Raging against the Machine

After an hour of “PC Load Letter” moments, the students marched in and the classes began. I had successfully exorcized a couple of the demons and was able to extract copies of two Greek quizzes, but the Logic test copy/print job was firmly in the clutches of Legion.

So I wrote the test on the board old school style.

Then I took a picture of the board and had the school secretary print a copy of the board to pass out to the next class.

This is a victory for the iOS camera, Readle’s PDF Converter and Printer Pro, and all of humanity.

Syllogism Basics Illustrated

During the past two weeks of Logic, we have been talking about rules that help students determine whether or not a syllogism is valid. We’ve covered the first four:

  1. A syllogism must have 3, and only three, terms.
  2. The middle term must not be in the conclusion.
  3. A term that is distributed in the conclusion must be distributed in the premises.
  4. The middle term must be distributed at least once.

To understand these rules a student must be able to identify a syllogism’s major, minor, and middle terms. Last week, I made a big deal in class about how “if you go shopping for major or minor terms, you must go to the conclusion!” I tried my best to channel my inner Tom Haverford as I emphasized that it’s in the conclusion — not the premises — that one finds the major and minor terms.

This morning, as the students were filing in and I was hurrying them to their desks so we could start a quiz, I was presented with with this gem:

Scene by scene, the wisdom of shopping at “Conclusion” is beautifully illustrated. Thanks, Emmy!

On Making Good Arguments

Charles Halton taught me something about making a good argument, and it has stuck with me. I took a couple of his M.Div. classes, and I would frequently observe this exchange (I might have been the student once or twice):

Student: “But isn’t it possible that …”

Charles: “Yes, anything is possible.”

No matter the question, if it was prefaced with “isn’t it possible,” this was his response. After a moment of awkward silence, he would (usually) smile and go on to explain the moral of the story: the best explanation is not the one merely possible, but the one that is most probable. “Isn’t it possible” is often irrelevant. Of course people will disagree about what makes an argument “probable,” but this is where the conversation should take place.

It took a while for this important point to sink in; it might have sunk in a little more quickly if he would have said it like this: