Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Logic of Little Ones

By L.A. Kohl
December 13, 2005
(published in the Jan. 11, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

One of our older girls has been taking a “Logic” class in school this semester. I must admit, we were rather pleased that she had the opportunity to take this class, because…well -- suffice it to say, don’t most teenagers need a little assistance in that area?!

A large part of the semester, the class focused on learning all the different types of fallacies. At the school’s recent fall showcase event, her class got the opportunity to present most of the different types of fallacies in a fun, mock-trial sort of way. It enlightened me. I now realize that my younger children use a lot of those fallacies every day, I just could never put a name to it before now.

Here’s one that any parent with preschoolers probably hears daily. Our two-year-old and four-year-old often take their disagreements to a physical level. One of them will come crying to me and say, “He hit me”, and then the other one will retort, “But she pushed me."

Objection! This falls under at least two different fallacies. One, the “appeal to pity” fallacy, which is when the speaker tries to convince us by making us feel sorry for himself or others. It also falls under the “Tu Quogue” fallacy (Latin for “you also”) which implies that two wrongs make a right; the person committing this fallacy implies that his rival’s comments should be discounted because he has not always been consistent with it himself.

Here’s a little bit more unique one. Our four-year-old was recently amazed that her great-grandpa’s funeral was in a church; but it was in a different town and church than what we go to. Her father tried to explain to her that there are lots and lots of churches all around. She said, “I know dad – there are four of them!”

Objection! I believe that would fall under the fallacy of “fake precision," which is defined as the use of numbers in a way that is too precise to be justified by the situation. Perhaps there are four churches within a 6 mile radius of our home; however, that is too precise for the “lots of churches all around” situation being presented. (Ugh; leave it to a four-year-old to get too precise.)

I'll finish up by picking on our youngest. He’s a boy, and he likes to use “I’m tired” on a frequent basis. For instance, “I’m too tired, I can’t drink my milk” or “I’m tired, I need some candy."

I could go on and on with his “I’m tired” arguments; and they fall under all types of fallacies. First, it's the “fallacy of relevance." This fallacy states that these arguments have premises that do not “bear upon” the truth of the conclusion. (In other words, they introduce an irrelevancy into the argument.) Second, it's the “false analogy” fallacy, which is an argument by analogy that fails because the things being compared aren’t similar enough to warrant the analogy. Third, it loosely falls under the “sweeping generalization” fallacy, which is taking a generalization that is, perhaps, true, and applying it to cases to which it does not apply, without recognizing that exceptions could exist. I think all children are experts on using that “sweeping generalization” fallacy! (Oops – did I just use it myself?)

And now you know the truth…I’m not only an over-worked, under-paid, exhausted and stressed-out mom with lots of kids; I’m a bored mom looking for ways to take my job to a little bit more intellectual level.

Objection! That would be the “appeal to pity” fallacy…I just tried to convince you to feel sorry for me. But at least I didn’t use the “chronological snobbery” fallacy, or the “genetic” fallacy on you. Case closed.

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