Social Security

It is believed that many politicians are privately pushing an agenda to kill Social Security.  Some will adamantly deny that they are working to kill Social Security but logic says otherwise for most of the proposed changes to Social Security would ensure its demise.

Some will claim that they are looking to take the money out of the hands of the government and give them back to the hard working people.  Some will argue that the program is doomed to fail and therefore it would be best for workers not to be forced to pay money with the expectation of not receiving anything in return.  Some will argue that individuals should have the freedom to invest or not in each person’s own manner.  Each of these three positions is flawed in reasoning.

First we should better understand what Social Security currently provides.  Let’s take the example of “Bill” who has worked 40+ years with the top 35 best years determining the retirement payout.  At the time just prior to retirement he was making $50,000 and if retiring at the age of full retirement is due to receive $1500 per month for life (increasing to adjust for inflation).  In addition, this covers monetary monthly survivor benefits for spouse and children if applicable.  Next let’s consider the example of “Bob” who is 45 years old and has worked 20+ years before becoming permanently disabled.  He now receives $1500 life increasing to adjust for inflation.  In addition, this also covers monetary monthly survivor benefits for spouse and children if applicable.

For most people, when given the choice of saving for the future or taking an immediate payout, the option of now wins out versus later.  To assume that this is because most people do not think about or care enough to ensure their future is simplistic and does not account for the reality that most working people are living paycheck to paycheck.  When faced with either making tough choices about which current needs should be unfulfilled or whether there will be enough money to pay the bills when too elderly to work, it is reasonable to put the present situation ahead of what might or might not be in the future.  I argue that if the money that was placed in Social Security was given as wages, though the standard of living might be slightly higher for most people in the present, the gain would be vastly offset by the increased shared cost from supporting the disabled, elderly and survivors who would no longer have an income to survive on.  If I make $50,000 per year and pay $3,100 for FICA (matched by my employer), would that be enough to care for two sets of parents and perhaps a disabled relative?  Would that also be enough to cover the likely increase in taxes to pay for the massive increase in impoverished people (disabled, elderly and survivors) who do not have family to take on the added burden?  If there were no mandatory means for providing for the disabled, elderly and survivors there would likely be a significantly higher indirect cost paid by each citizen than any income increase from not having to pay toward Social Security.

The stance that Social Security is doomed to fail and therefore should be immediately replaced is also simplistic and unreasonable.  The faulty thinking here is the presumption that nothing can be done to correct the problem of reaching a point where the program can not fund its current beneficiaries.  The current crisis comes from the fact that there are more people that made up the “Babyboom generation” than in subsequent generations.  There are several approaches that have been worked out to keep the program solvent.  These range from increasing the contribution amount to decreasing eligibility of beneficiaries.

The claim that we should just let each individual take the amount of money spent for Social Security each year and invest as he or she likes sounds reasonable but actually can work to the disadvantage of most people.  The biggest problem with this idea is that most vehicles for investment exist in volatile markets.  My understanding is that if everyone were to be able to invest with complete freedom, the amount of money for retirement for most people would be greatly diminished.  There might be individuals who would make much more by investing outside of the Social Security program, but most would make much less.  This becomes a great problem when working to find subsistence funding for the disabled, elderly and survivors who would not be covered under their personal choice of investment due to poor or lack of investing.  That fact would alone would offset the benefit for most of the successful investors.  What good does it do a person to increase his or her investment portfolio if required to pay great sums toward the subsistence of people who chose not to invest or invest well?

