Early on in my encounters with Stacy Trasancos, through her blog called Accepting Abundance, I often found myself troubled by some of the arguments being hurled her way. Often their fallacious quality was readily apparent, but sometimes the fallacies were more subtle.
Given my background in law, I was often and happily drawn into the fray. But I noticed how Stacy seemed not to worry about the trouble-makers and kept right on blogging, engaging her wanna-be tormentors even more positively rather than less. I am not suggesting she is or ever was and certainly will not be a pushover. No, that became abundantly clear from a retort or two of hers. But as I observed her facility with handling commenters arguing with fallacies, I began to wonder what more could be done in response to them.
In an early email, I told her I wanted to write about truth in a way that would be a bit different than others may have provided in the past. It would be a way of seeing how even in face of the worst fallacies, truth is present and emerging, somewhat like the way one learns more by trying to teach about something. It would allow me to express some of my thoughts after reading Mortimer Adler’s Truth In Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth and Truth In Aquinas by John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock, two books which I highly recommend.
This post in the result of that offer and many years of coping with fallacies in arguments. As an administrative law judge or hearing officer for over three years in the middle of my career in law that spanned over 40 years, I had to sort out countless arguments offered by lawyers on behalf of their clients who were seeking my recommendations of approval for their projects. Needless to say, but probably prudent to do so, I learned many lessons by the mistakes I made.
One of the most important ones was based on Chesterton’s keen observation about fallacies: “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
True enough, but I found myself alone quite often wondering why such arguments were being offered in the first place. Obviously there was the effort to persuade me with rhetoric, throwing whatever against the wall and wishing something would stick. But that alone was not a good enough explanation.
Thankfully, St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologicae showed me a way of concentrating on the real objects of communication: truth as a way of glimpsing Truth. By working with an issue in such a way that objections could be clearly stated first before Master Thomas answered and finally met with appropriate replies, I came to discover that there was much more to dealing with fallacies than simply dismissing them in the face of Truth. There was a way of uncovering truth from the fallacies that supported the Truth as well.
This approach became particularly helpful in dealing with decision-making. Until a decision is made I came to understand, there is a definite sense in which the person trying to decide the issue is split and quite double-minded. Moreover, until one gets to the cause of such a split, the double-mindedness at the center of the issue and its consequences can be nearly insurmountable.
Two visuals help me remember these points: the photo-shopped beauty below is split and we viewers become double-minded when we encounter her.
The Minotaur, half-human and half beast, is the storied opponent who must be confronted in the center of the labyrinth. (See my comment at the end of the chart below about the best way to enter the labyrinth.)
Reading Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument, I gradually came to realize there were approximately 50 +major fallacies used in arguments. My question arose: How best to remember them and have them at the ready during conversations on the Internet?
My first thought was to use a memorization technique described in Memorize the Faith, where you use objects in your house to link topics you want to speak about and simply walk through the house in your mind when speaking or writing to an audience, picking up the topics as you go.
But Internet comments are more give and take. More like card games. And since there were about 50 major fallacies, I decided to work with cards to help me remember them and to help others see what I was trying to do.
You can play cards alone (solitaire) or with others (contract bridge) or against others (poker) or for others (recognizing stories). Being a writer, I was drawn to the latter, not in the sense of some kind of fallacious divination, but rather in the sense of organizing the stories fallacious arguments were disguising, like those I had faced as an administrative law judge.
When I looked at the fallacies from the point of view of how rhetoricians use fallacies in the course of debates, I was able to sort the fallacies into four groups or suits and give them relative strength by assigning them to different cards in a standard playing deck. I gave the suits new names and icons to alert me that I was dealing with truth and consequences. Clubs became Magic Wands, Hearts became Trophies, Diamonds became Pens, and Spades became Pentacles. My effort would be not to just providing interlocutors or commenters with a deck for solitaire, contract bridge, poker, or any other purpose, though they can be used for such; but rather to further our practice of quickly recognizing fallacies and the truths they disguise.
As a result, I designed and developed my own card deck to be able to play with others in their pursuit of truth and Truth. I took the fallacies, even though they were counterfeits of arguments, and asked myself what the true argument was that allowed one to see the argument offered as counterfeit. Assembling the card deck, I gave it a name: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES.
