#3. syllogism

Syllogism: (noun)  deductive reasoning in which a conclusion is derived from two premises
9 Letters 3 syllables
First Use 1387
Syllogistic: of or relating to a Syllogism.


Syllogism may be referring to The Rule of Inference mathematically or deductive logic. 

I read an Article in the NY Times about the Supreme Court overruling Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy laws. The journalist cites Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg’s dissent:

The majority’s approach ignores those realities, she wrote, “rejects contextual analysis in favor of a syllogism” and leaves Puerto Rico “powerless and with no legal process to help” its citizens.

It appears the journalist abbreviated Justice Ginsberg’s statement as we weren’t given the sentence’ beginning as written in the brief. It was however her use of the term “syllogism,” that caught my attention though.

Essentially I believe she’s saying that the majority opinion is guilty of oversimplification. What is interesting is that she does so by pairing syllogistic thinking and contextual analysis as competing approaches.

On the surface they don’t appear at odds. Each seeks to understand. Each, in its own right, a method toward that goal. One can adhere to rules of natural logic and still account for the environmental complexities that are inherently introduced by contextual analysis.

It may be that the statement is a clever insinuation at something else. To think in a syllogistic manner is to consider two objects or statements and their relationship only. If the relationship presents a logical outcome a third statement can be made, completing the triangle. But unless further understanding of the objects or statements is required, there is no need to expand ones’ thoughts into areas outside of the three principal components. Syllogistic thinking, therefore, constrains thought into a narrow, well-defined area.

Contextual Analysis, on the other hand, broadens the scope of inquiry in order to attain better understanding of a thing. It examines relatuonships and priorities with all manner of outside influences. Where Bader-Ginsbirg may rightly accuse a syllogism of being an inappropriate replacement for contextual analysis because of its simplicity and narrow view, the majority may argue that contextual anlaysis, taking the God’s eye view may be the wrong approach as it can often obscure valuable intelligence or overemphasize the wrong information. Context technically doesn’t end, and seeking to understand it may be opening a Pandora’s box

As a final point, I think it’s interesting that the majority opinion was written by Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas, it has been said, harbors insecurities about his understanding of legal concepts. In a profession where everyone is hyper-intelligent, even a smart man can have self doubt. I don’t know if that is actually the case, but I believe this article may be referring to that very issue. One Justice calling the other a child.

Ironically that inference was understood best when I applied both contextual analysis and syllogistic thinking methods to the problem.

Triangulate for more accurate results, so they say.


About Justin Arn

Part-time Bartender. Full Time Learner. Currently exploring the mystery and wonder of life while coding, reading, and hiking.
This entry was posted in One Word Each Day and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.