For the recent past, the Social Security program has maintained a great surplus which is designed to fund the program during times where the amount paid to beneficiaries is greater than the amount being paid into the program by the workforce.  By law the surplus must be safely invested to grow the base and therefore work to provide additional funds for the program.  A common claim is that the government is pilfering from the Social Security program to use elsewhere.  This claim is misleading in that it suggests that the money is taken away or exchanged for a worthless IOU.  In reality the surplus is invested in a special non-marketable Treasury bond which accrues interest.  It is true the government is borrowing money from itself.  But, this should be viewed similarly to people who take loans times of need against their 401k accounts.  It is preferable to sacrifice a potential return on investment in favor of offsetting the interest expense paid on borrowed money.   As long as the federal government is financially solvent, the Social Security program would have access to the loaned out surplus money plus a small amount due to interest paid.  However, a realistic concern is that our federal government may not be able to maintain solvency due to high budget deficits and national debt.  However, wouldn’t all federal programs cease if the federal government became insolvent?  Therefore the only logical reason why the borrowing of money from itself would be imprudent would be in a situation where the act of borrowing that money is hastening the decline of the federal government’s ability to remain solvent.  This is exactly what some suggest though in truth this issue is more complex than it would seem.  Borrowing money from surplus in one area to offset debt in another is good business practice from a pure financial perspective.  However, in this case the federal government (ie. Congress) is also utilizing this benefit to downplay the budget deficit.  When calculating the budget deficit (income via taxes versus spending), the government should not assess annual spending after offsetting spending amounts using loans from itself.  This type of accounting practice in the business world might result in jail time.  In order for this or any other federal program to be sustainable, the government is going to need to maintain a balanced budget and to work fast to decrease the national debt.

I believe that most people are considering only what money gets taken from their pay to fund Social Security and what might or might not be available for retirement.  Most of the options suggested for replacing Social Security leave out the most important part which is that the employer matches dollar for dollar.  If Bill who made $50,000 pays $3100 toward Social Security his employer matches that amount with an additional $3100.  That should imply that Bill actually makes $50,000 plus $3100 toward his retirement paid by the employer.  If Social Security was replaced by allowing Bill to invest his contribution in a 401k, Bill would be losing $3100 in contributions by his employer.  This is great for the employer (in the short term) but terrible for the worker as he or she would be cutting the retirement contributions in half.  Equally important to note is that without the Social Security program as we know it, people would need to pay for additional insurance covering disability and/or survivors plus the indirect cost of supporting those individuals who are disabled and/or survivors but opted for not enrolling in any additional programs.

 

Noam Chomsky – Manufacturing Consent

In the documentary Manufacturing Consent, which was produced by Canadian filmmakers Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick using much material from the book of the same name by Chomsky & Herman as well as film footage of and about Noam Chomsky.  Noam Chomsky was a prominent and outspoken intellectual in the 20th century.  Though his principal area of study centers around linguistics, he is perhaps better known for his philosophical ideas and political activism both which consistently challenged convention.

At the start of the documentary, Chomsky proposes the idea that the media in the United States is a mechanism of propaganda under the control of the powerful elite and that the content exists solely for the purpose of thought control of the people within our society.  He states that “propaganda is to a democracy what violence is to the dictatorship.”  Though I agree with idea in the quote, I strongly disagree with the preceding statement implying conspiracy.  Not only do I believe that the conspiracy charge is false but also that dismissing all mainstream media because of this belief is dangerous to society as it can lead the American people to seek out information from much less reliable sources taking them further away from the truth.  This documentary which proposes to uncover the true face of the American media as a tool of thought control itself uses most of the same blatant forms of propaganda trickery that it accuses the mainstream media of in attempt to persuade viewers of its assertions.  Perhaps, a primary reason why this documentary has been successful at being persuasive, is that it intersperses logically valid and invalid ideas along with emotionally strong creative enhancements which all lead less skeptical viewers toward conclusions that do not follow from stated premises.

Chomsky states that he has strong anarchist convictions and considers himself a Libertarian Socialist which he explains is the mainstream of traditional anarchism.  It is therefore understandable why he feels the need to break down our system of free press.  As an anarchist he would want to stand against all forms of power and authority.  Further more, as a cutting edge intellectual seeking recognition, it stands to reason that one can more easily gain notoriety by challenging powerful institutions that have escaped the attention of most others.  Anyone can pickup a six-pack of naysayers at any convenience store voicing condemnation of the government, the wealthy, and the military.  Challenging the institutions of education and the press is something that has been successfully accomplished by a relative few in comparison.