I quickly realized that these abbreviated descriptions of the fallacies, even when sorted and ranked, would not help if potential users did not have an intuitive grasp of what I was trying to show. So I began to collect appropropriate images of fallacies and corresponding truths.
The chart below displays my current set of images, that you may see in larger form by clicking on them and explore further by clicking through to linked articles. My comments found along side them in the chart are offered to help you further understand what I hope you will intuitively grasp in the juxtaposition of images. If you take the time to play with these images and cards, you will learn more about truths and fallacies.
Please remember, however, that alone is not my sole objective in this production. It is my hope that each of us, as we come upon fallacious arguments, will play with a full deck. Not in a “gotcha” manner. I want Catholics to draw attention to the Truth by helping others see truths embedded in the fallacies presented.
An example of how I work with these cards to analyze arguments advanced in movies is in the works. When it’s complete, I will activate this link.
As always, thanks in advance for any comments.
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES: Playing with a Full Deck
|#||Faced with the false…||…we want to discover the true||Truth or Consequences Card||Comment|
|1||2 OF WANDS: We naturally sense something is amiss when we encounter people with vague eyes. What is Mona Lisa thinking? That’s undoubtedly why we prefer eye-to-eye conversation when possible.
The same effect is presented when commenters are vague in responses and often try to change the topic.
|2||2 OF TROPHIES: Some who are “holier than thou” may expect persuasion to result from simply wrapping themselves up with flags of their faith or their country. The holiest of gifts, on the other hand, are appreciated by the surprise shown at their unwrapping.|
|3||2 OF PENS:Compare divide and conquer or where do you draw the line of separation; or what is public and what is private with what is the common good and how is it structured to the Great Chain of Being.
|4||2 OF PENTACLES: It is not hard to tell the difference between phony events and real ones. There is make-believe in the one and true belief in the other.
Can you spot this in commenters’ arguments? Compare remarks that amount to puffing or blowing smoke to ones that are edifying.
|5||3 OF WANDS: Symbolically, teaching and learning may be seen in each others’ cool and colorful reflection. But unless symbols become significant and describe someone or something, we are left with either/or and not both/and. In conversation and debate, colored words drive us apart.
Descriptive words bring us together.
|6||3 OF TROPHIES: At the heart of relativism is a misperception about perception itself. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but it is outside the beholder first, comes through the eye and forms an impression on our minds, not just our brains. But that is not the end of the process.
To true-up the impression, we complete the relationship by discovering whether we have distorted the reality outside our minds by looking again at the object through our mind, not just the object in it.
This is almost impossible for those who claim to hold any form of solipsism.
We are looking for significant, coherency between object outside and inside. It happens in a flash, but not without the possibility of illusions.
The key response to relativism is to ask: Relative to what? The key response to solipsists: Is there more than one solipsist or are you the only real person in the world?
3 OF PENS: When someone loses their way in the middle of a conversation or story, they may not understand the best and worst ways to link in the middle. Formal arguments seize on undistributed middle premises to show this erroneous train of thought, for example:
1. All students carry backpacks.
2. My grandfather carries a backpack.
3. Therefore, my grandfather is a student.Do you see this undistributed premise?
Add this “Everyone who carries a backpack is a student” and the train of thought is properly linked.
Undistributed middle invites us to seek proper linking of our train of thought, beginning to end.
3 OF PENTACLES: Those who rely exclusively on knowledge or gnosis, and thus may be called gnostics, do not want to admit how much and how often we humans rely on what we believe. Moreover, they do not understand how we always believe something or someone first, then test the person or the thing, before we “know” it. Even Socrates himself understood that in the end we do not really know what we mean to know. See Plato’s Theaetetus.St. Thomas Aquinas provides the best approach to how we know and I summarize it here.
The answer for the doubting Thomases among us are both St. Thomases.
4 OF WANDS: When language is used to dominate others, its purpose is undermined and the effect is fallacious. When we use jargon, though it is handy abbreviation for those in the know, it does exclude others from access to what might otherwise be understood. Some will claim that writing down to others, dumbing down what we write, is harmful. The harm I see is a failure of desire to communicate. Fallacious argumentation revels in such jargon as a way to lord it over others. As my grandfather used to say: Be an advocate for the common man and woman. It promotes community.
