Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Plot twist: Slothful Induction is not about actual sloths

If you're reading this post because you thought it was about sloths...I might as well just stop you now because sadly it's not. Don't worry though! If you were as disappointed as I was, don't be dismayed. Even though slothful induction isn't about lazy, lethargic (yet incredibly adorable) cuddly mammals; it's a type of fallacy that is interesting on its own. 

What's a fallacy you ask? Well until a few days ago I couldn't tell you, and was about as useful as an actual sloth wasting her life away in a tree somewhere tropical and warm (so would I really be wasting it?) However now, through my knowledge gained through this class, I can tell you that a fallacy is a belief that is mistaken or untrue. These misconceptions are usually based off of an argument or statement that is false or misinterpreted, causing it to be invalid.

A slothful induction is a type of fallacy, so it is a belief that is untrue based on misconceived facts or arguments. Particularly, this fallacy is categorized as inductive, and focuses on how the conclusion of an argument is invalid and wrong even though there is strong evidence for the contrary. 

This fallacy is also called an appeal to coincidence because it is "stubborn" and does not want to appeal to a common interest.  Despite overwhelming evidence, a conclusion that is drawn by evidence is ignored. 

Examples of this can include...

1) Hugo has had twelve accidents in the last six months, yet he insists that it is just a coincidence and not his fault. (Inductively, the evidence is overwhelming that it is his fault. This example borrowed from Barker, p. 189)

2) A careless man who has had twelve accidents in the last six months and it is strongly evident that it was due to his negligence or rashness, yet keeps insisting that it is just a coincidence and not his fault.

3) Smith believes an open flame can ignite gasoline (he uses matches to light bonfires, etc.), and Smith believes the match he now holds has an open flame (he would not touch the tip, etc.), and Smith is not suicidal. Yet Smith decides to see whether a gasoline tank is empty by looking inside while holding the match nearby for illumination. Similar stories often appear in newspapers; this is approximately how one of Faulkner's characters, Eck Snopes, dies in The Town." (Cherniak, Minimal Rationality, p. 57.)

These are all flaws because basically the obvious premise is being ignored despite facts that are basically being thrown at you. "Its logical form is: evidence suggests X results in Y, yet the person in question insists Y was caused by something else." It's just blind, deliberate ignorance (and not even the cute kind of ignorance and innocence that an actual sloth has). 

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