Most of us are familiar with the Ten Commandments. Some because we study our Bibles and others of us because there was a movie about all that. There are actually at least two sets of the Ten Commandments and the one that is our subject today is known as the Ten Commandments of Logic. These are important Commandments although they do not even come close to the original set’s importance.
- Thou shall not attack the person’s character, but the argument. (Ad Hominem)
- Thou shall not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack. (Straw Man Fallacy)
- Thou shall not use small numbers to represent the whole. (Hasty Generalization)
- Thou shall not argue thy position by assuming one of its premises is true. (Begging the Question)
- Thou shall not claim that because something occurred before, it must be the cause. (Post Hoc/ False Cause)
- Thou shall not reduce the argument down to two possibilities. (False Dichotomy)
- Thou shall not argue that because of our ignorance, a claim must be true or false. (Ad ignorantum)
- Thou shall not lay the burden of proof onto him that is questioning the claim. (Burden of Proof Reversal)
- Thou shall not assume “this” follows “that” when it has no logical connection. (Non sequitur)
- Thou shall not claim that because a premise is popular, therefore it must be true. (Bandwagon legacy)
I would suggest that we keep this version of the Ten Commandments close at hand in the season of high politics since that seems the perfect time for us to be besieged by the use of illogical and indefensible arguments.
The “debate” over the new national health care plan, now known as ObamaCare, where a member of Congress who shall go unnamed, exclaimed that we had to pass it in order to find out what was in it seems, by itself, to be sufficient reason to invoke these ten rules during all times when Congress is in session. We ought to also carry a small card in wallets or purses that contain these commandments for ready referral when we encounter a nonsensical representation that is full of fallacy.
We are each likely guilty of employing one or more of these illogical points on occasion. That is easy in the heat of the moment when we are groping for that next, and hopefully, final point in our argument for or against whatever it is that has become the subject of all the passion.
We are reminded that even the use of impassioned jargon cannot be allowed to substitute for truth and for reason. I have images in mind of people on the floor of Congress who regularly summon such ‘commandments’ to bolster their feeble arguments. Unfortunately, the idea of stopping that person in his or her tracks and asking them what they think they’re talking about is not permissible in that great hall where the brilliant and erudite discuss what us peons will be required to do next.
Would that these ten commandments had been emblazoned on the walls of that great room during the debate on ObamaCare. Would that any argument advanced on the floor of Congress be required to be subjected to this set of ten commandments…in the full light of day and not at “O-Dark-Thirty” as was the case with ObamaCare.