A Philosopher's Blog

Just Doesn’t Get It

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on August 9, 2011
Rhetoric of Reason

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When it comes to persuading people, a catchy bit of rhetoric tends to be far more effective than an actual argument. One rather neat bit of rhetoric that seems to be favored by Tea Party folks and others is the “just doesn’t get it” device.

As a rhetorical device, it is typically used with the intent of dismissing or rejecting a person’s (or group’s) claims or views. For example, someone might say “liberals just don’t get it. They think raising taxes is the way to go.” The idea is that the audience is supposed to accept that liberals are wrong about tax increases on the grounds that its has been asserted that they “just don’t get it.”Obviously enough, saying “they just don’t get it” does not prove that a claim or view is in error.

This method can also be cast as a fallacy, specifically an ad hominem. The idea is that a claim should be rejected based on a personal attack, namely the assertion that the person does not get it. It can also be seen as a genetic fallacy when used against a group.

This method is also sometimes used with the intent of showing that a view is correct, usually by claiming that someone (or some group) that (allegedly) disagrees is wrong. For example, someone might say “liberals just don’t get it. Raising taxes on the job creators hurts the economy.” Obviously enough, saying that someone (or some group) “just doesn’t get it” does not prove (or disprove) anything. What is needed is, obviously enough, evidence that the claim in question is true. In the example, this would involve showing that raising taxes on the job creators hurts the economy.

In general, the psychology behind this method seems to be that when a person says  (or hears)”X doesn’t get it”, he means (or takes it to mean)”X does not believe what I believe” and thus rejects X’s claim. Obviously enough, this is not good reasoning.

It is worth noting that if it can be shown that someone “just doesn’t get it”, then this would not be mere rhetoric or a fallacy. However, what would be needed is evidence that the person is in error and thus does not, in fact, get it.

 

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12 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on August 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

    There’s too much of this going on and you do well in raising awareness of this issue. The ad hominem fallacy is being used against groups and individuals a lot these days. I get faulted all the time by Leftists for being a pro-life Christian, as is this were some sort of lunacy no intelligent person would fall for. The Left, which is overwhelmingly pro-abortion, likes to think of itself as the heir of Dr King, forgetting that Dr King was a Christian who, considering his stand upon Natural Law, would undoubtedly be against abortion, were he still alive. Dr King was also a patriotic American who desired America to live up to the words found in the Declaration of Independence, words people on the Left detest (e.g., Creator, Nature’s God). Since the Norway terror attacks, Nationalist Christian Patriots, such as myself and Dr King are being demonized, but what’s wrong with loving Jesus and America?

    I would be interested in your analysis of the rhetoric of the abortion debate. I was told last week that “It’s not a baby until it’s born” and that “Women have the right to do whatever they want with their own bodies” as well as many other fallacious arguments. In fact, the pro-abortionists, as I’m sure you know, do not have an intellectual or moral leg to stand on and never have. So why, for 39 years, have we allowed the wholesale slaughter of innocents based upon illogical and unreasonable argumentation? Ideas have consequences and fallacies can lead to slaughter.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on August 9, 2011 at 10:17 am

    And yet, some people are truly in denial and can’t be reasoned with.

  3. dhammett said, on August 9, 2011 at 11:46 am

    And some people who think they’re personally not in denial are in denial and can’t be reasoned with. Etc. . .

    • T. J. Babson said, on August 9, 2011 at 5:03 pm

      At some point reality intervenes, and some people have their world rocked.

      • dhammett said, on August 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm

        And some people who think only other people’s world will be rocked will have their world rocked too. Etc.

        • T. J. Babson said, on August 9, 2011 at 11:02 pm

          You forgot the reality part, dhammett. It’s important.

          • dhammett said, on August 10, 2011 at 8:55 am

            ‘Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached.”
            Simone Weil
            Who’s detached?

  4. WTP said, on August 9, 2011 at 11:55 am

    But you’re not biased yourself, are you Mike? And none of your 42, or whatever, fallacies apply to your posts or logic….Unless, perhaps I’m slow that this just occurred to me…you sprinkle fallacies throughout your posts as a means of promoting your book?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 9, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      I’m sure I have biases. I can even see them in action sometimes-which is the start of their elimination (or at least suppression). However, the more important question is not whether I am biased (we all are) but whether or not my bias overwhelms my reason and causes me to present views that are unsupported with naught by empty bias. If I can supply legitimate arguments for my views, they might seem biased but at least they have the substance of support.

      While I am careful to avoid fallacies, I would hardly be exempt from being rightfully criticized if I committed one.

      • WTP said, on August 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm

        So you could just as easily state:
        “As a rhetorical device, it is typically used with the intent of dismissing or rejecting a person’s (or group’s) claims or views. For example, someone might say “tea partiers just don’t get it. They think they can increase revenue by cutting taxes.” The idea is that the audience is supposed to accept that the tea party are wrong about tax cuts on the grounds that its has been asserted that they “just don’t get it.”Obviously enough, saying “they just don’t get it” does not prove that a claim or view is in error.

        I mean, no big deal. I’m sure you agree that the above is equally invalid. However given you’re odd enthusiasm for interchangeably using he/she him/her in the context of the same person, all in the interest of “fairness” and such, I find it odd that you never seem to present logical fallacies from a conservative point of view. I mean, if you’re all about fallacies and such, perhaps you might want to give it a run. Try rewriting this one, for example. Think you can do it?

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 10, 2011 at 9:30 am

          That example would seem to be from a conservative view, so to speak. After all, the example is a fallacious attack on the Tea Party-presumably from a liberal perspective.


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