If-then statements and the abortion issue

6 Aug

“If you’re a man, you have no right to an opinion about abortion”

 

I read this statement in a letter to the editor the other day.  This assertion is useful for two reasons:

·         We can look at conditional if/then syllogisms that will support this assertion

·         AND we can practice teasing out the implications of this assertion by using something that sounds VERY sophisticated, but is actually quite simple – the “argumentum ad absurdum”

First, let’s consider a conditional argument:

If A, then B         If it is sunny today, then we will go on a picnic

A                           It’s sunny (we affirmed the 1st clause, the antecedent)

Tf, B                     Tf, we will go on a picnic (resulting in the 2nd clause, the  consequent)

The form of this hypothetical conditional syllogism is valid if we AFFIRM the “if-clause” (or the antecedent).  The other valid form that works is when we DENY the “then- clause” (called the consequent).

If it’s sunny today, (the antecedent) then we will go on a picnic (the consequent)

We didn’t go on a picnic (we denied the consequent)

Tf, it wasn’t sunny (resulting in a denial of the antecedent)

**

Now let’s look at the actual MEANING of the statement at the top.  The full argument looks like this:

           If you’re a man, then you have no right to an opinion about abortion

          You’re a man

          Tf, you have no right to an opinion about abortion

 

We affirmed the antecedent in Premise 2, resulting in a valid conclusion. What would the other valid form look like?

If you’re a man, then you have no right to an opinion about abortion

You have a right to an opinion about abortion

Tf, you must be a woman (you’re not a man)

 

We denied the consequent in Premise 2, resulting also in a valid conclusion.  But as we’ve seen before, just because an argument is VALID, the TRUTH of the premises is a separate issue.

This assertion in Premise 1 seems ridiculous at face value, but how do we approach it through reason?  We can show it to be false by applying the same ‘logic’ to other situations and seeing the results.

For example, would we apply the same reasoning to these circumstances?

  • ·         If you are not a concentration camp victim, then you have no right to an opinion about Nazis.
  • ·         If you are not a cancer patient, then you have no right to an opinion about meds.
  • ·         If you are not a teacher, then you have no right to an opinion about how children learn best.

Think about how government works – we elect men and women to represent us at the local, state and federal levels. We trust that they will be able to decide issues wisely AFTER studying the details. We don’t limit them to voting issues that they have ONLY personally experienced.   We don’t even hold our President, the Commander-in-Chief of the military to that standard.  Barack Obama has never served in the military, but we expect him to make informed decisions that impact the armed forces.

Where else do you see this smug assertion clobbering folks on both the left and the right? Remember how much easier it is to see others doing that to which we are blind in ourselves.  Humility heals.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: