Principale Logic Made Easy: How to Know When Language Deceives You
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LOGIC MADE EASY A L S O BY D E B O R A H J . Randomness BENNETT LOGIC MADE EASY How to Know When Language Deceives You DEBORAH W • W • NORTON & COMPANY J.BENNETT I ^ I N E W YORK LONDON Copyright © 2004 by Deborah J. Bennett All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America First Edition For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, WW Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110 Manufacturing by The Haddon Craftsmen, Inc. Book design by Margaret M.Wagner Production manager: Julia Druskin Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Bennett, Deborah J., 1950Logic made easy : how to know when language deceives you / Deborah J. Bennett.— 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-393-05748-8 1. Reasoning. 2. Language and logic. I.Title. BC177 .B42 2004 160—dc22 2003026910 WW Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10110 www. wwnor ton. com WW Norton & Company Ltd., Castle House, 75/76Wells Street, LondonWlT 3QT 1234567890 CONTENTS INTRODUCTION: LOGIC IS RARE I1 The mistakes we make l 3 Logic should be everywhere 1 8 How history can help 19 1 PROOF 29 Consistency is all I ask 29 Proof by contradiction 33 Disproof 3 6 I ALL 40 All S are P 42 Vice Versa 42 Familiarity—help or hindrance? 41 Clarity or brevity? 50 7 8 CONTENTS 3 A NOT TANGLES EVERYTHING UP 53 The trouble with not 54 Scope of the negative 5 8 A and E propositions s 9 When no means yes—the "negative pregnant" and double negative 61 k SOME Is PART OR ALL OF ALL 64 Some is existential 6 s Some are; some are not 68 A, E, I, andO JO 5 SYLLOGISMS 73 Sorites, or heap 8s Atmosphere of the "sillygism" 8 8 Knowledge interferes with logic 89 Truth interferes with logic 90 Terminology made simple 91 6 WHEN THINGS ARE IFFY 96 The converse of the conditional Causation 10 8 112 The contrapositive conditional US 7 SYLLOGISMS INVOLVING IF, AND, AND OR Disjunc; tion, an "or" statement Conjunction, an "and" statement Hypothetical syllogisms 124 118 119 121 CONTENTS 9 Common fallacies 130 Diagramming conditional syllogisms 8 SERIES SYLLOGISMS 134 137 9 SYMBOLS THAT EXPRESS OUR THOUGHTS 145 Leibniz's dream comes true: Boolean logic 15 J 10 LOGIC MACHINES AND TRUTH TABLES 160 Reasoning machines 160 Truth tables 16 s True, false, and maybe 1 68 11 FUZZY LOGIC, FALLACIES, AND PARADOXES Shaggy logic 1J3 Fallacies 177 Paradoxes 1 8 J M COMMON LOGIC AND LANGUAGE 13 THINKING WELL—TOGETHER Theories of reasoning NOTES 219 REFERENCES 233 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS INDEX 24s 243 210 192 202 173 INTRODUCTION: LOGIC IS RARE Crime is common. Logic is rare. SHERLOCK HOLMES in The Adventure of the Copper Beeches Logic Made Easy is a book for anyone who believes that logic is rare. It is a book for those who think they are logical and wonder why others aren't. It is a book for anyone who is curious about why logical thinking doesn't come "naturally." It is a book for anyone who wants to be more logical. There are many fine books on the rules of logic and the history of logic, but here you will read the story of the barriers we face in trying to communicate logically with one another. It may surprise you to learn that logical reasoning is difficult. How can this be? Aren't we all logical by virtue of being human? Humans are, after all, reasoning animals, perhaps the only animals capable of reason. From the time we are young children, we ask Why?, and if the answer doesn't make sense we are rarely satisfied. What does "make sense" mean anyway? Isn't "makes sense" another way of saying "is logical"? Children hold great stock in rules being applied fairly and rules that make sense. Adults, as well, hold each other to the standards of consistency required by logic. This book is for any- i2 I N T R O D U C T I O N : LOGIC I S R A R E one who thinks being logical is important. It is also for anyone who needs to be convinced that logic is important. To be considered illogical or inconsistent in our positions or behaviors is insulting to us. Most of us think of ourselves as being logical. Yet the evidence indicates something very different. It turns out that we are often not very logical. Believing ourselves to be logical is common, but logic itself is rare. This book is unlike other books on logic. Here you will learn why logical reasoning isn't so easy after all. If you think you are fairly logical, try some of the logic puzzles that others find tricky. Even if you don't fall into the trap of faulty reasoning yourself, this book will help you understand the ways in which others encounter trouble. If you are afraid that you are not as logical as you'd like to be, this book will help you see why that is. Hopefully, after reading this book you will be more logical, more aware of your language. There is an excellent chance that your thinking will be clearer and your ability to make your ideas clearer will be vastly improved. Perhaps most important, you will improve your capability to evaluate the thinking and arguments of others—a tool that is invaluable in almost any walk of life. We hear logical arguments every day, when colleagues or friends try to justify their thoughts or behaviors. On television, we listen to talking heads and government policy-makers argue to promote their positions. Virtually anyone who is listening to another argue a point must be able to assess what assumptions are made, follow the logic of the argument, and judge whether the argument and its conclusion are valid or fallacious. Assimilating information and making inferences is a basic component of the human thought process. We routinely make logical inferences in the course of ordinary conversation, reading, and listening. The concept that certain statements necessar- INTRODUCTION: LOGIC I S RARE 13 ily do or do not follow from certain other statements is at the core of our reasoning abilities. Yet, the rules of language and logic oftentimes seem at odds with our intuition. Many of the mistakes we make are caused by the ways we use language. Certain nuances of language and semantics get in the way of "correct thinking." This book is not an attempt to delve deeply into the study of semantics or cognitive psychology. There are other comprehensive scholarly works in those fields. Logic Made Easy is a down-to-earth story of logic and language and how and why we make mistakes in logic. In Chapter 2 , you will discover that philosophers borrowed from ideas of mathematical proof as they became concerned about mistakes in logic in their never-ending search for truth. In Chapters 3, 4 , and 5, as we begin to explore the language and vocabulary of logical statements—simple vocabulary like all, not, and some—you will find out (amazingly enough) that knowledge, familiarity, and truth can interfere with logic. But how can it be easier to be logical about material you know nothing about? Interwoven throughout the chapters of this book, we will learn what history has to offer by way of explanation of our difficulties in reasoning logically. Although rules for evaluating valid arguments have been around for over two thousand years, the common logical fallacies identified way back then remain all too common to this day. Seemingly simple statements continue to trip most people up. Hie Mistakes We Make While filling out important legal papers and income tax forms, individuals are required to comprehend and adhere to formally written exacting language—and to digest and understand the i4 INTRODUCTION: LOGIC I S RARE fine print, at least a little bit. Getting ready to face your income tax forms, you encounter the statement "All those who reside in New Jersey must fill out Form 203." You do not live in New Jersey. Do you have to fill out Form 203? Many individuals who consider themselves logical might answer no to this question. The correct answer is "We don't know—maybe, maybe not. There is not enough information." If the statement had read "Only those who reside in New Jersey must fill out Form 203" and you aren't a New Jersey resident, then you would be correct in answering no. Suppose the instructions had read "Only those who reside in New Jersey should fill out Form 203" and you are from New Jersey. Do you have to fill out Form 203? Again, the correct answer is "Not enough information. Maybe, maybe not ."While only New Jersey residents need to fill out the form, it is not necessarily true that all New Jersey-ites must complete it. Our interpretations of language are often inconsistent. The traffic information sign on the expressway reads "Delays until exit 26." My husband seems to speed up, saying that he can't wait to see if they are lying. When I inquire, he says that there should be no delays after exit 26. In other words, he interprets the sign to say "Delays until exit 26 and no delays thereafter." On another day, traffic is better. This time the sign reads "Traffic moving well to exit 26." When I ask him what he thinks will happen after exit 26, he says that there may be traffic or there may not. He believes the sign information is only current up to exit 26. Why does he interpret the language on the sign as a promise about what will happen beyond exit 26 on the one hand, and no promise at all on the other? Cognitive psychologists and teachers of logic have often observed that mistakes in inference and reasoning are not only extremely common but also nearly always of a particular kind. INTRODUCTION: LOGIC IS RARE IS Most of us make mistakes in reasoning; we make similar mistakes; and we make them over and over again. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing to this day, there began an explosion of research by cognitive psychologists trying to pin down exactly why these mistakes in reasoning occur so often. Experts in this area have their own journals and their own professional societies. Some of the work in this field is revealing and bears directly on when and why we make certain errors in logic. Various logical "tasks" have been devised by psychologists trying to understand the reasoning process and the source of our errors in reasoning. Researchers Peter C. Wason and Philip Johnson-Laird claim that one particular experiment has an almost hypnotic effect on some people who try it, adding that this experiment tempts the majority of subjects into an interesting and deceptively fallacious inference. The subject is shown four colored symbols: a blue diamond, a yellow diamond, a blue circle, and a yellow circle. (See Figure 1.) In one version of the problem, the experimenter gives the following instructions: I am thinking of one of those colors and one of those shapes. If a symbol has either the color I am thinking about, or the shape I am thinking about, or both, then I accept it, but otherwise I reject it. I accept the blue diamond. Does anything follow about my acceptance, or rejection, of the other symbols?1 OOoo Figure 1. "Blue diamond" experiment. i6 INTRODUCTION: LOGIC IS RAKE A mistaken inference characteristically made is to conclude that the yellow circle will be rejected. However, that can't be right. The blue diamond would be accepted if the experimenter were thinking of "blue and circle," in which case the yellow circle would not be rejected. In accepting the blue diamond, the experimenter has told us that he is thinking of (1) blue and diamond, (2) blue and circle, or (3) yellow and diamond, but we don't know which. Since he accepts all other symbols that have either the color or the shape he is thinking about (and otherwise rejects the symbol), in case 1 he accepts all blue shapes and any color diamond. (He rejects only the yellow circle.) In case 2 , he accepts all blue shapes and any color circle. (He rejects only the yellow diamond.) In case 3, he accepts any yellow shapes and any color diamonds. (He rejects only the blue circle.) Since we don't know which of the above three scenarios he is thinking of, we can't possibly know which of the other symbols will be rejected. (We do know, however, that one of them will be.) His acceptance of the blue diamond does not provide enough information for us to be certain about his acceptance or rejection of any of the other symbols. All we know is that two of the others will be accepted and one will be rejected. The only inference that we can make concerns what the experimenter is thinking—or rather, what he is not thinking. He is not thinking "yellow and circle."2 As a college professor, I often witness mistakes in logic. Frequently, I know exactly which questions as well as which wrong answers will tempt students into making errors in logical thinking. Like most teachers, I wonder, Is it me? Is it only my students? The answer is that it is not at all out of the ordinary to find even intelligent adults making mistakes in simple deductions. Several national examinations, such as the Praxis I™ (an examination for teaching professionals), the Graduate Records Examination (GRE®) test, the Graduate Management Admissions Test INTRODUCTION: LOGIC I S R A R E 17 (GMAT®), and the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT®), include logical reasoning or analytical questions. It is these types of questions that the examinees find the most difficult. A question from the national teachers' examination, given in 1992 by the Educational Testing Service (ETS®), is shown in Figure 2 . 