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Non Sequitur (Again)

Have you ever loved a blog to death and then completely forgotten about it? Then, months (or even years) later, you pick it up again and say to yourself, “Dumbass, why did you ever stop reading this blog?”

I feel that way with Non Sequitur, a blog by two  philosophy profs (mainly John Casey)  about fallacies perpetrated by columnists (usually of the conservative variety). Highlights:

“Here’s what Will ends up saying: I dismiss liberals because they’re effete snobs (San Francicso, San Francisco) who look down on other people. “(on elitism)

On Will’s contention that raising teacher salaries only helps labor unions:

Couldn’t it be, however, that smaller class sizes and higher teacher salaries are goods to be pursued regardless of their effectiveness at fixing a social problem they’re not supposed to be fixing?  Who could dispute that teachers ought to be well compensated for the very important work they do (I’ll exclude myself from that work–what I do is not really work)?  What parent would not want her or his child in a smaller rather than a larger class?

More importantly, where is the social scientist who would claim that paying teachers more will remedy the various social problems produced–get this–as a result of income inequality?  Indeed, while we’re at the correlation game, why don’t we correlate family incomes and stability with the absence of well compensated, union labor?  Since Mr.Will is so interested in quantitative social science, perhaps he might find the results so alarming he’d refuse to read them until the Fourth of July, at night.

So to sum up.  Teachers’ salaries may have nothing to do with educational outputs.  But that’s not why teachers should have higher salaries in the first place.  Second, the social problems kids bring to school stem in no insignificant way from economic inequalities faced by their parents.  These may come together at school, no one expects the school to solve anything but what the school can solve.   But teachers and schools ought not to be punished just because they can’t solve that which they aren’t suited to solve.

One of these things is not like the others“. Can you guess which?

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On whether ad hominem attacks are by definition illegitimate:

The relevance of “personal attacks” depends on the conclusion drawn–not on the object of the attack.  Personally attacking Ronald Reagan makes sense only when the “attack” draws a conclusion relevant to the attack.  Reagan’s personality is no more relevant in the grand scheme of things than that of any private citizen.  While we expect a politician to be subject to such attacks, those attacks aren’t more justified on logical grounds.

This is especially the case when the question concerns hypocrisy.  Al Gore is not a hypocrite for driving a car, unless he says “don’t drive a car.”  He says, “Climate science says x, y, and z.”  Whether he drives a car is separate question.  His driving a car has nothing to do with that particular argument.  Now, when someone calls someone else a moral degenerate who should not be trusted, you’re going to reasonably wonder about the purity of the accuser–to do so doesn’t make you any less of a degenerate, all things considered, but it the credibility of the accuser is certainly relevant–insofar as his accusation rests on his credibility. 

On whether a politician’s behavior in small cafes matter:

Bob Evans is or was (do they still exist?) a kind of diner/family dining place with a country sausage inspiration.  My great uncle, then his late 80’s, took me out to breakfast there one morning around Christmas.  He ordered one egg sunny-side up and one pancake.  There must have been sausage with that order, but I don’t remember.  He then proceeded to put the egg on top of the pancake and cover the whole thing with syrup.

I had never seen such a thing.  When I asked him what he was doing, he fixed his eyes on me and said: “is it wrong?

To back Non Sequitur on this last point. I was went on a two day long tour of southern Ukraine around the lovely Carpathians. The tour guides were those funny but extremely inebriated men who overcharged us on everything. They insisted we stop at cafes every 2 hours to drink vodka. Then they proceeded to serve me the hard stuff despite my repeated objections. Finally, I pretended to enjoy it and then after the toast I would conspicuously toss the alcohol in the ashtray.  They were horrified. What a horribly rude thing for me to do!  What a waste of good vodka! (but at least they stopped filling my glass).

Egad, this is only the last few weeks of Nonsequitur. Can’t wait to hit the archives.

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