Why Logical Analysis can’t destroy Anti-Racism
Sometime ago, Argumentative Penguin put up a post arguing that Anti-Racism is self defeating. Commenter Faye replied by saying “ Your ‘logic’ is functionally horrific. Creating strawmen to argue against is a logical fallacy. You know that, right? Premises must be true for the argument to be valid. Did you ever take an actual logic course?” I replied with this critique of both Faye and AP, which also contained a defense of Marley K. against some of AP’s arguments. This was the first of many of my fruitful exchanges with the Penguin, but until now it has been buried as a comment on a comment, so I thought I would give it some more exposure. Thanks also to Faye for their gracious reply.
The premises must be true for an argument to be SOUND. But an argument can be VALID even if all of its premises are false. “All parakeets are physicists, All physicists are tap dancers; therefore All parakeets are tap dancers” is a valid argument, because if both premises were true, the conclusion would have to be true. Logic will never tell you whether this argument is sound. If you have any doubts about the truth-value of the conclusion, you can resolve them only by doing some research on parakeets, physicists and/or tap dancers.
I agree that Penguin’s argument is not sound, but that is because a couple of his premises are false. That is what makes his argument a strawman. The strawman (usually called a strawperson these days) is called an informal fallacy, which means that although there is nothing structurally wrong with it, it still doesn’t provide real support for its alleged conclusion. Here is my translation of his argument into strict logical form. No one but a logic nerd would write an argument this way. But when you do write it this way, you can peek under the hood and see where the parts don’t connect properly. The first step is a Modus Ponens.
If W than A
W therefore A
If Society is founded on white supremacy, then all Action undertaken by white people within that society reinforces the supremacy of white people over BIPOC.
Society is founded on white supremacy
Therefore all Action undertaken by white people within that society reinforces the supremacy of white people over BIPOC.
We can then translate the conclusion into Aristotelian form, and then use it in the following…