3 Of the 25 questions on the mathematics portion of this examination, this question had the lowest percentage of correct responses. Only 11 percent of over 7,000 examinees could answer the question correctly, while the vast majority of the math questions had correct responses ranging from 32 percent to 89 percent.4 Ambiguity may be the source of some error here. The first two given statements mention education majors and the third given statement switches to a statement about mathematics students. But, most probably, those erring on this question were Given: 1. All education majors student teach. 2. Some education majors have double majors. 3. Some mathematics students are education majors. Which of the following conclusions necessarily follows from 1,2, and 3 above? A. Some mathematics students have double majors. B. Some of those with double majors student teach. C. All student teachers are education majors. D. All of those with double majors student teach. E. Not all mathematics students are education majors. Figure 2. A sample test question from the national teachers' examination, 1992. (Source: The Praxis Series: Professional Assessments for Beginning Teachers® NTE Core Battery Tests Practice and Review . Reprinted by permission of Educational Testing Service, the copyright owner.) is INTRODUCTION: LOGIC IS RARE seduced by the truth of conclusion C. It may be a true conclusion, but it does not necessarily follow from the given statements. The correct answer, B, logically follows from the first two given statements. Since all education majors student teach and some of that group of education majors have double majors, it follows that some with double majors student teach. For the past twenty-five years, the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) test given by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) consisted of three measures—verbal, quantitative, and analytical. The ETS indicated that the analytical measure tests our ability to understand relationships, deduce information from relationships, analyze and evaluate arguments, identify hypotheses, and draw sound inferences. The ETS stated, "Questions in the analytical section measure reasoning skills developed in virtually all fields of study."5 Logical and analytical sections comprise about half of the LSAT, the examination administered to prospective law school students. Examinees are expected to analyze arguments for hidden assumptions, fallacious reasoning, and appropriate conclusions. Yet, many prospective law students find this section to be extremely difficult. Logic Should Be Everywhere It is hard to imagine that inferences and deductions made in daily activity aren't based on logical reasoning. A doctor must reason from the symptoms at hand, as must the car mechanic. Police detectives and forensic specialists must process clues logically and reason from them. Computer users must be familiar with the logical rules that machines are designed to follow. Business decisions are based on a logical analysis of actualities and I N T R O D U C T I O N : LOGIC I S R A R E 19 contingencies. A juror must be able to weigh evidence and follow the logic of an attorney prosecuting or defending a case: If the defendant was at the movies at the time, then he couldn't have committed the crime. As a matter of fact, any problemsolving activity, or what educators today call critical thinking, involves pattern-seeking and conclusions arrived at through a logical path. Deductive thinking is vitally important in the sciences, with the rules of inference integral to forming and testing hypotheses. Whether performed by a human being or a computer, the procedures of logical steps, following one from another, assure that the conclusions follow validly from the data. The certainty that logic provides makes a major contribution to our discovery of truth. The great mathematician, Leonhard Euler (pronounced oiler) said that logic "is the foundation of the certainty of all the knowledge we acquire."6 Much of the history of the development of logic can shed light on why many of us make mistakes in reasoning. Examining the roots and evolution of logic helps us to understand why so many of us get tripped up so often by seemingly simple logical deductions. How History (an Help Douglas Hofstadter, author of Godel, Escher, and Bach, said that the study of logic began as an attempt to mechanize the thought processes of reasoning. Hofstadter pointed out that even the ancient Greeks knew "that reasoning is a patterned process, and is at least partially governed by statable laws."7 Indeed, the Greeks believed that deductive thought had patterns and quite possibly laws that could be articulated. 20 INTRODUCTION: LOGIC I S RARE Although certain types of discourse such as poetry and storytelling may not lend themselves to logical inquiry, discourse that requires proof is fertile ground for logical investigation. To prove a statement is to infer the statement validly from known or accepted truths, called premises. It is generally acknowledged that the earliest application of proof was demonstrated by the Greeks in mathematics—in particular, within the realm of geometry. While a system of formal deduction was being developed in geometry, philosophers began to try to apply similar rules to metaphysical argument. As the earliest figure associated with the logical argument, Plato was troubled by the arguments of the Sophists. The Sophists used deliberate confusion and verbal tricks in the course of a debate to win an argument. If you were uroop/iisricated, you might be fooled by their arguments.8 Aristotle, who is considered the inventor of logic, did not resort to the language tricks and ruses of the Sophists but, rather, attempted to systematically lay out rules that all might agree dealt exclusively with the correct usage of certain statements, called propositions. The vocabulary we use within the realm of logic is derived directly from Latin translations of the vocabulary that Aristotle used when he set down the rules of logical deduction through propositions. Many of these words have crept into our everyday language. Words such as universal and particular, premise and conclusion, contradictory and contrary are but a few of the terms first introduced by Aristotle that have entered into the vocabulary of all educated persons. Aristotle demonstrated how sentences could be joined together properly to form valid arguments. We examine these in Chapter 5. Other Greek schools, mainly the Stoics, also con- INTRODUCTION: LOGIC I S R A R E 21 tributed a system of logic and argument, which we discuss in Chapters 6 and 7. At one time, logic was considered one of the "seven liberal arts," along with grammar, rhetoric, music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. Commentators have pointed out that these subjects represented a course of learning deemed vital in the "proper preparation for the life of the ideal knight and as a necessary step to winning a fair lady of higher degree than the suitor."9 A sixteenth-century logician, Thomas Wilson, includes this verse in his book on logic, Rule of Reason, the first known English-language book on logic: Grammar doth teach to utter words. To speak both apt and plain, Logic by art sets forth the truth, And doth tell us what is vain. % Rhetoric at large paints well the cause, And makes that seem right gay, Which Logic spake but at a word, And taught as by the way. Music with tunes, delights the ear, And makes us think it heaven, Arithmetic by number can make Reckonings to be even. Geometry things thick and broad, Measures by Line and Square, Astronomy by stars doth tell, Of foul and else of fair.10 22 INTRODUCTION: LOGIC I S RARE Almost two thousand years after Aristotle's formulation of the rules of logic, Gottfried Leibniz dreamed that logic could become a universal language whereby controversies could be settled in the same exacting way that an ordinary algebra problem is worked out. In Chapter 9 you will find that alone among seventeenth-century philosophers and mathematicians, Leibniz (the co-inventor with Isaac Newton of what we today call calculus) had a vision of being able to create a universal language of logic and reasoning from which all truths and knowledge could be derived. By reducing logic to a symbolic system, he hoped that errors in thought could be detected as computational errors. Leibniz conceived of his system as a means of resolving conflicts among peoples—a tool for world peace. The world took little notice of Leibniz's vision until George Boole took up the project some two hundred years later. Bertrand Russell said that pure mathematics was discovered by George Boole, and historian E.T. Bell maintained that Boole was one of the most original mathematicians that England has produced.11 Born to the tradesman class of British society, George Boole knew from an early age that class-conscious snobbery would make it practically impossible for him to rise above his lowly shopkeeper station. Encouraged by his family, he taught himself Latin, Greek, and eventually moved on to the most advanced mathematics of his day. Even after he achieved some reputation in mathematics, he continued to support his parents by teaching elementary school until age 35 when Boole was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Queen's College in Cork, Ireland. Seven years later in 1854, Boole produced his most famous work, a book on logic entitled An Investigation of the Laws of Thought. Many authors have noted that "the laws of thought" is an extreme exaggeration—perhaps thought involves more than I N T R O D U C T I O N : LOGIC I S R A R E 23 logic. However, the title reflects the spirit of his intention to give logic the rigor and inevitability of laws such as those that algebra enjoyed.12 Boole's work is the origin of what is called Boolean logic, a system so simple that even a machine can employ its rules. Indeed, today in the age of the computer, many do. You will see in Chapter 10 how logicians attempted to create reasoning machines. Among the nineteenth-century popularizers of Boole's work in symbolic logic was Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who wrote under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll. He was fascinated by Boole's mechanized reasoning methods of symbolic logic and wrote logic puzzles that could be solved by those very methods. Carroll wrote a two-volume work called Symbolic Logic (only the first volume appeared in his lifetime) and dedicated it to the memory of Aristotle. It is said that Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, considered his book on logic the work of which he was most proud. In the Introduction of Symbolic Logic, Carroll describes, in glowing terms, what he sees as the benefits of studying the subject of logic. Once master the machinery of Symbolic Logic, and you have a mental occupation always at hand, of absorbing interest, and one that will be of real use to you in any subject you take up. It will give you clearness of thought—the ability to see your way through a puzzle—the habit of arranging your ideas in an orderly and get-at-able form— and, more valuable than all, the power to detect fallacies, and to tear to pieces the flimsy illogical arguments, which you will so continually encounter in books, in newspapers, in speeches, and even in sermons, and which so easily delude those who have never taken the trouble to master this fascinating Art. Try it. That is all I ask of you!13 24 INTRODUCTION: LOGIC I S RARE Carroll was clearly intrigued with Boole's symbolic logic and the facility it brought to bear in solving problems, structuring thoughts, and preventing the traps of illogic. The language of logic employs simple everyday words—words that we use all the time and presumably understand. The rules for combining these terms into statements that lead to valid inferences have been around for thousands of years. Are the rules of logic themselves logical? Why do we need rules? Isn't our ability to reason what makes us human animals? Even though we use logic all the time, it appears that we aren't very logical. Researchers have proposed various reasons as to the cause of error in deductive thinking. Some have suggested that individuals ignore available information, add information of their own, have trouble keeping track of information, or are unable to retrieve necessary information.14 Some have suggested that ordinary language differs from the language used by logicians, but others hypothesize that errors are due to our cognitive inability. Some have suggested that familiarity with the content of an argument enhances our ability to infer correctly, while others have suggested that it is familiarity that interferes with that ability.15 If the problem is not faulty reasoning, then what is it in the material that causes us to focus our attention on the wrong things? As we progress through the following chapters, we will examine the ways that we use (or misuse) language and logic in everyday life. What insight can we gain from examining the roots and evolution of logic? How can the psychologists enlighten us about the reasoning mistakes we commonly make? What can we do to avoid the pitfalls of illogic? Can understanding the rules of logic INTRODUCTION: LOGIC I S RARE 25 foster clear thinking? Perhaps at the journey's end, we will all be thinking more logically. