Put Your Thinking Caps On

Fellow mortals!

By now some of you know enough about the peculiarities of my mind and its attachments to understand that I believe in certain undying principles or ideals.

These derive  ultimately from the ancient philosophers Socrates/Plato and Aristotle, with side tours of folks like St. Augustine, Dante Alighieri,  Thomas More,  John Henry (Cardinal) Newman,  Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Stuart Mill,  Alfred Korzybski,  George Orwell,  and the whole gamut of the Old and the New Testaments.

I have particularly been keen on the Trinity of early philosophy and rhetoric, with sidebars on the literary essay and literary criticism.    Somewhat akin to the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity (Father,  Son, and Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost) the classical Trinity presents (especially in the Platonic dialogues featuring curmudgeon and stickler Socrates) three enduring values or “goods” (compare to the “bigs” in a basketball game),   which have both distinctive traits and provide support to the other two qualities.

The roots of all human philosophy have grown from these three trunks:  Ethos (that which is morally good),  Logos (that which is rationally good), and Aesthetics (that which is well-crafted or beautiful).

The syllogism was employed by Socrates (as presented by his most famous pupil,  Plato) to argue with others about the most pressing issues of the day in Athenian society.  In his “Apology,”  for example,  he takes on the indictment of his fellow citizens of the charge that he has corrupted the youth of Athens. He does, of course,  lose the case (while winning the argument and gaining more enemies) and chooses death over lifetime exile.

A syllogism is built upon two premises and a conclusion;  if either premise if factually erroneous or if the syllogism is badly constructed, the conclusion is erroneous.   Here is the eldest perhaps of these:

Major Premise:   All men are mortal.

Minor Premise:   Socrates is a man.

Conclusion:          Socrates is mortal.

Thus, using syllogistic or Socratic reasoning can help enhance one’s ability to think deductively.

An “enthymeme” is a kind of syllogistic reasoning in which one of both premises may be inherent in the conclusion.    Here is an example:  A few years ago, while heading back to Cumberland County from UNCP,  we passed two young men,  dressed neatly, and riding bicycles.  Rudy says,  “Well,  look at those two Mormons. ”   Me:  “How can you tell what their religion is just by looking at them?” Here is how the implicit parts work:

Major Premise:  All young male Mormons are  expected to do missionary  work,  wear white shirts and dark trousers,  and either walk or ride bicycles on their mission.

Minor Premise:  Here are two young men who are dressed well and riding bicycles.

Conclusion:  These young men are Mormons.

I will conclude by saying that I don’t consider the “syllogism,” as some do,  to be a literary term as such.  It is rather of staple of classical rhetoric,  a device to improve one’s success as a thinker and as an essay writer or a debater.

The “tropes” of classical rhetoric and many and diverse.  It was Edward P.J. Corbett’s book from the early 1960s,  “Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student,”  that made me aware of the diversity and usefulness of the “trope,”  particularly in reading and understanding much of the European Literature of the “Age of Reason,”  from about 1660 to the late eighteenth century.

Maybe the following syllogism is such that you can solve it with a conclusion or reject it on the grounds of a faulty (untruthful or invalid)  premise  Let me know what you think:

Major Premise:  Nervous people chew gum.

Minor Premise:  He is chewing gum.




8 Responses to “Put Your Thinking Caps On”

  1. CICvet Says:

    Well, his nervousness could be alleviated by munching double-mint Buspar. But we don’t know that he’s nervous. He may or may not be nervous. I know a few non-nervous people who chew gum. On the other hand, they could be hiding their nervousness by chewing gum (or Buspar). I conclude, therefore, that chewing gum makes one nervous, which, in turn, tempts one to chew more and more. It’s like the Buddhist Wheel of Life. Right?

  2. Daryl Cobranchi Says:


    A valid construction would be something along the lines:

    1) All nervous people chew gum
    2) He is a nervous person
    3) Therefore, he chews his cud gum

  3. Macky Myers Says:

    As humans, we learn by comparing or identifying one thing with another. Our minds work based on a set of pre-existing conditions.

    Even the spelling of a word is often suggestive. I remember left wing radicals using the spelling of “Amerika” in the 70s to imply a totalitarian state. Orwell’s “Big Brother” expression implies a taller more powerful presence other than our own. Scientists refer to “electromagnetic fields” (fields used by farmers to plant cotton or soybeans???).

    EXISTING IDEA (Thesis)

    All nervous people chew gum (thesis or existing knowledge)
    Here comes a double bubble lip smacker! (antithesis or new information)
    (Hummmmm? Is he nervous? Is he NOT nervous?)
    He looks nervous, so that explains why he’s blowing bubbles. OMG! He has to pop it, too! 🙂

  4. software keys Says:

    If a missing person sees their picture on a milk carton that offers a reward, would they get the money?

  5. CICvet Says:

    Wouldn’t the milk carton be missing also?

  6. fayettenamhoe Says:

    at least we get to drink the milk, fuck the cartoon

  7. fayettenamhoe Says:

    the money comes from selling out

  8. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Maybe we arter have stuck to “dem Saints” a while longer.

    Never read such a diverse, ungainly set of replies. Yet: really all worth paying some heed to.

    CICVet: Nicely phrased existential comments. All suitable at some point in addressing the shared discourse that a syllogism requires.

    Daryl Cobranchi: Successful at engineering and a math thrasher, he offers a valid and true structure for a syllogism in contrast to falling into the trap I had set for the unwary flies. . . .

    Macky Myers: A sweeping philosophical whimsy, in which Hegel meets Orwell. Speaking of the changing of “America” to “Amerika” to perhaps put a jingoistic label on public patriotism, would Orwell’s paternal tyrant today be perhaps known as “Big Bro”?

    Fayettenam Hoe: May need to reread another recent posting in order to get back into the idea of the dialectics of decorum: applying the appropriate “clock” or “register” to the several/five kinds of discourse, which for this blog would likely be mostly “deliberative” rather than “casual” or “intimate.” Nonetheless, some of us were getting concerned as we had not heard from you or about you for some time. . . . You “stick to your guns.” Some of us are wounded . . . .


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