Somebody posted a quote on my Facebook yesterday from Marilyn Monroe, which got me thinking about trust. She says, “…you believe lies so that you learn to trust no one but yourself.” And that rankled me a bit. I spend a lot of time thinking about trust, because it’s important to my work in ethics, and also in gaming. We have a lot of ideas about trust. The X-Files says to trust no one, Shakespeare says “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none,” and Ronald Reagan said “Trust, but verify”. I’m just gonna leave that Reagan one there, not because it’s silly, but…Reagan. Anyway. I think we trust a lot more people than we let on, and we do it without them ever having earned it in the sense that we would normally think people do. Let me explain.
Pretty big words for a concept that you already understand, and it’s definitely something you already get. A hypothetical syllogism is a rule of inference which allows us to compound related material conditional statements. Maybe that wasn’t helpful either. I’ll show you.
Dealing with the Dungeons & Dragons of Life
I spend a lot of time thinking about games. In fact, I even spend a lot of time writing about games. I have a whole other blog about philosophy and gaming, called TPK (blatant plug). It focuses on how we can apply philosophical concepts to improve our gaming experience, but I think that’s a two way street. I think we can use ideas and concepts from games to improve the ways in which we live our lives. Today I want to go over some of those concepts, and talk briefly about how they can assist us.
Today we’ll cover two pretty simple rules of inference, addition and conjunction. They sound the same, but they’re distinct in some pretty essential ways.
I don’t propose ordering feelings in any sort of ranking, but I think that for certain purposes, some feelings are more useful than others. The purpose I have in mind here is making changes, or getting things done. It’s something I spend a lot of time doing, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. There are certainly lots of feelings which can help us achieve our goals, but the one I think is most effective is a deep-seated sense of dissatisfaction. Stay with me here.
Modus Tollens is another rule of inference, one which you use all the time in your everyday life without even knowing it. It uses the material conditional and negation to create a valid argument form. This time, instead of focusing on the antecedent of the conditional, we’ll focus on the consequent. It’s cool. Trust me. All the kids are doing it.
Before I actually get into the post, I want to mention that awesome things are afoot. Headshots from the Heart is an internet telethon where I and my compatriots will play Borderlands for twenty-four hours straight in order to raise money for Child’s Play, which donates games to children’s hospitals. The entire event will be streamed, and can be viewed from the comfort of your home. There will be auctions, challenges, interviews, and more, all while we try to survive vicious junkyards inhabited by Jason Voorhees clones. And, instead of donating, you can pledge an amount to be donated per headshot, and let us earn your donation through our skills (or lack thereof). Check it out, and I hope to see you there.
“Trust your gut” is a phrase that I hear a lot. We have a tendency to trust our intuitions, and can recall all kinds of times when our intuitions were dead-on about one thing or another. People will tell you they lack musical talent, or can’t cook, but it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t claim to have a good, reliable intuition. I am one of those people. I don’t trust my gut, and am in fact highly suspicious of letting it do any of my thinking for me. There are lots of reasons for that, but mine is a little odd. You see, I’m colourblind.
Now that we’ve covered all of the operators, we can move forward to rules of inference. This is where things start to get awesome. These are full argument constructions whose conclusions necessarily follow from their premises, assuming their premises are true. modus ponens (not to be confused with my one day famous philosophy rock band Modus Pwnens) is the simplest of these. Read on for more about rules of inference, and modus ponens specifically.
I graded my first set of philosophy assignments last week, and it got me thinking about wondering about how we grade ourselves. And we do, evaluating our responses and our methods of choosing them. We judge things in terms of good and bad, right and wrong, and better and worse. Having to grade a philosophy assignment forced me to think about how I evaluate the merits of responses and how I can do that better, and I wanted to share that today.
The material conditional is probably the trickiest operator to figure out, even though it seems pretty straightforward. It’s usually symbolized as P → Q, which means “If P, then Q.” Like I said, seems straightforward. But let’s dig a little deeper.