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; let us start at the beginning. What is the minimum we expect from each other in terms of logical thinking? To answer that question, we need to examine the roots of logic that are to be found in the very first glimmerings of mathematical proof. LOGIC MADE EASY 1 PROOF No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. ALBERT EINSTEIN Consistency Is All I Ask There are certain principles of ordinary conversation that we expect ourselves and others to follow. These principles underlie all reasoning that occurs in the normal course of the day and we expect that if a person is honest and reasonable, these principles will be followed. The guiding principle of rational behavior is consistency. If you are consistently consistent, I trust that you are not trying to pull the wool over my eyes or slip one by me. If yesterday you told me that you loved broccoli and today you claim to hate it, because I know you to be rational and honest I will probably conclude that something has changed. If nothing has changed then you are holding inconsistent, contradictory positions. If you claim that you always look both ways before crossing the street and I see you one day carelessly ignoring the traffic as you cross, your behavior is contradicting your claim and you are being inconsistent. These principles of consistency and noncontradiction were 29 3o LOGIC MADE EASY recognized very early on to be at the core of mathematical proof. In The Topics, one of his treatises on logical argument, Aristotle expresses his desire to set forth methods whereby we shall be able "to reason from generally accepted opinions about any problem set before us and shall ourselves, when sustaining an argument, avoid saying anything self-contradictory."1 To that end, let's consider both the law of the excluded middle and the law of noncontradiction—logical truisms and the most fundamental of axioms. Aristotle seems to accept them as general principles. The law of the excluded middle requires that a thing must either possess a given attribute or must not possess it. A thing must be one way or the other; there is no middle. In other words, the middle ground is excluded. A shape either is a circle or is not a circle. A figure either is a square or is not a square. Two lines in a plane either intersect or do not intersect. A statement is either true or not true. However, we frequently see this principle misused. How many times have you heard an argument (intentionally?) exclude the middle position when indeed there is a middle ground? Either you're with me or you're against me. Either you favor assisted suicide or you favor people suffering a lingering death. America, love it or leave it. These are not instances of the excluded middle; in a proper statement of the excluded middle, there is no in-between. Politicians frequently word their arguments as if the middle is excluded, forcing their opponents into positions they do not hold. Interestingly enough, this black-and-white fallacy was common even among the politicians of ancient Greece. The Sophists, whom Plato and Aristotle dismissed with barely concealed contempt, attempted to use verbal maneuvering that sounded like the law of the excluded middle. For example, in Plato's Euthydemus, the Sophists convinced a young man to agree that he was PROOF 31 either "wise or ignorant," offering no middle ground when indeed there should be.2 Closely related to the law of the excluded middle is the law of noncontradiction. The law of noncontradiction requires that a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time. A shape cannot be both a circle and not a circle. A figure cannot be both a square and not a square. Two lines in a plane cannot both intersect and'not intersect. A statement cannot be both true and not true. When he developed his rules for logic, Aristotle repeatedly justified a statement by saying that it is impossible that "the same thing both is and is not at the same time."3 Should you believe that a statement is both true and not true at the same time, then you find yourself mired in self-contradiction. A system of rules for proof would seek to prevent this. The Stoics, who developed further rules of logic in the third century B.C., acknowledged the law of the excluded middle and the law of noncontradiction in a single rule, "Either the first or not the first"—meaning always one or the other but never both. The basic steps in any deductive proof, either mathematical or metaphysical, are the same. We begin with true (or agreed upon) statements, called premises, and concede at each step that the next statement or construction follows legitimately from the previous statements. When we arrive at the final statement, called our conclusion, we know it must necessarily be true due to our logical chain of reasoning. Mathematics historian William Dunham asserts that although many other more ancient societies discovered mathematical properties through observation, the notion of proving a general mathematical result began with the Greeks. The earliest known mathematician is considered to be Thaïes who lived around 600 B.C. A pseudo-mythical figure, Thaïes is described as the father of 32 LOGIC MADE EASY demonstrative mathematics whose legacy was his insistence that geometric results should not be accepted by virtue of their intuitive appeal, but rather must be "subjected to rigorous, logical proof."4 The members of the mystical, philosophical, mathematical order founded in the sixth century B.C. by another semimythical figure, Pythagoras, are credited with the discovery and systematic proof of a number of geometric properties and are praised for insisting that geometric reasoning proceed according to careful deduction from axioms, or postulates. There is little question that they knew the general ideas of a deductive system, as did the members of the Platonic Academy. There are numerous examples of Socrates' use of a deductive system in his philosophical arguments, as detailed in Plato's dialogues. Here we also bear witness to Socrates' use of the law of noncontradiction in his refutation of metaphysical arguments. Socrates accepts his opponent's premise as true, and by logical deduction, forces his opponent to accept a contradictory or absurd conclusion. What went wrong? If you concede the validity of the argument, then the initial premise must not have been true. This technique of refuting a hypothesis by baring its inconsistencies takes the following form: If statement P is true, then statement Q^is true. But statement Q^ cannot be true. (Q^is absurd!) Therefore, statement P cannot be true. This form of argument by refutation is called reductio ad absurdum. Although his mentor Socrates may have suggested this form of argument to Plato, Plato attributed it to Zeno of Elea (495^-35 B.C.). Indeed, Aristotle gave Zeno credit for what is called reductio ad impossibile—getting the other to admit an impossibility or contradiction. Zeno established argument by refutation in philosophy and used this method to confound everyone when he created several paradoxes of the time, such as the well-known paradox of Achilles and the tortoise. The form PROOF 33 of Zeno's argument proceeded like this: If statement P is true then statement Q^is true. In addition, it can be shown that if statement P is true then statement Q_is not true. Inasmuch as it is impossible that statement Q^is both true and not true at the same time (law of noncontradiction), it is therefore impossible that statement P is true.5 Proof by Contradiction Argument by refutation can prove only negative results (i.e., P is impossible). However, with the help of the double negative, one can prove all sorts of affirmative statements. Reductio ad absurdum can be used in proofs by assuming as false the statement to be proven. To prove an affirmative, we adopt as a premise the opposite of what we want to prove—namely, the contradictory of our conclusion. This way, once we have refuted the premise by an absurdity, we have proven that the opposite of what we wanted to prove is impossible. Today this is called an indirect proof or a proof by contradiction. The Stoics used this method to validate their rules of logic, and Euclid employed this technique as well. While tangible evidence of the proofs of the Pythagoreans has not survived, the proofs of Euclid have. Long considered the culmination of all the geometry the Greeks knew at around 300 B.C. (and liberally borrowed from their predecessors), Euclid's Elements derived geometry in a thorough, organized, and logical fashion. As such, this system of deriving geometric principles logically from a few accepted postulates has become a paradigm for demonstrative proof. Elements set the standard of rigor for all of the mathematics that followed.6 Euclid used the method of "proof by contradiction" to prove 34 LOCK MADE EASY that there is an infinite number of prime numbers. To do this, he assumed as his initial premise that there is not an infinite number of prime numbers, but rather, that there is a finite number. Proceeding logically, Euclid reached a contradiction in a proof too involved to explain here. Therefore—what? What went wrong? If the logic is flawless, only the initial assumption can be wrong. By the law of the excluded middle, either there is a finite number of primes or there is not. Euclid, assuming that there was a finite number, arrived at a contradiction. Therefore, his initial premise that there was a finite number of primes must be false. If it is false that "there is a finite number of primes" then it is true that "there is not a finite number." In other words, there is an infinite number. Euclid used this same technique to prove the theorem in geometry about the congruence of alternate interior angles formed by a straight line falling on parallel lines (Fig. 3). To prove this proposition, he began by assuming that the alternate interior angles formed by a line crossing parallel lines are not congruent (the same size) and methodically proceeded step by logical step until he arrived at a contradiction. This contradiction forced Euclid to conclude that the initial premise must be wrong and therefore alternate interior angles are congruent. To use the method of proof by contradiction, one assumes as a premise the opposite of the conclusion. Oftentimes figuring out the opposite of a conclusion is easy, but sometimes it is not. Likewise, to refute an opponent's position in a philosophical Figure 3. One of the geometry propositions that Euclid proved: Alternate interior angles must be congruent. PROOF 35 argument, we need to have a clear idea of what it means to contradict his position. Ancient Greek debates were carried out with two speakers holding opposite positions. So, it became necessary to understand what contradictory statements were to know at what point one speaker had successfully refuted his opponent's position. Aristotle defined statements that contradict one another, or statements that are in a sense "opposites" of one another. Statements such as "No individuals are altruistic" and "Some individual(s) is (are) altruistic" are said to be contradictories. As contradictories, they cannot both be true and cannot both be false—one must be true and the other false. Aristotle declared that everv affirmative