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Political Free-for-All: Gloves Required!

  • Oct 10, 2012 · 7:00 PM

The Free-for-All: This being the election season, the air is filled with political speech, often hastily constructed, almost always filled with carefully constructed fiction, and sometimes laced with a few facts. We will accept nominations of statements for analysis. It is expected that statements will come from “preposterous” statements of opponents; however, participants should feel free to offer up their favorite statements of problems or solutions voiced by their favorite electoral hero, perhaps to instill fellow participants with the "revealed truth."

The Gloves: In true philosophical fashion, we will submit the nominated statements to formal logical analysis, however, we will go beyond evaluating how well the statements embody the formal rules of construction and internal relationships. We will also examine the possible “truth(s)” of the various elements of the statement. At this stage, we will proceed with the assumption of a rational actor with good intentions and concentrate on understanding the intended meaning of the statement, assumptions that the actor might have made, and the actor’s possible intentions. We will then entertain questions about validity of the analysis developed to this point (“fact check?”), identify potential undesirable or unintended consequences, and assess the probability of success. We can entertain how the proposal could be qualified or tweaked to improve its potential outcome. At this point we will call for criticisms from opponents or opponent(s)’s statements of their proposed actions to address the same condition/problem. The foregoing process will then be applied to the nominated competitive proposal(s).

Pre-fight Entertainment: We will discuss the foregoing process and the tools outlined below and adjust as suggested or respectfully demanded.

Main Event: Nominate statements. Nominations should include the entire paragraph, hopefully as exact quotes (cell phone playbacks and HTML print-outs accepted), containing the statement in order to properly understand the context. The distortions from “cherry-picking” embedded phrases are well documented. Nominators are encouraged to not reveal source unless asked. Ding!

The Analysis:

1. Analysis of Logic - Parse into premises and conclusions in order to analyze as a syllogism (enthymeme).
. a. Premise(s) I - Major [problem/causes?]
. i. Context
. ii. Condition, state, problem to be addressed, need, cause
. iii. Assumptions – stated or assumed from context

. b. Premise(s) II – Minor [solutions/means?]
. i. Proposed/promised program(s) or program changes
. ii. Proposed program reduction(s)
. iii. Funding proposal(s)
. iv. Assumptions

. c. Conclusion [results/ends?]
. i. Proposed/promised state/condition change – well-being, efficiencies, jobs, ethical issues
. ii. Claimed deleterious impacts – who benefits, who pays
. iii. Public cost/budget savings
. iv. Private cost savings/growth
. v. Tax/revenue changes
. vi. Assumptions

2. Quantification – When references like they, some, most, group A, etc. are used it is difficult to understand the extent of a problem or the size of a particular group or sub-group to which the speaker refers. While numbers from an official source (government, polls, academic studies, et al) are best for establishing a common understanding, just offering an unsubstantiated belief of a number gives a co-discusser the opportunity to compare with his own database or own belief and to examine why that difference might be part of the reason for their differences on the main issue. When addressing situations where conventional wisdom may reign, numbers are indispensable. Parametric analysis, which involves working backwards to determine the point at which a decision or finding would be reversed, often can disarm a disagreement right from the beginning. Narrowing the gap in assumptions about numbers may shift the analysis away from induction and closer to deduction.

3. Impacts
. a. Who benefits?
. b. Who pays?
. c. Alternative proposals – Same or acceptable results?
. d. Unforeseen/unintended consequences

4. Moral issue/value – Moral claims? Which maxims? Fairness?
5. Message production/manipulation/deception theories
6. Evolution of political communications - speech tour -> radio -> TV -> debates

The Tools:

Logic: Methods and principles used in distinguishing correct from incorrect reasoning. Note this term, in the formal sense, only refers to validity of the process and not the validity of the content or the veracity of the statement. Logical analysis is concerned with the propositions that constitute the initial and end points of the process and the relationship between them. An argument is any group of propositions of which a conclusion is claimed to follow from the premises, which are regarded as providing evidence for the truth of that conclusion. Infinite regress can occur when a premise depends on another logical statement and no base concrete statement is provided to start the iterative process. Arguments can be either deductive or inductive. Since many of the statements of political embody some reference to future states it is likely that induction will dominate. (Logic material plagiarized or summarized from Introduction to Logic, IM Copi, 1961)

. a. Deduction – Deductive arguments involve the claim that its premises provide conclusive evidence.

. b. Induction – Inductive arguments involve the claim that the premises only provide some evidence for the conclusion. Inductive arguments can only be evaluated as better or worse, according to the degree of likelihood or probability that their premises confer upon their conclusion. Some purists assert that induction does not fall under formal logic.

. c. About Syllogisms. (LJ Kirszner & SR Mandell, The Concise Wadsworth Handbook, 2008)

. i. The major premise of a syllogism makes a general statement that the writer believes to be true. The minor premise presents a specific example of the belief that is stated in the major premise. If the reasoning is sound, the conclusion should follow from the two premises.
. ii. "A syllogism is valid (or logical) when its conclusion follows from its premises. A syllogism is true when it makes accurate claims--that is, when the information it contains is consistent with the facts. To be sound, a syllogism must be both valid and true. However, a syllogism may be valid without being true or true without being valid."

. d. Enthymeme - An informally stated syllogism (a three-part deductive argument) with an unstated assumption that must be true for the premises to lead to the conclusion. In an enthymeme, part of the argument is missing because it is assumed. In a broader usage, the term "enthymeme" is sometimes used to describe an incomplete argument of forms other than the syllogism, or a less-than-100% argument.

