## Wednesday, September 5, 2012

### "Are U Better Off?" - A Question for the Mentally Gullible

The philosopher Bertrand Russell to his credit, (‘Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy’), once pointed out that every propositional function must determine a class, consisting of those arguments for which the function is true, e.g.

all atheists withhold belief in a god or gods”

p = f(q)

The problem is that certain sophists will make substitutions for ‘q’ and convert valid propositions into false ones, if it suits their specious arguments.

e,g,

atheists believe god does not exist”

p’= f(q’)

or

atheists don’t believe a god exists

p” = f(~q’)

Denote now the truth function incompatibility here as: p/ p” or p/ p’

By mixing classes in the above categories of proposition (p = p’ = p”) , the sophist mixes negation (the incompatibility of a proposition with itself e,g p <-> not p); disjunction (the incompatibility of not-p & not-p’ or not-p”) and implication (the incompatibility of p and not-p OR p’ and not-p’ or p” and not-p”)

This technique is formulaic and not limited to the religio-sophist.

We see it now played out on the political stage with the inept question (originating with the Republicans of course):

"Are YOU better off now than you were four years ago?"

Thereby- via the use of “YOU” - mixing, conflating multiple classes in one question.

1) There is the class of individual citizens, each one sitting and watching the tube by his lonesome (or with signifcant other in same predicament) the question being asked by some pundit. He will either answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on his –her individual circumstance which obviously cannot be uniformly the same for ALL citizens . One may therefore be under-employed but another well employed. The question thereby ends up as a gimmick or trick, meant to trap the unwary or those who’ve never taken a Logic course.

Consider Russell’s logical form: p = f(q)

Correctly asserting : “U.S. citizens will have varied perceptions of their success over the past 4 years”

The problem is that GOP sophists have made substitutions for ‘q’ and converted a valid proposition (actually propositional assumption whereby their question is framed) into a false one.

e,g, p’ = f(q’)

Or: “ALL U.S. citizens are now worse off than they were 4 years ago

This may also be framed (erroneously extracting from limited, often biased polls about the “direction” the country is headed);

p” = f(~q’)

Or:”The COUNTRY is worse off now than it was four years ago

This falls under logical error (2): Conflating the particular with the general. Hence, a question originally framed towards individual citizens, is now also being used to frame the condition of the nation as a whole.

This particular logical fallacy is easily disproven once people have the facts, as Sen. Chuck Schumer did this morning in his face off vs. Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell. When the question was again put to him by Rose, Schumer produced an actual chart from a non-partisan and reliable source showing how the deficits have been reduced from the last Bush year of 2008, and also how many more jobs have been created (4.9 million over 29 months of steady job growth).

He also had the good sense to mention that Terrorist No. 1 Osama bin Laden was now dead, though Repuke idiots like Condie Rice in her dopey speech last week, tried to give more credit to her master, Dumbya. But what can one expect from a Bushie house slave?

Denote now the truth function incompatibility here as: p/ p” or p/ p’

We see that the GOP hucksters, by deliberately using a trick question to mix classes in the above categories of proposition (p = p’ = p”) , has mixed incompatibility of a proposition with itself e,g p <-> not p); disjunction between the particular and general and implication (the incompatibility of p and not-p OR p’ and not-p’ or p” and not-p”)

It is time Democrats, if they’re going to address these sort of rigged questions, be more aware of the language and logical traps the Repukes have set in asking them.

One more thing, though the question was originally posed by Reagan, to try to trap voters in the 1980 election, it is no longer relevant either! In the final year of Reagan’s presidency – by July, 1988- 59 % of voters asserted their belief that the economy would be “bogged down by troubles” rather than better. (Denver Post, today, ’Question of Better Off, Tricky’, p. 22A)

Moral of the story:

It’s okay for the media's Neoliberal hacks, their fellow travelers and others to ask questions, but the recipients need to be well aware of the inherent flaws and mind traps!