SilverCloud on Impact vs. Intent
Johnny Silvercloud once asked me to do a logical analysis of one of his essays, similar to the analysis I did of arguments between Argumentative Penguin and Marley K. Mr. Silvercloud later wrote that I should have included some reference to his essay on impact vs. intent in my essay on so-called “Reverse Racism”. This essay addresses both projects, and will hopefully feed two birds with one scone.
Silvercloud’s essay could be analyzed in two closely related ways. Firstly, it could be seen as a series of Reductio ad Absurda translatable into the logical form of modus tollens. Secondly, they can be seen as arguments from analogy, which can be analyzed by another closely related method. My translations to Modus tollens will be greatly simplified to make the logical form more visible, so you should read the original to understand the full meaning of Mr. Silvercloud’s examples.
If intention >impact, then someone wouldn’t be blamed if X
But if X someone will be blamed
Therefore, it is not the case that Intention >impact.
1)If I then ~(if X then B)
2) if X then B
He gives three examples to substitute for X:
1) X= he accidentally stuck it in the wrong hole while making love
2) X= he accidentally shoots himself in the leg because he didn’t clear his weapon.
3) X= he accidentally dropped a live grenade, after pulling the pin on it, at his feet.
Silvercloud correctly refers to all three of these modus tollens arguments as arguments by analogy, and seeing them that way gives us two possible techniques for rebutting them.
(1) Showing that it is a false analogy (denying the truth of the first premise “If I then ~ (if X then B)”)
(2) accepting that the analogy as valid, but showing that it doesn’t prove what the author wants to prove. (Denying the truth of the second premise “if X then B”. This is sometimes called “biting the bullet”)
David Hyde, Rex Kerr, Bob Atkinson, and MXM all use the second strategy in the comments section. They point out that legally there are different penalties for manslaughter and murder, or Rape and “a physical accident”, and that it is intention, not impact which determines these differences. (the…