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Critical thinking and political matters.

 
 
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 10:52 am
A "red herring" is, of course, an attempt (intentional or not) to divert discussion from the real issue to an issue that appears to be the issue at hand, but is not. A shining example of that is President Obama's recent speech which supported building a mosque by a group of Muslims very near the site of the 9/11 attack which murdered so many people. President Obama argued that just as any members of a religion have the right to build a religious structure at the site, so do Muslims.

But that argument is a red herring, for no one is disputing the legal or constitutional right of Muslim (or any other group) to build whatever they please to build at that, or any other site. What is being disputed is whether it is right for them to do so. Whether they ought to build such a structure so near that particular site. And whether or not they have the legal or constitutional right to do so is clearly irrelevant. There is an important distinction between having the right to do something and its being right to do that something which President Obama's speech ignores, and it is just that distinction that lies at the heart of the dispute.

Now, for another illustration of critical thinking consider the following argument:

Either President Obama realizes that his argument is irrelevant and so, is a red herring, or he does not. If he does, President Obama is being disingenuous. If he doesn't, the President is confused. So, either the President is disingenuous, or he is confused.

The above is an illustration of what logicians call "constructive dilemma".

In a conversation with Wittgenstein reported by Norman Malcolm in a memoir, Malcolm tells of how he made some political remark to Wittgenstein that infuriated him. Wittgenstein thought that the remark was stupid and it showed a lack of critical thought. And he asked Malcolm (rhetorically) what was the good of Malcolm knowing philosophy with all of its subtleties, but when it came to thinking about real life matters, Malcolm failed miserably?

Something to think about.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 25 • Views: 28,287 • Replies: 807

 
RealEyes
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 02:26 pm
Very interesting read! Thanks for the contribution.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 03:27 pm
@RealEyes,
RealEyes wrote:

Very interesting read! Thanks for the contribution.


Thank you. People like to say that logic is useless or too distanced from "real life" but that isn't true. Of course, logicians can refuse to address any issues other than theoretical ones. But that is up to them and has nothing to do with logic. The great theoretical mathematician, G.H. Hardy once proposed a toast which went, "To mathematics: may it never be of use to anyone". But first of all, that was mathematics, and second of all, he may have been posturing just a little.
Zetherin
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 03:31 pm
kennethamy wrote:
A "red herring" is, of course, an attempt (intentional or not) to divert discussion from the real issue to an issue that appears to be the issue at hand

I'll respond more in-depth later, but I just wanted to note that I wasn't aware of this. I had always believed that a "red herring" was intentional, just as a "lie" is intentional. An unintentional falsity, as we spoke of earlier, is not a lie.
cicerone imposter
 
  3  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 03:44 pm
@kennethamy,
You're the one creating a red herring; it doesn't matter about feelings or sentiments. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a mosque. It's about bigots and people who don't understand the Constitution. It's not being built on the "site." It's a few blocks away; although this is not even an issue. Any religious group can build a church, temple, or synagogue - even on the site - if that was allowed. It's all or none.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 05:57 pm
@cicerone imposter,
cicerone imposter wrote:

You're the one creating a red herring; it doesn't matter about feelings or sentiments. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a mosque. It's about bigots and people who don't understand the Constitution. It's not being built on the "site." It's a few blocks away; although this is not even an issue. Any religious group can build a church, temple, or synagogue - even on the site - if that was allowed. It's all or none.


I did not say there was anything wrong with a mosque. And, as I said, any group are legally entitled (all else being equal) to build a church, temple, or synagogue. In fact, I pointed that out in my post. So, what are you objecting to?
thack45
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 06:12 pm
@cicerone imposter,
I do not know a great deal about logic or critical thinking but, for whatever it may be worth, this is my take...
...
cicerone imposter wrote:

You're the one creating a red herring; it doesn't matter about feelings or sentiments. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a mosque. It's about bigots and people who don't understand the Constitution. It's not being built on the "site." It's a few blocks away; although this is not even an issue. Any religious group can build a church, temple, or synagogue - even on the site - if that was allowed. It's all or none.
If there is a question as to whether or not it is right to build a mosque where the WTC used to be and the argument that ken provided above
Quote:
that just as any members of a religion have the right to build a religious structure at the site, so do Muslims
is made in its favor, the argument is illogical. The argument ignores the context of the question through false equivocation and from there employs several fallacies: Appeal to consensus, appeal to emotion and circular reasoning. (Maybe others?)
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 06:18 pm
@kennethamy,
Did Obama reduce it to a constitutional issue? I'm out of the loop.

