Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The paradigm based on a single example

I was struck by this paradigm maybe a month ago when one of my classmates here made a statement while we were walking on the road "This car belongs to the govt." The inference was based on the fact that the nameplate of the car had something kind of written as philippinas govt. on a not so nice looking green background and a picture of some tower in it. I just looked around and noticed that all the cars here have that kind of a name board. Meaning that all the cars that are registered in Philippines have that kind of a nameplate. The classmate had inferred a theory based on one single datapoint. She had fallen for the "fallacy of one example" More on the same topic at http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/inflogic/onesided.htm As mentioned in the above topic,

The one-sidedness fallacy does not make an argument invalid. It may not even make the argument unsound. The fallacy consists in persuading readers, and perhaps ourselves, that we have said enough to tilt the scale of evidence and therefore enough to justify a judgment. If we have been one-sided, though, then we haven't yet said enough to justify a judgment. The arguments on the other side may be stronger than our own. We won't know until we examine them.

So the one-sidedness fallacy doesn't mean that your premises are false or irrelevant, only that they are incomplete. You may have appealed only to relevant considerations, but you haven't yet appealed to all relevant considerations.

Getting back, why am I writing about this now? I just came back from a visiting professor (from a good American University)'s lecture and I am appalled by what she said. She too despite being a prof. for so many years fell for the same fallacy when she told that Lehman Brothers went out of business because they did not have a corporate social responsibility. And one needs that to be doing CSR to stay in the business for long. Well, maybe the Professoree did not know that Lehman Brothers was a 150 year old company. Just because it failed, you cannot blame it on not doing CSR. Such a pathetic example she had given, and that too being a professor. Maybe she doesnt even understand and know what poverty, pollution, etc is in the first place and then to do CSR to eradicate them. What a pathetic BS class early in the morning...

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