statement has its own opposite negative just as every negative statement has an affirmative opposite. He offered the following pairs of contradictories as illustrations of his definition. Aristotle's Contradictory Pairs 7 It may be It cannot be. It is contingent [uncertain]. It is not contingent. It is impossible. It is not impossible. It is necessary [inevitable]. It is not necessary. It is true. It is not true. Furthermore, a statement such as "Every person has enough to eat" is universal in nature, that is, it is a statement about all persons. Its contradictory statement "Not every person has enough to eat" or "Some persons do not have enough to eat" is not a universal. It is said to be particular in nature. Universal affirmations and particular denials are contradictory statements. Likewise, universal denials and particular affirmations are contradictories. "No individuals are altruistic" is a universal denial, but its contradiction, "Some individuals are altruistic," is 36 LOGIC MADE E A S Y a particular affirmation. As contradictories, they cannot both be true and cannot both be false—it will always be the case that one statement is true and the other is false. Individuals often confuse contradictories with contraries. Aristotle defined contraries as pairs of statements—one affirmative and the other negative—that are both universal (or both particular) in nature. For example, "All people are rich" and "No people are rich" are contraries. Both cannot be true yet it is possible that neither is true (that is, both are false). "No one in this family helps out .""Some of us help out." "Don't contradict me." "Everyone in this family is lazy." "I hate to contradict you, but some of us are not lazy." "No one in this family helps out." "We all help out." "Don't be contrary." "Everyone in this family is lazy." "To the contrary, none of us is lazy." John Stuart Mill noted the frequent error committed when one is unable to distinguish the contrary from the contradictory.8 He went on to claim that these errors occur more often in our private thoughts—saying that if the statement were enunciated aloud, the error would in fact be detected. Disproof Disproof is often easier than proof. Any claim that something is absolute or pertains to all of something needs only one counterexample to bring the claim down. The cynic asserts, "No human PROOF 37 being is altruistic." If you can think of one human being who has ever lived who is altruistic, you can defeat the claim. For example, you might get the cynic to admit, "Mother Teresa is altruistic." Therefore, some human being is altruistic and you have brought down the cynic's claim with one counterexample. As Albert Einstein suggested, any number of instances will never prove an "all" statement to be true, but it takes a single example to prove such a statement false. In the face of an "all" or "never" statement, one counterexample can disprove the statement. However, in ordinary discourse we frequently hear the idea of a counterexample being used incorrectly. The idea of argument by counterexample does not extend in the reverse direction. Nonetheless, we sometimes hear the illogic that follows: She: All women are pacifists. He: I'm not a woman and I'm a pacifist. (This is not a counterexample. To disprove her statement, he must produce a woman who is not a pacifist.) Psychologists have found that people can be extremely logical when they can notice a contradiction but that correct inference is often hindered when a counterexample is not obvious. For example, in Guy Politzer's study on differences in interpretation of the logical concept called the conditional, his subjects were highly successful in evaluating a rule logically when direct evidence of a contradiction was present. Specifically, Politzer's subjects were given a certain statement such as, "I never wear my dress without wearing my hat," accompanied by four pictures similar to those in Figure 4 . Subjects were asked to label each picture as "compatible" or "incompatible" with the given statement. Inasmuch as the pictures illustrated the only possible combinations of information, subjects weren't required to retrieve that information from memory. These visual referents facilitated the retrieval of a contradiction.9 38 LOGIC MADE EASY Examine the pictures in the figure for yourself. From left to right, they illustrate hat/dress, no hat/dress, hat/no dress, and no hat/no dress. The claim is made, "I never wear my dress without wearing my hat," and we are to judge whether the pictures are consistent or inconsistent with the claim. Since the claim is about what I will or will not do when I wear my dress, we judge that the last two pictures are "compatible" with the claim as they are not inconsistent with it. The first two pictures must be examined in more detail since the wearing of a dress is directly addressed by the claim. "I never wear my dress without wearing my hat" is clearly consistent with the first picture and is clearly violated by the second. So the correct answers are that all the pictures are "compatible" with the claim except the second, which is "incompatible" with it. In this experiment, subjects were not obliged to rely on memory or imagine all possible dress/hat scenarios.The subjects were presented with pictorial reminders of every possibility. With visual images at hand, subjects could label those pictures that contradicted the statement as incompatible; otherwise the pictures were compatible. From very ancient times, scientists have sought to establish Figure 4. Evaluate each picture as compatible or incompatible with the statement "I never wear my dress without wearing my hat." PROOF 39 universal truths, and under the influence of Thaïes, Pythagoras, and Euclid, universal truths required proof. Armed with the law of the excluded middle and the law of noncontradiction, ancient mathematicians and philosophers were ready to deliver proof. All that remained was an agreed-upon set of rules for logical deduction. Aristotle and the Stoics provided such a framework for deductive inference, and the basics of their systems remain virtually unchanged to this day. As the Greek philosophers attempted to establish universal truths about humans and the world around them, definitions were set forth in an effort to find a common ground in language. Aristotle defined statements of truth or falsity and words like all. Do they really need any definition? He felt that for one to articulate a system of correct thinking, nothing should be taken for granted. As we'll see in the next chapter, he was right. z ALL You mayfoolall the people some of the time; you can evenfoolsome of the people all the time; hut you can'tfool all of the people all the time. ABRAHAM LINCOLN Aristotle's works in logic consisted of six treatises: Categories, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics (or Concerning Syllogism), Posterior Analytics (or Concerning Demonstration), Topics, and Sophistical Elenchi (or On Sophistical Refutations). After Aristotle's death in 322 B.C., his followers collected these treatises into a single work known as the Organon, or instrument of science. The title, On Interpretation, reflects the notion that logic was regarded as the interpretation of thought.1 In this treatise, Aristotle set down rules of logic dealing with statements called propositions. A proposition is any statement that has the property of truth or falsity. A prayer, Aristotle says, is not a proposition. "Come here" and "Where are you?" are not propositions. "2 + 2 = 5" is a proposition (it is false). "Socrates was a man" is a proposition (it is true). Propositions can be true or false and nothing in between (law of the excluded middle), but not both true and false at the same time (law of noncontradiction).2 "All tornadoes are destructive" might be a false proposition if it is true that some tornadoes are not destructive, even if only one is not. 40 ALL 41 "That tornado is destructive" would certainly be either true or false but not both. We would know whether the proposition is true or false by checking the facts and agreeing on a definition of "destructive.""Some tornadoes are destructive" would qualify as a proposition, and we would all probably agree it is a true proposition, having heard of at least one tornado that met our definition of "destructive." Terms called quantifiers are available for making propositions. Quantifiers are words such as every, all, some, none, many, and few, to name a few. These words allow a partial quantification of items to be specified. Although words like some, many, and Jew may provide only a vague quantification (we don't know how many many is), words like all and none are quite specific. The English words all and every are called (affirmative) universal quantifiers in logic. They indicate the totality (100 percent) of something. Sometimes the all is implied, as in "Members in good standing may vote." However, if we want to emphasize the point, we may say, "All persons are treated equally under the law." The word any is sometimes regarded as a universal quantifier. "Any person who can show just cause why this man and woman should not be joined in holy wedlock. . . ."The article a may also be used as a universal quantifier, as in "A library is a place to borrow books" meaning "All libraries are places to borrow books." Universal affirmative propositions such as these were called de omni, meaning all, by Latin commentators on Aristotle. It has been shown that the universality of the word all is clearer than the universality of any and a. In a 1989 study, David O'Brien and his colleagues assessed the difficulty of different formulations of the universal all by testing second graders, fourth graders, eighth graders, and adults.3 Without exception, in every age group the tendency to err was greatest when the indefinite article a was used, "If a thing. . . ." For older children and adults, 42 LOGIC MADE E A S Y errors decreased when any was used, "If any thing . . . ," and errors virtually vanished when the universality was made explicit, "all things. . . ."With the youngest children, though the errors did not vanish, they were reduced significantly when the universality was made clear with the word all. All5are/» In addition to a quantifier, each proposition contains a subject and a predicate. For example, in the universal affirmation "All men are human beings," the class of men is called the subject of the universal proposition and the class of human beings is called the predicate. Consequently, in logic books, the universal affirmation is often introduced to the reader as "All S are P." Although not truly an "all" statement, one other type of proposition is classified as a universal affirmation: "Socrates was a Greek." "I am a teacher." These propositions do not, on the surface, appear to be universal propositions. They are called singular or individual and are treated as universal claims. Even though the statements speak of a single individual, they are interpreted as constituting an entire class that has only a single entity in it.4 Classical logic construes the propositions as, "All things that are identical with Socrates were Greek" or "All things that belong to the class of things that are me are teachers." Vice Versa Given the right example, it is clear that the statement "AU S are P" is not the same as the statement "All P are S." We would probably agree "All mothers are parents" is a true statement ALL 43 whereas "All parents are mothers" is not. Yet this conversion is a common mistake. These two statements, "All S are P " and "All P are S," are called converse statements. They do not mean the same thing. It is possible that one is true and the other is not. It is also possible that both are true or neither is true. You might think of the converse as the vice versa. All faculty members are employees of the university, but not vice versa. All dogs love their owners and vice versa. (Although I'm not sure either is true.) According to Barbel Inhelder and Jean Piaget, children aged 5 and 6 have trouble with the quantifier all even when information is graphic and visual. In their experiments, they laid out red square counters and blue circle counters, adding some blue squares, all of which the children were allowed to see during their questioning. Using white and gray counters, their experiment involved a set of objects such as those in Figure 5. Children were then asked questions such as "Are all the squares white?" (NO) and "Are all the circles gray?" (YES.) More difficult for the younger children were questions such as "Are all the white ones squares?" (YES.) The youngest subjects converted the quantification 50 percent of the time, thinking that "All the squares are white" meant the same as "All the white ones are squares."5 This may be explained in part by the less developed language ability of the youngest children, but their mistakes may also be explained by their inability to focus their attention on the relevant information. O n O D D O O D Figure 5. Which statements are true? "All squares are white. All white things are squares." "All circles are gray. All gray things are circles." 