4 OF TROPHIES: We live at a time and in a place where many, if not most, demand special consideration in our dealings with them. Commenters coming from special interest groups with specific agendas tend to politicize arguments. Those of us who are contributors to Catholic Stand are well-advised to avoid such approaches, lest we be seen as just another special interest group rather than a truly catholic one. Taking Catholic stands is not the same as demanding special consideration, as if our truths and Truth itself are subject to the shifting waves of Realpolitik.
Rather, taking Catholic stands amounts to asking for consideration in proportion to the needs and wants of human beings throughout the course of their lifetimes, especially as they relate to God and our religious expressions of our relationships to God.
4 OF PENS: Things that, and people who, are more fully understood in terms of numbers and quantification are better understood when such quantification is expressed rather than suppressed during the course of an argument. The Rolling Stones may get away with singing about “Some Girls” but in a serious exchange of comments, such suppression may well be hiding a deep prejudice that the provider would rather not shine a light on. Suppressed quantification invites us to seek expressed quantification.
4 OF PENTACLES: The passionate popularity of Mike Myer’s Dr. Evil character is so comedic because we cannot imagine anyone seriously acting this way. Like Dr. Strangelove before him, but in a much more tragic movie, when passions become popular, compassion seems to be a telling response. Popular passions invites us to inquire about compassion.
5 OF WANDS: For nonprofessionals, lay men and women, “The Cloud” being referred to by software engineers may readily thought of as an illusion like magic. Ambiguous terms work that way, giving one the illusion of understanding without real understanding, like watching images shift in clouds. In many subject matters, we have moved away from defining things in terms of genus and difference, as championed by Aristotle. There are many ways now of making definitions. It’s best, when ambiguity arises to look to one of these approaches to avoid rain later.
5 of TROPHIES: Before what has come to be called the “Great Recession of 2009,” Alan Greenspan was thought in many circles to be the authority on global economics given his role as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. With the coming of the Great Recession and its continuing aftermath, appealing to his authority was not diminished only because he gave up his role to his successor. Rather his failure to see it coming undermined appeals to his views. Nevertheless, we humans need and want authority figures to help us understand. For Catholics that central figure is our Pope and the Magisterium. And more than these we have the Gift of Infallibility.
Symbol manipulation, via conventional names rather than natural ones, enable us to direct raw data to databases where mining can take place to exploit information derivable therefrom with the goal of managing the resulting “knowledge” — all without concern for any sophistry or wisdom that may be claimed for the outcomes.
Given this situation, it is always advisable to clarify conditions when they are brought forward by you or by commenters.
Arguments about morals are not handled well by modern logic.
5 of PENTACLES: We are all racists, some would say. Clearly there are many who would approach problems among people based on an analysis of racial or cultural backgrounds. That may well be racism. On the other hand, we human beings are all members of the human race and racists in this way. While the concerns of the former are not welcome in discussion because of the fallacies at their heart, the latter, transcultural concern, will take the arguments to more acceptable levels.
6 of WANDS: Accents, by their very nature, are difficult to depict. My hope is that you get the idea from this chicken. He’s either ready to eat or ready to be eaten. Which is it? On the other hand, I offer the thick-as-Southern-molasses accent of Shelby Foote. I could listen to him all day long. Accents can mislead us, but when done deliberately and authentically, they can make the medicine go down so much easier.
6 of TROPHIES: It is completely irrelevant to this young runner that his feet are missing. There are many links in chains of relevant materials. To become satisfied with relevancy may require us to accept multiple chains of evidence and reasoning before dismissing runners who offer arguments we have not encountered before.
