Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Notes from old logic books at the San Francisco Public Library


Unpublished reading notes by Lurene Helzer, October 23, 2002. I borrowed these two books from San Francisco’s public library.

The books are “The Five-Day Course in Thinking” by Edward De Bono, 1968, and “Guide to Straight Thinking” by Stuart Chase, 1956.

I would recommend these books to anyone, but especially to reporters and news commentators. The journalist doesn’t need all of these rules to write a routine story, but one’s thinking ability benefits by glancing at such notes from time to time:

Edward De Bono

Insight Thinking – Steps to solution not apparent. “Sudden jump in thinking.”

Sequential Thinking – Progressive sequence of steps, including modifications, mistakes.

Strategic Thinking – Chooses most appropriate steps out of multitude of possible steps. This is search not for solution, but for effective POLICY of behavior.

“…having something to show for the thinking is the only way to judge its worth.”

Discard unnecessary pieces/examine truth of your assumptions/start questioning things as a first step, instead of taking facts for granted/sometimes bad to apply ready-made patterns of experience/interferes with quick solution/LOGIC MAY IMPEDE DISCOVERY OF A SOLUTION IF IT HAS NO DIRECTION/TRIAL AND ERROR SOMETIMES SUPERIOR TO LOGIC/watch out for MISLEADING suggestions/whenever a PROBLEM IS DISCUSSED in a misleading way, its similarity to other problems may be obscured/rush to devise a line of approach.

• Recognize similarities between problems
• Inappropriate considerations can come from authority
• A specific experience more valuable if a general principal is derived
• The more general a principal, more valuable
• Use of patterns from experience…
• Make notes on policy, approaches, and principles involved in solving the problem. Honest assessment of thinking habits.
• Look at things in different ways if rigidity has been a problem.
• Experience may be useful OR inhibiting for solving problems.
*• Practice wording the problem in various ways, more difficult, so it can be applied to other problems.
• Try even stupid ideas because new ideas can be produced from the failure.
• The usefulness of specific principles may obscure general principles.
• You can find a solution by chance, and then reject it by faulty examination.
• Chance methods are usually not all that “chance.” Dropping bricks out.
• Logical approach may be reliable, but not lead to original solution.
• Confidence can influence solution, too.
• Sometimes simple act of devising principles.
• Mistakes not likely to be repeated even when no attempt is made to recall it.
• Modifying method: Modify procedure that nearly works, and then progressively reduce the non-efficient segment.
* • Dividing a problem and tackling it in parts can be useful.
• Starting from scratch sometimes just as useful.
• Apparently different solutions may not be different at all.
• Some solution may be reached in 2 completely different ways.
• When there are many possible approaches to a solution, you end up backing away from several workable strategies, and lengthen the solving process.
• Don’t discount the obvious. Always try that first.
• Sometimes bad to find solution fast, because you miss other approaches, learning.
• Be aware of the approach to problem-solving you drift into.
• Use screening tests. They help track random thinking.
• Chance method is the method of no direction, unlike the logic method. Every move is independent of previous moves.
• You will usually think that the chance method is inferior, that your logic is inadequate.
• Logic has weakness, though, of conformity. Does not lend self to new ideas.
• In solving the problem, change end situation BACKWARD toward starting one, then reverse.
• Can use logic, but chance for one step, or more.
• Shift attention from one aspect of situation to another. Leads to solutions.
• Use pencil, paper to draw prospective solutions.
• The Staging Method: Step by step approach. Does not work when all stages are interrelated, though. Also, order of stages may be critical, and you may not know proper order, which is not always obvious.
• Simplifying method: Looking at problem in different ways until it becomes less complicated.
• Even when it seems unrelated, try previous solutions to problems.
• Modification by subtraction consists in taking the solution to a more difficult problem and simplifying it.
• Logic is swift, effective, but not for new ideas.


• Another kind of problem is trying to find a solution which is the best solution. This is strategic.

• In strategic thinking, you also get information about possible countermoves by your opponent. Assume his moves will be perfect, but also pay attention to his mistakes.