44 LOGIC MADE EASY DOOD (b) Figure 6. (a) Are all the white things squares? (b) Are all the squares white? To correctly answer these questions, we must focus our attention on the pertinent information. Inhelder and Piaget noted the difficulty of mastering the idea of class inclusion in the youngest children (Fig. 6). That is, the class of white squares is included in the class of squares, but not vice versa. By ages 8 and 9, children were able to correctly answer the easier questions 100 percent of the time and produced the incorrect conversion on the more difficult questions only 10 to 20 percent of the time. Understanding the idea of class inclusion is important to understanding "all" propositions. If the statement "All taxicabs are yellow" is true, then the class of all taxicabs belongs to the class of all yellow cars. Or, we could say that the set of all taxicabs is a subset of the set of all yellow cars. Sometimes a visual representation like Figure 7 is helpful, and quite often diagrams are used as illustrative devices. The introduction of diagrams to illustrate or solve problems in logic is usually attributed to the brilliant Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler. His diagrams were contained in a series of let- ALL 45 Figure 7. Graphic representation of "All taxicabs are yellow." ters written in 1761 to the Princess of Anhalt-Dessau, the niece of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. The famous Letters to a German Princess (Lettres à une Princesse D'Allemagne) were published i 1768, proved to be immensely popular, and were circulated in book form in seven languages.6 Euler's letters were intended to give lessons to the princess in mechanics, physical optics, astronomy, sound, and several topics in philosophy, including logic. One translator, writing in 1795, remarked on how unusual it was that a young woman of the time had wished to be educated in the sciences and philosophy when most young women of even the late eighteenth century were encouraged to learn little more than the likes of needlepoint.7 Euler's instruction in logic is not original; rather, it is a summary of classical Aristotelian and limited Stoic logic. It turns out that his use of diagrams is not original either. The identical diagrams that the mathematical community called Euler's circles had been demonstrated earlier by the German "universal genius" Gottfried Leibniz. A master at law, philosophy, religion, history, and statecraft, Leibniz was two centuries ahead of his time in logic and mathematics. Most of his work in logic was not published until the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century, but around 1686 (one hundred years before the publication of Euler's famous Letters), Leibniz wrote a paper called De Formae Logicae Comprobatione per Linearum Ductus, which contained the 46 LOGIC MADE E A S Y figures that became known as Euler's circles. The diagrams are one and the same; there is no way that Euler could not have seen them previously. Most likely, the idea had been suggested to him through his mathematics tutor, Johann Bernoulli. The famous Swiss mathematicians, brothers Jakob and Johann Bernoulli, had been avid followers of Leibniz and disseminated his work throughout Europe. Although his mathematical ability is legendary, Euler was also noted for his ability to convey mathematical ideas with great clarity. In other words, he was an excellent teacher. Like any good teacher, he used any device in his repertoire to instruct his students. Euler's impact on the mathematical world was so influential that his style and notation were often imitated. Thus, the idea of using diagrams in logic was assigned to him. The Leibniz/Euler circles exhibit the proposition "Every A is B " in the same way we earlier displayed "All taxicabs are yellow"—with the class of A-things represented as a circle inside the circle of B-things. Perhaps more familiar to the reader, and widely considered an improvement on the Leibniz/Euler circles, is the Venn diagram. 8 John Venn, the English logician and lecturer at Cambridge University, first published his method of diagrams in an 1880 Philosophical Magazine article, "On the Diagrammatic and Mechanical Representation of Propositions and Reasoning." Venn would have represented "All taxicabs are yellow" with two overlapping circles as shown in Figure 8, shading the portion of the taxicab circle that is outside the yellow-cars circle as an indication that there is nothing there. The shaded portion indicates that the class of non-yellow taxicabs is empty. At first glance, Venn's diagram does not seem as illustrative as the Leibniz/Euler diagram—their diagram actually depicts the class of taxicabs inside the class of yellow cars. However, as we will ALL 47 Taxicabs Figure 8. A Venn diagram of "All taxicabs are yellow." later see, Venn's diagram has the advantage of being much more flexible. Many other philosophers and mathematicians have devised diagrammatic techniques as tools for analyzing propositions in logic. The American scientist and logician Charles Sanders Peirce (pronounced "purse") invented a system comparable to Venn's for analyzing more complicated propositions. Lewis Carroll devised a system resembling John Venn's—using overlapping rectangles instead of circles—and used an O to indicate an empty cell, as in Figure 9. Both Peirce and Carroll were huge advocates of teaching logic to schoolchildren through the use of graphs such as these. Educators must have been paying attention, because schoolchildren today are taught classification skills from a very early age by the use ofVenn's overlapping circles. Euler also found the figures valuable as a teaching tool. He Yellow Nonyellow cars cars Taxicabs o Not-Taxicabs Figure 9. "All taxicabs are yellow," in the style of Lewis Carroll. 48 LOGIC MADE E A S Y noted that the propositions in logic may "be represented by figures, so as to exhibit their nature to the eye. This must be a great assistance, toward comprehending, more distinctly, wherein the accuracy of a chain of reasoning consists."9 Euler wrote to the princess, These circles, or rather these spaces, for it is of no importance what figure they are of, are extremely commodious for facilitating our reflections on this subject, and for unfolding all the boasted mysteries of logic, which that art finds it so difficult to explain; whereas, by means of these signs, the whole is rendered sensible to the eye. 10 It is interesting that in 1761 Euler mentions the difficulty of explaining the art of logic. This fact should be of some comfort to teachers everywhere. Even today, instructors at the university level see these misunderstandings crop up in math, philosophy, and computer science classes time after time. While adults would probably have little difficulty dealing with Inhelder and Piaget's questions with colored counters, when the information is presented abstractly, without a visual referent, even adults are likely to reach the wrong conclusion from a given set of statements. Yet, according to Inhelder and Piaget, by approximately the twelfth grade, most of us have reached our formal reasoning period and should have the ability to reason logically. Familiarity—Help or Hindrance? Unlike the visual clues provided in Inhelder and Piaget's study of logical reasoning in children or the pictures provided in Politzer's study as mentioned earlier, we are usually required to ALL 49 reason without access to direct evidence. Without evidence at hand, we must recall information that is often remote and vague. Sometimes our memory provides us with counterexamples to prevent our faulty reasoning, but just as often our memory leads us astray. The rules of inference dictating how one statement can follow from another and lead to logical conclusions are the same regardless of the content of the argument. Logical reasoning is supposed to take place without regard to either the sense or the truth of the statement or the material being reasoned about.Yet, often reasoning is more difficult if the material under consideration is obscure or alien. As one researcher put it, "The difficulty of applying a principle of reasoning increases as the meaningfulness of the content decreases."11 The more abstract or unfamiliar the material, the more difficult it is for us to draw correct inferences. In one of the earliest studies examining the content or material being reasoned about, M. C. Wilkins in 1928 found that when given the premise, "All freshmen take History I," only 8 percent of her subjects erroneously accepted the conversion, "All students taking History I are freshmen." However, 20 percent of them accepted the equally erroneous conclusion, "Some students taking History I are not freshmen ."With strictly symbolic material (All S are P ) , the errors "All P are S" and "Some P are not S" were made by 25 percent and 14 percent of the subjects, respectively. One might guess that in the first instance students retrieved common knowledge about their world—given the fact that all freshmen take History I does not mean that only freshmen take it. In fact, they may have themselves observed nonfreshmen taking History I. So their conclusion was correct and they were able to construct a counterexample to prevent making the erroneous conversion. However, as they continued thinking along those lines, knowledge about their own world so L06K MADE EASY encouraged them to draw a (possibly true) conclusion that was not based on correct logical inference. "Some students taking History I are not freshmen" may or may not be true, but it does not logically follow from "All freshmen take History I." Interestingly enough, when abstract material was used and subjects could not tap into their own experience and knowledge about the material, more of them made the conversion mistake (for which there are countless concrete examples that one can retrieve from memory—"All women are human" doesn't mean "All humans are women") while fewer made the second inference mistake. "All horn players have good chops." My husband, a singer extraordinaire, can see right through this trap. He will not accept the converse statement "All people with good chops play the horn." He's not a horn player but he does have good chops. With evidence at hand he avoids the common fallacy because he recognizes a counterexample or inconsistency in accepting the faulty conclusion. Clarity or Brevity? There seem to be two different systems of language—one is that of natural language and the other that of logic. Often the information we convey is the least amount necessary to get our points across. Dr. Susanna Epp of De Paul University uses the example of a classroom teacher who announces, "All those who sit quietly during the test may go outside and play afterward."12 Perhaps this is exactly what the teacher means to say. And, if so, then she means that those who will get to go out and play will definitely include the quiet sitters, but might well include those who make ALL si noise. In fact her statement says nothing at all about the noisemakers one way or the other. I doubt that the students interpret her this way. Is the teacher intentionally deceiving the students? Is she hoping that students will misconstrue the statement? Chances are good that most of the students believe she is actually making the converse statement that all those who make noise will not get to play outside. Had the teacher made the statement "All those who do not sit quietly during the test may not go out and play afterwards," then the warning doesn't address the question of what will happen to the quiet sitters. She probably means, "All those who sit quietly during the test may go outside and play afterwards, and those who don't sit quietly may not go outside and play afterwards." In the interest of brevity, we must often take the speaker's meaning from the context of his or her language and our own life experiences. Since logic defines strict rules of inference without regard to content, we may be forced to accept nonsensical statements as true due to their correct form. How is one to evaluate the truth of "All my Ferraris are red" if I have no Ferraris? In ordinary language, we might say that it is neither true nor false—or that it is