The film quotes Clement Walker who famously stated in the mid 1600’s of the new democrats in England; “they have made the people thereby so curious and arrogant that they will never find humility enough to submit to a civil rule.”  This quote leads into the idea that to govern a democracy the ruling class would need to make use of propaganda as a new form of subversion to get the masses to submit willingly to rule and that without such controlled indoctrination a democracy such as ours could not survive.  The claim of democracy not being able to survive is not substantiated or supported in any way.  Even if it were true though, to prove the claim of conspiracy one would need to establish first the pervasiveness of systematic and organized propaganda by the ruling class using the American media and second that convincing the masses to willingly act in some manner should be considered subversion.  The support for both is lacking in this film.

The film states that the position of the power elite is that with democracy, rule is a game for elites not for the ignorant masses who have to be marginalized, diverted, and controlled for their own good.  Therefore the success of democracy depends upon indoctrination of the masses by creating necessary illusions in order to manufacture their own consent to being ruled.  While this last statement may be true it doesn’t imply that the process is systematic and organized by a single entity.  It is much more likely that there exists varying degrees of power and control exercised by multiple entities in constant conflict with each other and that they are all seeking to influence the masses for independent reasons and thereby gain the benefit of the power of numbers.  As for the media, rather than being systematically organized and controlled by a single entity with a single agenda, I believe that it is a power unto itself that is randomly distributed in a similar way as the multiple entities previously described having its own incentives to compete against and discredit each other.  Though it is reasonable to believe that the media is influenced at different times by entities of power and is susceptible to internal biases the condition of the American press as a whole tends more by far toward being free of restraint than Chomsky’s envisioned controlled mechanism of thought control by those in power.

An idea I have developed for understanding and explaining the classes of power in our society fits nicely with the target groups of the propaganda model outlined in the film.  Twenty percent of the population make up the leading political class swaying the direction of societal progress and the rest of the population are followers.  I have often explained the breakdown of citizens using this arbitrary 20/80 split and have long found it amusing that while it is almost universally accepted, everyone I have discussed this with believes that they are among the 20% and not the 80%.  I assure you that I don’t sequester myself choosing only to engage conversationally with those in the 20%.  But there you have it, everyone prefers to believe that they are in the know and are active participants in the political process while the truth is that many of them blindly follow what is offered without taking the time or effort to think for themselves.

The documentary suggests that the elite media organizations act as agenda setters and the lesser media outlets digest the information disseminated so that the 80% can get on board.  I concede this point fully.  It does not seem necessary as the film attempts to do, to prove that the non-agenda setting media outlets are complicit in any supposed systematic organized attempt to deceive and control the public.  To group the media regurgitators of the 80% along with the 20% agenda setters would falsely skew the numbers giving the impression of more weight toward collusion than is reasonable.  Whether the 80% media is regurgitating information out of laziness to make a buck or is under the watchful authority of a higher power is not relevant to the discussion as the end result is the same.  If a single source investigates a story and all of the lesser outlets run with it only to have it later be discovered that the story was false, the fact that such a large number of media outlets covered the story should not be considered when assessing the presence or degree of presence of any conspiracy.  Only the originating source matters in this hypothetical case.  Therefore it should only be necessary to dispel Chomsky’s arguments against the media agenda setters.  In the film these are listed as those such as ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many more.

The narrator states that 80% of mass media is about distractions to dumb down the masses to get them away from things that matter.  This statement shows an example of how the documentary mixes in unsubstantiated subjective content as if it serves to emphasize the truth while it in fact distracts from the truth.  I might even agree with the producers of the film on the examples of mass media that act as a distraction away from things that matter but that is my subjective opinion laced with my own biases of what is important.  Whether or not distractions dumb down the masses is a matter for debate.  No empirical support is offered up but rather is substituted with imagery of stupidity.  This then implies that if you agree that what you are seeing is stupid the preceding statements in the film must be true which of course nicely frames a logical non sequitur.