• Value of a move derived by studying the consequences:

 Consequences depend on opponent’s ability
 I can not project opponent’s ability to a level above my own, so consequence may be unclear.
 For this reason, it is difficult to properly, accurately access a move.
 Psychological maneuvers may impede you, even if you have perfect playing ability.
 In psychological strategy, you must mislead your opponent.
 Knowing implications of each move puts you at advantage.
 Each time you lose you see which move lost you the game, and which move won the game for opponent.
 Think one step ahead. More than that is usually with severely diminishing returns, or may not make sense at all.
 Strategy of Simple Experience sometimes more effective. Experience method means you imitate past situations.
 Quickest way to acquire experience is to play with intention of losing. Easy because you can always find people willing to win.
 Crucial to recognize settings even if they are in a different orientation, in a mirror image, or occur to your opponent.
 In strategic assessment, reduce possible moves to one category or class. Then, devise principals. The HEURISTIC APPROACH.
 Better to use flawed principal temporarily than to operate w/no principal.
 Principals may also obscure useful exceptions, but exceptions can be absorbed without interfering with principle.
 Leaving pieces as they are is not DOING NOTHING. It is a very real decision. Absence of a decision to do something means you have positively decided that the present configuration is the best one.
 People have destroyed winning positions by acting simply because they can.
 Difference between SAFE move and ATTACKING move.
 If you defend in your move, you must also define what an attack would be.
 In choosing winning position, think of next winning position, and the next.
 An apparently less significant piece may turn out to be more important.
 With a defending attitude, you may lose, overlook a winning move.
 Hierarchy of aims:

1) Winning move
2) Move that leads to winning move
3) Avoid losing more

• Player who can project more moves into future will win.
• Do not make all available moves on each occasion. This is greedy.
• Why a problem appears difficult may be more interesting than the problem itself.
• Rigidity is extremely inconducive to effective solution-finding.
• Choice of approach may be function of habit, attitude of mind or emotion.
• Description of the problem may have an inherent rigidity.
• You can not dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper. This is “vertical” thinking.
• “Lateral” thinking encourages imaginative process among variety of low-probability paths.
• Study in the difficulties of thinking may be more useful than capturing nature of intelligence.

Note: X is the ability to know something, but be unable to explain it to another, i.e., as a person who knows the underlying rules of grammar in a foreign language before learning the actual rule at issue.


Stuart Chase, 1956
Harper, New York


 We start at the fact properly enough with generalization, but we do not stay there. We take the fact to explain the wider world.

• Newspaper headlines
• Cartoonists
• Plot and conspiracy-minded people
• Followers of esoteric cults
 Creating straw men to represent a class. You take a few stray characteristics, build a dummy around them, then denigrate the straw man.
 What is good for oneself is good for all.
 Take a case or two, and propound a universal pattern therefrom.
 Building race prejudice based on one or two examples.
 Generalizations may have some basis in fact, but they cannot carry the superstructure erected on them. (Probably why so many laws have negative side effects – laws based on generalizations, like “Three Strikes.”)
 Headlines are forced to generalize.
 The key is to strike a balance between gains and losses. It takes time and thought.
 The human mind is a generalizing machine. But it is a waste of time to listen to arguments based on a few hand-picked examples. Making two cats into a world of cats.
 Generalizing is at the head of the reasoning process, but is not sufficient.
 Joke: What are we going to do for exercise now that you’ve stopped jumping to conclusions? #


• Riding a curve into the future predicting large, roomy conclusions on small scraps of fact. Or “give them an inch and they’ll take them all” arguments. “If you do not take my suggested course, disaster will surely follow.”

• It is hard to disprove something which has not yet happened. Extrapolation. Projecting indefinitely.

• Arguments pro and con women’s suffrage were both false and highly exaggerated. Pro, women’s vote would “purify” politics. Con, it would de-feminize women and births would plummet, broken homes. Similar arguments against income tax, billion-dollar corporations, labor unions, conservation, social security, child labor. And the arguments are pretty strenuous.

• Letters to the editor provide gold mine of logical fallacies. Grievances fill the sky with their expansive arguments, almost always highly false.

• You must nail down enough points to justify the curve of your extrapolations.


• If you can’t shake the arguments, abuse the persons who advance them. “ad hominem.”

