Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Fallacy of Special Pleading

One thing that routinely comes up on the arguments on the HHS Contraception mandate and the arguments of abortion is the fallacy of special pleading.  Special Pleading is a fallacy that argues that because a person lacks a certain set of experiences, their views on an issue are of no value and can be disregarded.

Special Pleading can either be accusative ("What right do you have to be opposed to abortion?  Men can't even get pregnant!") or defending a view("While I'm personally opposed, I don't think we can judge somebody who has an unexpected pregnancy").  Either way, it is used as an excuse to reject testimony.  It is one thing to say that because of a certain factor, you might not be able to fully empathize with my position.  It is quite another thing to say that your opinion is worthless and without merit because you are/are not part of a certain group. While a person who is/is not part of a certain group may not be able to fully emphasize with the turmoil the suffering person is going through, but that does not change the fact that his or her argument may have merit.

Unfortunately, Modern America is rife with this fallacy.  The entire so-called "War on Women" label is based on it.  The premise is that women need "reproductive freedom" and therefore should have contraceptive and abortifacient coverage.  Thus we see arguments that men who oppose this coverage can be ignored because they can't relate to the woman's need to be free of the consequences of unrestrained sexual activity.  We also see the argument that a Church "run by celibate old men" can't understand why women need contraceptive and abortifacient coverage.

The problem with such an argument is that if contraception goes against the nature of the sexual act or if abortion destroys a human life, then it does not matter what gender or religion the person is who makes the statement.  Reality does not depend on sharing a similar outlook on life.  If it did, then it would be impossible to judge anything.  Could you imagine somebody saying we should not judge the members of the SS working in the extermination camps because we can't imagine what their situation was like?  Or in a less extreme example that a person who practices sobriety has no right to judge the alcoholic?

Right and wrong are independent of faction, and that is why this tactic is nonsense.  Unfortunately a lot of people buy into this tactic, which is why the schools would be serving America better if they taught logic to help immunize people from falling for such misleading tactics.

No comments:

Post a Comment