Saturday, November 17, 2018

Rash Judgment Through the Error of Drawing a Universal Conclusion From a Limited Premise

In my last article  I discussed the illogic of Rash Judgment by pointing out that before you can allege something, you have to prove the point it depends on. I would like to discuss another illogical way that one can commit rash judgment. That way is through assuming that the behavior of some indicts the whole. There are only two logical ways you can prove a claim that includes or excludes everyone in a claim:

If I say:
  • All A is B
  • All B is C
  • The logical conclusion is All A is C
If I say 
  • All A is B
  • No B is C
  • The logical conclusion is No A is C
These are the only ways [§] you can draw a universal conclusion in an argument. Any other valid form of argument can only bring a limited conclusion (some A is C or some A is not C). 

What’s more, you have to establish the truth of a universal. If you don’t have an “All ___ is ___” or a “No ____ is ____” in your argument, you can prove nothing. For example:
  • Some A is B
  • Some B is C
  • Therefore... nothing. 
You can’t prove any relationship between A and C in this case because we don’t know if A is part of the B that is C or not.

Another thing to remember is this. The statements “All A is B” and “No A is B” don’t refute each other. Both can’t be right but both can be wrong. The way to refute a universal claim is to show that exceptions exist. So if somebody wants to tar an entire group for a crime, the refutation is to demonstrate that some members don’t do it. Then they either have to dial back their claim or continue in their illogic.

You might need to remind them of the differences between Some, All, and None though...

In light of our current scandal, people are saying “[ALL] priests are abusers” or “[ALL] bishops cover up.” They need to demonstrate there are no exceptions before claiming that. The first exception debunks the claim. But if a person can only say, [SOME] are X, we can say “and some are not.”

That doesn’t mean we wash our hands of the some who do wrong. We do our best to reform the Church when corruption by some is discovered. But it means we don’t condemn ALL for what SOME do by sins of commission or omission.

Applying this to the sin of rash judgment, one sins by saying “all (members of group) are guilty” or “no (members of group) are innocent,” when one doesn’t prove the universal claim. So, to condemn ALL of a group, you have to prove ALL are guilty of the sin.

To avoid the sin of rash judgment, we must assert no more than we know has been proven true and accuse no more than are actually guilty.


[§] If you look at the logical forms page on my blog, these are the AAA and AEE forms.

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