Sunday 23rd 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:

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

Fidelity to Bishop of Rome crucial to evangelization, US bishops say

Baltimore, Md., Nov 10, 2014 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Pope Francis on Monday, the U.S. bishops vowed fidelity to the Holy See and voiced hope that Pope Francis will attend the World Meeting of Families…Continue Reading

Nation’s Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore Monday

Nearly 300 bishops from across the nation will determine the coming year’s agenda for the American Roman Catholic church when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops begins its annual fall meeting Monday in Baltimore. The bishops will spend four days…Continue Reading

Pope names new ‘foreign minister,’ prefect of Apostolic Signatura; Cardinal Burke given new position

The Holy See Press Office announced on November 8 that Pope Francis has named Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, as the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. Archbishop Mamberti replaces Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has served…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Church Risks Serious Tensions in Months Ahead

Cardinal Raymond Burke has said he is at the service of Pope Francis, has no personal animosity towards him, and those who claim the American cardinal is an opponent of the Pontiff are trying to discredit him. The head of…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 Francis: Homily For Christ The King Canonization Mass

pope670

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis delivered the homily at the Mass celebrated in St Peter’s Square on Christ the King Sunday, during the course of which he canonized six new saints: Kuriakose Elias Chavara, Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal, Amato Ronconi, Giovanni Antonio Farina, Nicola da Longobardi, and Ludovico da Casoria. Below, please find the full text of the official English translation of the…Continue Reading

Pope: All Christians Called To Be Missionaries, ‘Not Just The Few’

pope668

(Vatican Radio) All Christians and “not just the few” are called to intensify their missionary spirit and go out to proclaim the joy of the Gospel, said Pope Francis.He issued the call on Saturday in speaking at the Vatican to a group of more than 700 participants in Italy’s National Missionary Congress, which was organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference…Continue Reading

Pope Francis Pays Tribute To Blessed Paul VI’s Devotion To Mary

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis paid tribute on Thursday to Blessed Pope Paul the 6th and his great love for the Mother of God, saying he always turned to Mary at crucial and difficult moments for the Church and humanity. The Pope’s words came during a message which was read on his behalf by the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin…Continue Reading

Pope At Santa Marta: Jesus Weeps

pope667

(Vatican Radio) Jesus weeps today when the doors of our hearts, those of the pastors of the Church, are closed to His surprises not recognizing the One who brings peace said Pope Francis at Mass Friday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the Gospel of the Day, Pope Francis said Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because its people did not…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “The Birth Control Pill: Unintended Consequences”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For a CD containing hundreds of patient information pamphlets showing that the most common methods of birth control are abortifacient in their actions, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have seen…Continue Reading

The Synod And The New Evangelization

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

A Book Review . . . Detailed Studies Of Galileo

By JUDE DOUGHERTY Finocchiaro, Maurice. The Trial of Galileo: Essential Documents, translated and edited by Maurice A. Finocchiaro. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 2014. Pp. xii+160. This book draws upon Finocchiaro’s previously published works, The Galileo Affair: A Documentary History (1989) and Retrying Galileo: 1633-1992 (2005), at once making those masterful works more readily accessible,…Continue Reading

Reconnecting With Mary . . . The Apparitions At L’Ile Bouchard

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY Part 1 This is first of two articles about the Marian apparitions at L’Ile Bouchard, in northwestern France, near Tours, which took place from December 8-14, 1947. The situation in postwar France was very serious, and there was a real threat from Communism, and even of civil war, but, unknown to…Continue Reading

Applying Just War Theory

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK The conditions that must be present before military force can be justified, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are as follows: “1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; “2. all other means of putting an end…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

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

Reading And Interpreting Scripture

By DON FIER We ended last week’s installment by launching into a discussion on a question of critical importance: “How is Sacred Scripture to be read and interpreted?” The significance and the relevance of this question become apparent if one examines findings outlined in the 2012 “Status of Global Mission” report, a publication of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. We recently celebrated the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Why does the Church celebrate a church building in Rome? — P.R., Massachusetts. A. Because the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest church in Christendom and is the church of the Pope, not St. Peter’s Basilica. The Lateran Basilica was built in the fourth century…Continue Reading

Be Watchful And Alert

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER First Sunday Of Advent (YR B) Readings: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7 1 Cor. 1:3-9 Mark 13:33-17 In the first reading today we hear of the conflict that has tormented humanity from the very beginning. The problem is that we blame God for everything. Isaiah cries out to God in a lament, “Why do you let us…Continue Reading

In The Footsteps Of St. Paul… Bishop Conley’s Pilgrimage Teaches About Evangelizing Culture

(Editor’s Note: Below is the latest column by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., for the Southern Nebraska Register. Bishop Conley, in conjunction with Spirit Catholic Radio and others, went on an October 31 to November 9 St. Paul Mediterranean Pilgrimage Cruise. (ZENIT News Agency provided the text. All rights reserved.) + + + The ancient Christian writer and theologian…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

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

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

By CAROLE BRESLIN Since the United States is a relatively new country compared to the rest of the world, we do not have as many canonized saints as do France, Italy, or Spain. Elizabeth Ann Seton (died 1821) was the first person born in the United States to be canonized, although she lived many years after Kateri Tekakwitha (died 1680)…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