Chomsky expresses that if people attempt to enter the institution of the press with dissenting views, they are likely to be excluded as no system or institution allows for a self destructing mechanism to exist and so will work to marginalize or eliminate dissenting voices because they are dysfunctional.  I agree that this is a part of the nature of systems and institutions but that as a fact does not add any weight to the argument that the American free press has been hijacked and is under the control of the power elite.  The film implies that since members of the press with dissenting views are marginalized or excluded this indicates a conspiracy but then proves this not to be the case by statement that such behavior is natural for systems and institutions.

One of the main points of support for the claim that America’s free press is not free but under the control of the power elite was that the press coverage for seemingly equal stories has been demonstrated to be disproportionate in favor of stories which promote the ruling agenda.  The fact that it was much more widely reported that a genocide took place in Cambodia than the genocide in East Timor was cited as direct support that the press was pushing the anti-communist agenda of the government.  Isn’t it more likely that each contributing outlet of the press made the decision to dedicate more resources toward reporting about a story which was assumed to be more interesting to the public.  Since the Vietnam war was fresh in everyone’s memories and helped to shape or reshape every aspect of American society, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that this was a topic more relevant to the viewers?

The apparent discrepancy between effort in reporting of similar stories also does not take into account an alternative and perhaps more likely explanation which is that individuals within media organizations are going to make decisions which are assumed to benefit the individual or organization.  When presented with multiple stories for coverage, it is likely that an individual will make decisions to favor his or her role in the organization.  Which adds more weight to the probability of a reporter’s promotion versus termination, a story about how a local government outside of the viewing area is corrupt or a story about how the primary advertiser Jimbo’s Used Car dealership is corrupt?  This example demonstrates the likelihood of the existence of bias in the press but does not support the claim of conspiracy.  One could correctly argue that such bias contradicts core tenants expressed by the press establishing a clear case of hypocrisy.   But again this doesn’t support the conspiracy claim.  It is more reasonable to assume a motivation of individual success than collusion with the power elite to control the minds of the public.  Regardless, considering the example of reporter’s dilemma, a competing media outlet who does not receive advertising benefit from Jimbo’s Used Car dealership might break the story and thereby garner the attentions of Jimbo’s competitors as advertisers.

While discussing the discrepancy of coverage between the genocides of Cambodia and East Timor, a clip was inserted showing President Jimmy Carter with a smiling demeanor signing an executive order or law giving favor to the perpetrators of the East Timor genocide while people praised and clapped in the background.  The commentary of the film expressed that the President Carter signature extended support for the Indonesians at the time that they were actively involved in the massacre of East Timor citizens.  Ominous music played to help emphasize how happy the power elite were while signing away the lives of the impoverished.  This is a common propaganda trick used in practically every political campaign.  Combine stock video footage unrelated to the content being presented to color it with emotional spin by making the figure at the center appear callous to the plight of lesser people.

Chomsky categorizes the system of press reporting as follows.  There are three types of bloodbaths processed by the press.  The benign bloodbaths are ignored.  The constructive bloodbaths are praised.  The nefarious bloodbaths are condemned.  This creates an emotional tie between the idea of the press and the bloodbath which leads the viewer to feel that the press is complicit in the actual act of the bloodbath.  In addition to this attempt at manipulating the feeling of viewers, the producers add a series of clips where ordinary people express negative feelings toward the media.  Feelings about a subject and the apparent number of people people who believe an idea are not relevant to what is true and so should be not be relied upon when seeking argumentative support.  This serves to further the case that the Chomsky and the producers rely upon argumentum ad passiones in the absence of concrete support.

It was expressed that Nightline News is biased and therefore presumed untrustworthy because the vast majority of the guests fell into three categories (professionals, government officials, or business men).  I put forth the idea that those three groups would comprise of almost all possible subject matter experts on any given story that Nightline aired with the rare exception of a feelgood story such as involving who knew what and when concerning the neighbor’s cat being stuck in a tree.

