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Tuesday, May 10

May 10, 2016
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WWTWWT: Today we started with a brief assessment (non-graded) to help me understand the stuff people are having trouble with. We’ve covered lots of material over the past couple of weeks, and I need to see what needs attention.

Here is that assessment, with answers: WWT2 quiz with answers May 10 2016

We next turned our attention to the Scottish skeptic David Hume. Hume is best-known for his “problem of induction,” which cast a skeptical eye on the whole idea of cause and effect.

Remember that induction = arguing from the specific to the general. We tried an experiment in which I gave everyone a Blow Pop. You ate the Blow Pops because you made three generalizations/predictions:

1. An inductive generalization. You inferred that all members of a certain class (in this case, Blow Pops specifically, or lollipops generally) would be similar to those we’ve already observed. Or at least almost everyone did — as soon as one person ate a Blow Pop and didn’t die, everyone else concluded it was safe.

2. An inductive prediction. You made a guess about future events (the lollipop would taste sweet, for example) based on your past experience with Blow Pops/lollipops.

3. A causal generalization. You assumed that the causes associated with the Blow Pop (the sweet taste, the increased saliva) were in fact the result of the Blow Pop, and not due to some other factor.

So Hume essentially argued that everything we think we know for certain is really just a case of educated guesswork — we can’t prove these things. The million-and-first time you throw a cell phone off the balcony, it might just sprout wings and fly away.

But Hume is also famous for saying that “custom is the great guide of human life.” He acknowledged that, even if we can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that, say, food will be nourishing every time we eat it, it’d be silly to stop eating just because we can’t be sure.

Needless to say, if you take Hume’s idea literally, it really rips the guts out of anything we could call science — which is heavily dependent on establishing cause-effect relationships. (Why so few people seem to understand this is another mystery.)

For Tuesday: please read the intro of “The Age of Revolution” if you haven’t already, plus the section on Hume.

History: Today was your last official day to work on finishing the prints for your alphabet book project. If you did not finish, feel free to come in during lunch or third block (or another time convenient to you) to finish up. Thursday will be a “blackout” day for BatCat; those of you not in BatCat can use that time to work on this as well. Those of you in BatCat will have to find another time.

Siren: Turning a news story into an editorial, Part I.

Prompt: Notebooks were checked. There will be no activity on Thursday; please make your “activity” entry one from the blog. Also: I realize that there haven’t been new updates to the blog in a long time… and that’s ok. There are well over a hundred prompts on there already and no one, to my knowledge, has ever done them all. Therefore, think back to what we talked about at the beginning of the semester: don’t just cherry pick the prompts you think sound “fun.” Try one that seems more challenging or subdued – you never know what you might come up with.

Survey: CNF: Odds and ends. There will be a quiz Thursday on the material we’ve covered over the past couple months, including:

  1. The four new essays we’ve read: “Harvey Pekar,” “Dumb Kids’ Class,” “The Coldness of E-mail” and “No Wonder They Call Me a Bitch.”
  2. The five dos and don’ts of interviewing.
  3. Ethics, including libel. Handout here: CNF ethics guidelines February 2016
  4. The Mike Daisey stuff (speaking of ethics).
  5. Terminology: Lee Gutkind’s “universal chord,” plus the stuff from the ethics handout: consolidation, compression, etc.
  6. The brand-new essay I gave you to read for Thursday: L. Rust Hills’ “How to Eat an Ice-Cream Cone.”

We briefly went over LAVA dates and submission guidelines. Check the top of this blog for some publication opportunities, and ask questions (is this place legit?) if you have them.

Remember: your “what if?” essay is due Thursday, May 19.

Survey: Screenwriting: Today you took a quiz on Save the Cat, Chapter 3. The rest of the time was yours to work on the 5th part of the Story Development Project, due Thursday.

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