Thursday, May 30, 2019

Blanshard on Implication and Necessity #4

Blanshard next summarizes his critique. But what does “necessity” mean?

It means, replies the empiricist, only that certain parts have been presented together with such unfailing regularity that we have become unable to dissociate them. … Formalism we have found more plausible. It admits the element of necessity that empiricism denies; its peculiarity is that it confines the necessity within certain highly general forms. … As for symbolic logic, we found it [ ] less helpful than the older logic, primarily because with its decision to ignore intension, it had abandoned interest in necessity. Of its three principal ways of conceiving implication, material, formal, and strict, we recognized an advance over the others, but could find in none of them a definition that would cover, even approximately, the necessity actually used in inference and understanding. We are left with this conclusions; necessity is not a habit, induced in us by an inexplicable regularity of presentation. Necessity is not a form or skeleton which, while sustaining the fleshy matter of the world, is sharply distinct from it” (397-8).

Blanshard’s use of “empiricist” clearly includes Hume, Mill, and other later philosophers. He references Hume and Mill. He doesn’t reference Locke, and I believe it would be unfair to include John Locke, the leading empiricist, among those whom Blanshard critiques. Locke wrote about habit and ideas by association (in ECHU), but he is not mentioned in The Nature of Thought, Volume 2, nor did he reduce all inference to habit like Hume did.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Blanshard on Implication and Necessity #3

This post is about Mr. Blanshard’s critique of strict implication as posited by C. I. Lewis.

Professor Lewis “would agree that when p implies q materially or formally this gives no assurance that q is deducible from p, nor does it give us what we usually mean by implication. He believes that his own system of ‘strict implication’ gives us both. This relation he defines as follows (the symbol stands for ‘strictly implies’ and for ‘possible’ or ‘self-consistent’): p q. = .   (p q); that is, ‘ “p strictly implies q” is to mean “It is false that it is possible that p should be true and q false” or “The statement ‘p is true and q false’ is not self-consistent.” When q is deducible from p, to say “p is true and q is false” is to assert, implicitly, a contradiction” (385).

Note: is not the symbol in Blanshard’s book, but I couldn’t find how to use his and is often used to mean imply.

There is no doubt that this sense of ‘implies’ is far nearer to the ordinary meaning than the previous senses. It no longer asks us to say anything so alien to common usage as that every true proposition implies every other, or that every false proposition implies all conceivable propositions; it is far more critical and selective(385)

Take an instance. ‘If anything is red, then it is extended.’ This, I think, is a fair example of implication in an ordinary sense. Now when we say that anything’s being red implies that it is extended, it is our meaning this, that if we denied that it was extended we whould also have to deny that it was red? I do not think so. I agree, of course, that when p implies q, to deny q does commit us to denying p also; I agree that in such a case to affirm p and deny q would be inconsistent. … When I say that p implies q, I am saying that a certain relation holds between them. The inability to insert not-q consistently instead of q is not the same as that relation, but something that holds in virtue of it” (386-7).

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Blanshard on Implication and Necessity #2

This post is about Mr. Blanshard’s critique of formal implication.

We turn, then, to formal implication. Our hopes rise as we do, for Mr. [Bertrand] Russell describes it as ‘a much more familiar notion’ which as a rule is really in mind even when material implication is mentioned. But these hopes sink again as we learn what formal implication means. ‘Formal implication is a class of material implications; it asserts that in every case of a certain set of cases material implication holds. … In the statement ‘Socrates is a man implies Socrates is mortal’ we have the expression of a material implication. In the statement ‘If anything is a man then it is mortal’ we have the expression of a formal implication …”

Now as an account of necessity do we find here any advance? Certainly not so far as concerns the items summarized. Each statement of a implying a, b implying b, etc., is merely a factual statement that a and a (the truth of a and the falsity of a), etc. do not occur together. And we have seen there is no necessity there. Does it appear then in review by which we take in all the items as a glance? No again. If the connection of p with q in some one case falls short of being necessary, that same connection does not become so merely holding in all cases.”

We begin to see, then, in what such logic involves us. It cuts us off altogether from the knowledge of universal truth” (381-2).

The ignoring of necessity on the part of what is offered as logic, where if anywhere one would expect to find necessary connection, is a legitimate ground of dissatisfaction with the newer logistic disciplines … Stripped of its symbolism and regarded in bare logical essentials, this is the well worn atomism of Hume and Mill. There are no necessary propositions, only statements of class inclusion. There are no necessary inferences; what look like these are statement of exceptionless conjunction” (383).