Chomsky acknowledges that there are many good investigative reporters who are caught in a contradiction of purpose.  They attempt to maintain the sense of journalistic professional integrity while keeping commitment to indoctrination and control.  I would trash and rewrite the later statement to state that they attempt to maintain the sense of journalistic professional integrity while ambitiously pursuing avenues of career advancement that aligns with their personal beliefs of what constitutes success.

My favorite Chomsky line of the film has to be “the beauty of concision is that you can only repeat conventional thoughts.”  I agree completely.  It does not help establish the point of the film but I do agree completely.  Apparently like myself, Chomsky lacks ability to be succinct on most occasions.  This was clearly presented in the film which might explain its extreme length for a documentary of its type.  This also might explain his frustration with the press as rarely has his expressed idea been allowed to be communicated in full not due to censorship but rather the restrictions of fitting a chapter’s worth of information between two commercials or in less than 600 words of print.  Chomsky proclaims that mainstream media forces concision which doesn’t allow for unconventional ideas.  The necessity for concision I would think is based on practical considerations such as duration of a news show or space on the front page not based on requirements enforced by the power elite.

The downside of attempting to express an unconventional idea is that it will need additional time or print for explanation.  I say that it is the burden of the advocate of the unconventional idea to find an appropriate medium that is receptive to the added explanation needed to present the idea or to find a method to express that idea more efficiently.  New ideas rarely take hold in the conscious understanding of the public from one person’s proclamation.  They must follow after the smaller prerequisite evolution of the public’s existing conscious understanding.  One who has studied 10,000 hours in a field to master an understanding which is now obvious to that person should not expect that the public will share that understanding without first convincing the public as a whole of all that is required to make sense of that elusive understanding.  It is a time consuming process to create a truly revolutionary idea.  At best one can expect to plant the seed and participate in the cultivation of the idea.  When conditions are right the idea will thrive.

I suggest that each media organization is the representation of the many individuals within operating from different sets of motivations.  Within each organization there is internal conflict over what should get squeezed between two commercials or fit neatly on the front page.  The conflict is complex and random originating from sources such as interpersonal work relationships, plays for power and influence within the organization, and of course influence by funding sources.  Then there is the complex structure of organization ownership.  Even if competing media organizations fall under the same ownership, they are likely be competing for the public’s attention in order to achieve a better position of influence within the organization’s structure.

The mainstream press gets us closer to the truth than most of us could without it; even if we were to take the time (which most would not).  No one can take the time to seek out the truth for every item of information.  We must depend upon experts who can take the time that we cannot.  With that in mind, I suggest looking past the news digesters, regurgitators & commentators and instead look to those who are doing the investigative work.  From those, don’t except the works as truth but as most likely true after spending some time reviewing sources of  previous works to establish a pattern of competence and integrity.   After doing what I suggest, I see nothing that would lead a rational person to conclude that the American press is unified and under the direct control of powerful individuals with an agenda to subjugate and indoctrinate the masses.  I applaud Chomsky for exercising incredible linguistic skill with making statements of wise observations.  I chastise Chomsky for stringing those statements together to force a conclusion from invalid reasoning which makes use of most of the known and obvious logical fallacies.

 

Scientists and Journalists

There is no shortage of people that are happy to loudly proclaim how mainstream media cannot be trusted.  Many of these same people believe that scientists cannot be trusted and cite many of the same reasons.  Though I disagree with the notion that both groups are untrustworthy, I agree that there are many similarities between the groups of mainstream journalists and mainstream scientists and put forth that those defining characteristics are exactly the reason why both groups are worth of our respect and trust.

In both groups there are well established and agreed upon processes for seeking out truth.  Both sets of processes depend upon corroboration to support findings.  Both groups contain a large amount of individuals who are actively seeking individual recognition and one of the fastest ways to be recognized in one’s respective field, be it by science or investigative journalism, is to invalidate someone else’s claim.  It is more difficult to produce something that stands up to the rigors of peer review than to find evidence that invalidates a portion or all of someone’s work.  There is great incentive therefore for individuals to participate in the peer review processes.

