Monday, May 5, 2014

Time for a Little Logical Confusion

This challenging image has been floating around the Internet for some time telling me to look closely to see the woman posing as a parrot.  Right!  She's there all right.Look.  Her left leg is pointing down like a tail, foot is arched, and her right arm and leg are braced on the stump.  Her left arm is folded over her head, elbow pointing up and the bird's eye is in the middle of her forehead.  Can you see it now?

This picture reminded my of book I read repeatedly in college at a time when I was considering a different career path than the one I took.  The book is essentially a crash course in logic - not simple fallacies but rather an examination of truth, falsity and contradictions in arguments.  It intrigued and baffled me then, it still does.

The book begins simply enough, with a laundry list of definitions and then BOOM, the author drops the first paradox .

A certain village has among its inhabitants one and only one barber.  He is a clean shaven and well-respected man who saves all and only the village men who do not shave themselves?  Who, then, shaves the barber?

Oh for Pete sake.  He shaves himself, right?  Can't be.  If he does, he is violating the stipulation that he shaves all villagemen  who do not shave themselves.  Yet, if he does not shave himself, he is violating the stipulation that he shaves all men who do not shave themselves.

I love that kind of stuff.   Word paradoxes.  Improbable figures.  Situations that appear impossible to solve. Not saying I figure them all out, but I'm still drawn to them.  the book progresses from the above simple example ("Simple" being the author's word, not mine) to syllogism.  that still works for me - basic deductive reasoning.  then we move on to 1st 2nd and 3rd order enthymemes - getting more complex but I still get it.

Eventually, Venn diagrams come into play.  That's where it all ends.  I first heard about VD's in 9th grade Algebra class and that did not go well either.  When I found the evil things lurking as part of logic training, I shut the book, made new career choices and never looked back.  Until last week when I figured out the parrot-woman photo. Maybe there is still time, I thought.  Maybe I got smarter over the years and should backtrack, go back to school and give my first real job choice a try.   I pulled The Paradoxicon off the bookshelf and began reading happily confirming that closing that book so many years ago had been the right thing for me after all.  the book is out of print, but if you run into it anywhere, pick it up - it's filled with lots of fun stuff that will make you feel smart - until page 392.

Thanks for stopping by.