to people who ignore lawful orders from police officers. Case closed.

03-09-2006, 09:37 AM
(also he is best known for 'Hilbert Space' or Nth dimensional space, a concept in quantum mechanics)

Ian McColgin
03-09-2006, 09:44 AM
We certainly do differ here. Our nation's history is repleat with so many instances of people disobeying "lawful" orders for everything from political or religious motives to pure and simple excess of exuberance.

Fact questions abound in these instances, including what "lawful" order? Could it have been heard?

Value questions also abound, expecially: Should the death penalty be the consequence of simple disobediance?

Just as a close study of science teaches that there's nothing so misunderstood as the notion of "a simple fact," so also even in science our values and our very existence are in some way part of both questions and answers.

But let me take another metaphore of the interplay of facts and values: How did Beckman get to be such a wonderful player? And why is he wonderful?

We have the formal values of the game rules, including how goals are scored.

We have the prior or conditioning facts in Beckman's experience, skill and grace.

We have the moment of play, including facts apparant to Beckman, others perhaps intuited by Beckman, and perhaps some "facts" that Beckman precieves just plain wrongly.

And in this moment we have a kick and a bending trajectory . . . .

You look at the greatest athletes and you'll see a synthesis of organizing facts and values to articulate the good, the true and the beautiful in one instant.

cedar savage
03-09-2006, 10:24 AM
Who's Beckman?

Ian McColgin
03-09-2006, 10:37 AM
Perhaps the not-so-metrosexual third cousin to Beckham?

03-09-2006, 10:40 AM
married posh spice

[ 03-09-2006, 11:59 AM: Message edited by: popeye ]

03-09-2006, 02:36 PM
Good, I'm learning:

If we assign some numbers:

wooden boats are beautiful: 0.8 true

you can't get the materials any more 0.6 true

people don't know how to build them now 0.5 true

therefore they should be preserved = .8x.6x.5=.24 true

Or should we reserve "true" for 100% repeatable observations? Is this what science is meant to attempt?

Bruce Hooke
03-09-2006, 03:24 PM
Thank you Ian! Well said.

I would just add that as I recall, the journalism major from Emerson was not even taking part in the "celebration" -- she was just walking through the area. To suggest that it was OK for her to be killed because others nearby failed to disperse is about on a par with suggesting that life imprisonment is a suitable punishment for jaywalking.

It is very tempting to try to reduce everything to simple, yes-or-no questions because it eliminates the need to think deeply about the issue at hand. Sadly this sort of thinking often leads to faulty conclusions because critical facts are not considered.

George Roberts
03-09-2006, 08:15 PM
shamus ---

Godel made an interesting proof in the 1920's. He showed that there are 4 possible results to a logical question:

(1) True,

(2) False,

(3) True and False, and

(4) neither True not False.

All logic systems must allow one or both of (3) and (4).

Formal (hard science) systems that allow (1), (2), and (4) are popular now.

Informal (debate and soft science) systems allow (1), (2), (3), and (4). We can all be right. None of us cn be right.

cedar savage
03-09-2006, 08:23 PM
Sadly this sort of thinking often leads to faulty conclusions because critical facts are not considered. You see what I mean about having the facts equals no argument? I stand corrected and I shouldn't have responded to that particular example without more research.

[ 03-09-2006, 08:23 PM: Message edited by: cedar savage ]

03-09-2006, 10:46 PM
Originally posted by Mrleft8:
Eschew obfuscation.And if it's really tough, eschew harder... ;)

03-10-2006, 08:18 AM
Originally posted by Ian McColgin:
How did Beckman get to be such a wonderful player?

By watching Ronaldo, of course...