Obviously an issue with so much emotion tied up in is going to be a challenge to critical thinking.... which is when you need critical thinking the most, probably.

Yet it's a mistake to ignore the emotions. I think of myself is being a big advocate of tolerance, but still noticed a twinge at the thought of a mosque near that site. Where I'd come down, though is that it would be an important symbol to have such a structure there. The symbol is: What happened here does not represent Islam... and to say it does is baloney.

Muslims who adhere to true spirituality are with the rest of us in condemning meaningless murder.... as many posts from Muslims attest.

I have no idea what the US Constitution has to do with it.... I guess if the issue went to the Supreme Court, we'd hear our chosen interpreters of it explain that.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 06:41 pm
@kennethamy,
You claim that the Constitution is not important. Wrong premise to begin your argument.

If feelings and emotion are important as most of you claim, how about the feelings of the Muslims who feel attacked for no reason at all? They're not the ones who ran planes into the WTC; they are as American as you and I.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 07:09 pm
@cicerone imposter,
cicerone imposter wrote:

You claim that the Constitution is not important. Wrong premise to begin your argument.

If feelings and emotion are important as most of you claim, how about the feelings of the Muslims who feel attacked for no reason at all? They're not the ones who ran planes into the WTC; they are as American as you and I.




Where did I claim that, for heaven's sake. Can you cite a passage? I think the Constitution is extremely important.

No one is attacking any Muslims. Where did you ever get that idea? As Obama later said, although they had a legal right to build, he questioned whether it was a wise thing to do. And so do I. And so do many people.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 07:55 pm
@kennethamy,
TAken from the horse's mouth:
Quote:
What is being disputed is whether it is right for them to do so. Whether they ought to build such a structure so near that particular site. And whether or not they have the legal or constitutional right to do so is clearly irrelevant.
0 Replies
 
parados
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 08:14 pm
@kennethamy,
Quote:
What is being disputed is whether it is right for them to do so. Whether they ought to build such a structure so near that particular site.

This raises 2 questions.
1. If you are only arguing whether it is right for them to do it, then it is nothing but an intellectual exercise with no meaning to it since those arguing have no say in the matter.
2. If you are arguing that they shouldn't do it and your say should carry some weight, then it does intrude into their constitutional right to do it.

I am curious as to whether you think those arguing against it should have some say in whether it is built or not.
Intrepid
 
  3  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 08:15 pm
@Zetherin,
Your belief is correct. A red herring is a deliberate attempt to divert. There is no evidence to suggest that Obama did this.
0 Replies
 
rabel22
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 08:53 pm
Must be a Bush man if he thinks the constitution is not important.
thack45
 
  2  
Reply Sun 15 Aug, 2010 09:31 pm
@rabel22,
Of course G.W.B. has not been in office for some time, G.H.W.B even longer...
rabel22 wrote:

Must be a Bush man if he thinks the constitution is not important.
This is a type of (very transparent, I think) diversion.
0 Replies
 
wayne
 
  4  
Reply Mon 16 Aug, 2010 01:40 am
Nice post Ken.
I don't know about the red herring though. Seems to me more likely that his position is simply in keeping with the role of state in this matter.
If I read you correctly, I am agreed the issue is really whether it is insensitive of the Islamic community to build a mosque so near to ground zero.
Our government has no place deciding any such issue. Mr. Obama clearly stated the government's position on the constitutionality of the matter.
Any further position on the issue is not the purpose of our government, and I hope that's the end of it.