When he [the formalist] says ‘triangles have internal angles equal to 180 degrees’, does he mean ‘no triangles do in fact lack this characteristic'? If this is all he means, he has no reason to be surprised if he finds a triangle tomorrow with half or twice that number; there never was any must in the case; the new fact is merely one to be noted, and added to his collection. … Indeed extensional logic has here reversed the true order of priority; it is only because we have a prior insight into the nature of the triangle and what this nature involves that we can be so sure about particular cases. When we say a implies b, we surely mean that a in virtue of being a rather than c or d, implies b; the implication is bound up with intension. And we are clear that in the intension or content upon which thought is directed, we find connections far more intimate than the de facto togetherness to which material and formal implication are both restricted.” (384-5).

Friday, May 24, 2019

ProPublica Targets TurboTax Again #2

I placed the following comment on their website. It might be deleted.

This article is deceptive. It ambiguously uses “Free File”, which may refer to (1) the Free Edition on TurboTax web-sites, or (2) the free version of TurboTax in the Free File Alliance. A military person with less than $66,000 income can file free using #2. However, some cannot do so using #1, such as Zimmerman. She wanted a retirement savings credit, and it not being supported by #1 is disclosed. Click on “Simple tax returns” and a popup appears, saying that the TurboTax Free Edition does not support credits, deductions and income reported on schedules 1-6. The retirement savings credit is claimed on Schedule 3. Hence, the Free Edition does not support it.

If Zimmerman had included “Alliance’” among her search terms, a link to #2 would have been among the top results.

Some implicit premises behind ProPublica’s rants against TurboTax follow.
- TurboTax is responsible for making its web-pages fool-proof.
- TurboTax is 100% responsible for any user’s lack of knowledge, effort, or searching skills, such as omitting “Alliance” among the search terms.
- TurboTax should direct any user who might be able to file free to the Free File Alliance, where TurboTax competitors are equally prominent. How often do you see ProPublica directing viewers to read its competitors’ websites?

If ProPublica wanted to live up to its motto “Journalism in the Public Interest”, then it would do another article. The article would clearly distinguish between #1 and #2 and cover important differences between the two. Its aim would be to educate the public rather than take pot-shots at TurboTax.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Blanshard on Implication and Necessity #1

In The Nature of Thought, Volume 2, chapter XXIX, Brand Blanshard critiques modern logic. He addresses three versions of ‘p implies q’ – material, formal, and strict. This post will be about the first of these. If the reader gets the notion that Blanshard made a straw man, see Wikipedia’s article strict conditional.

Take two propositions at random, p and q. There are 4 possible combinations of their being true or false. What that means for ‘p implies q’ (pq) in a modern logic truth table is as follows.

          p    q    pq
          T    T       T
          F    T       T
          F    F       T
          T    F       F

Now in the usage of the formal logicians one proposition is said to imply the other materially when any one of the first three possibilities holds” (375). That is, when pq is T. If the two propositions are both true, then they imply each other, even if one of them is ‘snow is cold’ and the other ‘grass is green’. That’s because we could assign either to p and the other to q.

If two propositions are both false, again they imply each other, regardless of what they assert; ‘Darwin discovered gravitation’ implies ‘Benedict Arnold wrote Jerusalem Delivered. Finally, if the first proposition is false and the second true, once more the first implies the second; ‘Darwin discovered gravitation’ implies that Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936. It will be noted that our false proposition about Darwin has been used twice and that it implies not only every false proposition that can be made, but all true propositions as well; ‘a false proposition implies all propositions’. In sum: p always implies q except when p is true and q is false.”

What are we to say of implication so defined? Does it describe or define the element of necessity we are seeking? On the contrary, necessity does not enter into it at all.”

We shall see this more clearly if we ask whether it provides a basis for inference. For it will be admitted that in inference, if anywhere, we are generally using necessity, and that any satisfactory account of necessity must accord with the use we make of it there. Now it is plain that in the actual work of inference we constantly succeed in passing from one proposition to another without knowing the second independently. What sort of relation must hold between them to make this possible? It must be one in which the second is a consequence of the first. Mr. [Bertrand] Russell writes, as we have seen, ‘in order that one proposition may be inferred from another, it is necessary that the two should have that relation which makes the one a consequence of the other’ (375-6).

The logician “would admit that in the proposition ‘snow is cold’ there is not the slightest hint that grass is green, but would add that that is quite irrelevant to whether one implies the other” (376).

A logic whose propositions are bound together only by this sort of implication is a logic in which, strictly speaking, nothing follows from anything else” (377). “Material implication itself is not, we have seen, a necessary relation” (379).

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Walter Williams said

"By the way, I'm not making an outright condemnation of socialism. I run my household on the Marxist principle, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." That system works when you can remember the names of all involved" (link).

