Monday, September 20, 2010

Logic & the Meatless Life

Okay, so this is a busy study blogger right here. A busy study blogger who does not have the time to study and then blog about that studying. That changes now. I should be polishing off some statistics homework, or working on a constitution for the spiritual inquiry organization I'm putting together, or researching more about bicycle libraries so the one I'm trying to found becomes more feasible, or looking up grad schools, or studying for the GRE or doing reading for any of my classes, but that isn't what I'd like to be doing. I'd very much like to do this. So let's, shall we?

As I've said before, one of the classes I'm taking is a course on logic. Right now we've only done "syllogistic translations/arguments" which basically refers to the building blocks of logic. The most basic format of logical statement that can be shown to be valid or invalid. So lets see if we can translate one of my most fundamental and identifying beliefs into a syllogistic argument and try to tear it down. Please, this is a study blog and I come here to study/learn so if I make a mistake somewhere along the way, don't be afraid to point it out.

Before I get started here, let's learn about this belief of mine. It's a bit of a doozy and weirds people out a lot of the time. I'm a vegan. For reasons you will see below, I abstain from the purchase/consumption of products made from animals. Okay. Still here? Well some of you are, that's good to see. Anyway, on with the show.

So, I base my big life belief on the following argument.
P1: Acts of cruelty, and the systems which perpetuate and profit from them, should not be supported by people who respect the value of life across species.
P2: I am a person who respects the value of life across species.
P3: All animal based industry perpetuate and profits from cruelties.
Conclusion: I should not support the meat/dairy/egg industry.

Now. First, let's translate this, but before we do this we need to know what we're translating it into. They are called WFF's. That is an acronym for something. No, I don't remember what. No I'm not going to look it up. Just trust me on this. I mean seriously, you stuck around after I said I was vegan. If this is the straw that breaks the camels back, I apologize. Either or, they are made up of 8 phrases detailed below. Capital letters signify a specific group while lower case letters signify individuals or individual cases.
All A is B; No A is B; Some A is B; Some A is not B; x is A; x is not A; x is y; x is not y.
If it's not translated into one of those phrases it's not a good logical statement. So are all my phrases logical?
P1-The use of the word "should" here can be confusing but remember, when I wrote that statement up there I was trying to write "naturally". Keep in mind that logically sound conclusions are true by necessity of the premises being true, and "should" isn't a statement about truth, it's a statement about idealism. Now idealism is an attempt to see what ALWAYS happens, so despite what I said up there we can read it as "None of those who respect life .... are supportive of cruel industries". We can translate that into the syllogism of: No R is S (No Respecter of life is a Supporter of cruel industries, if you want to follow at home in english.
P2-This one is much more straightforward - i is R (i is a Respecter of life).
P3-Also straightforward - All A is S (all Animal industry is Supportive of cruel industry.
C-The translation here makes it seem like I screwed up the translation somewhere, but I assure you I did not. Even though I'm concluding that I'm not the meat industry, you have to consider that we're trying to discuss patronage (and personal patronage at that) and it doesn't have an easy translation. That being said however, how I see that last line is the following WFF - i is not A (i is not supporter of the Animal industry.

Now how do we tell if that whole argument is valid? A nifty little device called the "Star Test". We first "distribute" any letter after no or not and any letter that immediately follows all. We then put a star next to letters in the premises that are distributed and letters in the conclusion that are not. In order to be valid, each capital letter must be starred only once and there must be one and one star only in the second half of one of our statements. Lets look at my translation.

P1 - No R is S
P2 - i is R
P3 - All A is S
C - i is not S

And after distribution... (Distributions are italicized.

P1 - No R is S
P2 - i is R
P3 - All A is S
C - i is not S

Which means when we star...

P1 - No R* is S*
P2 - i is R
P3 - All A* is S
C - i* is not S

Every letter was starred once, and there's only one right hand star. My argument is valid! Is it true though? That's another post for another time.


  1. What the hell, Nigel! WHAT KIND OF ARGUMENT IS THIS? I want a real one. =/

  2. I like it for what it's meant to do, anyway! Are you going to use my additions to your next post?