6 of PENS: Many a circuitous argument ends with someone realizing that one person or another is begging the question. This image helps us see that no progress is made with this approach unless and until the discovery is made. To try to avoid such problems, the practical among us suggest operational, SMART definitions that Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-based. Arriving at such an agreed-upon definition will most likely be more useful than begging the question, but beware: some of the most important concepts may not be comprehended this way. For example: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Courage, Faith, Hope, and Love.
f PENTACLES: Conspiracy theories abound in our times. And though most are often found to be false, they offer a counterpoint to those histories that suggest all events happen by chance in the midst of chaos. But there is no reason not to let them be so found in time rather than jumping to conclusions that they are false to begin with. The story of St. Denis should give us pause. Giving the benefit of the doubt, sometimes apparently unreasonable, may allow us to see how, indeed, humans can fly or at least walk around with a split approach to life until a decision is made to go on living or go on dying.
7 OF WANDS: When we misuse words, e.g. writing “principal” for “principle” or vice versa, it is often simply a spelling error. Sometimes not and the motive may be to mislead, if only out of negligence. Just remember not to be upset. For becoming upset should remind us of where that word came from. Not from math or science, but from a horse race where a horse named “Upset” finally beat the horse named “Man-of-War” and so losses are often called upsets.
7 of TROPHIES: When I was a younger attorney, a group of us wanted to form a baseball club. I went to try out, got stuck in the field, and the only ball that came my way got lost in the sun and came down with a thud, breaking my finger. Needless to say, I was not chosen to be a member of the team. But I did get a club T-shirt. All players for the team had the number 1 on their backs. On the front was the name of the team: “Self-Righteous Brothers.”“Rush-to-Judgment” Limbaugh would have made the team. Not so, “George Bailey” of “it’s A Wonderful Life.” He had a streak of humility.
7 OF PENS: Unless you are an extreme skeptic, if not cynic, or a follower of David Hume who called into question most aspects of, if not all, causation, you will doubtless appreciate the relentless pursuit of “Colonel Jessup” to get to the truth of what or who caused “Santiago” to die. Some want to see the smoking gun, as if only by seeing it would they know they have their killer. Is it the bat or the batter or the pitcher who causes the ball to fly? Step up to the plate and you will see.
Faulty causal generalization invites us to seek proven, specific causation.
7 OF PENTACLES: In the age of relativism, many do indeed try to have it both ways, laughing at their own clever linguistic tricks and paradoxes. But all this does is show the one of the limits of language to communicate truths. It requires an embodiment of truth, especially a personal incarnation of Truth, to achieve a breakthrough.This optical illusion depicting Jesus composed of other figures demonstrates the true principle of noncontradiction. Something cannot be and not be at the same time and from the same respect.
(An embedded fallacy in this one is informal fallacy of accident. It attempts to destroy contradictions by destroying exceptions to a general rule. For example: Cutting people with knives is a crime. →Surgeons cut people with knives. →Surgeons are criminals.)
Those who claim otherwise, such as the followers of dialetheism, appear to feel comfortable living in their illusions. They render communication virtually impossible. Self-induced schizophrenia is right around the corner.
8 OF WANDS: In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the Supreme Court of the United States finessed the concept of “corporations” as being people despite the Court Reporter’s question, thus hiding this legal personification that eventually resulted in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission allowing corporations to participate in elections as if they are people. Shakespeare’s Henry VIII was originally named “All Is True” and it was his attempt to set the record straight. [See Hidden Messages for Catholics in Shakespeare Movies. ] During its second performance, the Globe Theatre was burned to the ground thanks to an errant cannonball.No wonder conspiracy theorists abound.
8 OF TROPHIES:When I first saw this video of Metal Storm’s new weapon I was certainly impressed with its power to kill. Then I stepped back and began to wonder what we are coming to as a war machine. Then I considered the power of Pythagorean theorem and was almost overwhelmed with the power of its discovery. Which discovery do you appreciate more?
8 OF PENS: The example of fallacy called “assuming the cause” is humorously depicted in this admittedly risque clip from “When Harry Met Sally.”Understanding this fallacy is not as hard as the opposite task of re-considering the cause. Most of my correspondents won’t even consider reading “Galileo Was Wrong.” Too settled? Too dangerous? Unable to re-consider and ask “what if?” Those brave ones who have re-considered have discovered materials long ago buried in history.
Does it make a difference? Wittgenstein makes an interesting observation: “Whether the earth rotates once a day from west to east as Copernicus taught, or the heavens revolve once a day from east to west as his predecessors held, the observed phenomena will be exactly the same: a metaphysical assumption has to be made.“
Time to reconsider?
