Panglossian Naziism


This article, The Magical Thinking of Guys Who Love Logic, strikes a chord. You’ve probably all noticed the reverence the most irrational, horrible, repulsive people hold for “logic” and “reason” — it’s a common affliction in the atheist community.

Danskin points out that, even when their beliefs skew towards the bizarre and conspiratorial, people on the online right often identify as “rationalists.”

This will be unsurprising to those who often engage with the wider online right, whether it is with someone who identifies as alt-right, libertarian, conservative, as a fan of the “Intellectual Dark Web,” or even “moderate” or “centrist” (turns out a lot of people online are self-identifying as moderate while also believing in conspiracies about “white genocide”). Although their beliefs may not be identical, there are common, distinct patterns in the way they speak (or type) that one can’t help but notice.

Specifically, these guys — and they are usually guys — love using terms like “logic.” They will tell you, over and over, how they love to use logic, and how the people they follow online also use logic. They are also massive fans of declaring that they have “facts,” that their analysis is “unbiased,” that they only use “‘reason” and “logic” and not “emotions” to make decisions.

Oh god yes. It’s particularly bad on YouTube — search for “logic” or “reason” in the names of channels there, and you’ll turn up a collection of insufferable cocky snots who actually have no particular credentials or life experience that qualifies them to be experts in rationality, other than their own self-declared commitment to the ideology of holy reason. It’s also a wholly evangelical belief, and the people who convert to it are intolerable.

The men interviewed in the piece, once sweet and caring, started changing after going down a rabbit hole of extremist political content on YouTube and involving themselves in radical right-wing online communities. Convinced of their absolute correctness, these men became at first frustrated, then verbally abusive once they realized their female partners did not always agree with their new views. Any dialogue attempted by these men was not made — at least as far as their partners could tell — with the goal of exchanging views and opening themselves to being challenged. Their goal was to assert their beliefs as fact; to teach their partner the truth, as a Christian missionary might put it. Every woman interviewed in the article — including those who were more formally educated than their boyfriends — makes reference to their former partners belittling their intelligence and rationality. These men were certain that they were the smart ones, that they had correctly assessed the “facts” with “logic,” and that if their womenfolk did not accept this without question, they were simply too dumb to understand.

The article mentions one of the early events that led me to question my involvement with atheism at all.

Perhaps the nadir of the movement was 2011’s “Elevatorgate,” in which a prominent New Atheist woman mentioned that a man had behaved inappropriately to her at an atheist convention and advised other men to avoid this situation in future, and lots of atheist men promptly lost their shit. An over-the-top reaction to women speaking out against harassment is not unique to this movement; for every article praising #MeToo, there seems to be another from a Very Concerned Man who worries that everything is going too far and he’s afraid to even TALK to women now!

But I suspect the reason the reaction to Elevatorgate was so vitriolic was not just about general sexism, but also about the threat it posed to the New Atheist sense of moral superiority. It was much less fun for them to reckon with say, the complex social structures within the skeptic community, and the way that might affect the movement, than it was to make fun of some hick who couldn’t get his head round evolution. Those were the people who had some learning to do — for the New Atheists themselves, there was nothing more to learn. If people from marginalised groups within the movement started speaking about issues which involved listening and learning, or self-reflecting on one’s biases… well, that was unacceptable, since it would require wider reading and understanding of issues that were not immediately accessible or aesthetically pleasing to many New Atheist men.

I don’t think Rebecca Watson would like to be labeled a New Atheist now. Neither would I. That’s the movement that undercut itself by pretending that rationalizing prior prejudices is exactly the same as “logic”.

I am not saying that logic and reason and rationality are bad things, far from it. I’m saying that the Red Pill, Ben Shapiro, Atheism is Unstoppable crowd have stolen those words and abused them. For a beautiful example, look to Jordan Peterson, who uses logic to excuse Nazis.

