Friday 28th November 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Errors In Logic

January 26, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

Up until about the 1970s, many Catholic universities would require a course called “Logic.” These courses centered on the difference between valid and invalid arguments. Invalid arguments were those that were based on faulty lines of thinking, such as ad hominem proofs, circular reasoning, false premises, non sequiturs, post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning, and begging the question. We don’t hear much about these formal errors in logic these days. The modern thinking is that students can be shown that something is illogical without giving it a formal name.
That may be true. In a column titled “Washington’s Three Most Irrational Arguments in 2013,” Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner on December 28 offered his readers some examples of how modern politicians lure their audiences into false conclusions through faulty logic. Carney does not give these subterfuges the formal labels found in the old textbooks, but he makes his point effectively nonetheless.
Reading Carney’s article would be a good assignment for high school students to illustrate that an argument may not be a sound as it seems on first hearing. (It can be accessed at washingtonexaminer.com.)
Carney maintains these invalid arguments are “deliberately devised, promulgated, and repeated by prominent politicians, which makes them all the more embarrassing.”
The first example is when emotion and guilt are used to disarm the listener before he or she has a chance to think through the proposition. Carney calls it the “If we can save only one life” ploy. He points out how it is used to push for an expansion of gun control laws (“If we can only save one child by restricting the sale of guns, shouldn’t we do it, even if it inconveniences some gun owners?”).
It is an approach that is also used to defend welfare programs (“If only one child is served from starvation and poor housing, isn’t it worth it, even if there is some waste in the programs?”) and to criticize many military operations (“How can we defend this use of our military forces if even one innocent child is killed in the operation?”).
Carney points out the fallacy in this logic. “It sounds nice — that we ought to take any action that would save one child’s life. But we all know policies have costs, in terms of freedom and unintended consequences.” He asks if we would outlaw party balloons because of the “handful of kids who choke to death on them. Outlawing swimming pools would save hundreds of children who drown in them every year. A national speed limit of 10 mph would spare untold numbers of Americans who die in automobile accidents.”
We could add that thousands of miners and foresters whose lives could be saved if we gave up the use of coal to heat our homes and lumber to build them.
We don’t do these things because we accept the possibility of the loss of life as a trade-off for things that are a benefit to society. As far as gun control laws? Writes Carney, “The data suggest that for every life saved by gun control laws, some lives are lost.” He argues that we have to factor into our decision the people who would be unable to defend themselves if we effectively prohibited the ownership and possession of firearms. How many of their lives would be lost if that happened?
Carney also is critical of the Democratic politicians who repeated over and over last year that it was wrong for Republicans to stand in the way of Obamacare because “it’s the law.” He points specifically to “Democratic Cong. Elijah Cummings of Maryland who implied that using the legislative process to change the law somehow violated the oath of office. ‘We put up our hands to swear to uphold the Constitution and the laws of this country,’ said Cummings on CNN. ‘It’s the law’.”
Carney calls Cummings’ logic “mind-bendingly nonsensical,” because “Congress is the branch empowered to make laws.” Beyond that, the country is proud of the many times that laws were reversed by legislative action. We could point to laws that upheld slavery and denied women the right to vote. Is it the point of modern Democrats who tell us that Obamacare cannot be reversed because “it is the law” that those laws should also have been left in place because they were the law? The question answers itself.
Republicans do not escape Carney’s critique. He points out the error in “confusing differences in tactics for differences” in principle, which he feels was on display in the approach of Tea Party Republicans. He thinks it an error to maintain that those Republicans who refused to go along with the shutdown of the government over the funding of Obamacare were supporting Obamacare. He maintains the “defund Obamacare” strategy “never made political and rhetorical sense.”  He argues the “defund proposal had near zero chance of passing. Defunding Obamacare required Obama to sign a bill defunding Obamacare. So ‘defund it or you’re for it’ boiled down to: ‘Join in our doomed posturing, or you’re a big liberal.’ That’s not exactly the way to build a coalition within a party.”
One need not agree with Carney about the futility of the Tea Party Republicans’ approach to funding Obamacare to concede his point: that it is not sound logic, or good politics, to maintain that those who disagree with the tactics proposed by one political faction or another necessarily disagree with the objective of that faction.
We all could make up a list of examples. For example, we do not become pro-abortion merely because we refuse to participate in violence against abortion providers; we do not become anti-Semitic simply on the basis of our opposition to the policies of the modern state of Israel regarding the Palestinians; and we are not necessarily lacking in Christian compassion for the poor on the basis of our opposition to wasteful government poverty programs.
In each of these examples, it very well may be that those accused of ill-will toward the group or cause in question merely think that another approach would be more effective than the policy being proposed. It is an error in logic to assume that their disagreement with the tactics implies a disagreement with the objective.

