Category Archives: Good Arguments

Judicial activity

Courtesy of Seth Rosenthal at Slate here is a point that needs to be made seven times seventy times:

>The truth, then, is that despite all their fulminating about judicial activism, conservatives today firmly believe that courts must step in to oversee, correct, or invalidate the actions of government officials. They simply disagree with liberals on when to do it.

No this is not one of those silly “referee pieces” one sees so much of in the liberal media. (You know the ones: “Fox is biased, but so is the New York Times. Everyone is biased. Not me, though, I can detect bias, so I don’t believe anyone.” And so on).

Rather, Rosenthal reminds us–against the always question begging George Will–that the phrase “judicial activism” can hardly substitute for a substantial legal argument.

Dichotomies are not always fallacious

Continuing the examination of “good arguments,” I thought I’d consider David Brook’s recent seeming attempt to provide reasons in favor of John Bolton’s nomination, “Loudly, with a Big Stick (Source: NYT 04/14/05).

What is refreshing in Brooks’ column, is that he at least attempts to present an argument for his conclusion that does not depend on the simple fallacies that we spend our time identifying. This doesn’t mean, of course, that his conclusion is true. But at least he is playing the game of arguing for his conclusion. He is at least offering hsi readers an attempt at justifying his opinion.

Brooks begins by his usual dichotomous clarification:

> The Bolton controversy isn’t about whether we believe in the U.N. mission. It’s about which U.N. mission we believe in.

>From the start, the U.N. has had two rival missions. Some people saw it as a place where sovereign nations could work together to solve problems. But other people saw it as the beginnings of a world government.

Continue reading Dichotomies are not always fallacious

Showing them how it’s done

As we have said from the beginning, we analyze the logic of arguments here. We do not claim to decide, in most cases, the truth of the many complicated matters that come before the pundits. We try, however, to evaluate whether the reasons advanced by the pundits provide justification for their conclusions. We also attempt to catch as many of their cheap tricks as we can along the way.

Not all pundits are as scandalously fallacious as some of our favorite subjects. It might be good occasionally to examine a good opinion piece, to remind ourselves what our standards for reasoned discourse should look like.

One the pundits whom we watch carefully is Paul Krugman. Krugman’s opinion pieces stand out on the pages of the NYT for their clarity and rigor. His arguments are clearly developed and precisely articulated. He rarely claims to have shown more than his argument justifies and he never seems to stoop to the fallacious glibness that characterizes most, or at least many, of his fellow editorialists. One reason for this may be his willingness to develop his arguments over a long series of columns rather than trying to fit for example a critique of all other alternatives to his view in a single 700 word column. There is patience here that is a sign of good academic training.

Just this week he has inaugurated a new topic: the crisis in our health care system (Source: NYT 4/11/05).

>America does face a real crisis – but it’s in health care, not Social Security.

Continue reading Showing them how it’s done