Complaint about art shows circular logic

info@islandpacket.comApril 29, 2013 

"The notion that capitalism is inherently racist is every bit as offensive as racism itself," said state Sen. Tom Davis. "And the fact such a message (was) displayed in a public school is inexcusable. The free market is the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen."

Now here is a textbook logical fallacy if ever there were one. By committing petitio principii (begging the question), our senator created the illusion that a weak premise (public school decorum rather than the offending statement is the issue) is the driver for denying freedom of expression. In other words, the trick asserts that freedom of expression is somehow like managing appearances and the student art at Robert Smalls Middle School was wrong for not managing the appearances of Davis' choice.

A petitio principii argument is always valid, but not necessarily sound. It is valid only because the conclusion cannot fail to follow from premises that include it. But such circular arguments escape the responsibility of reasoning as well as one can from experience. Charles Sanders Peirce defined this run-around as "reasoning from the unknown to the unknown."

We can expect more "crises" from Davis. What we should also expect from our representative in Columbia is a higher level of thinking, whatever our opinion of his ideas.

Dennis Adams


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