• Character is always an issue, which is why this form of attack succeeds often.

• “If the premises are sufficient,” said Morris Cohen, “they are so no matter by whom stated.”

• “Poisoning the well.” Attacking neutral products because they had association with targeted individual. Still an “ad hominem” fallacy.

• Ad hominem…is likely to be used by anyone who wants to put over a fast argument, saving himself the work of truly examining an issue. #


• Tu quoque, literally translated, means “you’re another.” “Thou also.” “An argument which consists of rotating a charge upon one’s accuser.” Irrelevant counterattack. “Look, YOU exterminated your natives, but WE try to educate OUR minorities.” This is not an answer to the original criticism. This case was a white South African defending Apartheid.

• “Tu quoque” arguments are almost always irrelevant to the issue being discussed.

• Most common is the form of two children, “You’re a liar.” “You’re another.”

• If one asks about topic A, then the other side erroneously asks another version of topic A intended to smear the other side. To defend self against the legitimate inquiry.

• Harm is done because initial question is NOT PROPERLY EXAMINED. “Who are we to complain about X’s atrocities after what the U.S. dropped on Japan! One wrong is proffered to cancel another.

• Tu quoque becomes a logical fallacy only when it is used to avoid the, or a, real issue. The issue must be general and capable of intelligent discussion.

• Issues go unresolved when Tu quoque is used often. Picture a man being in court for assault. “Sure I was drunk when I hit him with a crowbar, but he was drunk, too.”

“How about the trains?”
“Well, how about the trains?”
“Well, how about them?”


• Post hoc fallacy; one event preceding another is erroneously assumed to be the cause of the second event. Malaria was once thought to be caused by “night air”.” In reality, mosquitoes like to attack at night.

• Event A may affect B, but merely as part of process which includes other causes.

• Just because events move together, like night air and Malaria, it does not prove that one is the cart and the other is the horse.


• The inferring of a further degree of resemblance from an observed degree of it is one of the greatest pitfalls of popular thinking:

Using analogies in lieu of proof.

Reading more into case than facts warrant

Note similarities, ignore differences

Pushing similarities to an extreme

“If the U.S. backs down it will be Munich all over again.” (FALSE, because history never really repeats itself.)

A corporation is not a person

For every Edison, there are 100,000 John Does who fall flat on the face

Jerking the issue below the belt: Why don’t we take your baby and send him to Iraq…?


• Ad vere cundiam, “appeal to revered authority.”

• People, for example, love to quote Orwell.

• Only when the big name freezes mental activity does it become fallacy.

• Great men, great books stir emotion rather than reason.

• Science

• Statistics

• The Bible

• The dictionary

• We need to be on guard against authority which may be correct in many venues, but does not apply to the issue at hand.

• Be wary of an argument which invests a source with infallibility.

• Beware of arguments that claim to derive their authority based on assumed support of wise men of past, like Thomas Jefferson.

• George Washington’s warning against “foreign entanglements” is constantly used in arguments of political nature.

• Footnoting: Piling up references and documents until the opposition is silenced by sheer tonnage.

• “Nothing has a greater hold on the human mind than nonsense fortified with technicalities.” – F.C.S. Schiller.

• Check such footnotes for AGE.


• Ad populum, appeal to the crowd, the mob. This fallacy was defined long before even the creation of democracy.

• Is primarily an emotional appeal to a popular slogan. It is a branch of propaganda. Aimed at: Rank and File citizens, modest incomes; Main Street group, somewhat higher incomes

• Symbolism of the “little guy.”

• Symbolism of the crucifixion.

• Driving away money changers from the temple. Theological references.

• The hard-boiled propagandist rarely believes in anything but himself.

• Roosevelts, William Jennings Bryan used this method. But Bryan really believed in the doctrine of free silver. He had to have popular support, though.

• Considerable mileage remains in “You can’t change human nature” argument.

• On “Main Street,” the “Balance the Budget” argument has appeal. What budget, when? At whose cost? Theological matter in the United States.

• Matter, family. Christianity. Contagion.

• THEY!! Seeing all, knowing all. THEY never check sources. Grapevine. Gossip. Shhh!