Not all people who work in the field of science are scientists and not all people who work in the news field are journalists.  For most people, I would think they look no further than to get their information from sources who are reporting or summarizing what was discovered by actual scientists or investigative journalists.  For many people, even this must seem too tedious and so they turn to sources who offer emotion laden commentary citing other commentators or headlines; many times without a mention of any of the series of steps that support the idea and establish truth and validity.   In both fields there are well established sources considered reputable and which are frequently quoted or paraphrased by others in the field.  These are the sources that should form the strength of our understanding of what is to be considered true in each respective field.

It is a mistake to lump all information provided by a single organization into a single category.  Not all shows on the CNN, FOX or MSNBC news channels should be considered journalism; therefore it is unfair to classify an information source strictly by the channel that broadcasts that information.  I wish more people would better understand the differences between news talk shows (commentary), news digest, and journalistic reporting and then judge each independently.  Similarly, scientific research should stand on its own merit and not be judged strictly on whether it occurred at an educational institution versus a private organization.

A common claim is that scientific studies performed or funded by private businesses and organizations are untrustworthy due to enforced bias where the business or organization manipulates the outcome of the study to favor itself.  Similarly, it is commonly claimed that news reporting on major networks is untrustworthy due to enforced bias to placate advertisers.  It is plausible to believe that both claims sometime do occur and that the information put forth is at best flawed and at worst in error.  However, there is not sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that this sort of misrepresentation of the truth is widespread.  Regardless, this line of thinking would have us invalidate all sources of information since all need to be funded and would therefore be subject to biased influence from the funding source.

In both groups (scientists and journalists) we can expect that there are individuals who do not follow the norms for each group respectively.  There are individuals who will seek to purposely misrepresent the truth.  There are individuals who will make errors in judgement or be misled by others.  Too many people seeking the immediate gratification of quick information, allow themselves to have their beliefs shaped by information with little merit or information that is later refuted.  The best defense against being misled is to sit back and observe.  Let the peer review process work.  When independent sources offering corroboratory evidence and confirmation starts accumulating, it is a good bet that we are nearing the truth.

 

(4) Deduction versus Induction

Deduction and induction are the two broad methods of reason in logic.  Deductive reasoning takes a “top-down” approach whereas inductive reasoning take a “bottom-up” approach.  Simply put, deduction is focused with confirming a theory whereas induction is focused with how a theory is developed.

Deductive reasoning starts with accepted theory (general explanation) and narrows down to specific observations of truth.  This method of reasoning is often used to confirm or contradict the underlying theory.  Deductive reasoning follows accepted truths (premises) and infers from those a necessary conclusion.  If the premises are true and rules of logic are followed, the conclusion holds true.  If the conclusion turns out to be false, one or more of the premises must be false.

Inductive reasoning starts with observing specific patterns and then developing a theory (general explanation) to explain the observations.  Because there are no accepted truths to build upon with inductive reasoning, arguments are considered strong or weak as opposed to valid or invalid and conclusions are not stated as necessary and certain but rather as probable.   The strength of the inductive argument centers around the value of provided evidence.

When seeking out what is true, it is best to employ both methods of reasoning.  This has been demonstrated over time with the advancement of scientific understanding.  An individual employs inductive reasoning to create a theory to explain observations or patterns.  Other individuals then work to disprove parts of the theory or its entirety using deductive reasoning.  Theories become accepted as truth if they are strong enough to withstand years of attempts at disproving its tenets.  It is noteworthy to recognize that accepting that a theory as true does not necessarily imply that the theory is true but rather that it is highly probable that the theory is true.

The following shows an example that demonstrates inductive reasoning versus deductive reasoning.

