2

Capaldi PhD Columbia, Smit PhD Catholic Univ. of Leuven. The Art of Deception (2007). p. 259.

Exercise 1

Identify the fallacy, rhetorical technique, and potential difficul-ties in play with each of the following statements. We provide at least one answer for each after the exercises. Keep in mind that more than one answer may sometimes be possible.

p. 259

  1. There are two major problems in our society: first, not enough people get their fair share; and second, our society is too materialistic.

p. 261: Answers to Exercise 1.

  1. Inconsistency.

The book discusses Inconsistency at pp. 71-73, but doesn't define it. Anyways, where's the inconsistency, as the people who don't "get their fair share" may be people who aren't materialistic?

  • I don't see any inconsistency here either ... or any kind of obvious problem with the argument for that matter. – Bram28 Aug 8 '18 at 0:45
  • you asked your question twice and some times edit it, but I could not understand it, maybe you need more clear your answer. – Hossein Vatani Aug 8 '18 at 2:27
2

There are two major problems in our society: first, not enough people get their fair share; and second, our society is too materialistic.

There is no inconsistency between 'Not enough people get their fair share' and 'Our society is too materialistic'. The statements are independent; one could without inconsistency affirm the first and deny the second or deny the first and affirm the second. Put another way : a formal inconsistency is a conjunction, the second conjunct of which is a negation of the first. If we form the conjunction 'Not enough people get their fair share (conjunct 1) and our society is too materialistic (conjunct 2)' the second conjunct is not a negation of the first. Not without further explanation or a stipulative use of language which no-one shares with Capaldi.

What appears to be going on in this example is that the assumption is being made that when it's said ''Not enough people get their fair share' the claim is that not enough people get their fair share of goods which are of primary and overriding importance, namely material goods (problem 1). This is taken to embody a materialist attitude (in the stress that material goods are of primary value) and not only that but also to embody too materialist an attitude in regarding these goods as of primary and overriding value.

With this too materialistic attitude to, or interpretation of, problem 1, we then go on to identify problem 2 by taking the attitude that our society is too materialistic. There is a kind of practical inconsistency here : an inconsistency of attitudes.

The trouble with all this is that none of the key assumptions from which the inconsistency of attitudes derives is enumerated and specified in the example. There is only an inconsistency if we grant Capaldi assumptions he has not so much as mentioned.

2

Consider the following claim that is labeled as an "inconsistency":

There are two major problems in our society: first, not enough people get their fair share; and second, our society is too materialistic.

The question is where's the inconsistency, as the people who don't "get their fair share" may be people who aren't materialistic?

The claim mentions two problems in our society. The second problem is that our society is too materialistic, or, to paraphrase, people in our society are overly interested in acquiring things. The first problem is that people are not getting their fair share of those things that the second problem complains they are overly interested in acquiring. Complaining about the first problem is an example of the second problem. Together these two problems are inconsistent.

It may be that the people who aren't getting their fair share are not getting enough for subsistence living and they are not themselves materialistic. That might be a way around the inconsistency, but it is not evident from the way the claim is phrased.

  • 1
    +1 but Capaldi leaves out too many assumptions for any inconsistency to be deduced in any straightforward way. He seems to be offering exercises in creative rather than critical thinking ! – Geoffrey Thomas Aug 8 '18 at 19:33
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    I agree. I haven't read the book, but I think he is writing a textbook to help readers become suspicious of arguments they might actually hear. Many of these arguments won't have all their assumptions expressed perhaps on purpose. @GeoffreyThomas – Frank Hubeny Aug 8 '18 at 19:57
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    Yes, could well be - I hadn't thought of that. But it would help if he gave the reader some specific idea of what is wrong if only in an appendix. I groan when one of his questions comes up. All the logic and critical thinking textbooks I've come across have been far more helpful in providing worked examples and have not read like questions in a cryptic crossword ! Best - G – Geoffrey Thomas Aug 8 '18 at 20:34
0

Suppose we define a certain desired level of materialism, such that it produces a society where most people get their "fair share" (whatever that is). People want stuff, but they aren't willing to distort the system or try to exploit loopholes to get too much stuff. Now, suppose that society becomes more materialistic, so that individuals are primarily concerned with getting more without regard to ethics or others, so others are unable to get what they need. (There are quite a few people who believe this applies to US society.)

At this point, society is too materialistic (it started at the right level, whatever that is, and became more materialistic), and the success of some people is depriving lots of other people of their fair share.

This is a consistent position in which society is too materialistic and not enough people get their fair share. Therefore, there is no inconsistency.

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