I’ll begin this page with a little vocab., then we’ll expand and wander down the rabbit warren of language logic. It is a key thing to attempt to learn but have some Panadol [C8H9NO2] at hand. (When building this page I remembered A. C. Grayling’s book — “The History of Philosophy” — in which he set out logically enough the logic of reasoning with respect to the subjects of subject, bar literature, philosophy.
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01. — Vocabulary
My dear one, only use the verbs you are familiar with because, as you know, each word has usage patterns that are unique to its meaning.
|On cause & effect
||The possibilities of ideas
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02. — Language
Rouse, D. L. (n.d.). A Practical Introduction To Formal Logic.
Types and Tokens
Use and Mention
Identify the parts of each sentence that are used to mention bits of language.
1. — “All the world’s a stage,” wrote Shakespeare.
2. — The way to spell “receive” is not r-e-c-i-e-v-e.
3. — This course is Logic I.
4. — This sentence is the fourth example in the exercise.
5. — “Run for your lives!” cried John as the building burst into flames and the walls tumbled under the force of the earthquake.
Cataloguing the Uses of Language
The Informative Use
What we express, when using language informatively, can be judged true or false. We may not know which it is, but we know it is one or the other. For example, consider the sentence, “There are intelligent life forms in other galaxies.” It may be the case that there are no life forms of any kind in any other galaxy. If so, the sentence expresses something false. There may be myriad forms of life throughout the universe, many of which are far beyond us in intelligence. If so, the sentence expresses something true.
Either way, it is an informative use of language because the sentence expresses something that is either true or false.
A sentence used informatively is usually, but not always, a declarative sentence. If we wish not only to inform, but also to add emphasis to the information, we might use an exclamatory sentence. A rhetorical question may be used informatively. A worker might say to the foreperson, “Is it already noon?” The purpose is not to inquire, but to tell the foreperson that it is time to stop for a lunch break. As we shall see, not all declarative sentences are informative. There are many other ways to use declarative sentences.
The informative use of language itself has many uses. Included are reports, descriptions, analyses, explanations and arguments. In this book, the primary concern is with arguments. Much of what is covered will bear upon other uses as well.
The Evocative Use
Language, when used evocatively, serves to bring about a response, usually from another person. Commands are one large group of evocative expressions. If I use the sentence, “Close the door,” presumably there is an open door and someone present whom I want to close it. The sentence is used to evoke the action of door closing.
There are ways of getting that door closed besides commands. One can request it. “Please close the door.” It can be put in the form of a question. “Would someone mind closing that door?” As a last resort one might say, “I beg and beseech you to close the door.”
Questions, like commands, are an evocative use of language. The function of a question, in normal cases, is to elicit an answer. Rhetorical questions are used evocatively, though the point of using them is not to evoke answers. If your instructor asks, “Are you sure you’ve studied enough?” she probably is encouraging you to study more.
Feelings or emotions, as well as actions, may be evoked by language. One of the things we must be cautious of is language that pretends to be informative, but is actually evocative. A sentence such as “Joe Jones, who incidentally is a member of an all white country club, was appointed to the Civil Rights Commission,” not only informs, but also evokes our feelings regarding racial exclusiveness.
The Expressive Use
The expressive use of language is best characterized by its lack of other directedness. We can express our joy, sadness, or pain privately or publicly. Expressions such as “Oh,” “Wow,” and “Ouch,” curses and cheers are typical of the expressive use. Because we are social beings, and language is a primary vehicle of our social interaction, it is frequently the case that language is simultaneously used to express and evoke. We have empathy with others. When they express joy through laughter, we laugh with them. When they cry, we cry with them.
The Evaluative Use
Language is used evaluatively to express ethical, aesthetic, or functional judgments. 5 Terms like “good,” “bad,” “right,” “wrong,” “beautiful,” “ugly,” “efficient,” and “inefficient” are clues to the evaluative use of language. Evaluative language falls into three major areas: ethical, aesthetic, and technical. Ethical language is about right and wrong, duties and obligations, rights and responsibilities. Aesthetic language is about beauty and ugliness, the pleasing and displeasing. Technical language is about what is useful and useless, efficient and inefficient, functional and disfunctional. The evaluative category has been the most controversial in philosophy. Various attempts have been made to reduce it to one or another of the other categories. While important issues arise here, they belong in a value theory course. For the sake of initial clarity, it is best to separate evaluative uses of language from the others.
The Performative Use
A performative expression is one used to accomplish some social act, in contrast to reporting, evaluating, provoking, or reacting to it. To say, “I apologize for my offensive behavior,” is to apologize for that behavior. It is not to report an act, which has been performed or will be performed. It is the performance of apologizing. When the minister or justice of the peace, in performing a wedding, asks, “Do you take…” and you reply, “I do,” you’ve done it. Both the recognition and the execution of performatives require knowledge of social roles and actions. Certain kinds of performatives can only be executed by socially authorized persons. Marriages are performed by priests, ministers, judges, and captains of ships at sea. They are not performed by electricians or retail store managers. Voting is done by citizens or by members of organizations. Promises are generally binding only on those who make them.
