Logic For Leftybloggers: Almost Superhuman

I must confess, I’ve more or less gotten over trying to each leftybloggers how logic works, except in the odd individual case (and I have to admit that’s more a matter of rhetorical endzone-ball-spiking, bordering on intellectual sadomasochism, than actual interest in education).

I say that partly because today’s subject isn’t a blogger (although he certainly packs the intellectual gear to  be a Twin Cities leftyblogger), and partly because, well, I’m at that stage of my life when I question a lot of my own motivations, and sometimes find my answers sorely wanting.

Not as wanting as I find my opponents, naturally.

Like most conservatives, I’ve long since given up reading the Star/Tribune for anything other than material to mock.

And as that last that last weekend’s “Counterpoint” – “Liberals are Right, Conservatives are Wrong“, from retired math teacher David Perlman qualifies.

And today’s liberal rhetorical stunt?  The incredibly-difficult “Double Circular Question-Beg” from a Rolling Start!

The rolling start?  A smarmy dollop of that other crutch of the liberal “thinker”, smug entitlement:

In “Based on recent rulings, it’s the court’s liberal wing that’s rigid” (June 29), D.J. Tice observed that the liberal members of the U.S. Supreme Court constitute a more lockstep group than the conservatives do.

I think he’s right — but Tice presented this as a criticism of the liberals.

I did say “smug entitlement”:

Here’s the arrogant part: Liberalism is correct and conservatism is wrong.

Perlman follows with some puffery that I’m sure he intends to be self-justifying – math and science are objective, doncha know! – before making with the Big Truths:

The law, unlike mathematics or science, attempts to be based on logic, but it is strongly influenced by interpretation. What, for example, is a “reasonable man”? Reasonable men can disagree.

But the “Reasonable Person” in the sense of the legal theory doesn’t actually get into arguments; it’s a standard, not an anthropological model.

But I digress – but to be fair, Perlman keeps digressing, too.

The purpose of the legal minds who sit on the Supreme Court is not so much to apply logic as it is to interpret the Constitution.

And there, I’ll let my lawyer friends have at it.

And now we come to rigid blocs and the miracle that is the Supreme Court. I can well imagine the behind-the-scenes conversations that go on among the nine justices. I envision congeniality and also heated debate, and I have come to believe that the liberals tend to sway the conservatives far more than the other way around.

And Mr. Perlman seems to have “come to believe” this in much the same way that I “came to believe” in Santa Claus when I was six; I really, really wanted to.

I am, of course, stating Mr. Perlman’s conclusion for him.  But as we read onward – and we will, damn the luck – Perlman returns the favor with noxious interest.

I’ll add emphasis here and there throughout the rest of the piece:

Justice David Souter comes to mind right away. Even Justice Sandra Day O’Connor moved to the left in the end. I think the reason is that they are all intelligent people, and intelligent people tend toward liberalism.

It’s a conceit that drives many liberals – and virtually all of them, near as I can tell, who get past high school.

Conservatives decry the liberal bias in the universities. It is true that most college professors are liberals, but I don’t think it has anything to do with bias. It is because college professors are intelligent people, and intelligent people tend to be liberal.

College is where smart people are, so liberals at college must be smart!

I have had many conversations with colleagues about why so many people vote against their own best interests, and the only conclusion that is ever reached is that those people are swayed by emotional arguments, not by intelligent thought.

Liberals are at college; smart people are at college; smart people know what’s in their best interests, and liberals are smart people, so voting liberal is in everyone’s best interest (whatever that is!)!

It’s simple!

But it’s in the next bit that Perlman shows his true mastery of the form; he not only sticks the “Double Circular Question-Beg”, he does it with style!

So, in the end, despite Citizens United, and despite Republicans’ putting extreme conservatives on the Supreme Court, the constitution of the court itself (pun intended) has a tendency to move to the left.

College is where smart people are.  Liberals are at college, so they must be smart.  Judges when to lots of college, so they are by definition smart, ergo liberal!

Why don’t all you morons understand this?  It’s as logical as any circle!

This piece is proof that:

  • Minnesota Liberals never really learn how to question, much less debate, conservatism:  Growing up in a school system that trains youth to be “progressives”, coming of age in a university system that (sorry, Mr. Perlman) hangs out a “no conservatives need apply” sign, then spend decades in a system – public ed, civil service, any public employee’s union – that would never dream of second-guessing any of those preconceptions (but does have a very strict definition of “voters’ best interests”, yessirreebob) with a big helping of Minnesota-bred “we’re all strong, good looking and above average” larded on top, let’s be honest; it’d be a miracle if Mr. Perlman could be anything but smug, entitled, and not nearly as bright as he thinks.  His argument, full of circular question-begging (formidable as that is) would have embarassed a modestly bright ninth-grader when I was in school.
  • The Strib is trying hard to buck up liberals’ self-esteem in what could shape up to be an awful election year for them, apparently showing them that anyone can be a Big Thinker  That, or they are almost out of commentary writers.
  • American public education is screwed blue, presuming Mr. Perlman really was a teacher.

