Lying in Twisty Ways

Here is a image via Mark Shea’s blog:

Now, if this had been titled “4 Things to Think About in Regards to Food Stamps” I would have just let it slide. But it makes a claim so ludicrous and condescending that I once again ignored my “just stay out of it” instincts and commented:

This image above has crossed the line: lying so that good may come of it.

No, this is not all you need to know. 1 and 2 are emotional irrelevancies meant to put a stop to rational discussion; 3 is an out and out lie, meant to make us believe that not only do food stamps not cost anything, but are rather a regular gold-egg-laying goose! Throw a dollar in, get *$2* back! How does it work? It’s magic! And only a poor-hating doody-head would dare question it. 4 is true – and?

Food stamps may or may not be a great good – I personally don’t have any major issues with them – but attempting to lie and manipulate emotions so as to put a stop to rational public discourse? That’s evil, and remains evil no matter how good food stamps may be.

This of course lead to a bunch of fundamentally irrational comments, as well as a couple OK ones. Oh, well, some things I never learn.

So, as a public service, let me show the form an actual argument might take. This isn’t a particularly good argument – ok, is sucks – but at least it allows us to see what is being asserted as a premise and how the logic leads to the conclusion. Rational arguments will have this form, the more explicitly the better:

1. According to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, public action should be taken at the lowest possible political level given the nature of the action.

2. Like making war and printing money, feeding the hungry is something best done at a national level.

3. Therefore, food stamps, as a national program to feed the poor, represents a proper Catholic approach to feeding the hungry.

See? Anyone can see the premise, the logic, and the conclusion. Then, we can have a rational argument! We can dispute the premises and the logic without any name calling or appeals to emotion. How cool would that be? And we don’t limit what you need to know to 4 points on the one hand, or need to fill in a bunch of ellipses on the other. It doesn’t makes the baby Thomas Aquinas cry.

Any time people substitute emotional appeals, unsubstantiated claims and assertions that ALL the facts are in in place of a nice clean little syllogism, it is at least true that they are behaving irrationally and, sadly, often true that they are lying. Current events supply many, many examples of exactly this substitution. This is not a hypothetical exercise.

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

7 thoughts on “Lying in Twisty Ways”

  1. I heard that once upon a time Shea’s place was a place of great intellectual rigor and sharpening. Now it’s increasingly an embarassment to Catholicism and proof that not even that church is immune to the “feelz b4 realz” infection. And here I hoped that infection was safely quarantined on tumblr.

    Also for fun I noticed the poster actually had a typo. The 2nd point actually says: “lowest fraud fraud rate”. So if one wants to be a pedantic asshole… XD

    1. True. My objection might have been better made had I simply made a list of four points against a more beloved issue, and asked if that was OK, too? Probably would have had the same result.

  2. “It doesn’t makes the baby Thomas Aquinas cry.”

    I’m going to pilfer this sentiment. You can do nothing to stop me. Robble robble.

  3. In my humble and uneducated opinion, I see that there is a hidden premise in your argument: you assume that the public should try to feed the hungry. Now, most people agree with this, but someone can reject you argument by rejecting this assumption. No matter what level of government a public institution is based in, if one rejects that government itself should involve itself in feeding the hungry, then the institution is unjustified in the theoretical person’s view. Of course, there are always assumptions hidden all the way down to the first principles, like how you assume in your argument that feeding the hungry is a good thing, a desired thing. An imbecile can say that hungry people are a good thing, and so undercut this arguemnt as well. Of course, such people, as Chesterton noted, tend to end up in Hanwell.

    I don’t write this to criticize you, but rather remind you that most moderns don’t know how logic works, so you literally have to spell out everything in order to get them to understand (and then they might just appeal to bad rhetoric again anyway). I’m still a recovering modern myself.

    Other then that, I think most Americans who disagree with you will attack premise (2), since premise (1) does fall more into the average American’s political views, IMHO.

    Thank you for your insightful blog, btw.

    Christi pax,


    1. You’re right, this is hardly a tight argument. However, I wasn’t really trying to make a real argument, just illustrating how crazy it is to try to sum up a complex issue in four bullet points – you do that, not to start a discussion, but to end one. The “all you need to know” passes a harsh judgement on anyone who might want to talk it out.

      In short, I call ‘foul’ on the bullet point approach to social discourse.

      Thanks for reading.

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