13 Mar 2018

Bad Arguments

I am regularly disappointed to see critical thinking/logic escape citizens when issues are raised in the public domain. In plain language, people tend to argue from emotive viewpoints, whether that emotion comes from tribal affinity for kind, or from ‘feelings’. Many persons have no clue what lies in the backdrop of issues. Worse, they do not understand the implications issues may have politically or legally.

Sometimes, issues go far beyond what citizens allegedly ‘know’ or think they ‘know’. One recent example, ongoing for many months, is the sad saga of a Chief Justice (CJ) with a pattern of breaking rules.

“…with a pattern of breaking rules” … now I expect a lot of people to jump on that phrase like a Rott on a roti. Why? Well, about half will see a black man being persecuted. Another large percentage will get side-tracked about who is making the complaints, e.g. Martin Daly, LATT et cetera. In both instances those who make the fallacious arguments will not look at the facts… that the CJ did break rules in several different matters (I will not rehash these, they are out in the public domain and this is not about the CJ per se).

The core issue is ONLY about whether the CJ broke rules. Did he? No? We need evidence. Yes? We need evidence. Don’t know? We need evidence. His behaviour in office is suspect and therefore, one way or the other an investigation must be done.

Fallacious arguments are common. You may well ask what a fallacious argument is… or what is a fallacy? It is simply ‘an error in reasoning’ or wrong thinking. It is NOT an error of fact. There are approximately 300 bad arguments made on a daily basis. Examples are: Appeal to Tradition, Appeal to Normality, Reductio ad Absurdum, Fallacy of Composition, Fallacy of Division, Cherry Picking, Sunk-Cost Fallacy, Self-Sealing Argument, and Shoehorning.

Here is another example of bad thinking. An employer ‘disciplines’ an employee using an improper or unfair process. The employer arrives at a decision, but insists the decision is fair. Employee points out that the disciplinary process does not meet the rules of natural justice so is procedurally incorrect. Employer insists that it is not a legal matter, it’s ‘our internal policy’.

This is a classic example why so many disputes end up in court, costing both sides time, expense and goodwill. Ask yourself why… go on.

It is because no internal policy can ignore legal rules. We all must obey the law and any employer attempting to discipline without reference to law will ultimately lose if he ignores the law in favour of some ‘policy’ which breaches the rules. The law should guide your policies.

People who want to contribute to their societies in meaningful ways, should know spotting and refuting a bad argument is essential.