• The fallacy Ad Populum is a device to bypass independent thinking. Well-worn emotional grooves.


• Circulus in Probando. Arguing in a circle. The conclusion is neatly inserted into the premises. “It must be true because it says itself to be so.”

• At the end of the argument, you know no more than you did at the beginning.

• “About it and about, but evermore/Came out the same door as I went” -- Fitzgerald

• If the argument assumes as a premise the thing it claims to prove, it proves nothing at all.


• Logical arguments depend on assumptions and premises. If premises are false, or unverifiable, the conclusion doesn’t carry much weight.

• Strong leading phrases like “Everybody knows, unquestionably, it is only too clear, you can’t deny that, it goes without saying that, all intelligent persons agree…”

• “Fifth Amendment Communist.” We must not impute a sinister meaning to the exercise of a person’s constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment. It should not be taken as the equivalent of guilt.

• What everyone knows will fill encyclopedias. But these are statements which contradict.

• Mutual affection societies in the rear of the book.


• Black or white thinking is faulty. Must allow for shades of gray. If not, the logic is faulty.

• “Cause and effect” thinking is same.

• Two-valued thinking over-simplifies the question.

• Many factual situations are legitimately two-valued. A light current is either on or off.

• All Indo-European languages, including English, are structurally two-valued. It takes real effort to break out of this linguistic pattern.

• But in Chinese, “The hard and the easy are mutually complimentary.”

• Thus, for Americans, it’s easier to say Yes or No. Pull the trigger or not.

• You can also lose by making a relatively black and white decision multi-faceted. Such as at a City Council meeting.

• Freedom is always relative.

• Watch out for black and white political categories, like “Marxist” or “Capitalist.” Such thinking is characteristic of totalitarianism.

• Watch it if you feel “forced” to take opposite of every position assumed by one side.

• Watch newspaper headlines, political arguments. Watch “go back to past” arguments.


• Guilt by association fallacy arises when two unlike things are equated. The identification is spurious.

• “A thing is always equal to itself.” But semanticists quarrel with this classic corollary because it ignores the time factor.

• This fallacy, more commonly, equates unlike entities on the basis of a single, common trait.


 Physical Association, accused is in close company with public enemies.
 Accused is near accused, but obviously not with same interests.
 Association by kinship.
 Guilt by verbal association, characteristic of alleged enemy.
 Innocence by Association, where truly guilty defends self by listing his highly placed friends.
 Links with Communism, Fascism almost always nonsense (modern).
 A formal syllogism has only three terms, and should use some form of the verb “to be.”

1.) Only Reds favor public housing;
2.) Sen. J. favors public housing;
3.) Therefore, Sen. J is a red.

The middle term must be generalized in one premise, and disappear in the conclusion.

 Staircase of Guilt: Charges of guilt by association can be arranged in a series of steps, each more remote from the starting point.
 Reformers and liberals were called “parlor pinks.” “Soft” on the enemy. Advocates of “tolerance.”
 Supporters of the U.N. “Internationalism and ______ are synonymous to treason.”
 “Communists are opposed to segregation.”
 “The U.S. Supreme Court is opposed to segregation.”
 “Therefore, the court is following Communist line.”
 Communist became a synonym for that reason, for what ever had been “associated” with it.


 The courtroom uses high probabilities rather than absolute truth.
 The general rule is “he who asserts a fact must prove it.”
 Evidence turns on acts committed, not on opinions, beliefs, philosophies, or loose talk.
 Counsel is not allowed to ask leading questions, which suggest answer counsel wishes to receive.
 “Loyalty boards,” investigative committees, etc., are pressure tactics outside Anglo Saxon court of law tradition. People “tried” for associations, ideas. Suspected intentions, family connections.
 Hollywood version of a trial: Not just double jeopardy, MULTIPLE. Returns law to the dark ages.
 “Can anyone be proved innocent if it be enough to have accused him?” said Emperor Julian to Delfidius, Rome.
 Carrying the accusation from committee to press. “Radio trials.”
 Ad ignorantiam: “Allah selected Mohammad as his prophet,” “How do you know?” “Well, you can’t prove he didn’t.” Challenging opponent to disprove a far-fetched position. This is not allowed in a court of law.
 Fallacy of multiple choice: combine two or more questions into one, and then demand a “yes or no answer.”