nonsense. Yet, the classical rules of logic require propositions to be either true or not true (law of the excluded middle). Some logicians have ignored this kind of proposition. They have made an existential assumption, that is, an assumption that the subject of any universal proposition exists. Others make no existential assumption, claiming that the diagrams of Leibniz/Euler and Venn serve us well to represent the universal proposition regardless of whether the class of my Ferraris has any members or not. "All angels are good" and "All devils are evil" can be allowed as true propositions whether or not angels or devils exist.13 Of course, things could get much more complicated. We have 52 LOGIC MADE E A S Y only considered universal quantifiers and have only quantified the subject of the proposition. In ordinary language, we put quantifiers anywhere we want. And what if we put the word "not" in front of "all"? Not all drastically changes the proposition, not only changing it from an affirmation to a negation but also changing its universal nature. Even when the rules of logic were being developed, Aristotle recognized that negation makes reasoning a good deal more difficult. So naturally he addressed rules of negation. Let's examine them next. 3 A NOT TANGLES EVERYTHING UP "No"is only "yes"to a different question. BOB PATTERSON If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to he right. JERRY SEINFELD We encountered negations very early on while examining the law of the excluded middle and the law of noncontradiction. While Aristotle reminded us that it is impossible that the same thing both is and is not at the same time, he also recognized that we can construct both an affirmation and a negation that have identical meanings. Aristotle said that there are two types of propositions that are called simple—the affirmation, which is an assertion, and the negation, which is a negative assertion or a denial. All others are merely conjunctions of simple propositions. "All humans are imperfect" is an affirmation, while "No human is perfect" is a denial with the same meaning. "Tuesday you were absent" is an affirmation, and "Tuesday you were not present" is a denial conveying the same information. "Four is not an odd number" is a true negation and "four is an even number" is a true affirmation expressing the same information from a different perspective. Inasmuch as it is possible to affirm the absence of something or to deny the presence of something, 53 54 LOGIC MADE EASY the same set of facts may be stated in either the affirmative or the negative. So what does the negation of an "all" statement look like? Consider the negation of a simple sentence such as "All the children like ice cream." Its negation might well read, "It is not the case that all the children like ice cream." But even long ago Aristotle suggested that the negation be posed as the contradictory statement, such as "Not every child likes ice cream" or "Some children don't like ice cream." We could negate using the passive voice— "Ice cream isn't liked by every child" or "Ice cream isn't liked by some of the children ."The underlying structure of any of these negations is simply not-(all the children like ice cream). The Trouble with Afe^ The noted logic historians William and Martha Kneale state that from the time of Parmenides in the fifth century B.C., the Greeks found something mysterious in negation, perhaps associating it with falsehood.1 In modern times, some researchers have argued that negation is not "natural" since it is hardly informative to know what something is not. However, more often than we may realize the only way to understand what something is is to have a clear understanding of what it isn't. How would we define an odd number other than by saying it is a number that is not divisible by 2? What is peace but the absence of war? Another argument put forth relative to the difficulty of reasoning with negation concerns the emotional factor. This position argues that the prohibitive nature of words such as "no" and "not" makes us uncomfortable. Some psychologists have suggested that since negation is fraught with psychological prob- A NOT T A N È L E S EVERYTHING UP 55 lems, negation necessarily increases the difficulty inherent in making inferences.2 Cognitive psychologists Peter C. Wason and Philip JohnsonLaird have written several books and dozens of articles on how we reason. They point out that negation is a fundamental concept in reasoning, a concept so basic to our everyday thinking that no known language is without its negative terms. 3 Negation ought to be an easy, perhaps the easiest, form of deduction. However, making even a simple inference involving a negative is a two-step process. If I say, "I am not an ornithologist," two statements must be absorbed. First, we must grasp what it means to be an ornithologist, then what it means not to be one. In our day-to-day communication, the extra step involved in reasoning with negation may well go unnoticed. In one of their studies, Wason and Johnson-Laird performed a series of experiments focusing on the reasoning difficulties associated with negation. When asked questions that involved affirmation and negation, their subjects were slower in evaluating the truth of a negation than the falsity of an affirmation and got it wrong more often-—a clear indication that negation is a more difficult concept to grasp. 4 Negation may be either implicit or explicit. There is evidence that in some instances an implicit negative is easier to correctly process than an explicit negative. Implicit negatives are words that have negative meaning without using the word "not." Implicit negatives, such as "absent" rather than "not present," "reject" rather than "not accept," and "fail" rather than "not pass," may be easier to deal with than their explicitly negative counterparts. In other instances, implicit negatives may be too well hidden. For example, researchers have indicated that it is easier to see that the explicit negative, "The number is not 4," negates "The num- 56 LOGIC MADE E A S Y ber is 4 " but more difficult to see that the implicit negative, "The number is 9," also negates "The number is 4." 5 Researcher Sheila Jones tested the ease with which differently worded instructions were handled by individuals. Three sets of directions were tested that all had the same meaning—one set of instructions was an affirmative, one a negative, and one an implicit negative.6 The subjects were presented a list of digits, 1 through 8, and given one of the following sets of instructions: Mark the numbers 1, 3, 4 , 6, 7. (affirmative) Do not mark the numbers 2 , 5 , 8 , mark all the rest, (negative) Mark all the numbers except 2, 5, 8. (implicit negative) The test was set up in a manner similar to that shown in Figure 10. The subjects' speed and accuracy were measured as indicators of difficulty. The subjects performed the task faster and with fewer errors of omission following the affirmative instruction even though the list of numbers was considerably longer. Subjects performing the task using "except" were clearly faster than those following the "not" instruction, signifying that the implicit negatives were easier to understand than the instructions containing the word "not." 12 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 34 5 6 7 i 12 3 4 5 6 7 8 Mark the numbers 1,3,4,6,7. Do not mark the numbers 2, S, 8, mark all the rest. Mark all the numbers except 2, S, 8. Figure 10. Task measuring the difficulty of the affirmative, negative, and implicit negative. A NOT TANGLES EVERYTHING UP 57 Some negatives do not have an implicit negative counterpart, and those negatives are more difficult to evaluate. The statement "The dress is not red" is harder to process than a statement like "Seven is not even," because the negation "not even" can be easily exchanged for the affirmative "odd," but "not red" is not easily translated. "Not red" is also very difficult to visualize. The difficulties involved with trying to visualize something that is not may well interfere with one's ability to reason with negatives. If I say that I did not come by car, what do you see in your mind's eye? It may be that, wherever possible, we translate negatives into affirmatives to more easily process information. To make this translation an individual must first construct a contrast class, like the class of not-red dresses or the class of modes of transportation that are not-car. The size of the contrast class and the ease with which a contrast class can be constructed have been shown to affect our ability to reason with negatives. 7 Wason and Johnson-Laird suggest that in everyday language a denial often serves as a device to correct a preconceived notion. Although it is true that I am not an ornithologist, I am not likely to make that statement unless someone was under the misconception that I was. The statement "Class wasn't boring today" would probably not be made if the class were generally not boring. This kind of statement is usually made when the class is frequently or almost always boring. The statement functions to correct the listener's previously held impression by pointing out an exception. An experiment by Susan Carry indicated that negatives used on an exceptional case were easier than negatives used on unexceptional cases. In her experiment, individuals were exposed to and then questioned about an array of circles, numbered 1 through 8. All of the circles except one were the same color, and s8 LOGIC MADE E A S Y the circle of exceptional color varied in its position number. Presumably, most of us would remember the array of circles by remembering the exceptional circle since this requires retaining the least amount of information. Her experiment confirmed that it is easier to negate an exceptional case in terms of the property that makes it exceptional than to negate the majority cases in terms of the property of the exception.8 In addition, the results of a study by Judith Greene showed that negatives used to change meaning were processed more easily than negatives used to preserve meaning. Subjects were asked to determine whether two abstract sentences had the same or different meanings. A series of tasks paired sentences sometimes with the same meaning, one involving a negation and the other not, and other times paired sentences with different meanings, one involving a negation and the other not. Greene labeled a negative that signified a change in meaning natural, while a negative that preserved meaning was dubbed unnatural. For example, ux exceeds j " and ux does not exceed j " are easily processed by the brain as being different in meaning (thus the negative is performing its natural function), while "x exceeds/" and uj does not exceed x* are more difficult to assess as having the same meaning. Her studies support the notion that we more easily digest negatives that change a preconception rather than negatives that confirm a previously held notion.9 Scope of the Negative Aristotle went to great lengths in his treatises to point out that the negation of "All men are just" is the contradictory "It is not the case that all men are just," rather than the contrary "No men are just." In the negation, "It is not the case that all men are just," A NOT TANGLES EVERYTHING UP 59 the scope of the negative is the entire assertion, "all men are just." The scope of the negative in the contrary "No men are just" is simply "men."The difference between the contradictory and the contrary is that the contradictory is the negation of an entire proposition and that is why the proposition and its contradictory are always opposite in truth value. When one is true, the other is false, and vice versa. Aristotle recommended that the statement "It is not the case that all men are just" was more naturally communicated as "Some men are not just." Several studies have borne out the fact that this form may indeed be more natural. The smaller the scope of the negative, the easier the statement is to understand. Studies have shown that it takes systematically longer to process the type of denial involving "It is not the case that . . ." and "It is false that . . ." than ordinary negation. Indications are that statements where the scope of the negative is small, like "Some people do not like all ice cream flavors," are easier to process than ones such as "It is not the case that all people like all ice creams flavors." 