Now comes the issue of insensitivity.
Public opinion must be the arbiter of that, although, it remains to the Islamic community the final decision. They cannot be forced to cede their rights to public opinion.
parados
 
  2  
Reply Mon 16 Aug, 2010 06:53 am
@wayne,
Quote:
If I read you correctly, I am agreed the issue is really whether it is insensitive of the Islamic community to build a mosque so near to ground zero.
Our government has no place deciding any such issue.

Except the government clearly has a place in deciding the issue. Government created the zoning laws that would allow it. Government issues the building permits. Government decided the existing building wasn't an historical landmark so it could be torn down.

Quote:
Now comes the issue of insensitivity.
Public opinion must be the arbiter of that, although, it remains to the Islamic community the final decision.

Why does public opinion have any place in the issue at all? The public through it's elected government has already assented to it when that government voted to let the project move forward. The public is free to throw out the government at the next election if they disagree but other than that, they really have no say in the matter.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Aug, 2010 07:29 am
@parados,
parados wrote:

Quote:
What is being disputed is whether it is right for them to do so. Whether they ought to build such a structure so near that particular site.

This raises 2 questions.
1. If you are only arguing whether it is right for them to do it, then it is nothing but an intellectual exercise with no meaning to it since those arguing have no say in the matter.
2. If you are arguing that they shouldn't do it and your say should carry some weight, then it does intrude into their constitutional right to do it.

I am curious as to whether you think those arguing against it should have some say in whether it is built or not.


Arguing whether they ought to do it is not only an intellectual exercise, because if, for example, Consolidated Edison which owns a part of the site decides it would be wrong its property to the Muslim group, the building will not be erected on that site, and arguing whether the structure ought not to be built may persuade them not to sell the property.

If (for example) my arguing that it is wrong for people ignorant of how our government works to vote even thought they have the right to vote, does not "intrude" on their constitutional right to vote, then how would my arguing that even if the Muslim group has the right to build, that it would be wrong for them to build "intrude" on their Constitutional rights? Perhaps the central point I was making is that even if there is the right to do something it might still be wrong for someone to exercise that right. For instance, even if I have the right to vote, if I am voting for someone because I am being bribed to do so, and not because I think he is best for the job, it would be wrong for me to vote for him even though I have the right to do so, for it would be wrong for me to vote because I took a bribe. Don't you agree? Isn't there a big difference between having the right to do X, and whether X is the (morally) right thing for me to do (whether I should exercise that right)?

I don't know what you mean by "having a say". If you mean "have the power to permit or disallow the erection of the building" my answer is no unless they are give that power. But if you mean should be able to express their views about the matter, then of course they should "have a say". In a democracy, citizen always have not only the right to express their views, but in most circumstance should be allowed to exercise that right. Your very question here raises the difference between (1) having a right, and (2) its being right for someone to exercise the right. And that was the distinction my post was based on.
parados
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Aug, 2010 07:39 am
@kennethamy,
Quote:
In a democracy, citizen always have not only the right to express their views, but in most circumstance should be allowed to exercise that right.

Really? I think you shouldn't be saying anything and if enough of us agree then you should just shut up. Wow.. that's easy. And it didn't really interfere with your rights.

Of course, we should point out that you are a serial liar, you helped George Bush crash planes into the WTC towers and given the opportunity you would be willing to molest children. But, you know, we are just discussing it on the off chance you might change your mind. You still have your rights after all.
parados
 
  1  
Reply Mon 16 Aug, 2010 07:49 am
@kennethamy,
Quote:
Your very question here raises the difference between (1) having a right, and (2) its being right for someone to exercise the right. And that was the distinction my post was based on.

And you ignore the attempt to restrict someone's rights by influencing public opinion with lies and falsehoods.


Quote:

Arguing whether they ought to do it is not only an intellectual exercise, because if, for example, Consolidated Edison which owns a part of the site decides it would be wrong its property to the Muslim group, the building will not be erected on that site, and arguing whether the structure ought not to be built may persuade them not to sell the property.

Your example is not a way of making them change their mind. It is a back door way to restrict their rights by not letting them purchase property. On what legal basis could Con Ed not sell the property to a muslim group? Not selling because they are muslim would be a violation of their rights.
 

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