Footage emerged this week, from a podcast recorded last year, of the professor discussing the conditions that led to the Holocaust. There was the normal equating of fascist and Antifa, on account of the latter’s “proclivity to violence” (as if violence were a moral constant); there was discussion of Hitler’s bravery during the First World War, as well as the revelation that “[he] was very sensitive to disgust”. According to Peterson (and I’ve no reason to doubt him), Hitler used Zyklon, an easy version of the gas used in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, to clean rats from German factories – and this, along with the economic instability in post-Versailles Germany, to Peterson’s mind, is evidence that the Holocaust was a logical progression.

That the Holocaust followed a series of logical progressions is, in a sense, true: if one were to reverse-engineer the Final Solution, each step would appear to follow rationally from the one before.

Watch it.

The problem is that he treats history as an inevitable logical progression of events. Horrors of WWI + Postwar Economic Hardship → Holocaust. It’s like math. Perfectly “logical”. Germany was in the grip of an ineluctable rational progression, it was inevitable. We are therefore led to the conclusion that picking a scapegoat and murdering them for unconnected phenomena is a forced choice, and the Germans had to bow to the pressure of history, as we might now have to bow to the decision to imprison and kill brown-skinned immigrants. Therefore, the alt-right is justified.

But anti-semitism is an irrational belief built on centuries of myth, bigotry, religious dogma, and xenophobia, and he fails to note that many of the decisions leading to the Holocaust were bad or not at all necessary. Congratulations, red-pilled buckos, your hero has just argued that the illogical is logical.

I must also point out that if you look at creationist arguments, it’s quite common to hear them declare that atheism or evolution are illogical. If the magic word “logic” can be invoked on both sides of the argument, isn’t it obvious that you have to do more work than saying you’re logical in order to make your case?

Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    The Magical Thinking of Guys Who Love Logic

    I suggest that when we make fun of them for their non-logical logic, we spell it logick. It makes it seem pretentious and silly; which in their hands it is. Analogous to magick.

  2. says

    I never liked the “New Atheists” label because I did not understand what it meant (I still don’t). It seemed like it was the same as the atheists of before except with a little more public exposure (due to Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett & Harris having published a few books that sold well).

  3. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    crying “logic” is attempting to dispel the overwhelming role emotion is playing with their rationality. A form of distraction technique, making the conversation about the flaws in their logic rather than recognizing how much of their argument is emotion. Emotion plays a big part in our selves, and how we respond to our experiences, sometimes emotional response is a valid short cut our brains take to respond quickly to unexpected events, for long term survival. I struggle with emotions and am writing this to explain to myself they are not useless artifacts of biology, They are a valid result of billions of years of natural processes, so must not be dicounted in favor of something (ie logic) we recently created ourselves.
    thank you for letting me ramble

  4. Dunc says

    It doesn’t matter how logical your reasoning is if your premises are unsound. Garbage in, garbage out.

  5. Sastra says

    I watched the Jordan Peterson clip ( it’s a little over 2 minutes long) and it didn’t sound like Nazi apologetics to me. It sounded more like an explanation of how demagogues are shaped by the dark, angry, resentful elements of a culture looking around for someone or something to blame. Which is “ reasonable” enough, I think, as far as it goes.

    I’m guessing it went further.

  6. Saad says

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but that tweet is misrepresenting what Jordan Peterson is saying in that particular clip.

    Fuck Jordan Peterson.

  7. says

    … and post-modernism is labeled and mis-characterized because one of its projects was to burst enlightenment claims that everything could be reduced by logic and reason. Post-modernists like Foucault were particularly pointing out that racism and political authoritarianism were embedded in our frame of reference so deeply that our logick becomes “garbage in, garbage out.” It’s like garlic to a vampire.

    (I expect that to be obvious but it seemed like a good place to complete the feedback loop)

  8. voidhawk says

    ‘Logic’ alone tells you nothing about how to structure society. There has to be an aim in mind. For instance, if you want to increase the amount of dead people, then nuking major populations is a ‘logical’ approach.

