Sunday, October 17, 2010


During last week's discussion on fallacy, my group came to the conclusion that despite that the fallacy of affect and the genetic fallacy make complete sense, and apply very well to many academic arguments, they're not enough to change the opinions of the everyday person. If someone wants to think that socialism is a failure because Obama has ruined the economy, they're likely going to think that despite that that line of thinking falls under the category of the affective fallacy.

Another student objected to this statement by saying that there is a difference between logical thinking, and belief. He questioned whether or not a society where people can say and believe whatever they would like to regardless of whether or not it is fallacious is really ideal.

Perhaps such a society is not ideal, but I maintain that this is the sort of society that we live in. We value freedom of speech, and so this means that we allow people to say and think things that according to many other people, probably aren't true. One example of this is the failure of socialism because of Obama, and another could be that a divine being created the universe and all the creatures in it exactly as they are. Many people consider these statements to be true, but many others consider them to be products of fallacy. The coexistence of both kinds of thinking, whether logical and valid or not, must be allowed in our society.

This becomes problematic when people argue for the right to say things that others think are false, and that lead to pain and discrimination. The limit on this freedom despite fallacy then becomes just that; we can say whatever we want as long as we don't cause pain to others and spread hate. Again, I think it's worth noting that I'm neither advocating nor arguing against this tendency, I simply think that this is how our society is, and that fallacy doesn't mean very much on a grander social scale. Moreover, I think it's clear that people will continue to say and think what they want to, not only despite fallacy, but despite the fact that they actually are spreading hate and pain. For example, the recent story of the American pastor who denounced Islam and wanted to burn the Quran. Most people agreed that what he was saying was not logical (fallacy of affect? "Because there are Muslim extremists, the Quran must be evil"), but he also said what he did despite that it was so obviously hateful and harmful.

Academics might care a lot about the fallacy of affect and the genetic fallacy, but the average person's opinions probably are not guided or checked by either. Perhaps this is not ideal, but would the opposite really be ideal instead? A world where people couldn't say or think anything unless it was logically valid seems just as, if not more, frightening and dangerous than our current situation. Should people not be allowed benign faith? How does one explain such elements as love, altruism, and devotion using solely logic, and still capture the magic of human existence? Arguably, many so-called Darwinists and proponents of evolutionary biology probably don't really understand all of the logic and reasoning behind evolutionary theory. They probably just think evolution and natural selection are true because they have been told they are true. I would think that most people don't actually witness and know for themselves all the processes of natural selection and evolution, and just have to take other people's word for it. Is this also not a form of belief?

What the ideal society would look like is up for debate, but if our current one isn't ideal, then one that bans everything that is technically speaking, fallacious, probably wouldn't be ideal either.

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