I was recently drawn to Lawrence Lihosit’s letter to the editor entitled “Column has very strange logic.” It was a commentary on a recent piece by Tribune columnist Tami Jo Nix, entitled “Old Glory is more than a scrap of fabric.”
I dived into Lihosit’s letter with relish. I hadn’t seriously thought about formal logic since teaching the subject at National University. After reading Lihosit, however, two things occurred to me. Either he doesn’t know anything about logic or he has purposely chosen to appear ignorant, because what he has offered is nothing but propaganda.
Since Lihosit began his letter with the assertion that Nix’s article had “very strange logic,” I expected him to show me where. Putting aside political considerations, I wanted to find out what he thought about Nix’s thinking, or to be more precise, where he found her to have wandered from the principles of correct thinking, which defines logic itself.
Did he find Nix’s “strange logic” in her deductive or in her inductive reasoning?
Did she draw conclusions that did not follow from the major and minor premises of her arguments? Did she beg the question by substituting her conclusion as her major premise? Did she draw an unwarranted conclusion from inductive methodology, which is not really thinking at all, according to Karl Popper, in his “Logic of Scientific Discovery”? Where was Nix’s strange logic?
Lihosit cites the following examples. Let’s consider them one at a time.
“The flag is good.”
There is no strange logic here. This is a simple, synthetic statement (the concept of the predicate adds to that of the subject). It can only be known apriori; therefore, is not subject to any rules of logic, at least as far as the epistemological rationalist is concerned.
It could, however raise the hackles of those who are in favor of allowing flag burning, in which case it might be designated as “strange logic.”
“People with a dark hued skin are loathsome.”
I can’t find this in Nix’s column; I can’t even get close. It appears that Lihosit is alleging that Nix thinks this is true, or she feels it is true and considers it an example of her “strange logic.” If that is the case, Lihosit’s logic is even more strange.
I loved my father.
When I considered this as an example of what Lihosit called, “strange logic,” I lost all hope of reading anything serious in his letter. He was either toying with the readers or throwing an avuncular, condescending barb at Nix.
The Black lives matter movement “incites riots.”
Nix did write this, and the statement no doubt raises vehement objections from some, but not because of its logic. The statement is not the conclusion of a deductive syllogism. It is rather a conclusion reached through the inductive process, which as we pointed out above is not logical thinking at all. Induction attempts to inform after observation, but the major problem is this--how much empirical evidence does it take to satisfy a truth test that would allow a certain synthetic statement about the real world? It is all in the eye of the beholder.
Be that as it may, Lihosit saw no “strange logic” here, no matter what he wrote. What he did see was something he didn’t like, but instead of challenging it with empirical data of his own, he blithely assails Nix’s “strange logic.”
“…they are domestic terrorists with bricks, gasoline, and explosives.”
It would have helped if Lihosit had read a bit more carefully or if Nix had written a bit more clearly about the connection between the “Black Lives Matter movement” and the “domestic terrorists with bricks, gasoline, and explosives” statements. The two phrases are not juxtaposed in Nix’s column, making it difficult to determine what Nix actually meant to say.
For the sake of argument, let’s concede that Nix meant to write what Lihosit says she wrote. In doing so, she could have been right or she could have been wrong. In either case, it would not have been illogical. Logic is concerned with validity, not truth—that’s a question of epistemology. The logical response would have been, “How do you know?”
Okay, enough said; let’s cut to the chase. Truth be known, it isn’t Nix’s logic that bothers Lihosit. It’s her politics. He doesn’t like her stand on the American flag, the National Anthem, Colin Kaepernick, the NFL, Black Lives Matter, her view of George Floyd, the police, or the riots.
Well, that’s okay. Lihosit probably has lots of company, but then so does Tami Jo.
There is a lot to debate in her column, and it did bounce around a little in terms of coherence. One thing is for sure, however, it didn’t have flawed logic, as Lihosit suggests.
— Bill Coate,