Identify the primary use of language in each of the following examples. If there are secondary uses, identify them and describe the situations in which the language might be used that way.
1. George Washington was the first president of the United States.
2. Abraham Lincoln was the third president of the United States.
3. Abraham Lincoln was the most effective leader the United States has had during war.
4. Jonathan is a county supervisor. 5. Jonathan is the youngest member of the board of supervisors.
6. Jonathan is the most active politician in the county.
7. Jonathan is a radical and a troublemaker!
8. What a beautiful sunset!
9. “What a beautiful sunset!” exclaimed Jane.
10. American Express – don’t leave home without it.
11. Which president never won a presidential election?
12. All presidents of the United States have won office by popular election.
13. 3 + 9 = 15
14. 3 + 9 = 12
15. Think carefully about each of these examples.
Some Misuses of Language
Just as language has many uses, it also has serious misuses. When a misuse affects or threatens to affect our critical reasoning, we call that misuse a fallacy. At an earlier time, it was thought that correct reasoning could be achieved by cataloguing all the fallacies, then simply avoiding them. There are several problems with this approach, the greatest being the virtually unlimited ability we have to get things wrong in novel ways. Even if a complete catalog of all the fallacies committed could be composed, we would still come up with new mistakes to make.
Nevertheless, there are fallacies that are committed more commonly than others. It is good to be able to identify these, and even more important to understand why these fallacies are mistakes. By thinking about incorrect reasoning, we can gain a greater appreciation of the importance of correct reasoning and the difficulty of achieving it.
Appeal to Authority
The fallacy of appeal to authority occurs when something is claimed to be true because someone, usually a respected person, says it is true. Here is an example.
Harry Howard, candidate for the U. S. Senate, deserves our support because Rev. C. W. Jones, chairman of the Moral Coalition, said he was the most honest and capable of those running.
There is more than one reason why a person might, fallaciously, accept this kind of claim. One reason, the worst reason, is simply because Rev. Jones said it. There is no relation, however, between the truth or falsity of an assertion and the identity of the person making the assertion. There may be a relation between the believability of an assertion and the person making it, but truth and believability are independent of one another.
Especially when authority is backed by force or the threat of force, there is the possibility of confusing the informative and performative uses of language. Judges, ministers, presidents, even teachers, in virtue of the authority socially or politically conferred upon them, are able to make certain pronouncements. What is not conferred upon individuals is the ability to make something true simply by pronouncing it such.
We do, of course, rely upon authorities in forming our judgments. None of us can be an expert on everything, though most of us are experts on something. Thus when radiologist Dr. Smith and oncologist Dr. Jones pronounce that a growth on a vital organ may be malignant, we are well advised to seek medical treatment. Drs. Smith and Jones have access to information and skills, unavailable to most outside the medical profession, which makes them qualified to form a judgment. They may be wrong in their judgment, but in accepting their authority, we are assuming that the probabilities are that they are right. Furthermore, there are ways to check their judgment. We might develop our own medical knowledge or we might seek the opinion of a second medical team.
In all cases where an authoritative opinion is offered, we are entitled to know why that individual is deemed an authority and why they have reached the judgment being offered. If they are entitled to be considered authorities, they have logical reasons for their judgment. These reasons then constitute the justification for the conclusion, and should be equally good reasons regardless of who offered them. People are authorities, not in virtue of who they are, but in virtue of the reasoned judgments they can offer.
Ad hominem (to the man)
The ad hominem fallacies occur when, rather than replying to an argument, we attack the person presenting the argument. There are three forms of ad hominem arguments: abusive, circumstantial, and tu quoque (you too).
The ad hominem abusive occurs when the person who has presented an argument is abused personally. Name-calling and attacks on character are substituted for analysis and argumentation. The ad hominem circumstantial fallacy occurs when the circumstance of the person presenting an argument is made the subject of discussion rather than the substance of the argument. The ad hominem tu quoque fallacy is the “you do it too” response.
What makes the ad hominems fallacious is that they avoid rather than address the issues of arguments. Once an argument is presented, either orally or in writing, it deserves to be examined and evaluated on its own terms. The source of the argument should have no bearing on the strength of the argument.
Killing the messenger
Continuing with the example of the radiologist and oncologist, Drs. Smith and Jones are not the causes of the malignancy they diagnose. To blame them for what they merely report is to commit the fallacy of killing the messenger. Many people seem to feel that if bad news isn’t reported or discussed, it will go away.
When political figures get into trouble, they and their supporters often try to blame the press. It’s as if had their dastardly deeds gone unreported, everything would be fine. During the Nixon administration, Vice-President Spiro Agnew was particularly adept at the fallacy of killing the messenger by shifting blame for administration failures to those who criticized the administration.
Appeal to force
The fallacy of appeal to authority is sometimes accompanied by the fallacy of appeal to force, as in the following example.
The President has said that continued support of the rebels is necessary to the national security. To oppose him in this position is treason and will be treated as such.