  9. chrislawson says

    Did Rebecca Watson ever self-identify as “New Atheist”? I’m not sure. I know she used to feel positively towards the movement before the “Dear Muslima” letter.

    The story of Elevatorgate is even worse than portrayed here. Watson was invited to a panel at the 2011 World Atheist Convention specifically to address “Communicating Atheism” and in particular the oft-posed question at atheist conventions of why there weren’t as many women there as men. She said it’s at least partly because some women feel uncomfortable at these events, and gave a very mild example from her own experience to illustrate why (in point of fact, she and other women had experienced much much worse, she was trying to illustrate a point as gently as possible rather than attack anyone). The response was extraordinary. Essentially a huge chunk of the atheist community decided that if women weren’t going to meekly accept unpleasant sexual behaviour online or at conventions then they should be driven out of the movement with floods of rape and death threats.

    This is not an exaggeration. One man boasted on Twitter that he would sexually assault Watson if he had the opportunity; he did not even feel the need to make the tweet anonymous — and he was allowed to attend a convention where she was speaking despite this being drawn to the attention of the organisers.

    Finally, for all that these alt-right/libertarian thinkers celebrate their own triumphant use of logic, I bet almost none of them could write down a formal logical inference with 3 steps of basic propositional logic, let alone explain the different levels of logic, the limitations of deductive reasoning, or the unresolved disagreements among logic theorists.

  10. mikehuben says

    Dunc @4 wrote:
    “It doesn’t matter how logical your reasoning is if your premises are unsound.”

    Quite so. And it is easy to show that lots of premises are unsound. Nut we can’t show that any premises ARE sound, can we? Best we can do is science, where we show to what extent we know premises are sound.

    For pretty much anything we say that is political, instead we base arguments on values, not sound premises.

    Even for mathematics, assumptions are not “sound”: which is why we have plane geometry and spherical/hyperbolic geometry. Different mathematics for different assumptions.

    Logic and reason are of very limited use: see my Skepticism of Rationality page for my take on it 20 years ago.

  11. says

    Marcus Ranum @ 7: It wasn’t even the post-modernists that had the first inklings that all was not right in Happy Fun Logic Land– hell, that was evident with Russell’s Paradox putting a spanner in Frege’s work on set theory. Going even further back, you had the Pragmatic school in the US in the late 19th/ early 20th Centuries, guys like Dewey who were hardly flaky, who were responding to the currents that research in new fields like semiotics were opening up. They felt the foundations were shifting and the bland certainties of the Enlightenment philosophes could not be taken for granted. Two World Wars within a generation made that feeling certain. Post-modernism was not just obscurantism for obscurantism’s sake, no matter how much its ideological opponents would like to paint it as such (and how few favours the Continental school did themselves with their deliberately abstruse style)– as Doug Hofstadter points out, our mental tools develop strange loops when you point them at themselves.

    I mean, a lot of these IDW guys are STEM, FFS. They have to know about shit like Gödel’s Theorems and the Halting Problem and they still think they can handwave it away and cling to naive materialism like medieval scholastics. “Rationalists” my Irish ass. I’m a fucking Electronic Engineer and I know this shit doesn’t wash anymore.

    The other thing as well, and one I’ve mentioned before, is that all their post-modernist/ post-structuralist bogeymen– Derrida, Lacan, Foucault, Barthes– they’re all dead. Not only that, most are so long dead at this point that their graduate students are hitting retirement age! They’re fighting the ghosts of an academic battle a generation gone. Find another fucking set of windmills to tilt at already.

  12. chrislawson says

    Dunc@4–

    Yep. If you have a bunch of propositions and you want to know what inferences can be supported from them, then nothing beats logic. But unless you have some idea of how good your propositions are in the first place, logic can lead to some spectacularly bad conclusions.

