In all times and places, logic is never taught to the masses. There is no intention to do so.
Now, in our “egalitarian society,” education carries with it great PR pretension, a fakery that outflanks any other period in history.
Therefore, graduating students wrongly believe they know how to think.
In my latest collection, Power Outside The Matrix, I include a long audio tutorial,Analyzing Information in the Age of Disinformation, which is all about carrying out deep investigations of major official scenarios/stories, and discovering how and where these official structures can be penetrated, taken apart, and unfolded, so all their flaws and deceptions are exposed.
These two trainings are meant to remedy the deep hole people find themselves in, when they go up against entrenched (or even alternative) “knowledge.”
In this article, I want to focus on a particular logical fallacy I call: “this means that.”
It runs rampant throughout society. The fallacy bleeds into the reasoning process, into notions of self-worth, into people’s need to identify themselves with an “acceptable” position.
Take the concept of manmade global warming. For many people, affirming this as a reality means:
“I’m defending the sacred quality of life on Earth, I’m helping the planet, I’m exposing the nasty crimes of big corporations, I’m acknowledging and shining a spotlight on the selfish and petty actions of the masses, I’m in the vanguard of recognizing that this issue represents the greatest threat humankind has ever known, I’m transcending ‘profits over values’, I’m envisioning with others a better world, I’m aligning myself with the best international scientific minds, I’m experiencing the sensation of having a larger mission in life.”
This—manmade global warming—means all that.
Therefore, how do you approach rational discourse on the subject of manmade warming?
There is no logic to be found. There is only “this means that.”
The concept or idea or symbol of manmade warming is so fully packed with sentiment, it resists all attempts at entry.
Here is another example: “America must field a powerful military force all over the world.”
For many people this means: “US wars are good and righteous wars, support our troops, admire the representations of war in sports, praise large American corporations, vote for a ‘tough President’, winning is everything, expand the Pentagon budget, develop a kick-ass attitude, love technology in all forms and degrees, obey and agree with institutional authority, assume that bigger is always better.”
“This means that.”
Therefore, a rational discussion about the wisdom of deploying the US military all over the planet is impossible. The amount of packed sentiment is a suit of body and mind armor.
In the case of manmade warming, examining the science behind the hypothesis becomes completely irrelevant. To even begin to look at it feels like an act of betrayal to the person who has “this means that” firmly in place.
Nothing in the person’s education has ever challenged his reflexive hard-wired “this-that” formulation. A breakthrough has never been made in the area of logic.
Instead, education has, at best, skated across the surface of “this means that” and left it undisturbed.
With some degree of accuracy, one could say that all the other traditional logical fallacies—ad hominem attack, straw man, vague generality, circular reasoning, appeal to authority, etc.—spring from “this means that.”
When I attended college in the 1950s, it was my good fortune to have a logic professor who could analyze and separate a thousand angels dancing on the head of a pin—and at the same time, maintain his great and natural charm and sense of humor.
Our conversations outside of class were moments of excitement. They were also rugged mind workouts.
His parting shot to me, as I was about to graduate: “Know what you don’t know.”
Some 20 years later, when I began a career as a reporter, that piece of advice came back to me.
I was prepared to do investigations, because I could make assessments of what I didn’t know and therefore needed to find out.
I could evaluate sources, who would often try to deploy logical flaws to derail me.
One of the great delights of reporting is discovering that the story you’re working on isn’t the story. The story turns out to be something else entirely.
That was the case in 1987, when I got down to writing my first book, AIDS INC. People were coming at me from every direction, feeding me their half-baked theories about what AIDS “really was.”
They seemed to believe that, because they were departing from the conventional wisdom on the subject, they must be right.
Encountering that odd notion of self-entitlement stood me in good stead, from that time forward.
When I eventually arrived at the bottom of the AIDS story, I was shocked to see it wasn’t at all what I predicted it would be.
It’s astounding how many logical steps people are willing to skip over, when they have a “this means that” cooking in their heads.
Like a foreign traveler visiting a bizarre museum, I’ve encountered many varieties of sophistry over the past 30 years.
Logic isn’t the be-all and end-all. But it is, in the largest sense, an ever-expanding method you can use to probe deeper and deeper into an argument, a line of reasoning, and engage with the basic assumptions that underlie a position a person is occupying.
It’s as if you’re learning a story backwards, moving toward the beginning, where all the secrets are.
And chances are good that you will eventually encounter some form of the abiding “this means that,” hiding like a horned toad under a bush.
He’s there, he’s quiet, he’s waiting, and when you turn a branch away from a shadow, he stares at you and you know you’ve arrived at the nexus:
the unyielding stubborn source of confusion and illogic.
And sometimes, on good days, you can get the horned toad to tell his story. His real story. All the way through. And you can see him regain his lost sanity.
That’s an experience not to be missed. You’ll remember it for your whole life.