Saturday, August 16, 2008

CC's turn to state what she thinks is the obvious

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.**

Equivilent examples:

-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.)


Joe The Math Guy said...

I am not convinced that learning logic would help. The person to whom you refer needs to look up the words "if" and "then" in a dictionary.

ogre said...

To veer off on a tangent, CC... the report I read said that Adkisson's letter stated that since he couldn't go and kill the evil liberal leaders in power that he was going to go and kill the people that elected him.

That makes targeting a campaign office less "attractive" and targeting a church full of people who are, admittedly, likely to be voting for liberal candidates "explicable."

But I agree with you about the post mangling your point and suggesting that trout live in trees...

Obijuan said...

Try I'm not sure this person's reading of your statement is a fallacy so much as an accidental reductio ad absudium based on, as joe the math guy suggests, a complete misunderstanding of "if/then" statements and, y'know, sarcasm.

Chalicechick said...

Yeah, I get all that Joe and ObiJuan.

I just saw the parallel between that and the sex ed argument and it got me going.

The XKCD cartoon was supposed to indicate that even *I* knew I was going off on a rant.


Surely the campaign staff would be even more directly "the people that elected" the liberal leaders.

My theory is that the guy shot up the church primarily because it was a place where his ex-wife had found support and happiness and that the letter was merely an attempt to ennoble the act by turning it from a whackjob's personal vendetta against good people into an act in an ideological war.


PeaceBang said...

That you even bothered to respond to such a ridiculous interpretation of your comment is big of you. Your point about Adkisson wanting to cause harm where his wife had found support makes a lot of sense to me.
Doesn't matter what he said in his letter -- there's an obvious reason he chose *that* liberal organization.

PG said...

Didn't you have to refresh your logic memory for the LSAT? The person made a bad contrapositive; s/he reversed, but forgot to negate both sides. The correct contrapositive of "If you intend to attack liberals qua liberals, then it makes more sense to go after the Obama office than a UU church" is "If it does not make more sense to go after the Obama office than a UU church, then you do not intend to attack liberals qua liberals."