    (Not to mention that sometimes formal logic is less robust than informal natural-language reasoning — e.g. Curry’s Paradox.)

  13. robro says

    You might suppose that a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology would have read, or at least heard of the work of research psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. As Kahneman wrote in Thinking: Fast and Slow interpreting the results of one of their tests: “This set of choices has a lot to tell us about the limits of human rationality. For one thing, it helps us see the logical consistency of Human preferences for what it is—a hopeless mirage.” Although not an economics researcher, Kahneman won a Noble Prize in Economics because his “empirical findings challenge the assumption of human rationality prevailing in modern economic theory.” (Wikipedia)

  14. says

    Meanwhile, over at We Hunted The Mammoth, the latest post rounds up online Nazi outage at an ad for Durex brand condoms that portrays a (cartoon) interracial couple, with posters condemning it as a Jewish (who else?) conspiracy against white men. Such rational. Very logic. Wow.

  15. Curious Digressions says

    Dunc@4

    You got it. My partner was a philosophy major and on involved in the horror that is debate club. He’ll occasionally pick terrible premises and argue them logically. For example, he made a structured an logical argument that since genetically modified organisms can be copyrighted (a la Monsanto), the company that owns the copyright on any modified human would own and could license their reproductive capacity. His conclusion was logically sound and he could defend it based on precedents. Counters about how it’s wrong didn’t fit the logical structure. Counters that human rights and reproductive rights were in opposition didn’t make his argument less logical. He “won” the discussion, with the caveat that I was disturbed that he believed that property rights superseded human rights.

    Then he was shocked that I thought he was serious and not just arguing for “fun”. So, TL:DR crap premises lead to crap positions. Challenge the premise, not the logic.

  16. KG says

    Cat Mara@11

    Post-modernism was not just obscurantism for obscurantism’s sake, no matter how much its ideological opponents would like to paint it as such (and how few favours the Continental school did themselves with their deliberately abstruse style)

    Um… isn’t a “deliberately abstruse style” pretty much the same as “obscurantism for obscurantism’s sake”? Unless the deliberately abstruse style was adopted to disguise the intellectual poverty of the content.

    all their post-modernist/ post-structuralist bogeymen– Derrida, Lacan, Foucault, Barthes– they’re all dead. Not only that, most are so long dead at this point that their graduate students are hitting retirement age! They’re fighting the ghosts of an academic battle a generation gone. Find another fucking set of windmills to tilt at already.

    So are you saying postmodernism is dead? That no-one takes Derrida, Lacan, Foucault and Barthes seriously any more? If not, what are you saying here? Are no ideas originating with those who are now dead worth criticising? People still criticise Plato, FFS.

  17. says

    once sweet and caring, started changing after going down a rabbit hole of extremist political content on YouTube and involving themselves in radical right-wing online communities. Convinced of their absolute correctness, these men became at first frustrated, then verbally abusive once they realized their female partners did not always agree with their new views. Any dialogue attempted by these men was not made — at least as far as their partners could tell — with the goal of exchanging views and opening themselves to being challenged. Their goal was to assert their beliefs as fact; to teach their partner the truth,

    I haven’t read everything else here, but being really bad at educating, correcting, and handling disagreement is something I see all the time in my leftist bubble. I’m sure people have noticed it here or on other social media every now and then. I’ve even learned that I have to catch my own first reactions, and think things through before saying stuff.

  18. Allison says

    Another problem with “logical thinking,” one which I don’t see mentioned very often, is that what people call “logical” is really just whatever seems logical to the people whose opinions matter. Even aside from the often horrific premises, there are also frequently gaping holes in people’s “logic”, which the people who want believe the results don’t see because the argument justifies their prejudices.

    TL;DR: human beings are really bad at logic and reason, and would get into a lot less trouble if they’d just accept that fact.