  1. Inductive Process
    1. An observation is made that all crows seem to be black.
    2. An attempt to is made to determine a pattern by observing the color of crows at multiple locations in the world.
    3. A generalization is made that ALL crows are black.  The argument can only strongly infer that all crows are black.  It does not and cannot prove this with certainty because all crows were not observed to confirm the black color.
  2. Deductive Process
    1. To disprove the generalization that ALL crows are black one only need find a single non-black crow.
    2. The theory (generalization) that ALL crows are black will continue to gain acceptance as long as continued searches fail to discover a single non-black crow.

(3) The Structure of a Logical Argument

A logical argument is much different than a situational argument such as when a parent confronts a child about not cleaning up his or her room.  There is no emotional language in a logical argument but rather it demonstrates a proof by using clear and concise language that follows a series of agreed upon statements of supporting truths.

The central parts of the logical argument are comprised of one or more premises and a conclusion.  Premises are series of statements which can be somewhat easily agreed upon.  These are brought together to give support for an ultimate proposition which is the conclusion of the argument.

In order to make one’s viewpoint pursuasive, it is often necessary to construct multiple supporting arguments.  As a demonstration of this, consider the following example in the form of a syllogism.

  • Premise: There is a volcano nearby that is getting ready to erupt
  • Premise: Erupting volcanoes kill everything close by
  • Conclusion: If we don’t evacuate the area soon we will die when the volcano erupts

In the previous example, the conclusion would hold true if the supporting premises are accepted as true.  However, it is likely that to gain acceptance of the first premise, it will be necessary to construct an additional supporting argment that proves that indeed a volcano is nearby and that it is likely to erupt.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       .

(2) Dialectic Reasoning

Dialectic is an oscillation between opposing ideas within a dialogue.  It is a line of thinking that takes the form of argument and rebuttal to reach a better understanding of what is true.  The word and concept originates from the ancient Greek thinkers and is the basis for today’s use of logic when seeking out what is true.

The strength of the dialectic method of reasoning is built from a rational discussion that includes multiple opposing points of view.  Offering multiple propositions and counter propositions and then having them skillfully negated or confirmed, brings about resolutions of disagreements that lead reasonable participants closer to the truth.

Discussions involving singular points of view that have not been skillfully and rationally challenged often have fatal flaws which can lead to accepting false assertions.  Even a well constructed point of view, supporting a true assertion, benefits from the rigors of being challenged in that it contributes toward strengthening support for the assertions being made.

In the court of law where two skillful lawyers argue a case before a jury, it is not uncommon to be pursuaded of the guilt beyond reasonable doubt of an alleged defendant during the presentation of the prosecutor only later to be pursuaded by the defense that there is enough reasonable doubt to acquit the accused.  This exemplifies both the necessity of examining multiple points of view to develop a better understanding that more closely aligns with what is true as well as how much dialectic reasoning has shaped important processes that affect our lives even today.

(1) True or False vs. Valid or Invalid

True/False

It is common understanding that for an individual to believe or feel that something is true does not in itself imply that the something is indeed true.  Truth is something to be understood outside of our own experience.  It is true whether we believe it or not.

For example, it is true that objects in the dark are still there even if we cannot hear or see them.  A statement that that implies that when in the absence of light an object no longer exists is false and can be proven so by someone reaching out into the dark to touch that object.

Valid/Invalid

Validity focuses not upon whether the conclusion is true or false but rather on whether the process (argument) leading up to and supporting the conclusion is free from mistakes.

The following for example, shows how an argument can have a true conclusion but yet still be invalid.

Premise: The Sun is yellow
Premise: Fire is yellow
Premise: Fire is hot
Conclusion: Therefore the sun is hot

In this example, the conclusion is true yet the process is invalid as it proposes that a reason for the sun being hot is that it is yellow.

In the search for truth it is most important that both the conclusion is true and the supporting argument is valid.  A valid argument is helpful for ensuring that ones own understanding of the truth is supported by reason as well as for pursuading others to accept and agree with your conclusions of what is true.