+    +    +

Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about this and other educational issues. The e-mail address for First Teachers is fitzpatrijames@sbcglobal.net, and the mailing address is P.O. Box 15, Wallingford CT 06492.

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Chaput: It Isn’t Possible To Be Pro-life And Simultaneously Forget The Cries Of The Poor

Interview with the Archbishop of Philadelphia who is preparing to receive the Pope for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015: defending the unborn child is a vital part of the social doctrine of the Church. We need to…Continue Reading

Homosexual Activist Organization in New York Receives Catholic Grant

Washington, DC—The Lepanto Institute issued a report exposing the activities of an organization which received a $35,000 grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).  According to the report, the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) launched its…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Church teaching on sexuality must be clarified, and only Pope Francis can do it

In an interview with Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTE, one of the Catholic hierarchy’s most outspoken defenders of life and family and the Church’s sexual moral teachings again indicated Pope Francis needs to “clarify” that divorced and remarried Catholics, and active…Continue Reading

Pope Appoints New Bishop For Gary, USA

(Vatican Radio) The Holy Father has named an Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee, Donald J. Hying as the new Bishop of Gary, USA. He succeeds Bishop Dale J. Melczek, whose resignation Pope Francis accepted upon having the age limit. On Monday…Continue Reading

TOP CATHOLIC BISHOPS AIDE ON EXECUTIVE AMNESTY: OBAMA’S ‘LAST CHANCE TO MAKE GOOD ON PROMISE’

In a statement last Friday in the New York Times, the top aide on immigration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said that executive amnesty is President Barack Obama’s “last chance to make good on his promise…Continue Reading

Catholics Want To Learn More About Their Faith, Bishops Report

BALTIMORE – For three and a half years, members of several U.S. bishops’ committees have been trying to pinpoint what Catholics in the pew are thinking and why they accept or reject church teachings. To this end, they have conducted…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal: Catholic charity ‘is not only giving food … but giving God’

The Vatican cardinal who oversees the Church’s charitable initiatives has emphasized again that Catholic charities cannot be satisfied with meeting the material needs of those they serve. “Charity is very linked with the proclamation of the Gospel, and doing charity…Continue Reading

Prof at Catholic university tries to justify same-sex ‘marriage’ acceptance from Scripture

Professor Gerald Schlabach of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently published a piece for The Christian Century utilizing the writing of St. Paul to create an argument legitimizing acceptance of same-sex marriage. In light of Schlabach’s article, The Cardinal Newman Society…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Group: “We Will Not Obey the Obamacare HHS Mandate, Not Today, Not Ever”

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Court Says Obama Admin Can Force Pro-Life Group to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

The pro-life group Priests for Life was one of the earliest organizations to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its HHS mandate. The mandate compels religious groups to pay for birth control drugs and drugs like ella that…Continue Reading

Where Are Our Young People Going?

During the 10:30 Mass in my parish a couple of Sundays ago 32 boys and girls stood in front of the altar, faced the congregation, and formally affirmed their desire to be confirmed. It was part of the preparation for…Continue Reading

US Bishops Elect New Secretary, Discuss Health Care Ethics Guide

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2014 / 08:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted Tuesday on several committee leadership positions, also considering several liturgical proposals and moving forward with a New York canonization cause. At their fall…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope Makes First Stop at Mausoleum of Atatürk in Turkey

Ankara, November 28, 2014 (Zenit.org) Junno Arocho Esteves In his first stop on his Apostolic Visit to Turkey, Pope Francis visited the famed Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Upon his arrival, the Pope was welcomed by government and military authorities, as well as Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, Apostolic Nuncio. Shortly after landing, the Holy Father was whisked away to…Continue Reading