    BTW, one of Temple Grandin’s books talks about people who’ve had brain damage such that their thinking isn’t affected by emotion. The observation of the people who dealt with them was that such people have really lousy judgement. I.e., emotion actually improves one’s “logical” thinking.

  19. says

    KG @ 21:

    Um… isn’t a “deliberately abstruse style” pretty much the same as “obscurantism for obscurantism’s sake”?

    Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I should’ve been (ironic, given the subject matter). I was trying to say that just because the Continental philosophers chose to hide their point under a pile of flabby writing shouldn’t lead people to conclude that they had no point at all. I mean, I’ve heard it alleged that Newton wrote the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in Latin even though it was starting to decline in use by then as a scientific lingua franca just to keep out the “dabblers” (and knowing what a peevish arsehole Newton was, I wouldn’t altogether discount that theory), but that doesn’t mean I think it’s content-free!

    (BTW, the post-structuralists are not universally opaque. Barthes’ Mythologies is very readable IMO, though maybe that’s because he was writing for a lay audience– they originally appeared as columns in a French newspaper. They’re quite funny little essays too, basically about memes, something which would probably annoy the alt-right/ alt-right lot as they’re convinced they invented the concept)

    So are you saying postmodernism is dead? That no-one takes Derrida, Lacan, Foucault and Barthes seriously any more? If not, what are you saying here? Are no ideas originating with those who are now dead worth criticising?

    No, what I’m saying is that the Intellectual (sic) Dark Web have built up post-modernism/ post-structuralism as a bogeyman, a massive, over-arching, corrupting conspiracy in Western academic humanities, when it is demonstrably nothing of the sort. Most of the key thinkers are dead– many several decades dead at this point– their graduate students retired or nearing it, and they have left no obvious intellectual descendents (that I am aware of, but please note: I’m not a professional philosopher or an academic. Even so, one would expect to hear about someone lauded as “the new Derrida” or whatever if one were to turn up) to inherit their quite significant public profiles. What I’m saying is that post-modernism and post-structuralism as cutting edge tendencies in academic thought have had their day in the sun and things have moved on. Maybe at some point in the 1980s you couldn’t get academic preferment in the humanities unless you were part of the Deconstructionist Mafia, I don’t know, but I doubt if that’s been the case anywhere this century.

    People still criticise Plato, FFS.

    I don’t think these people are really criticising them, not engaging in anything like honest criticism anyway. Just cherry-picking howlers from a few bad papers that the authors have already apologised for, and conflating them with hoary old “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theories to make about as much ontological sense as a physicist talking about “quantum relativity”. It’s bullshit.

  20. mnb0 says

    “they only use “‘reason” and “logic” and not “emotions” to make decisions.”
    A classic self-defeater. Science beyond reasonable doubt has established that humans cannot make decisions without emotions involved. So anyone who says this rejects science and hence is unreasonable.

  21. consciousness razor says

    Cat Mara:

    I was trying to say that just because the Continental philosophers chose to hide their point under a pile of flabby writing shouldn’t lead people to conclude that they had no point at all.

    I think that’s fair enough, that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions like that. But I don’t think it’s established that any of them did have a point at all, one which is valuable, insightful, useful, interesting, or what have you. So now the slogan “garbage in, garbage out” can make another appearance in the thread. If they did not, then in effect they obscured their lack of a point … either for the sake of obscurantism itself (if that’s something people care about) or perhaps for the sake of shielding themselves from criticism (which is definitely something people care about). That’s unacceptable to me in either case.

    No, what I’m saying is that the Intellectual (sic) Dark Web have built up post-modernism/ post-structuralism as a bogeyman, a massive, over-arching, corrupting conspiracy in Western academic humanities, when it is demonstrably nothing of the sort. Most of the key thinkers are dead– many several decades dead at this point– their graduate students retired or nearing it, and they have left no obvious intellectual descendents (that I am aware of, but please note: I’m not a professional philosopher or an academic. Even so, one would expect to hear about someone lauded as “the new Derrida” or whatever if one were to turn up) to inherit their quite significant public profiles. What I’m saying is that post-modernism and post-structuralism as cutting edge tendencies in academic thought have had their day in the sun and things have moved on. Maybe at some point in the 1980s you couldn’t get academic preferment in the humanities unless you were part of the Deconstructionist Mafia, I don’t know, but I doubt if that’s been the case anywhere this century.