1.) Propaganda typically uses the 13 fallacies.
2.) The attentive listener can usually hear in the background the grinding of an ax:

A.) To stir up revolutions in other countries;
B.) Encourage quarrels between outside actors on the other side;
C.) Set group against group – Moslems against Hindus, Germany against the U.S.;
D.) To portray your country as invincible;
E.) To convince world your country is true author of peaceful intentions.

1) The “arch enemy.” It is an idea built-up and cherished. To blame the opponent for all ills of world, including harsh consequences of one’s own policy, domestically. Furthermore, PAST ills were always THEIR fault. Think of old Cold War rhetoric.
4) “Hate America” campaign, “ad verecundiam.” For example, “America cheated Russia out of Alaska, in 1919 buried Russian troops alive,” use Christ for advertising, cavemen in modern garb. Was aimed at simple people in world who knew little about U.S. but Hollywood films worsen.
5) Millionaires, monopolists, fascists, capitalist imperialists. Warmongers, aggressors. Colonialists.
6) Ceremonies of Hitler, Peron were lavish. Peron was a “martyr for the workers.” After funeral, many were crushed to death.
7) In U.S., politics is more like a game with rules. Even rules of losing. Tribal dance.
8) Facts are the natural enemy of propaganda. Watch out for words like “slave” and “imperialist.” Like Macy’s swaying balloons at Thanksgiving.
9) Information, reflection, honest doubt RARE in propagandistic speech.
10) Loyalty vs. Security. Always a vigorous political issue.
11) Same tactics in advertising. Sell the package without much discussion of what’s inside. Fantasy. It doesn’t have to mean anything.


Principles and Techniques:

A. Use of unscrupulous means
B. Big lies
C. Scapegoat and hero techniques
D. Martyrs
E. Profession of the offensive
F. Symbols, pictures
G. It’s a plot – as answer to criticism
H. Doubletalk


A. Guilt by association, accusation
B. Those not with us, against us. Either/or.
C. False evidence.
D. Post hoc reasoning, often associated with the public’s fear of out groups, feelings of insecurity, inferiority feelings
E. In normal discussions, the end is come to through talk. Propaganda has the end in mind from the start. Sometimes what was white yesterday is green today, and the audience has to be convinced.
F. Reconstructing the past.
G. A lie is a deliberate false statement. A “big lie” is a work of art, repeated often.
H. Multiple untruth (Richard Rovere). As one charge is disproved, you substitute another – the audience has forgotten the first. Six to seven are usually enough, then you begin again.
I. Scapegoat and hero. Primitive level of thinking. Scapegoating increases with distress.
J. Scapegoat of Stalin: Capitalists; Hitler: Jews; Mussolini: Communists; McCarthy: Communists within.
K. A case of real or supposed injustice may be inflated by publicity. “Remember September 11, 2001.”
L. The smart propagandist always has a new offensive ready, standing by. Cover retreats with new offensives. Cannot afford to be out-and-out wrong.
M. Signs, pictures always prominent. Saddam Hussein’s pictures in Iraq. Theological symbols.
N. Conspiracy declarations on regular campaigns for change, i.e., segregation.


 Doubletalk: A single term, used in two ways in the same context, i.e., terrorism, anti-Semitism, justice.
 Using word “socialism” for “insurance.” Insurance “purrs” and “socialism” snarls.


 Prosperous, secure, confident.
 Tangible acts.
 Mass needs met; words, deeds match
 Semantics is “the systematic study of meaning.” Goes behind talk to motives. Distinguish facts from value judgments.


 We all think we have enough common sense.
 No semanticist can ever be victim of verbal brain washing. The STRUCTURE is tough.
 There is no reason, however, why understanding cannot be made entertaining.
 Intellectual assent immediate, emotional assent requires time, repetition of the idea.
 Everyone has access to similar faculties.

-- end of notes --

Donate $5 to $50 at PayPal icon below to keep these blogs moving! Check out other blogs: