Painfully right

There is a danger in feeling one is ‘right’, which is slightly different from feeling ‘justified’. Obviously, one may know one is not right in taking a certain course of action, but still feel justified based on some personal sense of revenge, need to retaliate, or defend etc.

But for this exploration I’m concerned only with being right. By ‘right’ I mean as correct as saying 1 + 1 = 2 (or 3 + 4 = 5 if added vectorially). However, this discourse is not about mathematics in itself. It is about a kind of logic that depends on mathematical logic i.e. Boolean logic.

  • In simple language if A = C and B = C it would be reasonable to say A or B = C.
  • In another example, if D and E and F = G, it is reasonable to say that E and F do not amount to G. (mathematically this could be D = 2, E = 3, F = 4, G = 9, so it is clearer that 3 + 4 is not equal to 9).  ‘And’ in this sort of analysis means that the two must go together all the time. In mathematics ‘and’ means a ‘plus’ sign.
  • Deductive logic is based on such a form of ‘mathematical’ reasoning. But I will go no further on any of that. If you really need more information, Google is your friend (not me).

I’ll give an example in an issue about compensation.

  1. For X to be compensated a structure N must be damaged.
  2. The evidence available is that structure T enclosing N has been damaged
  3. There is no evidence that N is damaged (and it is certainly possible for N to remain perfectly in tact even if T is damaged).
  4. But stick with the facts; there is only evidence of T being damaged, not N. To say that N is damaged because T is damaged is an ‘inference’ or supposition, not a fact based on the available evidence.
  5. The claimant has pain resulting from painful sensitivity of N being exposed because T (which covers N), is damaged.
  6. There is also reliable information that if T was not damaged N would not be exposed, and that the Claimant X, would not experience  painful sensitivity.
  7. Any assertion that N is damaged, is incorrect. it cannot be logically inferred AND there is no evidence of ‘damage’ to N.
  8. Any assertion that painful sensitivity of N, is equivalent to damage is an inference. Why? Because damage to N would invariably (as a matter of fact and evidence) lead to no sensation, not painful sensitivity. In any event exposure of N or sensitivity, is not damage to N.

Why is any of this important? People like to be right – yes I’m included. But being right is not just about whether a majority of people agree with you on a particular point. A majority of supporters may give a feeling that one is right – and it’s great to have support for one’s opinions. However, there is a problem: a majority could all be wrong! And the point of all the above examples is about this:

Being wrong can be due to

  1. the evidence being absent to support the application of logic.
  2. getting the logic wrong.

Here’s an interesting example:

  1. Man goes into hospital for severe complication of an infection with fever.
  2. His condition is treated really ‘aggressively’ ( – did I say the man was treated ‘aggressively’? Chrysst!!)
  3. There is no perceivable progress in his condition after 3 days.
  4. His relative secretively brings him a traditional potion, which he in desperation, secretively consumes.
  5. The next day he feels much better and the fever is remarkable down.
  6. Man concludes, “A dollop of the old ‘home remedy’ has worked where all the doctors with their chemicals failed”.
  7. Man declares the remedy as he is about to discharge himself from hospital.
  8. The doctors examine the ‘remedy’ and assert, “We’re sorry but there is no active agent in this that could combat the serious infection you had.
  9. Man asserts, “Be that as it may, all I know is that my fever is gone in a short amount of time after taking it, and your drugs did nothing after 3 days! I’m out of here!

The man is wrong! His sense of emotional relief from suffering and worry about death has clearly suspended his logic. He’s switched smack bang into System 1 thinking and shut down System 2 thinking. [For those who don’t know about it, read Kahneman (or not, to demonstrate your stubbornness) –  Google is your friend, not me.]

He’s wrong on two counts:

  1. He is the victim of more than one logical fallacy – just for adopting System 1.
  2. His evidence is limited, misapplied, and he disregards expert evidence that the potion in question has no active agent against infection.

Outcome: Man suffers a relapse of the infection which is more serious than the first time. Man then blames doctors for weakening his body with dangerous chemicals and refuses to return to hospital, fearing they will kill him for sure. Man dies, happy in the knowledge that he is right – having taken even bigger doses of said ‘home remedy’, whilst waiting for his relief! He’s relieved the world of his stupidity. Am I sad? [You want to know who is this man. Does it really matter? I give up!!]

Stupidity kills  – it’s a very potent killer, and cheaper than poison or weapons of mass destruction.  You can quote the infamous Captain Walker on that.

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