8 OF PENTACLES: During any ordeal, especially in matters of faith, there are those who will create misgivings along the way, as if to say that we are all, in one way or another, involved in trying to sell each other something, for example a Ponzi scheme. While it is important to be on the lookout for such schemes in all arguments, it is also important to know how best to pass over to the other person’s point of view, glean the truths discovered, and return unscathed. There will be those who don’t return. Don’t be one. And certainly don’t create misgivings yourself if you can help it. We humans need and want authority figures to help us understand. For Catholics that central figure is our Pope and the Magisterium. And more than these we have the Gift of Infallibility.
9 of WANDS: One’s standpoint may be demanding a precision upon which it is hard to stand. What we desire is an accuracy that is sufficient for our purposes.
9 OF TROPHIES: When in conversation with others about matters at issue, especially matters of faith, it is easy to be distracted by those who would point to other wrongs in the process of speaking about one first in question. While such distractions can be entertaining, the harder issue is more like trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. By focusing on the issue’s answers that do not provide a correct fit, the argument can proceed more effectively.
9 OF PENS: While it is true that human beings are each unique, some generalizations can be made. But not too many. Generalizing the exception like this sheep who stands on his hind legs and speaks is not representative. On the other hand, birds of a feather seem to flock together quite regularly.
9 OF PENTACLES: I promise I am not picking on Rush, but this was a rather recent and flagrant example of a personal attack by him on Sandra Fluke. It appears to be costing him dearly.My sense is that the outpouring of concern was not just a political or media event, but rather a recognition that during these contentious times, what we really want to offer each other is personal support. This is often very difficult and I am one of the first to admit my patience wears thin with certain types of encounters. Some may want to invoke “tough love.” But I try to remember Matthew 5:21-25 where Jesus calls for settling things with your adversary as quickly as possible.
10 OF WANDS: Our modern penchant for ironic twists in commercial art finds evil in good, lies in truth:
My effort in this post is to do just the opposite: find truths in fallacies. Sister Corita Kent made art history turning commercial art into vehicles for evangelization. Now perhaps you will get the significance of her word choice and what she means when she depicts “Enriched Bread.”
10 OF TROPHIES: Please watch the famous “coin toss” scene from “No Country for Old Men,” as analyzed in the linked clip from the movie. We live in an age of gamblers and Catholics need to know what they are waging. While the odds of playing to win can be calculated under most circumstances, not understanding the odds correctly and fully may mean that when the chosen door opens, instead of Heaven, some will find Hell like in the Monty Hall problem. When faced with whether to change one’s first choice, we want to know why it’s best to change.
10 OF PENS: The commercial exploitation of love, for example, is a false conversion of the true meaning of love.
10 OF PENTACLES: The list of legal objections for the courtroom is long and apparently tiresome for some, but the point of permitting them to be raised is for the proceeding to be conducted in a fair manner. The false approach is to simply raise objection after objection in order to distract the focus of the proceeding and delay it. The opposite is a process that is loyal to the conversation as a whole. Kearn’s book and the movie Lincoln provide good descriptions of how President Lincoln managed the team of rivals at a critical juncture in American history. Are we there in Catholic history?
“The stool over there was purchased by my father with three legs.”
JACK OF WANDS: Disorder in communication is a sign of fallacy. Often the fallacy is only uncovered by diagramming the sentence or proposition proposed for consideration. Sister Bernadette is right. Otherwise our three-legged stool will never be balanced, no matter who bought it, because the levels will be uneven.
JACK OF TROPHIES:Escher’s optical illusions often depict impossible conditions and we are amused as a result. Our amusement arises out of the surprise that our eyes discover. Some want to suggest that truth is such an illusion, all in the optics of perception. Some will claim there is always two sides to any question and the sides must be viewed equally. I offer the Mobius strip as a counter-example. Truth is one-sided and what I want us to see is how our encounters with fallacies themselves expose the truth in the process of our surprise or amusement.
