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Logic & Scientific Philosophy

My Twin, Stephen Downes

So far, Stephen Downes hasn’t attacked me like Batman (patrols his territory under his own power and initiative, strikes fear into the heart of wrong doers in the dead of night, and does these things with only the tools and skills he has acquired through training himself to extremely high levels) yet. While I have nothing against this man (he hasn’t even critiqued my previous blog post), I’ve decided that the best defence is a good offense. So, I will proceed to criticize the fundamental flaws in the logic of one of Stephen Downes’ articles.

Criticizing Downes’ Premises In A Hypothetical Syllogism

In relation to memorization and learning:

That’s where practice and memorization comes in. By repeating and rote, your brain (which is a fantastic processing machine) will find the patterns you can’t find cognitively, and you’ll remember.

I agree with the validity in your argument. But your premise is completely and utterly false. I’ll show you why by plugging in an example. Keep in mind I have never taken AP Calculus before.

If one repeats and rotes, their brain will find patterns that they cannot. (If A, then B)

I repeated and roted AP Calculus for 4 minutes last night. (A)

Therefore my brain found patterns in the Calculus that I could not. (B)

Let’s be honest, that’s not true. Your statement is false for a few different reasons. First, you do not specify how long you must repeat and rote for. Secondly, you do not define what a pattern constitutes as. Thirdly, this does not apply to all scenarios.

Now Let Me Apply The Last Part Of Your Syllogism.

If your brain finds the patterns [that] you can’t find cognitively, you’ll remember. (If B, then C)

Let me tell you, I remember little of my Calculus last night, if any at all. Now, I do believe that if I had been trying harder to concentrate, understand and remember what I had been repeating, I might remember slightly more.

I think that a better way to phrase the original statement would look like this:

“That’s where practice and memorization comes in. By repeating and rote, your brain (which is a fantastic processing machine) will sometimes find the patterns you can’t find cognitively, and sometimes you’ll remember.”

Now, Let’s Do A Little Bit Of Error Analysis For Myself.

  1. I took this quote out of context from an article
  2. The article was not meant to be logically concrete, rather it was expression of ideas (I suspect)

Anyways, Stephen Downes, I don’t mean to harshly rebel against your recent comments, in fact, I don’t even suspect you are Batman in the slightest. I even think that we are a little bit alike.

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “My Twin, Stephen Downes

  1. Well said, and fantastic pictures 🙂

    Posted by anafricanswallow | October 4, 2012, 5:32 am
  2. Nicely done. You are quite right, I don’t specify how long you should practice, nor do I describe (here) what constitutes a pattern. But let me take your example at face value:

    If one repeats and rotes, their brain will find patterns that they cannot. (If A, then B)
    I repeated and roted AP Calculus for 4 minutes last night. (A)
    Therefore my brain found patterns in the Calculus that I could not. (B)

    OK, that’s a good statement of the argument. Let’s look at your criticism:

    “I remember little of my Calculus last night, if any at all.”

    Keep in mind, if you remember *any* of your calculus, my argument stands. And you say you do remember some of your calculus – ‘little of my Calculus’ – maybe not very much, but then again, you only studied for four minutes. The more you study, the more you find patterns. That’s how my argument works.

    So how would you criticize my argument?

    I say you learned something, and I say you learned something even though you don’t know you learned it. I’m saying that when you study your brain learns patterns that you never actually see consciously. So when you come to me and say “I didn’t learn anything,” my response is, “Yes you did, you just don’t know it.”

    So when you look at this, you should be asking, is there *anything* that would disprove this argument? Is there any evidence at all that would have some bearing on whether or not it is true you learned something? Because, it is illegitimate for me to simply say “you learned something” and for you to have no way to disprove that. You should ask me, “what evidence could there be that I learned or did not learn unseen patterns?”

    Posted by Stephen Downes | October 4, 2012, 11:16 am
  3. Stephen Downes

    Thanks for commenting! I do agree with you on some points – I do remember some of the Calculus. But whether my brain found patterns which I cognitively could not, is in question. Of course, as you said, I may not know it. But lets take an even simpler example.

    If one repeats and rotes, their brain will find patterns that they cannot. (If A, then B)
    I repeated and roted the numbers of pi (A)
    Therefore, my brain found patterns in the digits of pi (B)

    If one’s brain finds patterns, they will remember (if B, then C)
    My brain found patters in pi (B)
    Therefore, I remember pi (C)

    I believe that the conclusion is true. If I do repeat and rote pi, I will surely remember several digits of pi. But are the middle statements true? I do not believe I have learned anything about the sequencing of pi, nor do I think anyone who has memorized it ever has.

    That would mean that A then C, but not A then B, or B then C.

    Your conclusion is therefore true, but your argument not sound.

    Jonathan toews

    Posted by JonathanToews | October 4, 2012, 11:22 pm
  4. Aha, no…

    My brain found patters in pi (B)
    Therefore, I remember pi

    Your brain remembers the *patterns*, not pi (it might also incidentally remember pi, but that is not the point)

    Posted by Stephen Downes | October 7, 2012, 7:16 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Fallacies of Ambiguity « Philosophy 12 - October 6, 2012

  2. Pingback: Looking back on Philosophy 12 | Philosophy 12 - February 22, 2013

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