Longtime commenter Kim C., who almost never completely agrees with me but has been reading this blog since I've been writing it, likes to mention that logic courses should really be tought in the public schools.
I'm seeing the need for that this morning.
It's come to my attention that in a thread on Radical Hapa that I wasn't reading because I thought nobody was posting to it anymore, somebody has taken my statement:
“Or to put it another way, if he was going to shoot up a symbol of liberalism, the local offices of the Obama campaign would have made more sense. My guess is he wanted to shoot up someplace where his ex-wife had been happy and found support, and scrawled some concerns about politics to give his actions greater meaning. ”
to be an actual endorsement of shooting up the Obama campaign office.
Put in symbolic logic terms, this looks like
"If L, then O" is being taken as an endorsement of the "If L, then O" course of action. This is a fallacy. I'm not recalling if is has a name, and if it does, I'm not sure what that name is.*
But let's look at some equivilent examples:
"If you're going to let your seven-year-old play with that grenade, don't let her pull the pin" is not an endorsement of letting your seven year old play with the grenade.
"If you're going to have sex with Charlie Sheen, at least wear a condem" is not an endorsement of having sex with Charlie Sheen.
Now what I actually wrote was a little more complicated, in that I was using the fact that he chose to shoot up a church rather than a campaign office to speculate on his motives in what I think was a pretty clear "Goodness knows I don't know what this guy was thinking, but this makes sense to me" frame of mind.**
-If the PETA activist had intended to murder Anna Wintour, he probably would have thrown something more deadly than a pie. My guess is that his motivation was not to murder her, but to embarass her in front of the press.
-If she had intended to commit check fraud and steal money, she probably would have written her check for more than five dollars. My guess is that her bouncing that check was just an accident.
Now, just so we are completely clear, in making those statements, I have neither endorsed murdering Anna Wintour nor committing check fraud.
This is interesting to me because this particular type of fallacy comes up a lot in politics where, for example, a common argument against comprehensive sex education is "Telling the kids to use condoms if they are going to have sex encourages them to have sex."
who is probably going to get seriously nitpicked on the logic parts of this post, but thinks she's substantially correct.
*CC's last logic course was about ten years ago. But she did get an A.
**Item: Had I phrased this as a declaration of a definitive truth, that would have been me making a fallacy of my own, sort of a contrapositive affirming of the consequent. But it was clearly phrased as speculation and what made sense to me.
(Oh, and hat tip to Steve Caldwell for linking to the thread and reminding me it was there.)