10 A and [Propositions Medieval scholars of logic invented schemes and labels that became common terminology for students studying Aristotle's classification of propositions. The universal affirmation, "All S are P," was named a type-A proposition. The universal negation or denial, "No S are P," was named a type-E proposition. This pair of A and E statements are the contrary statements. As such, they cannot both be true, but exactly one could be true or both could be false. The type-A universal affirmation, "All people are honest in completing their tax forms," and the type-E universal 6o LOGIC MADE EASY 00 Figure 11. A Leibniz/Euler diagram of "No S are P." denial, "No people are honest in completing their tax forms," are contraries. In this case, both are probably false. The Leibniz/Euler logic diagrams represent the universal negation, "No S are P," as two spaces separate from each other—an indication that nothing in notion S is in notion P. The proposition, "No S are P," is seen in Figure 11. John Venn's diagrams once again employed the use of overlapping circles to denote the subject and the predicate. In fact, all of Venn's diagrams use the overlapping circles, which is one of its most attractive features. Using Venn's graphical method, all of the Aristotelian propositions can be represented by different shadings of the same diagram—using one piece of graph paper, so to speak. Again, Venn's shaded region indicates emptiness— nothing exists there. So in representing "No S are P," the region where S and P overlap is shaded to indicate that nothing can be there, as shown in Figure 12. Earlier, we witnessed the error in logic called conversion that is commonly made with the universal affirmative (type-A) proposition. It is a mistake to think "All S are P " means the same thing as 00' Figure 12. A Venn diagram of "No S are P." A NOT TANGLES EVERYTHING UP 61 "AU P are 5." Quite frequently one is true and the other is not. Just because all zebras are mammals doesn't mean that all mammals are zebras. Yet, converting a type-E proposition (a universal negation) is not an error. "No chickens are mammals" and "no mammals are chickens" are both true. In fact, any time "No S are P" is true, so is "No P are S ."This fact becomes crystal clear by looking at either the Leibniz/Euler diagram or the Venn diagram. In the Leibniz /Euler diagram, nothing in space S is in space P and nothing in space P is in space S. In John Venn's diagram, nothing S is in P and nothing P is in S. Imagine what the diagrams for "No P are S" would look like. Using either diagram, it is clear that the figure for "No P are S" would look exactly the same as "No S are P" with perhaps the labels on the circles interchanged. When No Means Yes —The "Negative Pregnant" and Double Negative In his On Language column, William Safire discussed a fascinating legal term called the negative pregnant derived from fifteenthcentury logicians.11 The Oxford English Dictionary notes that a negative pregnant means "a negative implying or involving an affirmative." If asked, "Did you steal the car on November 4?" the defendant replying with the negative pregnant "I did not steal it on November 4" leaves the possibility (maybe even the implication) wide open that he nonetheless stole the car on some day. Early on in life, young children seem to master this form of avoiding the issue. When asked, "Did you eat the last cookie yesterday?" we might well hear, "I did not eat it yesterday" or, "Yesterday? . . . No." Double negatives fascinate us from the time we first encounter them in elementary school. They cropped up earlier 62 LOGIC MADE E A S Y in the discussion of proofs by contradiction, where we begin by assuming the opposite of that which we want to prove. If I want to prove proposition P , I assume not-P. Proceeding by impeccable logic, I arrive at a contradiction, an impossibility, something like 0 = 1 . What went wrong? My initial assumption must be false. I conclude, "not-P is false" or "it is not the case that not-P" or "not-not-P."The equivalence of the statements "not (not-P)n and "P"—that the negation of a negation yields a affirmation—was a principle in logic recognized by the Stoics as early as the second century B.C.12 All too frequently for the electorate we see double negatives in referendum questions in the voting booth. This yes-means-no and no-means-yes wording is often found in propositions to repeal a ban on something. A vote "yes" on the repeal of term limits means you do not favor term limits. A vote "no" on the repeal of the ban on smoking means you favor smoking restrictions. A vote "no" to repeal a ban on gay marriages means you favor restrictions on gay marriages, but a "yes" vote to repeal the ban on assault weapons means you do not favor restrictions on assault weapons. I recently received a ballot to vote for some proposals in the management of my retirement funds. The ballot question is in Figure 13. If you are like people who want their money invested in issues they favor (some folks don't care), voting "for" means you are against gun control and voting "against" means you favor gun control. Proposal: To stop investing in companies supporting gun control. For Against Abstain Figure 13. Example of when voting "for" means against. A NOT TANGLES EVERYTHING UP 63 Studies have shown that reasoners find it difficult to negate a negative. 13 If the process of negation involves an extra mental step, a double negative can be mind boggling. Statements such as "The probability of a false negative for the pregnancy test is 1 percent" or "No non-New Yorkers are required to complete form 2 0 3 " or "The statistical test indicates that you cannot reject the hypothesis of no difference" can cause listeners to scratch their heads (or give them a headache). As we mentioned earlier, a statement like "It is not the case that all men are honest" is more naturally communicated as "Some men are not honest." But some is not universal. So Aristotle defined propositions dealing with some are and some are not. Do they really need definition? You may be surprised to learn that they mean different things to different people. Read on. 4 SOME Is PART OR ALL OF ALL If every boy likes some girl and every girl likes some boy, does every boy like someone who likes him? JONATHAN BARON, Thinking and Deciding Although statements about "all" of something or "none" of something are powerful and yield universal laws in mathematics, physics, medicine, and other sciences, most statements are not universal. More often than not, our observations about the world involve quantifiers like "most" and "some."There was an important niche for nonuniversal propositions in Aristotle's system of logic. Ordinarily, if I were to assert, "Some parts of the lecture were interesting," I would most likely be implying that some parts were not interesting. You would certainly not expect me to say that some parts were interesting if all parts were. However, the assertion "Some of you will miss a day of work due to illness" does not seem to forgo the possibility that, at some point or another, all of you might miss a day. Oftentimes, in everyday language, "some" means "some but not all," while at other times it means "some or possibly all." To a logician, "some" always means at least one and possibly all. 64 SOME Is PART OR ALL OF ALL 65 Some Is Existential Whereas all and none are universal quantifiers, some is called an existential quantifier, because when we use some we are prepared to assert that some particular thing or things exist having that description. "Some" propositions are said to be particular in nature, rather than universal. Much like the universal affirmative and negative propositions involving all and none, Aristotle defined and examined affirmative and negative propositions involving some. Whereas the universal affirmative "All people are honest" and the universal negative "No people are honest" cannot both be true, particular affirmations and their negative counterparts are oftentimes both true. The propositions "Some people are honest" and "Some people are not honest" are both most likely true. Medieval scholars named the particular affirmative proposition of the form "Some S are P " a type-I proposition, and they named the particular negation of the form "Some S are not P " a type-O proposition. With the universal affirmative and negative propositions named A and E, respectively, students of logic used the mnemonic device—ARISTOTLE—to remember these labels. A and I propositions were affirmations and come from the Latin Afflrmo (meaning "I affirm"), and E and O propositions were negations from nEgO (meaning "I deny").1 The outer two vowels, A and E in ARISTOTLE, name the universal propositions, while the inner two, I and O, name the existential or particular propositions. Medieval scholars also devised a diagram known as the Square of Opposition (Fig. 14) to illustrate the contrary or contradictory relationship between propositions.2 As seen in the diagram, I and O are contraries, as are A and E. For example, 66 LOGIC MADE EASY Contradictories r o Contraries Figure 14. Square of Opposition. "Some of you are making noise .""But some of us are not making noise." "Don't be contrary." The diagonals in the diagram represent the contradictories, A with O, and E with I. Whereas John Venn used overlapping circles for propositions of any type (with different shadings), Gottfried Leibniz, and later Leonhard Euler, used overlapping circles only for expressing particular propositions. To illustrate "Some S are P," the Leibniz /Euler diagram required the label for S be written into that part of S that is in P , whereas for Venn, an asterisk indicated the existence of something in S that is in P, as shown in Figure 1 5 . 3 Although the Leibniz/Euler diagram might look a little different if the proposition were "Some P are S" (the P would be in S P Leibniz/Euler diagram Figure 15. "Some S are P." Venn diagram SOME Is PART OR ALL OF ALL 67 the overlapping region instead of the S ) , the logicians themselves were well aware that in logic the two propositions are equivalent. Just as "No S are P " and "No P are S " are equivalent, "Some S are P " and "Some P are S " are interchangeable because their truth values are identical. If "Some women are lawyers" is true, then it is also true that "Some lawyers are women." Venn's diagram helps to illustrate this relationship. The asterisk merely indicates that something exists that is both S and P — a s in "Some (one or more) people exist who are both women and lawyers." However, in our everyday language we do not really use these statements interchangeably. We might hear "Some women are lawyers" in a conversation about possible career choices for women. The statement "Some lawyers are women" might arise more naturally in a conversation about the composition of the population of lawyers. Nonetheless, logic assures us that whenever one statement is true, the other is true, and whenever one is false, the other is false. Every now and then, "some" statements seem rather peculiar, as in the statements "Some women are mothers" and "Some mothers are women ."The first statement is true because some (though not all) women are mothers. The second statement is true because definitely some (and, in fact, all if we restrict ourselves to the discussion of humans) mothers are women. But we must remember that, logically speaking, any "some" statement means "some and possibly all." For example, we would not normally say "Some poodles are dogs," since we know that all poodles are dogs. During the normal course of conversation, a speaker likes to be as informative as humanly possible. If the universal "all poodles" holds, we generally use it. 4 However, we might say "Some teachers are licensed" if we weren't sure whether all were licensed. Author Jonathan Baron offers the example that when traveling in a new 68 LOGIC MADE EASY city we might notice that taxicabs are yellow. It would be truthful to say "Some cabs are yellow," withholding our judgment that all are until we know for sure. 5 Some Are; Some Are Not An O proposition of the "Some are not" form can also be illustrated by two overlapping circles as in Figure 16. Venn's diagram is clearly superior (in fact, the Leibniz/Euler diagram has some serious problems), since "Some S are not P " and "Some P are not S " are not interchangeable. Just because the proposition "Some dogs are not poodles" is true does not mean that "Some poodles are not dogs" is. In fact, it is false. Peter C. Wason and Philip Johnson-Laird have performed studies that seem to indicate that individuals illicitly process "Some X are notY" to conclude "Therefore, some X are Y," believing they are just two sides of the same coin—in much the same vein as whether the glass is half full or half empty. But in logic the existential quantifier some means at least one and possibly all. If it turns out that all X are notY, then "Some X areY" cannot possibly be true. Their studies indicated that whether an individual gives the material this interpretation depends primarily on the material. Even though subjects were instructed to interpret some in its logical fashion, most were able to do so only with material that Leibniz/Euler diagram Figure 16. "Some S are not P." Venn diagram SOME Is PART OR ALL OF ALL 69 hinted at possible universality. For example, "Some beasts are animals" was interpreted to mean "Some, and possibly all, beasts are animals," whereas "Some books are novels" was not generally interpreted as "Some, and possibly all, books are novels." Might this be an indication that we are rational and reasonable after all? A computer could not distinguish between the contexts of these "some" statements in the way that the human subjects did. The subjects in these experiments were reading meaning into the statements given even though they weren't really supposed to. Humans have the unique ability to sometimes interpret what another human meant to say. On the other hand, this tendency to interpret can get us into a good bit of trouble when the interpretation is wrong. In ordinary language "some" can mean "some particular thing" or "some thing or other from a class of things" and, depending on its use, will signify completely different statements. Compare the statement "Some ice cream flavor is liked by every student" to "Every student likes some ice cream flavor." The first statement indicates a particular flavor exists that is liked by all, while the second statement suggests that each and every student has his or her favorite. 