    Well, that may be how some think about it, although this is a rather elaborate set of interpretations on your part. But if they did make a good point (see above), then wouldn’t that point still stand, whether it’s the 1980s or the 2010s? I don’t know why it would be necessary for someone to be branded “the new Derrida” or some such – just a notion that they have (or had) something valuable to offer.
    There are still some people, in various academic circles, who follow this tradition or have inherited it in some sense. Whether or not we should regard these people as having a similar historical/cultural significance or status as some of the originators of these ideas, they are nonetheless still waving that flag. Maybe that’s okay, because this is a good thing which is worth defending (even if you’re not willing or able to give a defense). Or maybe it’s not okay, and what you want to do is brush it off as not a big deal. But I don’t think you can actually maintain both positions, if you’ve got any sort of coherent way to assess the quality of their work.

  22. KG says

    I was trying to say that just because the Continental philosophers chose to hide their point under a pile of flabby writing shouldn’t lead people to conclude that they had no point at all.- Cat Mara@24

    Well it seems reasonable at least to suspect that; and the burden of proof is surely on those who think they did have a point (that had not been made earlier and more clearly) to say – clearly – what it is or was. Whenever I’ve challenged defenders of p-m/p-s on this, I’ve got fairly anodyne – or else evasive – responses. See a recent example of such an exchange here (where I see you also contributed to the thread).

    Barthes’ Mythologies is very readable IMO

    Yes, as far as I recall (I read it probably 35 or 40 years ago) I agree. But I didn’t think it was particularly profound.

  23. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    So Postmodernism has the same problem in miniature as “philosophy” as commonly understood does as a whole. That’s kind of amusing.

  24. indianajones says

    I’m not sure I agree with the utility of emotion over logic. Not when the examples presented are logic being used wrong to illustrate it. So much of the IDW big wheels are just terrible at logic that invoking an over reliance on logic as a major problem is unnecessary I think. Having said that, I do find a little bit of encouragement in a trend in general.

    Without praising a particular example, because fuck those guys, t seems that many IDW denizens et al feel the need to have at least a veneer of logic. It shows that even when being distorted, misused, abused etc that at least the dim recognition that logic is useful exists.

    An analogy: it’s like watching someone trying to use a saw upside down. Or to cut something it isn’t designed to.. It’s not gonna work very well, or perhaps not at all. And it is very frustrating to watch.when you know how to do it right. It’s even worse when you point out the problem and instead of turning the saw the right way up or using a pair of scissors instead they abuse you for it. But at least they have seen a saw being used before and understand it’s potential utility. And to finish the thought, it seems to me that to argue against using logic in favour of emotion or whatever is a bit like saying that cutting in general is a bad idea. Not to say that ‘cutting stuff’ it’s always and universally a good idea. It isn’t. But I would improve someones saw technique first. Growing trees in just the right shape might be a possible alternative sometimes, but fix the saw thing first.

  25. says

    I’m not sure I agree with the utility of emotion over logic.

    I’m not sure that anyone is arguing “emotion over logic”. Instead, we’re pointing out,

    1) these people are saying they’re using logic when, in fact, they aren’t, and

    2) even if they were able to use only logic, that wouldn’t be a good thing because
    2a) logic tells us what is true, but
    2b) logic doesn’t tell us what we want to do about that.

    3) goal-setting requires emotions as well as an ability to perceive others’ emotions, and therefore

    4) logically figuring out the most efficient way to, e.g., get to Poughkeepsie doesn’t help you if you don’t know whether or not you actually want to go to Poughkeepsie.

