Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sorry I'm Venting

During this year, I've been pushed to do way more research into minute things than ever before. This is because I've had to do a lot of writing, and I have to have good information to back-up everything I write down. More often than not, this is very hard, because I can't get to the right information.

I want to write this blog about a dilemma that I've found within myself: how internal thoughts not only translate to physical actions, but also the relationship or disconnect between how a person thinks others think of him and how people actually think of him, and how that uninformed internal voice blocks a person from opportunities. A good example is when I was a freshman and new to the school, I automatically told myself that everyone already had their friends, and that I wasn't who anyone would want as a friend. And now, as a junior, I can see that I was not only mistaken, but that I've been ridiculously rude to people around me because my internal mindset convinced me that I wasn't enough to be friends with them. With a little more courage or confindence, I could have had plenty of friends, but I didn't, and I don't.

My internal voice was subduing my external possibilities. So I tried to research this concept, and came up in a field of philosophy and psychology I couldn't hope to understand. There is one guy, Franz Brentano, who somewhat mapped this relationship between the internal and external forces in his concept of intentionality. He basically says, in much more eloquent words, that our thoughts have objects that they are directed toward. Our thoughts have content, as he said: "Every mental phenomenon includes something as object within itself, although they do not all do so in the same way. In presentation something is presented, in judgement something is affirmed or denied, in love loved, in hate hated, in desire desired and so on." My thoughts that I was sub-par to all the other 14 year olds around me led me to create content that influenced my external world poorly. This idea of intentionality connects to my mind-body problem, in that the content I create in my head is sometimes completely unfounded in the external world.

But I'm not trying to write a blog about how sad I am that I don't have thousands of friends, and I can't find much more scientific words to label this dilemma smartly. In Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami, Nakata and the truck driver are  searching for the "entrance stone" in Takamatsu, but they (like me) can't find the information they need. I'm only half-way through the book, so maybe they find in the coming chapters, but in chapter 26, the scene where Hoshino scours the library for information of the entrance stone, "But what he really wanted -- a decription of this entrance stone -- was nowhere to be found" (Murakami 259). I need to hone my researching skills, because I have so much to say and I can't find the smart labels to explain what I'm thinking. And that problem is exactly what creates pointlessly frazzled blogs like this one.

Perhaps I am in a good place though, because even if questions aren't answered, asking them is a better alternative than not seeing that there are questions to be asked.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Responsible Statistics?

"The possession of knowledge carries an ethical responsibility."

It has become increasingly common for emotional appeals to contain statistical reasoning. When arguing that there is an issue between the police community and the black community, people vaguely reach for statistics like "black unarmed men are killed at three times the rate of whites and other minorities." When arguing that there is still unjust sexism towards women today, statistics are used like how 1 in 3 woman are sexually assaulted by a partner during adulthood, or how women are ten times more likely to be victimized than men. This statistical name-dropping is binding individuals up in numbers in an effort to make an impact on the ethical conscious of the audience.

This act of processing victims in the form of numbers, shuffling them like all they are is data, seems to lead to an ethical dilemma: to represent individual tragedies by a number feels like it's dehumanizing the injustice. But that isn't what is meant by the speaker who crutches on statistical appeals; statistical reasoning is used to prove the validity of an issue.

It's an odd quark in the system because mathematics isn't usually associated with empathy or ethics.

The interesting thing about any statistical evidence is that there is undoubtedly large amounts of statistical bias floating around in this field. Statistical claims are more or less simply probabilities. Data is collected and processed, but unlike the theories Laplace's scientific determinism, there is no way to access all the data relating, especially when it's data relating to human relations. These weaknesses in statistics aren't common knowledge. The field of mathematics is viewed entirely objectively, and seen as something without loopholes or shortcomings: more or less, it is seen as an undeniable fountain of knowledge.

Statistical reasoning, when used to appeal to emotional reasoning, can easily become dangerous. Faulty statistics, or even justified statistics, can be twisted and bent to serve specific purposes in an argument. This deceitfulness can be said for most anything though. Evidence can always be cut and pasted to be interpreted any multitude of ways.

Ethics can get muddled, but if ethical responsibility means maintaining honesty and transparency, statistics easily fails. It is agreeable that it is the responsibility of citizens to view their fellow compatriots as real, valid, and not bound up in a number, sure. But furthermore, into the mathematical realm of these numbers, it is the responsibility, whether ethically beneficial or not, of people to question mathematical reasoning. Because having an ethical conscious extends beyond emotions and moral compasses, especially when the field of mathematics overlaps the field of ethics.