6 Take a look at Figure 1 7 . Here we have a question taken from the ETS Tests at a Glance to introduce prospective teachers to the general knowledge examination required by many states for elementary teacher certification. This question contains examples of many of the concepts we have seen so far. For example, the sentence given is "Some values of x are less than 100" and the examinee is asked to determine which of the answers is NOT consistent with the sentence. The given sentence is a "some" proposition, and the question invokes the notion of consistency with the interference of negation. The first choice among the answers "5 is not a value of x" is jo LOGIC MADE EASY S o m e v a l u e s o f x a r e less t h a n 100. W h i c h o f t h e f o l l o w i n g is NOT c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h e sentence above? A. 5 is not a value of x. B. 95 is a value of x. C. Some values of x are greater than 100. D. All values of x are less than 100. E. No numbers less than 100 are values of x. F i g u r e 17. S a m p l e q u e s t i o n from Tests at a Glance (ETS). (Source: The PRAXIS Series: Professional Assessments for Beginning Teachers, Mathematics (0730)Tests at a Glance at http://www.ets.org/ praxisItaagslprx0730.html. Reprinted by permission of Educational Testing Service, the copyright owner.) not inconsistent with the fact that x might have some other value that is less than 100. The second choice stipulates "95 is a value of x." Indeed, 95 could be a value of x since some of the x-values are less than 100. The third choice "Some values of x are greater than 100" could be true; it is not inconsistent with the fact that some x-values are less than 100. Many individuals will probably be tempted to choose choice D as the inconsistent answer, but not if they know that "some" means "some and possibly all." That leaves choice E, which is in direct contradiction to the given statement. If "Some values of x are less than 100," then it can't be true that "No numbers less than 100 are values of x." A, E, I,andO The four types of propositions, A, E, I, and O, were the foundation for Aristotle's logic and all that he deemed necessary to develop his rules of logical argument. Aristotle disregarded state- SOME Is PART OR ALL OF ALL 7i ments with more than one quantifier—statements like: "Every critic liked some of her films" and "Some critics liked all of her films." Matters could get even more complex if we introduce negation along with more than one quantifier. Consider the following: Not all of the family enjoyed all of her recipes. Some of the family did not enjoy all of her recipes. Some of the family did not enjoy some of her recipes. All of the family did not enjoy all of her recipes. By distributing the quantifiers and the negations appropriately, the same basic facts can be articulated in a number of different ways. Although these statements are synonymous, some are easier to grasp than others.7 In 1846, Sir William Hamilton of Edinburgh tried to improve on Aristotle's four types of propositions by allowing quantification of the predicate.8 In his New Analytic of Logical Forms, he distinguished eight different forms, defining "some" as "some but only some." 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. AIM is all B . All A is some B . Some A is all B . Some A is some B . Any A is not any B . Any A is not some B . Some A is not any B . Some A is not some B . 9 While this system seemed more complete than Aristotle's, there were many difficulties associated with Hamilton's system. His work led to a famous controversy with the English mathemati- 72 LOCK MADE EASY cian Augustus De Morgan. One point of disagreement was over Hamilton's definition of some. Should "some" mean "some at most" or "some at least" or "some but not the rest"? De Morgan insisted that some is vague and should remain so. "Here some is a quantity entirely vague in one direction: it is not-none; one at least; or more; all, it may be. Some, in common life, often means both not-none and not-all; in logic, only not-none?™ The American logician Charles Sanders Peirce agreed with De Morgan, saying that "some" ought to mean only "more than none."11 Hamilton could not really improve upon Aristotle's system; its simplicity had enabled it to remain basically unchanged for two thousand years. With only four types of propositions (A, E, I, and O), Aristotle described a structure for logical argument that could be relied upon to yield valid conclusions. His arguments became known as syllogisms. Not only would the syllogistic structure always lead to valid conclusions, but as we'll see in Chapter 5, the system could be used to detect rhetoric that led to invalid conclusions. 5 SYLLOGISMS For a complete logical argument, we need two prim Misses— And they produce—A delusion. But what is the whole argument called? A Sillygism. LEWIS CARROLL, Sylvie and Bruno With the Greek Age of Enlightenment and the rise of democracy, every Greek citizen became a potential politician. By as early as 440 B.C., the Sophists had become the professional educators for those aspiring to a political career and provided them with the requisite instruction for public life. The Sophists were not particularly interested in truth but in intellectual eloquence—some say they were only interested in intellectual anarchy.1 Plato and later his most famous student, Aristotle, were concerned about those who might be confused by the "arguments" of the Sophists, who used obfuscation and rhetorical ruses to win over an audience. To expose the errors of the Sophists, Aristotle laid down a doctrine for logical argument in his treatise, Trior Analytics, or Concerning Syllogisms. Indeed, many have said that these laws of inference are Aristotle's greatest and most original achievement.2 73 74 LOGIC MADE EASY In Prior Analytics, Aristotle investigated the methods by which several propositions could be linked together to produce an entirely new proposition. Two propositions (called the premises) would be taken to be true, and another (called the conclusion) would follow from the premises, forming a three-line argument, called a syllogism. "A syllogism," according to Aristotle, "is discourse in which, certain things being stated, something other than what is stated [a conclusion] follows of necessity from their being so."3 In other words, a syllogism accepts only those conclusions that are inescapable from the stated premises. In a syllogism, each proposition is one of Aristotle's four proposition types later classified as types A, E, I, or O. The propositions in the first two lines are the premises; the proposition in the third line is the conclusion. If the argument is valid and you accept the premises as true, then you must accept the conclusion as true. In his Letters to a German Princess, Leonhard Euler said of the syllogistic forms, "The advantage of all these forms, to direct our reasonings, is this, that if the premises are both true, the conclusion, infallibly, is so."4 Consider the following syllogism: All poodles are dogs. All dogs are animals. Therefore, all poodles are animals. The three propositions above form a valid argument (albeit a simplistic and obvious one). Since the conclusion follows of necessity from the two (true) premises, it is inescapable. Over time, syllogisms were classified as to their mood. Since each of the three propositions can be one of four types (an A or an I or an E or an O), there are 4 X 4 X 4 , or 64, different syllogism moods. The first mood described a syllogism with two SYLLOGISMS 75 universal affirmative premises and a universal affirmative conclusion—named AAA for its three type-A propositions. The poodle/dog/animal syllogism is an example of a syllogism in mood AAA. A syllogism was further classified as to itsfigure. The figure of a syllogism involved the arrangement of terms within the propositions of the argument. For example, "All dogs are poodles" and "All poodles are dogs" are different arrangements of the terms within a single proposition. In every figure, the terms of the conclusion are designated as the subject and the predicate. If a conclusion reads "All are ," the term following "All" is called the subject term (S) and the term following "are" is called the predicate term (P). 5 A conclusion in mood AAA reads like "All S are P." One of the premises includes S and the other, P, and both include another term common to the two premises, called the middle term (M).6 A syllogism is classified according to its figure depending on the ordering of the terms, S, P, and M, in the two premises. Aristotle recognized three figures, but the noted second century A.D. physician Galen recognized a fourth figure as a separate type.7 The figures are indicated in Table 1. Although we could interchange the order of the first and second premises without injury, what we see in Table 1 is the tradi- Table 1. Syllogism Classifications by Figure FIRST SECOND THIRD FOURTH FIGURE FIGURE FIGURE FIGURE Second premise M-P S-M P-M S-M M-P M-S M-S Conclusion S-P S-P S-P S-P First premise P-M j6 LOGIC MADE EASY tional ordering that was adopted by logicians and brought down to us over the centuries. In fact, psychologists have found that the ordering of the first and second premise can make a difference in how well we perform when reasoning syllogistically. One could even argue that it seems more natural to put the S in the first premise. In Prior Analytics, Aristotle offered the first systematic treatise on formal logic as an analysis of valid arguments according to their form—the figures and moods—of the syllogism. Historians have noted that in this work Aristotle appears to have been the first to use variables for terms. The idea may have been suggested by the use of letters to name lines in geometry; it is a device that allows a generality that particular examples do not. William and Martha Kneale maintain that this epoch-making device, used for the first time without explanation, appears to be Aristotle's invention.8 It is not the least bit surprising that the ancient Greeks never developed the use of letters as numerical variables (as we do in algebra) given that it was their practice to use Greek letters to represent numbers. Aristotle considered only syllogisms of the first figure to be perfect or complete. The first syllogism he discussed was the AAA mood in the first figure. The AAA mood in the first figure acquired the name Barbara in medieval times from the Latin for "foreigners" or "barbarians," with the vowels reminding the scholar or student of the mood—bArbArA. In fact, the 14 valid syllogisms identified by Aristotle, along with 5 more added by medieval logicians, were each given mnemonic Latin names to simplify the task of remembering them. When Aristotle explained his first valid syllogism (AAA), he generalized the syllogism using Greek letters but for our ease, we'll use the English translation: SYLLOGISMS 77 All B are A. All C are B . Therefore, all C are A. It is somewhat surprising to the modern mind that Aristotle chose the ordering of the two premises that he did. For example, the f