“A Chief Justice… ‘with a pattern of breaking rules.’ Like a Rott on a roti, a lot of people, I expect, will jump on that phrase. Why? Well, about half will merely see another example of a successful black man being persecuted. Not all 50% but a substantial proportion of that remainder is likely to get side-tracked about who is making the complaints, e.g. Martin Daly, LATT, etc.
“Fallacious arguments are common so we need to be very clear on what really is a fallacious argument, a fallacy. It is NOT an error of fact; instead, it is ‘an error in reasoning’ or, more simply, wrong thinking.”
The following Letter to the Editor, which deals with the Trinis penchant for using emotion to build up and break down arguments, was submitted to Wired868 by Mohan Ramcharan of Birmingham, England.
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 solidarity or from ‘feelings.’
Many persons have no clue what lies in the backdrop of issues; worse, they do not understand the legal or political implications issues may have.
Sometimes, issues go far beyond what citizens 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.” Like a Rott on a roti, a lot of people, I expect, will jump on that phrase. Why? Well, about half will merely see another example of a successful black man being persecuted. Not all 50% but a substantial proportion of that remainder is likely to get side-tracked about who is making the complaints, e.g. Martin Daly, LATT, etc.
In both instances, those who react like that will not look at the indisputable fact that the CJ did break rules in several different matters. (My focus here is not the CJ per se so I shall not rehash the relevant facts which are already in the public domain). Instead, they will advance fallacious arguments.
The core issue is ONLY whether the CJ broke any rules. Did he?
No? We need evidence. Yes? We need evidence. Don’t know? We need evidence.
His behaviour in office is not, as it should be, above suspicion and, therefore, one way or the other, an investigation is necessary.
Fallacious arguments are common so we need to be very clear on what is a fallacious argument. What really is a fallacy? It is NOT an error of fact; instead, it is ‘an error in reasoning’ or, more simply, wrong thinking. Fallacies are perhaps the ones most commonly in use but there are some 300 types of bad arguments, including, for example, cherry-picking, reductio ad absurdum and shoehorning.
Here is another example of bad thinking. An employer uses an improper or unfair process to ‘discipline’ an employee. The employer arrives at a decision and 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 of the kind of dispute which often ends up in court—and costs both sides time and money and erodes goodwill. It must be obvious that no internal policy can ignore legal rules. We all must obey the law and any employer attempting to discipline without reference to what the law is will ultimately lose. You simply cannot ignore the law in favour of some policy which breaches the rules. Policies have to be guided by the law.
So people who want to make a meaningful contribution to their societies should know for certain how to spot a bad argument.
And how to refute it.