Mr. Perlman:  hang out at college some more.   You may not get any smarter, but you won’t be inflicting what passes for your “logic” on people via the Strib, anyway.

Logic For Leftybloggers: Part I, The Tu Quoque Ad Hominem

File this under “casting pearls before swine”, but I’ve finally snapped.

The Twin Cities’ “alternative” media is where logic goes to die.

So today will be the first of a 2,000 part series trying to introduce bloggers (and I’ll say “of all stripes”, but we all know who I really mean) to some of the rudiments of carrying on a logical argument.

(And yes, a few conservative bloggers as well.  Illogic isn’t the exclusive province of “progressive” bloggers.  Not at all.

Today’s installment: the Tu Quoque Ad Hominem.

With the “Marriage Amendment” working its way through the Legislature, and likely to not only get through but win big in the fall of 2012, the usual framing is underway from the left.

In and among the usual (“bigot!”  “Hateful!” and so on) comes the question “I wonder how many of the people voting for this amendment are divorced?  Why should they be telling anyone about marriage?”

Leaving aside that that only makes sense if you presume that gay marriage is immune from divorce – and it is not – it’s an example of the Tu Quoque Ad Hominem – which presumes that if someone has ever said, done or believed anything different than what they are currently arguing, then the current argument is wrong.

Now it’s true that, all other things being equal, only one of the two positions can be right (if, indeed, they are black and white, right or wrong issues with no gray areas, which accounts for rather few things in real life) – but that has nothing to do with whether the current position is, in and of itself, wrong.

The fact that someone’s earlier positions, statements or actions disagree with a current position, statement or action could stem from lots of things; that the person has changed their position for good reason; that they’ve grown, either as a human being or “in office”; that that he or she is a hypocrite (meaning “holds other people to moral positions to which they don’t hold themselves”), that he or she merely hasn’t thought things through all that well, or that they’re just plain flip-flopping.  Or maybe more than one of them.  Whichever – it doesn’t, in and of itself, invalidate their current argument.

There may be other reasons the argument is invalid – reasonable people can disagree on, to go back to the original example, gay marriage; some may even change their positions over time.  But some prior inconsistency doesn’t even make, much less prove, the case.

Go forth and sin no more.

You’re welcome.

(It’s about this point that some joyless scold – I’m thinking “Tild” or “Spotty” or “Minnesota Observer”, will dig diligently through my blog and find some example of me using exactly this logical fallacy – in effect, saying “Mitch Berg shouldn’t be yapping about logic, since he has been illogical”.  And the circle turns).

Logic For Leftybloggers: A Remedial Course

I started reading a couple of Minnesota liberal blogs yesterday, with an aim toward perhaps addressing some of their arguments as the session gets underway…

…and I stopped.  It just got too depressing.

Minnesota liberal bloggers – many, many of them – have real serious trouble with simple logic; with the rhetorical equivalent of subject-verb agreement.

About a year ago, I started a series of posts called “Logic for Leftybloggers”; it was, as I sketched it out, a 25 part bit on some of the basics of logic – little things like “why a tu quoque argument (which makes up about 40% of leftyblog posts) makes you sound like you need more fiber in your diet” or “how ridicule isni’t technically evidence” or “when your argument includes more red herrings than the entire Norwegian fishing fleet, you’re really only convincing fellow ijjits”.

But I shelved it, largely because searching through the backlog for the examples was, again, just too damn depressing.

Still, my little bout (or perhaps “spasm”) of reading leftyblogs has made me think; maybe that’ll be my New Years’ gift to discourse; dust off the series and post it during the coming year.  At the very best, it’ll improve the level of discussion at least some.   At worst?  Someone’s body may physically reject its own brain; I’d hate to have that on my conscience, but I am a giver.

I gotta think about this a bit.

Logic For Leftybloggers: Begging The Question

Here’s a typical argument that I’ve been having with more than a few lefties lately:

ME: Here’s some more evidence that fraudulent votes were cast in the election.

THEY:  You shouldn’t say that.  Minnesota has the best voting system in the country.

ME:  Maybe, maybe not – but there’s some room for improvement, as these stories show.

THEY: But you shouldn’t impugn the voting system.  You’ll discourage voting.

ME: No, I’m encouraging people to hold their idiot government accountable.

THEY:  But your “evidence” is wrong.

ME: Why?

THEY: Because we have the best voting system in the country.

ME: (Looks for ways to change the subject)

It’s called “Begging the Question” – which may be the most mis-used term in the whole world of logic, by the way.  Correctly used, it means “Using the presumption that your claim is correct as evidence that your claim is correct”.

Constant repetition that Minnesota has the best electoral system in the country, even if it’s true (and it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that it’s a ludicrous claim, unless the sole goal is to rack up vote counts, which is a stupid goal) doesn’t pre-empt evidence that there are issues.