    Logic and emotion have to both be present, and you have to be able to identify which one is operating at any given time because the uses for which each is best suited are different uses. Logicking what you want doesn’t work. Emotioning how to get what you want either doesn’t work or is at least very inefficient. These clueless puppies don’t even recognizing when they stray from logic or when they’re employing emotion, then they’re labeling everything they do “logic” because (to them) it sounds smarter, more betterer, more uber-alles & stuff. In reality it’s not better, it’s just different.

    Instead of the saw example you use, I’d suggest a different metaphor with which the tendency of some to allow emotions and unreason to dictate the arguments they label logic. In this metaphor, they have a saw, some knitting needles, an old shoe, and a refrigerator. They can rig an elaborate pulley system to hoist the fridge if they want, and while it’s suspended they can rub it back and forth over a piece of whatever, but it’s going to look downright weird. And then when I ask, “What are you doing?” and they answer, “I’m sawing this 2 by 4,” it doesn’t actually help if I say, “But you need to use the saw!” The problem is that they’re convinced that whatever their using IS a saw. You can point to the shoe or the knitting needles and they’ll call those things saws as well, because anything used in their construction project is most definitely a saw. You can point to the actual saw and suggest they use it, but they’ll respond, “I’m already using a saw!” as they point at the hoisted fridge.

    They simply have no idea what logic is, where it ends, and why one uses it. They might use it sometimes – if there are only 4 tools in the metaphor, then 25% of the time you’ll expect them to grab the right tool on accident – but they don’t really understand why they should use it or why its advantages in one situation are disadvantages in other situations. To them it’s not about recognizing the situation they’re in and picking the most appropriate tool for the job. To them “logic” is merely a label they stick on whatever tool they’re using to sound superior.

  26. John Morales says

    IDW… bad choice.

    Intellectually dark contrasts with intellectually enlightened.

    (Better to be a bright than a dark, no?)

  27. John Morales says

    Crip Dyke, much as I appreciate your didacticism, your form is less than optimal. Still, take out (2), and you’re IMO on the money.

    Consider your enumerated points:

    1) these people are saying they’re using logic when, in fact, they aren’t, and
    and
    2) even if they were able to use only logic, that wouldn’t be a good thing because

    I put it to you that, given (1), (2) is perforce inapplicable and thus irrelevant, logically speaking.

    (or: “X, but if not X [blah]” is logically equivalent to “X”)

    (Tsk)

  28. DLC says

    Logic is only a tool set. You can use logic, or some twisted version thereof, to talk yourself into any position you like. Justify any perfidy by using forms of logic, so long as you aren’t too picky about what rules you follow. Want to exterminate the Jews ? I’m sure there’s a “logical” reason to do so, if you try hard enough. Want to believe in “White Genocide” ? there’s enough “logic” to show that, so long as you aren’t very picky about the facts you use and the logical steps you apply. Want to prove that chocolate cake is good for you ? Well, let’s see : there’s eggs, wheat and milk in cake. eggs, wheat and milk are all good for you. Therefore chocolate cake is good for you. Logic FTW!

  29. John Morales says

    PS DLC, forgot to mention your purported (if ironic) example didn’t mention chocolate as an ingredient of chocolate cake.

  30. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    I’m not sure that anyone is arguing “emotion over logic”. Instead, we’re pointing out,

    1) these people are saying they’re using logic when, in fact, they aren’t, and

    2) even if they were able to use only logic, that wouldn’t be a good thing because
    2a) logic tells us what is true, but
    2b) logic doesn’t tell us what we want to do about that.

    3) goal-setting requires emotions as well as an ability to perceive others’ emotions, and therefore

    4) logically figuring out the most efficient way to, e.g., get to Poughkeepsie doesn’t help you if you don’t know whether or not you actually want to go to Poughkeepsie.