JACK OF PENS: I suspect it will exhaust all of the astronomers who ever will be and take all of eternity for them to exhaustively classify the objects in the universe. Apprehension of the objects may occur, though anti-matter may be difficult; but comprehension may never occur sufficiently to achieve classification. To make non-exhaustive claims of classifications exposes fallacies in the claims. More down to earth matters, like exclusively classifying the letters found in human alphabets are more readily achievable. To make claims for exclusive classification discloses true and helpful analysis.
There is also the egregious antinomy of “There is no absolute truth!” yelled at you by the believer in relativism.
Forestalling disagreement via the guise of tolerance must yield to truth, as even Twain would have us understand. The following books are extremely helpful in approaching Truth: Pope John Paul II’s The Splendor of Truth; Pope Benedict XVI’s excellent book on this subject entitled Truth and Tolerance; and Father John S. Dunne’s The Way of All the Earth: Experiments in Truth and Religion.
QUEEN OF WANDS: Examples of reification abound, but here’s an interesting one. During the recent Great Recession, that was linked to the bursting of the mortgage bubble supported by derivatives and credit default swaps, some people became better aware of how our U.S. fiat money is produced. As described in the “Credit River Decision,” fiat money is a way of creating something out of nothing, which the judge thought and wrote only God can do. This is a form of reification that permits banks to put up none of its own consideration, but puts the person, taking the loan of the newly created money, on the hook to pay it back plus interest. As you might expect, this case has not been upheld in subsequent decisions nor has it been directly overruled, but the fact of reification is hard to ignore once you understand what’s going on.
QUEEN OF TROPHIES: Wishing, even “on a star” (a misdirected form of prayer?), does not make things come true, though some wishes provoke laughter because of their obvious fallacy. Hopeful thinking spurred on Gabby Douglas to be such a celebrated olympic medalist.
QUEEN OF PENS: Below the surface of Twain’s humor is his point that there is a false dilemma operating when someone suggests separating idiots from congressmen. It’s not an either/or characterization. He repeats himself because he sees the two as essentially the same.Whether or not we agree with Twain, repeat offenders who are smart criminals know that remaining silent is the best answer to the prisoners’ dilemma. They have to trust their fellow criminals. But there’s the rub. No honor and no trust among criminals when it comes down to it.
QUEEN OF PENTACLES: The “Soup Nazi” skit from the Seinfeld show is famous for its humorous portrayal of being forced to take all or nothing. While that is harsh, reasonable compromise allows for given and take and win-win, as they say. Of course, not all compromises are reasonable. The costs may outweigh the benefit, etc. And yet, in matters of truth and Truth, we make seek all but get nothing unless and until it is given to us. Such is the encounter with a faith experience like receiving communion at Mass and realizing the intimacy it signifies.“
KING OF WANDS: This cartoon laughably mocks “corporate speak” which is a form of double talk: a lot of words spoken, without real meaning. Donald Rumsfeld’s remarks about what we know in a war situation may have baffled reporters, but it clearly displayed the limits of knowledge in one of its most terrible practical application. Rumsfeld’s description of what we know in the universe of war zones reminded me of a simulation of going to the edge of the known universe. In both cases, the plain talk or images indicate the limits of what we know. But because there is a line there, which suggests beyond it is unknowable, it is clear in both cases that a reductive metaphysics is involved, that ignores other levels of talk, especially spiritual or religious about things beyond the material world.
Catholic tradition has much to offer and can present it in plain terms that are not double talk or war-like.
KING OF TROPHIES: When the wicked alternative is offered, it is like “Sophie’s Choice.” Most people do not want to even think about such a choice.It does require some thought to figure out an appropriate response. And this is so because I think the common sense alternative is not as readily apparent and may require some form of self-sacrifice. Since common sense is not evenly distributed among us humans, it is best to seek wise counsel, like Chesterton, for example, in advance of needing or wanting it. What should Sophie have done?
KING OF PENS: The fun of the DirecTV’s non-sequitur commercials is obvious because of the way our minds so quickly grasp the absurd linkages between causes and effects. Just as quickly, we grasp the reasonable method in Columbo’s apparent madness when he is hot on the trail of a criminal. Non-sequitur invites us to seek what follows reasonably.