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Another bubble and collapse

Taxi medallions in New York City rose sharply in price and eager but ignorant buyers borrowed money to pay the price. They couldn't afford to repay the loans and medallion prices fell. As the author of two stories (links follow) from the New York Times notes, it was similar to the mortgage and housing bubble and collapse during the previous decade.

How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers
As Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money

The first focuses on the medallion buyers, the second on the lenders and regulators. Two quotes from the second one:
- "banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans"
- "a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans"

It's easy enough to understand the lenders were doing well before the loans went bad. But what happened to the banks' profitability after the loans went bad? Is that not newsworthy? Maybe that story fails to satisfy their motto: "All the News That's Fit to Print." 😉

There is plenty of government behaving badly in the story. Again the regulators were "asleep at the wheel." Regulation often isn't the cure that its advocates portray it to be. Also, the city government took in a lot of money selling the medallions.

"History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes." -- Mark Twain, allegedly.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Fannie and Freddie trying to make another housing bubble?

From The Wall Street Journal (link with pay wall) May 13: Fannie and Freddie Back More Mortgages of Those Deeply in Debt. The following quoted text is from the article.

"An increasing number of loans are going to borrowers with debt-to-income ratios of 43% or higher."

"Almost 30% of loans that mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac packaged into bonds last year went to home buyers whose total debt payments amounted to more than 43% of their incomes, according to an analysis by industry research group Inside Mortgage Finance. The share has nearly doubled since 2015."

"Some say cheap, federally backed financing has made credit available for millions of borrowers who otherwise might not have had a shot at homeownership. Others say that more-indebted borrowers are riskier, and that their purchases may be accentuating a rise in home prices that in many areas has outstripped median incomes."

Of course, there is more to judging default risk than a simple rule like total debt payments amounting to more than 43% of income. (It is still a worthy metric.) There are credit scores and what other cash needs and resources the borrower has. There is the purpose of the loan -- first time buyer, refinance, and refinance with cash out. Empirical studies show different default/foreclosure rates among them. (The three are ordered low to high.) Before the housing crisis that began in the 2000s, the debt to income limit (DTI) in practice for conventional fixed-rate loans was circa 35%. But I disagree with the first side. A lower DTI does not bar people from a shot at home-ownership. It only requires they buy a cheaper house they can better afford!

Of course, if defaults ensue, it won't be the Fannie and Freddie rule-makers who suffer the financial consequences of default. It will be the borrower, who is owed, and millions of others. I don't object to a private lender making riskier loans, but government support of it is “a horse of a different color.”

Thursday, May 16, 2019

ProPublica Targets TurboTax Again

ProPublica targets TurboTax again hereThey show an internal video of Intuit’s CEO defending Intuit from the numerous attacks on Intuit and TurboTax made by ProPublica. ProPublica alleges that Intuit has steered people away from the IRS’s free file site and to other TurboTax versions. They pooh-pooh the CEO’s defense.

The CEO says ProPublica’s “articles have been written and published in the context of a specific wider political agenda. That agenda is to create a centralized government system of pre-filled tax returns.” The authors reply, “But we don’t have a political agenda.” I don’t buy that. Who is “we” – the authors or ProPublica? ProPublica has advocated what the CEO truthfully said (link). I posted about it yesterday. Advocating the IRS or Congress do something is having a political agenda. 

The authors also show two Google searches they did, with the top search result of each being TurboTax web-pages. Like I said two days ago, when a user doesn’t include “IRS” in the search criteria, why should the user be directed to an IRS web-page? Similarly, when a user doesn’t include “IRS” or “Alliance” in the search criteria, why should the user be directed to an IRS web-page or the Free File Alliance web-page? Yet apparently the ProPublica authors believe the user should be directed to an IRS web-page or the Free File Alliance web-page, as if their wish should trump the user's input. That is ProPublica trying to bully.

Moreover, the searches they did were April 10 and April 15, a month ago. I used the same search terms a few days ago and the top search result for both directed me to the version of TurboTax on the IRS free file site. The authors did not include that fact in their article. I assume Intuit had something to do with the new search result. But ProPublica did not cheer the change or thank Intuit. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Deliberate or not, ProPublica’s article hid -- at least didn't reveal -- the new top search result!

This latest article is like their earlier ones – biased, deceptive reporting. Pretty clearly their goal has not been to inform readers about how to find the Free File Alliance, but to smear Intuit and TurboTax.

P.S. The authors note that only around 3% of eligible taxpayers have used IRS Free File. In an earlier article (April 26), ProPublica said 70% of taxpayers are eligible for free options from TurboTax and other tax software products. So what? Using them takes time, skill and the willingness, which a person may not have. It seems that in ProPublica's opinion none of these matter; it's entirely the fault of Intuit, H&R Block, etc. In addition to free software products, there are many VITA sites and AARP Tax Aide sites that offer free filing.