Sushi logic and why you should not befriend a crocodile
One of the first classes that I took at university was “Philosophy: Logic 101”. At eighteen, I was bursting with energy and the (nerdy) urge to write long papers analyzing British literature at the peak of the industrial revolution. Needless to say, the philosophy course did not hit the spot. It was a slow class taught by a tall, kind professor. The students scoffed at the Latin words, rolling their eyes and protesting. “But sirrrrrr, why do we need to learn this?” I do not remember what the professor said to this, but I tried my best to memorize arguments and pass the quizzes. At every class, five or six students stared blankly at the board for fifty minutes. “Why are we drawing these Venn diagrams? What’s for lunch?” we wondered.
On the day of the final exam, the room was filled with twenty-five students! Where were they all semester? I passed the class and managed to quickly dump everything I was taught from my short-term memory. After all, I was not majoring in philosophy and that class was just a hurdle I had to overcome.. or so I thought.
A few years later, I graduated and took my first steps into The Real World. And I hated it. The Real World did not suit me; it made me angry. Everything’s just chaotic – don’t you think? Nothing goes the way it should and adults are disappointing. Some lie, some cheat and the rest just do not make any sense. The Real World, I found, is illogical. So in retrospect, I see why that class was required; without logic, people are running around like headless chickens (I’ve always wanted to use that term!), talking at each other and not listening to one another. So if there is one class that needs to be taught to everybody it should definitely be logic.
If you haven’t left my page to look up the term logic, well done and thank you. Your patience shall be rewarded. Take a deep breath and read on (slowly). The term “logic” comes from the Greek word logos, which is sometimes translated as “sentence”, “discourse”, “reason”, “rule”, and “ratio”. Nowadays, logic as a subject refers to the study of reasoning in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics and computer science and it examines the validity of an argument. In other words: logic teaches us how to look someone in the eye and yell, “SHUT UP! That doesn’t make any sense!” Or words to that effect. Why? Because most people speak in fallacies.
Before I go through three common fallacies that people make (and that make my blood boil), it’s important to define the terms argument and fallacy. An argument has one or more premises (statements) that are supporting a claim (known as a conclusion). There are deductive and inductive arguments. We don’t need to go into details. A fallacy, on the other hand, is an error in reasoning – meaning that the facts in the argument may be true, but the reasoning is wrong. So, shall we move on to the examples?
1. Ad Hominem (against the man/person)
F. (oh yes, that’s me!): “…and so I believe that sushi is healthy in moderation.”
Carl the Crocodile: “I KNEW YOU WOULD SAY THAT. It’s because your cousin owns a Japanese restaurant!”
F.: “… what? No. I was just explaining how seafood contains…”
ِCarl the Crocodile: “Ohhh and you’re trying to show off because you went to a private university! I can’t believe anything you say.”
I don’t know about you, but I run into a lot of Carls and most of them aren’t even reptiles! They ignore the argument at hand, brandish their sword and attack you personally. It’s frustrating because a) they’re not listening and b) they’re insulting you!
The Carls of the world are here to test our patience. It can get frustrating but if you find yourself in a conversation with someone like Carl, remind them to get back to the issue at hand (in this case, sushi) and ask them to stop picking on your ugly shoes, accent or origin.
2. Appeal to Belief
This one is a personal favorite of mine as it comes up so often in conversation here in Kuwait. People’s beliefs are turned into facts faster than you can say peanut butter. But remember, just because everybody around you believes something, that doesn’t necessarily make it true!
Carl the Crocodile: “All the crocodiles believe that humans taste delicious. I must gobble up a human ASAP.”
F.: “Sir, if I may point out… even if all the crocodiles believed that, it doesn’t make it true. Please don’t eat me.”
Don’t be like Carl; do not base your arguments on what everybody thinks. Examine the facts and come to a conclusion based on the evidence at hand.
3. Appeal to Common Practice
This one makes me want to smack the offender. If you’re over five years old you should know better than to use the “but everybody does it” logic.
Carl the Crocodile: “All the Kuwaitis drive on the emergency lane. It must be the right thing to do.” [Revs up the engine of his green Hummer]
Ok, repeat after me:
They’re all plagiarizing… but it’s still wrong.
They’re all racist… but it’s still wrong.
They’re all bullying her… but it’s still wrong.
They’re all cutting in front of him… but it’s still wrong.
They’re all littering anyway… BUT I WON’T because it’s still wrong!