Pope At Santa Marta: Depression And Hope

2014-11-27 Vatican Radio   (Vatican Radio) Reality can be ugly, but despite the suffering, corruption and indifference in today’s world as Christians we must hold our heads high in hope said Pope Francis at Mass Thursday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Basing his reflections on the Readings of the Day, Pope Francis spoke of the fate of the two cities…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Europe is like a poplar tree that needs nourishment

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday told European leaders that the development of today’s societies and their peaceful coexistence require constant reflection on the tenets that form the basis of Europe: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.  Like a tree, Europe also needs care and nourishment for healthy growth.  In a wide-ranging speech to the Council of Europe…Continue Reading

Pope Urges A “lonely” “Self-absorbed” Europe To Recover Its Soul

pope671

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called on a “haggard” and “lonely” Europe to recover its role as a world protagonist, its identity as a defender of the transcendent dignity of man, the poor, the migrant, the persecuted, the old and the young, to recover its soul: Christianity. Emer McCarthy reports: In a lengthy address– the first of two on his one…Continue Reading

EWTN Brings Soldiers Of Christ To The Screen

By REY FLORES When I was given the opportunity to review this terrific new program produced by the StoryTel Foundation for EWTN, I knew right away that I would be writing a favorable piece because of my personal experiences with this wonderful order of holy priests. According to some of the promotional materials on the…Continue Reading

Laws Of Association And Their Contravention

By JUDE P. DOUGHERTY Contra Thomas Hobbes and his fictional state of nature, it is the family that is nature’s first form of association, for only within the family can human life survive. It is within the context of the family that the infant is nourished and for years provided with his basic needs, food,…Continue Reading

Are City Folks Less Christian?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK Are the people who live in America’s cities less Christ-like than those who live in small towns and rural areas? Michael Rossmann, a Jesuit scholastic (a member of the order, not yet ordained a priest), does not say that, not in so many words. But he comes close. Rossmann is now…Continue Reading

Giving Thanks

By DONALD DeMARCO The word “thanks” is etymologically rooted in the word “thought.” With this in mind, G.K. Chesterton could say: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Chesterton had a genius for expressing expansive ideas in a concise way. Many of his…Continue Reading

Changing Their Tune

By PHILLIP DEAN (Editor’s Note: Music has always been especially important to Phillip Dean. Gifted as a singer and musician, the high school sophomore leads a Wednesday night youth band at his Rock Hill, S.C., church. And, though he completes his academic coursework online from home, he played for the last four years in the…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Q. Does the Catholic Church teach that no one knows who is in Hell? Well, it seems that goes against the Bible when Jesus says about Judas, “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. Better for him if he had never been born” (Matt. 26:24). I cannot go against Jesus’ words in the Bible. Am…Continue Reading

Preparing A Way

By FR ROBERT ALTIER Second Sunday Of Advent (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 2 Peter 3:8-14 Mark 1:1-8 In the first reading today God speaks to Isaiah telling him to give comfort to His people. This message comes at the end of a long period of suffering for the people of Israel during which their sins were expiated. Now…Continue Reading

Pope Francis’ Address At Colloquium . . . Complementary Is At The Root Of Marriage And Family

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ address in the Vatican at the opening of the “Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman,” November 17-19. In his talk, the Holy Father stated: “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World . . . Some Bishops Are Beginning To Find Their Voice

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK In recent weeks the Pope hosted the “Humanum” conference in Rome. In his remarks of welcome he clearly reiterated his commitment to the right of children to have both a mother and a father while stating that marriages and families cannot be redefined by or subject to manipulation by ideologies. (See p. 4B of this…Continue Reading

Is The Rosary A Prayer Of “Vain Repetitions”?

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 3 The visit I received from two Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs, for short) gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that repetitive prayer — especially the rosary — is entirely in line with Sacred Scripture. When they walked into my living room and did not miss the sight of my rosary on the mantelpiece, I knew…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Catherine Labouré

By CAROLE BRESLIN A miracle is a sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or to testify to someone’s sanctity. During His life on earth, Jesus performed many miracles. Miracles did not end with Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. They have continued to be performed throughout the history of the Church.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Cecilia

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church has thousands of saints. For the last two millennia, people of great holiness, exemplifying heroic virtue, have been honored as saints, members of the Church Triumphant in Heaven giving honor and glory to God. Some have been formally declared saints by the Church, while others have been so honored from the beginnings of the…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading