You would have noticed this hypocrisy… if you weren’t such a hypocrite

Jonah Goldberg at NRO rings up a fantastic subjunctive tu quoque:

Yes, it’s extremely unlikely he ordered the IRS to discriminate against tea-party. . . . And his outrage now — however convenient — is appreciated. But when people he views as his “enemies” complained about a politicized IRS, what did he do? Nothing.

Imagine for a moment if black civil-rights organizations, gay groups, or teachers’ unions loudly complained to members of Congress and the press that the IRS was discriminating against them. How long would it take for the White House to investigate? Answer honestly: Minutes? Hours?

The overall form of subjunctive tu quoque is not that you have actual inconsistent behavior or double standards, but that you would have them.  You just know it!  Of course, this form of tu quoque requires, for the subjunctive to be accepted, that the audience think the President is a hypocrite and an employer of double standards.  So, often, the subjuctive form of the tu quoque isn’t an argument from hypocrisy, but one to it.

**A later addition to the post 5/21/2013**

For other discussions of  subjunctive tu quoque, see Colin’s original post HERE, and John’s got a lengthy discussion HERE, and we three co-wrote a paper that appeared in INQUIRY about a year back, which I’ve posted on my page HERE. For cases that tu quoque arguments are regularly relevant, see one of my recent posts on it HERE, and my essay in Informal Logic HERE.



5 thoughts on “You would have noticed this hypocrisy… if you weren’t such a hypocrite”

  1. Well, we do it too. In recent years, whenever a gay person was insulted or ignored or called a name. We would say, “Imagine if he had been a slave or a woman or a Jew … ” This quoque, if I understand it, is a common “what-if” supposition of anyone with an axe to grind. “That’s just what a Nazi would say!”

  2. Hi Mike, Thanks. You’re right that it’s necessary to invoke the problem of double standards, and forms of tu (or in this case, is) quoque are the means. John, Colin, and I have here at the NS (and in our co-authored essay on the matter) defended forms of what we call ‘subjunctive tu quoque’ as occasionally appropriate. The issue, then, is telling informative and dialectically useful forms of the reasoning from fallacious. I’ll have a small edit at the bottom of the post with links to the other stuff on the site that’s relevant.

  3. Interesting. Sorry that it’s all new to me. I am interested, going back to logic class in college, where we learned what forms of discourse are valid and which forms are inherently deceptive. It’s not enough to shout “argumentum ad hominem!” We need a hip way to flag the behavior, like you are doing here, and deepen the new way of thinking. This happened three decades ago with “politically correct,” where the intellectual right found a hip way to dismiss much of what the left came up with. (It was an early sign we were going down for a while.)

  4. Or we could just conclude that Jonah is an idiot, who only has a big megaphone because his execrable mother made such a success of persecuting Bill Clinton’s penis. Please, since when did nepotism infer wisdom? Goldberg is a liar, a fabulist and a propagandist. A “pundit” he ain’t. I think you give him way too much credit; he simply throws mud at the wall and hopes it sticks. He couldn’t define “tu quoque” let alone be clever enough to set up an argument using it.

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