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Logic & Scientific Philosophy

Because You’re a Bad Person

Looking through the local letters to the editor I found heaps of faulty logic buried within wrtiers trying to sound convincing. I picked out one of the more obvious ones below:

And as a creative person, I feel a little insulted that Coun. Terry O’Neill seems to consider artistic output “propaganda.” Do councillors O’Neill or Lou Sekora ever listen to music? Go to a movie? Read a book? Visit a museum or gallery? Look around the gorgeous council chambers they deliberate in weekly? These are all expressions of art, of design, of creativity.

Looking over this. you can easily detect the presence of rhetorical questions in the writer’s argument. However, the way erotema is used to reinforce her point is a logical fallacy of Ad hominem. Even if  Councillors O’Niell or Sekora do not listen to music, it is not logical to use this as an argument against their points because it is considered a personal attack. By presenting this view to his or her audience, the writer has attempted (consciously or otherwise) to impress upon the reader that the two councillors are not qualified or apt to be making decisions rather than make a point against their argument.

In addition, the effects of the writer’s fallacy are not confined to this particular argument. People who have read this article will now be (to some extent) influenced by the idea that the councillors are not art oriented people. In a sense, everything that the councillors say in defense or response will be considered with an alternate view as a result of the writer poisoning the well.




2 thoughts on “Because You’re a Bad Person

  1. I agree that the argument is fallacious, but I don’t agree that it is an ad hominem.

    It *might* be an ad hominem if the author stated that the councillors do not listen to music, read a book, go to a museum, or notice their council chambers. But a better reading is that these councillors *do* do these things. The statement is something like “these councillors should look at the examples of art in their own lives.”

    Why? Because “These are all expressions of art, of design, of creativity.” So what is the relevance? This: the argument is probably,

    Some art (specifically, the art being described here) is expressions of art, of design, of creativity.
    Therefore, not all art is propaganda.

    Posted by Stephen Downes | October 3, 2012, 6:41 pm
  2. Yes, the central argument of the writer’s paragraph is to defend art against the councillors’ claims. The way he does it, however, is not in a logical way. I do believe it is ad hominem because of the implications his statements have. If his paragraph was presented rather than read through an electronic medium it may be clearer. If I say that “Does Kate ever read a book?” it plants the idea that Kate does NOT usually read books, otherwise why would the question be asked? The same concept can be applied to “Do councillors O’Neill or Lou Sekora ever listen to music?” which insinuates that the writer thinks they do NOT listen to music. In turn, this image degrades the argument of the councillors without actually attacking the argument itself.

    Posted by DerekW | October 4, 2012, 4:07 am

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