    I’d suggest. as a side note, that we’re promoting awareness that “emotion” in a decision-making context does not (necessarily…) equate to “doing whatever your first strongly-felt impulse dictates without any consideration for likely consequences.” I went far too long without being given a reason to challenge that assumption, back in the day.

  31. mineralfellow says

    Does anybody have the rest of that clip? It cuts off before he makes whatever point he is going to make. The setup could take things in different directions. On the one hand, it could be setting up as a Nazi apologetic, saying that Germany got a bad deal after WWI, Hitler was messed up by the war, vis. anybody in Hitler’s shoes would have done what he did. On the other hand, it could be setting up to say something else, perhaps that Hitler was evil, and we can understand how he got there because of his circumstance, or even setting up a contrast with other people who were in the war who didn’t turn into genocidal maniacs. The essential point that is made in the clip, that Germany had some reasonable causes for WWII and that Hitler as a young man was a normal enough soldier, are valid and important things to understand when considering the history of what happened. But I can’t evaluate whether or not Peterson was making a valid point or a crazy point, because the clip is cut off.

  32. Muz says

    On that side conversation – one thing I found most intriguing about Derrida was that people agonise their way through his writing, battling to unpack and untangle some route to meaning and they’re often left with this crushing impression that all meaning is falling to bits around them (sometimes anyway. And that becomes the stuff people read and quote to say post structuralism is out to destroy all meaning and authority down to words themselves). Then they go ask the man himself if (whatever their sweeping, catastrophicinterpretations happen to be) is really what he’s driving at and, in person, he quite clearly and succinctly says “Oh, no I’m just talking about this one aspect of literature and even then only sometimes. Authority is fine, meaning is fine. Nothing to worry about” or something to that effect.
    I can’t remember well enough to be specific, but that’s what my vague recollection is about a few big controversies of his.

    It’s also funny how that is often left out of undegrad discussions around him. It’s almost as if course co-ordinators like to set his writing for the brain beating exercise of it.

  33. indianajones says

    @Crip Dyke. I get your point, and I agree with it. It is tangential to what I was trying to say though. I guess I was unclear as to what my main thrust was so I’ll try again. That even though they are doing it wrong, that they feel the need to even use the term ‘logic’, indicates some awareness of its’ importance. I take some small encouragement from that trend. I agree that emotion is important, however I would illustrate that point otherwise than pointing at people using logic wrong.

    @John Morales. I am sure that it is clear that we are using ‘logic’ in it’s most common form and as it applies to communication and the use of rhetoric. I’ll get back to you on alternative forms of ‘closed inferential systems’ next time I need a Borg Algorithm. There is nothing more annoying than some fucking Vulcan who desperately tries to derail conversation with semantic BS.

  34. KG says

    Muz@38,

    You put your finger on the “motte and bailey” nature of postmodernism/poststructuralism/etc.: say things that sound terribly radical and wide-ranging, then when challenged, retreat to some much more restricted. or simply commonplace and uncontroversial, assertion.

  35. Muz says

    I never got the impression it was a retreat exactly. It might have been. I don’t know. But either way it highlights the communication and interpretation problem both supporters and opponents have had with Derrida in particular.
    I know people have run with deconstruction as a way to speciously defeat any argument and avoid criticism. And then you’ve got critics looking from without (the latest populariser being Peterson, of course) reading all this oppositional logic seemingly undermining all reasoned positions and reelling in terror at the implications.

    Whatever one thinks of his work, it’s at least interesting that such readings maybe weren’t at all what he had in mind and such comments or amendments got lost. (Maybe. If he is actually guilty of dishonesty and evasion I’m not expert enough to comment)

  36. Jake P says

    Regarding nazis, it is worth mentioning that they never got a majority of votes in truly democratic elections. If it wasn’t for von Papen’s clique, which gave Hitler chancellorship, nazis would quite likely be nothing more than a historical footnote today. It is something we should always remember when mainstream politician pander to extreme right.

Leave a Reply