Saturday, December 5, 2015

Clarifying Volatile Organic Compounds, part II

§ 1) Clarifying Volatile Organic Compounds, part II 
This will be an extension of an earlier blog post – found here – which examined the distinction of natural/unnatural and our use of good and bad in relation to these terms. Using a CIRI study along with the Langer piece, an attempt to show that as far as secondary exposure risks or ‘potential reaction risks with ozone’ are concerned – the synthetic or what would be deemed ‘unnatural’ variants of VOCs are of much less risk than natural alternatives (oranges, vinegar) was made. However, much of the current scientific literature and a certain style of cultural nomenclature use reason, research, and resonance to misrepresent facts like these – perpetuating an altogether different kind of picture. 
Gardner defines changing one’s mind as a ‘shift in one’s mental representation’ – the thought experiment exposes a legitimate (the argument is valid) line of reasoning. However, the thought ends in adducing an informal fallacy: i.e. the misuse of language, misstatement of facts or opinions, and misconceptions due to underlying presuppositions – the error arises from the content or our argument and our mode of presentation (representation in the case of Gardner). Making this a prime target for what Gardener calls ‘skill re-description’ since the particular resistance has already been illuminated. Allowing for “…the reader to shift for herself when she encounters conceptual difficulties.” 

§ 1.1) Spurring the Representational Shift
The most crucial thing to realize here is the logical form – the way the thoughts link together: solution to the thought experiment – is completely in order. The content and not the form is the issue, that’s why the fallacy is informal. This is because the conclusion appears to be a product of observation and reason – empirical investigation. Retrograding this style of thought using Gardner’s ‘R’s’ will hopefully show how ‘attempts at mind change’ allow for the positing of certain attitudes (ethical perspectives or resonances) without one’s (either the author or readers) realizing it – for example, in the piece‘Scented products emit a bouquet of VOCs’  a study was cited that used gas chromatography to analyze VOCs given off by the products. Testing 25 air fresheners, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, disinfectants, dish detergents, all-purpose cleaners, soaps, hand sanitizers, lotions, deodorants, and shampoos – finding that a mixture of hundreds of chemicals can be emitted from these products, some of which (limonene) react with ozone in ambient air to form dangerous secondary pollutants. “The ultimate goal is to improve public health,” – recommending cleaning with basic alternatives (simple, natural, pick a synonym) like vinegar and baking soda. However, safe exposure levels for acetic acid (vinegar) suggests a higher toxicity than that of limonene.
This is the issue – the politicalization of science. Just like the thought experiment we have made a jump (based upon a moral goal, the improvement or security of health) from science – Gardner words it slightly mystically as ‘moving outside of pure rationalism or empiricism, and into the psychology of human motivations’ – the jump is made using a kind of Reductive Naturalism to prop up one’s ethical goals. The point being it is most important to live in agreement with the facts – doing so is to live good, well and ethically – upholders of the problematic style of thought fail to notice what they believe to be the discovering of a fact, is only the proposal of a convention – this convention is liable to turn dogmatic.

§ 1.11 Concluding Remarks 
The point of the previous blog post was it is not wrong to pick the orange given the circumstances of the thought experiment – it is interesting to examine why one might be inclined to do so: especially in light of what the facts later show. The style of thought we’ve been looking at can be arrived at by different kinds of intelligences and a diversity of lifestyles, it has many roots and not one single root. The point of the current post is this is in part due to the moral-neutrality of Gardner’s ‘R’s’, science and the disproportional use of resonance in our way of life – the goal being to erect a ‘mental signpost’ warning of a false path – the kind of mind change shown here is far from sweeping or world-shattering; its very nuanced and some would say unimportant. In this case a conflation of reason with resonance has been made (in the sense that a formal argument is not the way about on this occasion) – the problem arises from the direct clash between the idiosyncratic features of first person concepts —true, good, bad, natural, unnatural — and scientific uniformity (telling us what is the case). This is just one particular example of a tension which runs throughout topic as a whole.

further reading:

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