Friday, October 9, 2009

Scary: Mill's Canons for Halloween!

The philosophical basis for good research is rooted in the theories of John Stuart Mill. Mill theorized a set of five methods of thinking that apply to cause and effect. His five canons can be a bit confusing at times so I wrote a story to illustrate them. I will provide the definitions and then underline the passages in the story that relate to each of the five canons. Can you decide which ones go together?

1. Mill's Method of Agreement: Proposes that if the circumstances leading up to a given event have in every case only one common factor.

2. Mill's Method of Differences: Proposes that if two or more sets of circumstances are alike in every respect except for one factor and if a given result occurs only when that factor is present, the factor in question probably is the cause of that result.

3. The Joint Method: Combines the above two methods. First, the one factor common to the occurrence is found (Method of Agreement), and second the factor is withdrawn to determine if the phenomenon occurs only when the factor is present.

4. Method of Residues: Assesses causes by the process of elimination. This method proposes that when the specific factors causing certain parts of a given phenomenon are known, the remaining parts of the phenomenon must be caused by the remaining factors.

5. Method of Concomitant Variations: Proposes, in effect, that when two things consistently change or vary together, either the variations in one are caused by the variations in the other, or both are being affected by some common cause.

Hi, my name is Darby. I am almost five years old and this year I get to go to seven Halloween parties! I have picked out two costumes that I like, a princess dress and an angel costume. (Mommy says I can only wear the angel costume on days that I am a good girl.) I am so excited! I looooove Halloween!

I just got home from the first party as a princess and am covered in all kinds of funny looking spots. Mama says that I have a rash. Sounds scary! Maybe I can sneak up on daddy and say, “Boo!” I also brought home some M&Ms and my favorite orange pumpkin candy. They are so yummy!

The second party was really fun too! I went as an angel because I had been such a good girl by helping mommy clean out the pumpkin to make a Jack-o-Lantern. My hands got really sticky! Mommy says that my hands somehow get stickier every time I eat M&Ms too. I ate a lot of M&Ms at the second party, but I was sad that I didn’t get any pumpkin candies. I brought home some more spots all over my face and tummy and Mommy said that the only thing I did on both nights was to eat M&Ms. That must have caused my funny spots!

Mommy told me not to eat any M&Ms at the next two parties, but I secretly ate some at the third party. I also got to eat my favorite pumpkin candies at both parties and was so happy that I didn’t get anything on my princess costume. Sure enough, I had those silly spots at the third party, but not the next day after the fourth party. When mommy found out that I had eaten M&Ms at the third party she declared that the M&Ms must have caused the rash since everything else was the same for both parties.

Mommy was very worried about all these spots so she didn’t let me eat anymore M&Ms at the next three parties. I had to wear my princess costume to all three since I had not been a good girl when I secretly ate the M&Ms. Mommy told me that I should eat the pumpkin candies after only two of the parties and she would then check me for spots.

Luckily, I did not get more of that rash thing after the last three parties. It was itchy! Mommy said Halloween this year was mysterious. She is a smart mommy! She figured out that M&Ms cause me to have spots and that letting me help her with the pumpkin really made my hands sticky! The one thing she couldn’t understand was why I ran to the bathroom as soon as I got in the house after every party. I wonder what mommy would say if I told her that I was able to drink five glasses of punch at every party! She would be so proud of me!

Happy Halloween!

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