KING OF PENTACLES: Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite actors and he provides us with a wonderful example of humor that involves ridicule. Hard not to laugh at this performance, though its points were aggressive and were criticized for it. President Obama clearly enjoyed speaking at the Al Smith dinner. He provides us with a good example of humor that does not involve ridicule, but does involve laughter. It is self-deprecating, amusing and intended to be harmless.
ACE OF WANDS: In the war of words rhetoricians wage daily, some of them like Rush get themselves in trouble and are compelled to apologize. The apology may then be criticized for being mere lip service. But in a war, cold or hot, where words are clearly critical, we want verifiable communication and not just lip service. Wonder what we are dealing with during our culture wars and whether things will heat up to the point of boiling over into action?
ACE OF TROPHIES:“Chinatown” is a powerful movie that includes this one scene where the detective is looking for the “good reason” why the heroine is acting the way she does. The fallacy of the inquiry is not only in the slapping that occurs, but in the assumption that the woman is not answering truthfully when an apparent contradiction emerges. But it’s not a contradiction. And the reason, though not “good” is very real. In Plato’s dialogue called the “Gorgias,” we find an excellent example of sound reasoning about political power., business, and wisdom. It suggests why the honest Socrates was killed by the powerful business people of Athens for no “good reason” and no sound reasoning either. Compare the death of Socrates to the death of Jesus.
ACE OF PENS: The importance and significance of analogies is hard to overstate. See, for example “Understanding St. Thomas on Analogy,” the 2009 winner of the Prize of the Pontifical Academies. Faulty analogies, suggested by the modern idea that each of us live in our own world (or island) is so strong that the wisdom of John Donne’s “no man is an island” poem seems to be ignored. Finding acceptable analogies may be hard to find or visualize, but the effort is heads above the alternative of not learning through analogy. Thus, in our Internet comments, do we want to play with a full deck or a loaded one?
ACE OF PENTACLES: In times of war, as in the Siege of Bastogne, there may come a time when the only response is “Nuts” when called on to surrender. But in cold wars and Internet debates, abandoning the discussion is a false approach, for it belies the purpose of engaging in conversation to begin with. It is, nevertheless quite human, as we get tired of some and frustrated with others. The “Great Books of the Western World” provides a fine example of the continuing discussion, while wars provide examples of what happens when discussion is abandoned.
JOKER:Often I find commenters effectively replaying “Monty Python’s Argument Sketch,” without knowing it. Such argumentation does not advance understanding and this is why we laugh at Monty Python’s insight. One way to advance the discussion is to recognize what is happening and determine whether the participants are up against a paradox. At least the paradox can be stated. Whether it can be solved is like trying to determine which came first, the chicken or the egg.
Don’t be chicken about this and don’t throw eggs if you can help it.
JOKER: Our present culture is riddled with lying and cheating as if they are acceptable because we expect them. John Mullen has written an excellent book about the problem called “Kierkegaard’s Philosophy: Self Deception and Cowardice in the Present Age.” I was working in Washington, D.C., when President Nixon’s fallacies became exposed. The consequences of his lies profoundly changed the course of politics in this country.Contrast that with truth of Veronica’s Veil and the recent book by Paul Badde that describes what modern science has discovered about it.
Why do we need or want an image of the true face of Jesus? Is it because some have always feared looking into the face of God, thinking they would die as a result?
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES: After years of study and countless conversations and debates, I have come to realize that most disputes are conducted by people who either have different starting points or are at different locations and times along the journey of our lives. One way of depicting these differences is by considering the labyrinth, found in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral. While the one on the floor is horizontal, obviously, were it to be seen on a vertical plane, from one perspective it would appear as if one would enter from the bottom. Conversely, if one were to enter from above, a different outcome would be reached. To me the visual difference depicts where one is coming from. From below, we obtain insight into oversight and fallacy. From above, we obtain insight into insight and truth. This visual helps me understand why St. Thomas Aquinas begins his Summa Theologicae from the top, so to speak, when he starts off by considering God first and everything else later, only to come around to the beginning by the end of it.
Perhaps this is true for solitaire, bridge, and poker,
but remember that for our lives
Jesus gave us the best hand to play with.
So go out and play with a full deck!
© 2013 John Darrouzet. All Rights Reserved.