5 Replies to “Logical inconsistency:”

  1. I packed all my textbooks already, so I can’t remember if there’s a specific fallacy for “assumes an exactness not in the original” combined with “applies formal logic to informal statements.” Maybe they’re the same, even– I believe the “equivocation” example was something like you ask someone if they agree with statement X, and statement Y, and because they have two words that are the same but used differently you declare they’re wrong. (Which is, itself, the fallacy fallacy… the most you could say is ‘not logically supported’ or ‘contradicts’ or something; it’s mostly used to fluster people into “admitting” what almost listening honestly already knew.)
    Where did that digression start….


    Alright: the diagram is wrong. Yes, people will say “businesses are greedy.” They will also say “people steal.” In both cases, to rephrase it for formal logic, you’d have to say “some businesses are greedy,” and the full meaning would be more like “too many businesses are greedy at unreasonable cost to others.”

    And before this sounds like some sort of justification, I know this because I asked. First time was asking someone who HAS a business why they thought some variation of “businesses are greedy.” Sometimes they’ll even actually SAY “All businesses cheat.” What they mean is more like “it would be mildly surprising for a business to not attempt to pull a fast one at some point.”

    Thank goodness I already have a family reputation as an Elephant Child. *wry*

    The rest of the examples have a similar problem, although some also have issues with being honestly held by different groups (though used by some groups I do not believe to be honest in their stated goals)


    I agree with the conclusion, and I think the post might be rhetorically useful, it’s just not logically supporting the conclusion.
    Also, it’s never a good idea to be needlessly contemptuous of those whom one disagrees with. Doesn’t work out well, even if it might be deserved.

    1. Certainly the same man will say on one day, “our laws are written by Wall Street bankers, for Wall Street bankers,” and on another day, “Those Wall Street bankers are the biggest law-breakers in the country.” Now maybe these views are hyperbole, or generalizations, or expressions of how Carl (made-up name) feels today, not what he thinks in general, and maybe I say things like that as often as Carl does, but anyway Carl’s expressed views are not consistent.

      Similarly, the same Director of Inclusion, Uniformity, and Diversity (name changed to protect, well, me I guess) will on one Tuesday put a flyer in all the mailboxes urging people to celebrate diversity, and on the next Tuesday put in one telling everyone that we’re really all the same. One might argue that I do as much in my own way, or that the Director’s statements aren’t really to be considered logically and are just the approved political theme for the coming week, but one can’t really argue that they’re logically consistent.

      It seems like people lately people will say things that make no sense when you think about them, and don’t really feel any obligation to make sense. They’re just sayin’. But I guess if they can, then so can I.

      1. I must’ve said it wrong at some point, so I’ll try simpler– the statements are not logically consistent because they are not phrased for formal logic.

        It’s like declaring that spelling is wrong when the words being used aren’t in the language one is checking for. (Which I’m sure you’ve run into with your spellchecker, for example– actually a good example, since computers operate on a form of formal logic.)

        The statements being compared are in “natural language”– there is no evidence they were intended to be dual-phrased as arguments.


        His logic is:
        These statements are logical propositions.
        These statements cannot both be absolutely true.
        Therefore, these statements are logically inconsistent.

        The format is correct; the first premises, however, is false.
        (At best, an unwarranted generalization; there’s probably somebody who promoted at least one of those things with the intent of it being in the language of logic, rather than natural language.)

        The argument is logically valid, but is not factually valid.

  2. Well, I started it, so I guess I should put up. It really is a thankless task, as Marcel is pointing out above, to try to put gushing political emotions into the form of logical syllogisms. The point I was trying to make is that the positions taken as generally stated are not reasonable in any straightforward way: it is not possible, for example, for business to control the government AND for the government to control business without enough nuance to render the positions *as stated* ridiculous.

    I would say, up front, that any statement of fact can be used as a premise in a syllogism, and, further, that the slogans and catchphrases under consideration are either just such statements of fact or can be reduced to one or more such statements of fact. For the most part, I didn’t do that – but I or anyone could. So, to take this example:

    Big Business controls the US government.
    The US government creates the tax code.
    Big Business controls the tax code.

    Note that we’re not here saying Business controls *some aspects of* the US government, which might be what a person who admits the major premise might say if given a moment to reflect. There is never a moment to reflect during campaign sloganeering if the sloganeers can help it. If we were to go the *some aspects* route, why, then all sorts of possibilities for logical consistency with holding the position that businesses leave the country to avoid paying taxes open up before us. What a joyous, or at least less moronic, world it would be if political campaigns were occasions to cooly consider the complexities of political reality!

    But as Buzz Lightyear points out: “But we’re not on my home planet, are we?”

    Big Business controls the tax code.
    The tax code requires Big Businesses to pay taxes they would rather not pay.
    Big Business has caused the tax code to include taxes Big Business would rather not pay.

    I would say that these are valid syllogisms with logically valid conclusions. I will further say that they represent an un-nuanced, if much clearer, version of what Bernioids (for example) claim to believe.

    So, yes, I assumed that, for the most part, we’d be looking at the underlying logic *required* by the slogans, not the slogans themselves, in assessing if two or more slogans were logically consistent. I suppose I should do my part to raise the level of public discourse by not merely mocking slogans, but instead laying out the underlying assumptions and contradictions those slogans necessarily contain so that they might be examined and evaluated, and refined and conditioned.

  3. The point I was trying to make is that the positions taken as generally stated are not reasonable in any straightforward way: it is not possible, for example, for business to control the government AND for the government to control business without enough nuance to render the positions *as stated* ridiculous.

    Appeal to ridicule aside, it is not only possible to get the information to reformat the informal, natural speech into a proposition for a logical argument, it’s so easy that I did it. Just by asking people of presumably good faith* what they meant.

    It’s in the third paragraph of my first comment, shortly after I finished getting lost in a digression.

    * Usually easier to find in meat-space. There are entirely too many people online who consider it clever to be contrarians and asses, because… arguing in bad faith is funny, or makes people who don’t assume they’re liars fools, or something? *shrug*

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