Information Management Theories

1. Myth Busting – Study results that belie the conventional wisdom and underlie the theories.
. a. Deception is cognitive, casual, ubiquitous, and successful.
. b. Contrary to popular belief that most deceptive communication is carefully constructed with foresight and planning. There appears to be no more cognitive load for deceptive speech than for truthful speech.
. c. Deception has been found to be casual and ubiquitous. In normal close personal conversations 38% of the communication is deceptive in some respect. The watchword is, “Preserve the relationship!” In general, deception rate is more like 33% and people average two lies per day. Deception appears to be a potentially efficient means for achieving desired end state and can be viewed in some sense as a problem-solving activity.
. d. In spite of what the crime TV shows portray, humans are poor detectors of deception.
. e. Humans are conditioned to accept messages as true; deception is detected in post-processing.
. f. Humans presume additional false information, as part of filling in the parts that seem missing. Self-deception may be a part of this, and could include #4.
. g. As usual, psycho-social (human behavior) research suffers from ecological and repeatability difficulties.

2. Intentional Systems - IS (DC Dennett)
. a. Messaging is about embedding beliefs, sometimes false beliefs.
. b. Epistemological hierarchy
. i. First order IS has beliefs and desires and other intentional states (b&d), but no b&d about b&d.
. ii. Second order IS has b&d about b&d – both those of others and its own.
. iii. Third order IS is one that is capable of a state illustrated by: X wants Y to believe something about X’s b&d, or actions.
. iv. Deceptive communication would appear to require at least second order intentionality.

3. Information Manipulation Theory - IMT (SA McCornack)
. a. Grice’s Cooperative Principle – Make your contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.
. b. Dimensions along which people routinely manipulate information in cooperative communication messages:
. i. Quantity violations – Producing messages that are less informative than is required by the situation. Article suggests this is the most common method used…preserve the relationship.
. ii. Quality violations – Presenting false information with the purpose of embedding false beliefs.
. iii. Relation violations – Presenting messages that are irrelevant, given the preceding talk. Creating messages that call into question the validity of the previous message of the opponent or changing the subject can fall in this category. A good offense can be better than a good defense. Article suggested that this is the rarest method used because it is difficult to make such manipulations covert. Listener is expecting one thing but gets another.
. iv. Manner violations – Presenting messages that are vague or ambiguous [or technical]. Presenter can hope that listener will be baffled, so as to create enough self doubt in him/her to head off follow-up questions.
. v. Note that these can be used in combination.

4. Interpersonal Deception Theory - IDT (JK Burgoon & DB Buller)
. a. General. Focuses on communications perspective (natural tendencies to match conversational patterns), emphasizing interactivity, goals, expectations, feedback, and adaptation.
. b. Core assumptions:
. i. Communication, whether truthful or deceptive, is intended to satisfy a host of goals, such as:
. a) Presenting oneself favorably to others.
. b) Managing expression of feelings and emotions in a socially acceptable fashion.
. c) Maintaining relational harmony.
. d) Easing conversational flow.
. e) Persuading others to accept one’s ideas and proposals.
. ii. Sender and receiver may have different goals, thus requiring an adaptive approach, employing various information management tactics to avoid detection and maintain credibility. IDT posits that there is an increased cognitive load when deceiving; however, with practice, these adaptations may become routinized and carried out at lower levels of cognition.
. iii. Receivers are active participants in deceptive episodes and display adaptive behavior as suspicions wax and wane.
. c. Twenty-one Propositions – See: Interpersonal Deception Theory.
. i. Prop 1&2 – Context (interactivity of media and demands of the conversational task) and relational features (familiarity and relationship valence).
. ii. Prop 2&3 – Expectations of truthfulness and their impact on the evaluation of truthfulness in the conversation.
. iii. Prop 5-10 – Deceivers engage in strategic (intentional) activities (managing content, non-verbal behaviors, and overall image) and nonstrategic (unintentional) activity (arousal, negative or dampened affect, depressed involvement, and impaired speech). Interactivity, self-interest, expectations of truthfulness, familiarity, and communication skill affect the mix of strategic vs. nonstrategic activities.
. iv. Prop 11-14 – Deception detection.
. v. Prop 15-17 – Suspicion detection.
. vi. Prop 18&19 – Deception-suspicion dynamics.
. vii. Prop 20&21 – Final judgments.

Join or login to comment.

  • Craig Y.

    Yes. I think the "Political Free-for-All" article describes the mechanics of what is logical correct, or sophism- the various ways of deceiving. What is lacking is the intent/heart which cannot be validated except by oneself, alone. Though the policians all claimed to be religious, I seriously doubt any of them think of true to oneself or not to deceive is important except perhaps Ron Paul.

    October 10, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    I want to thank whoever told me about "The Righteous Mind - Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" by Jonathan Haidt. I just now reached the chapter "The Moral Foundations of Politics" which would have to be pertinent to tomorrow's discussion. I won't be there, but I also want to share the League of Women Voter's 2012 Voters Guide for AA County: All Maryland Voter's Guides are at

    October 9, 2012

  • suzanne b.

    what i find so heartbreaking is how the media have degenerated into propaganda machines. they do absolutely no public service. both sides are equally guilty and i think it´s important to watch and read as much as you can so that you can possibly sift through the minutia and find some facts. this now is at such a level that i really find it frightening. i am so sorry i will miss this discussion. i look forward to seeing everyone in november!

    October 5, 2012

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