Sometimes you Argue the Bear

Introduction: My wife sent me this yesterday morning. She was down in Anchorage, but she wanted me to know about the bear, which reminds me that I really need to get active 911 on my own phone.

Key Facts: We get a few bear sightings a year in and around town here in Barrow.

Wildlife normally keeps an eye on bears near town, makes an effort to keep them out of town, and, when necessary puts down bears it deems a threat to the community.

‘Quyanaq’ means ‘thank you’ in Iñupiaq, the local indigenous language.

Text: “Please use extreme caution as a polar bear was spotted earlier this morning in the Browerville and Cakeeater area. Please be aware of your surroundings when outside. Wildlife was notified and has responded. If you spot a polar bear, please call the NSB Police Department at XXX XXX-XXXX to report the sighting. Quyanaq.”


Comments: This is kind of an interesting example of practical reasoning.

Statements: Much of the text above would not really constitute reasoning, so it can be left out. The argument is as follows:

[1] Please use extreme caution.

[a] as

[2] a polar bear was spotted earlier this morning in the Browerville and Cakeeater area.

[3] Please be aware of your surroundings when outside.

Diagram: It’s a simple serial argument. 2 ->1 -> 3.

We get one inference indicator [a], but no further explicit reasoning markers in the text. Statement 3 can be read as a more specific version of statement one, hence it seems to be the final conclusion of the argument.

Discussion: This argument raises the following issues; Hyperbole, Interactional Eclipse.

Hyperbole: The phrase “extreme caution” might seem a little excessive in light of the actual precautions to be taken when bears are present in and around town. Folks might refrain from walking the beach and/or look around a bit more when going outside, but that is probably about it. In fact, this does appear to be what the notice is meant to engender. This is caution; it’s probably not ‘extreme’ caution.

If this is hyperbole, however, it’s pretty harmless. Those new to the area might stress over its implications, but those who have been here awhile will easily read the suggestion in light of moderate precautions.

Interactional Eclipse: Although the notice is meant to engender caution, and it contains an argument urging caution upon people, it is as likely to bring people out with cameras looking for the bear as it is to trigger any extra caution. So, the content of the argument may to be some degree overwhelmed by the social realities of life on Instagram.

Evaluation: The argument itself strikes me as sound. I don’t know about the sighting, but I have no reason to doubt it, and hyperbole aside, both the genral call for caution and the specific suggestions about awareness are warranted by the sighting.

Final Thoughts: I took my camera out for a quick drive, but I didn’t see any bear. …dammit!


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