Faulty Reasoning

My wife came home the other day and said that a neighbor told her that “people were complaining [about some picky community thing] on the community Facebook page.”

Philosophers millennia ago observed two types of logical reasoning.

There is deductive logic where we begin with a statement regarded as true and deduce other things as true. The problem I’ve observed with this method is the beginning proposition. But, that’s another essay.

Then we have inductive logic. We observe certain phenomena in one and then another and another until we say that a proposition is true in general. Say we observe that an older person often complains. And another older person complains frequently. And another. Pretty soon we think it must be true in general that old people complain often. About almost everything.

Inductive reasoning requires many observations before validly extrapolating from the specific to the general.

We humans often ignore that starting point. How often do we take one data point and say “everybody does that”?

Back to our neighbor. I check that Facebook page 3 or 4 times a week. I couldn’t recall much of a discussion about anything. So I investigated. There was one comment by one person with no replies about that picky little community thing.

How easily we jump to conclusions! Which begs the question, how often just in the past week have we each jumped to a wrong conclusion using a too small data set? How often should we pause before we say that all [whatever] are this way? Often!

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