Exercises in Logic

When I was a student of Logic, the exercises I liked the most were those where you have to detect the fallacy involved in the process of argumentation. I recalled such exercises when I read an Inquirer editorial. It led me to write this letter.

Dear Sir:

Upon reading the August 20 editorial of Inquirer “Iskul Bukol in the Senate” I felt pity, not for the unfortunate Senator about whom the article was written, but for the author of the editorial. What he wrote is a classic example of some fallacies of thinking. It wants to make the reader believe that the arguments of Senator Sotto are invalid because he plagiarized his arguments. Moreover, the article implied that the Senator is intellectually challenged (see the title).

We can find in the article a form of the fallacy of irrelevance: this is the claim that an argument that is lifted from another source that is not mentioned or acknowledged is not a valid and convincing argument. This will mean that if an engineer argues using the Pythagorean Theorem and he does not acknowledge the source then we should not believe him. Not citing the source does not necessarily invalidate his argument.

There is the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem. This error consists in attaching negative qualities to the proponent of an argument and so one can think that his arguments will not be valid. Just because a person might have some defects does not necessarily make his arguments invalid, non sequitur.

But there is also another defect: the article stirs up the emotions by using charged language: “comical”, “ridiculous”, “outright plagiarism”, “dumbfounding serial comedy”, “dubious or at least ambiguous research”, “sloppy legal justifications”. By using such language the article wants to arouse the emotions of the readers. The effect is that correct thinking ends up being clouded by the emotions. The article is already making the judgments for the reader.

It is very clear that the author of the article wants the RH Bill to pass. It is also clear that I am against the provisions of the RH Bill that promote contraception, the anti-conception and hence, the anti-life articles of the bill. I agree with the provisions of the bill that address the health needs of mothers. But may I respectfully request the Inquirer to maintain its standards of decent discourse and courteous argument about this issue for the good of persons and of the nation.

Respectfully yours,

 

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