The countdown to retirement continues. As I mentioned last Tuesday, this week I pulled the lever on making it official. Six more weeks, and I can put The Company in my rear-view mirror and speed off in my own directions. The big project I’ve been leading looks like it will complete before I exit. We should begin end-to-end system testing in a week or so.
The flip side is that, between tension over retirement and massive project effort during the week (and trying to catch up on blog reading and commenting (and watching baseball)), there isn’t much left for blogging right now.
So you get another Brain Bubble. I would have called this post “No Shoes,” except that it sends the wrong message. This post isn’t about lacking shoes. Or shirts.
No, it’s about a sign that you sometimes see outside restaurants and some shops.
For years I didn’t understand the point of this sign. I somehow never picked up on the fact that it’s a syllogism, not a series of three statements. And the way the sign above is constructed, it certainly looks like three equal statements.
For years I wondered why an establishment would post a sign about not having any service. “Well, of course,” I thought, “A restaurant doesn’t sell shirts or shoes, but you’d think they’d have service!”
The light bulb didn’t go on until I finally saw a version that looked like this:
The punctuation, and the design of this sign, make it clear we’re dealing with a syllogism.
For those of you who slept through your logic class, a syllogism is a logical argument with two (or more) premises and a conclusion based on those premises. For example:
In a properly constructed syllogism, the conclusion is guaranteed to be a correct logical conclusion. However, the conclusion is only true if the premises are true.
For example, if it is not the case that all dogs have fleas, the syllogism fails. And if I don’t have a dog (which is true at the moment), then the conclusion cannot be true.
But in a properly constructed syllogism, if the premises are true, then so is the conclusion.
If the syllogism is not correctly made, then all bets are off. Consider this version:
It should be obvious this is incorrect! The specific reason for that failure is the word “some” in the first premise. This illustrates how, even though the premises are true, the conclusion may, or may not, be (Lassie may very well have only three legs, but nothing in the syllogism assures that it is so).
But this isn’t a class in formal logic (although a lot of people could certainly use one). This is more about how, once you get an idea (a wrong idea), it can trap you until something shakes you out of it. For me, in the case of these signs, I needed to see a version with more regard for presentation. It was only that improved presentation that finally communicated the true meaning to me. (And this says something about the value of presentation.)
One clue should have been that my original idea about the sign actually made no sense. It’s when our ideas conflict with reality or common sense that we should take the clue to recheck our thinking. Or do some research.
There is something else I find interesting here. The first version of that sign is arguably poorly constructed. It does pose all three statements as having equal weight. You basically have to be “in the know” to understand the sign. The sign, in its simpler form, is somewhat symbolic or iconic.
Here’s another kind of sign that threw me for a long time:
It isn’t just the “XING” that requires a bit of “in the know.” It’s the fact that you have to know to read it from bottom up! I’ve never really quite understood the logic behind that. It’s not as if you’re driving along and, like a Burma Shave Sign, one part comes in view before you can see the other parts. You can see the entire thing! It’s right there!!
“Ahead Stop?” “Xing Ped??”
As if the world isn’t confusing enough!