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Hence there is always danger of misunderstandings when persons accustomed to accurate statements are interpreting those who are not, and vice versa.

Exaggeration, however, is not only a matter of personal habit. Under the name hyperbole it is recognized as a correct form of literary expression; and not to make allowance for it is to misinterpret the passage in which it occurs, e.g.: “If a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered”; “He was owner of a piece of ground not larger than a Lacedemonian letter”; “He was so gaunt, the case of a flageolet was a mansion for him”.

In connection with this interpretation of statements as a whole, it is customary for writers on logic to point out several kinds of blunders, to which they have given characteristic names, as follows.

To commit the • Fallacy of Amphibology’is to misinterpret a sentence because its construction is ambiguous. The traditional examples are from ambiguous oracular deliv

Amphibology. erances, e.g., 'Aio te Æacida Romanos vincere posse' (I say that you Æacus the Romans are able to conquer): “The Duke yet lives that Henry shall depose'. Exquisite care was needed to make such ambiguous constructions as these, but most of those we meet are the result of gross carelessness, e.g.: 'Wanted-a piano, by a young lady made of mahogany ’; He finished his business and returned on Wednesday'; “Twice two and three '; He who necessarily goes or stays (i.e., who necessarily goes or who necessarily stays) is not a free agent, you must necessarily go or stay (i.e., take the alternative), therefore you are not a free agent '.* The confusion can always be remedied by a reconstruction of the sentence; often by a mere change in punctuation or in the position of a word.

The name · Fallacy of Accident' is applied to three different kinds of blunders : 1) When a statement about the mere substance of some

* Whately gives this last as a fallacy of composition.

individual thing is interpreted as referring to its condition

(accident) as well, e.g., 'What you bought yesterAccident.

day you eat to-day; raw meat is what you bought yesterday; therefore you eat raw meat to-day'.

2) When an abstract statement about some of the relations or essential characteristics of a certain kind of thing is interpreted as a concrete statement about every thing of the kind in all its relations (accidents), * e.g., Meat is good for food, this spoiled horse-flesh is meat, therefore this spoiled horse-flesh is good for food '; I do not admire tall women, A. B. is a tall woman, therefore I do not admire A. B.'. In these examples the major premises really refer to Meat as such' or. the essential characteristics of meat ', .tall women as such' or 'tallness in women'.

3) When any loose statement really intended to tell only what is true ' under ordinary conditions' or other things being equal' or ' usually' (though such phrases are omitted) is interpreted as though it meant to tell what is true always, no matter how unusual the conditions, e.g., 'Strychnine is a deadly poison, therefore this minute dose is sure to poison me’; • The use of medicine is to be avoided (when possible), therefore this sick man must not touch it'; ‘Corporal punishment is debasing (as a rule), therefore this bully should not be thrashed'.

In all of these examples the Fallacy of Accident has been Direct ; the reasoning has been from a statement concerning the substance, essence or rule, without reference to any accident or special condition, to a case in which such accident is present (a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid). But corresponding to each of the three kinds of direct fallacy there is also the Converse Fallacy of Accident (a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter) where the accident or special condition is implied in the major premise and omitted in the minor and conclusion, e.g.: (1) What you liked yesterday you like to-day, you liked this (fresh) bread yesterday, therefore you like this same (stale) bread to-day’; (2) 'I admire A.B. and C.D.; A.B. and C.D. are tall women ; therefore I admire tall women' (as such); (3) Strychnine is a magnificent remedy (for certain diseases and in certain doses), A.B. needs a remedy, therefore he should take strychnine'.*

* In the first case the accident is contrasted with Aristotle's "material' or Locke's 'real'essence ; in the latter with Aristotle's • formal' or Locke's nominal' essence,

Direct or converse fallacies of accident of the first class are comparatively rare and trivial. Those in the two other classes (which are not always easily distinguished from each other) can be avoided by insisting upon accurate statements or explanations if the speaker is present and willing to make them; but when authoritative interpreters are not at hand they may cause interminable discussions and disputes. Everybody admits, for example, that lying is wrong ; but does that mean that every act that involves a lie is wrong, or only that lies as such are wrong, and acts that involve a lie are wrong provided that there is no other and more important moral consideration involved! If we interpret the law in the first sense it is wrong to lie to a madman or a murderer to save the life of a child ; if in the second it is right, provided that the obligation to save an innocent life is greater than the obligation to always refrain from lying, and that to tell a lie is the only available way of saving it. Human relations are so complex that we can only discuss one aspect of them at a time ; and it may very well be that some moral laws at least have reference not to acts as a whole but to aspects of them, and that in interpreting such laws one aspect must be balanced against another and the one indissoluble concrete act judged by the most important moral consideration involved.

The interpretation of moral laws is a question of ethics, but

* The article a' lends itself easily to this kind of confusion. "I admire a tall woman may mean that I admire some individual woman who happens to be tall or that I admire tallness in women. It is this confusion that gives point to the time-honored conundrum, “What makes more noise than a pig under a gate ?' • Two pigs.'


if we accept a law in one sense and then apply it in the other we commit the logical fallacy of accident.

The fallacy of ' Accent' is essentially a fallacy of interpretation, It consists in misinterpreting an author (1) by un

duly accenting some particular word in a sentence, Accent.

e.g., 'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor', or · Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor'; * or (2) by taking passages out of their immediate context, e.g., proving that Dr. Watts believed in dog-fights because he said “Let dogs delight to bark and bite”, or proving future punishment by John xv. 6: “And men gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned”', or by Matt. xxii. 13 :

“ Cast him into outer darkness ; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth"; or (3) by appealing to some particular passage, even a long one, though it may be contrary to the whole spirit of the author quoted. This is a form of the fallacy of which the members of any Christian sect might very well accuse the members of all the others. The controversy as to the whole spirit of the gospels which such an accusation would raise would be much more profitable than any amount of quibbling over a few proof texts.

A remarkably clear exposition of this fallacy is given in the preface to Matthew Arnold's “ Literature and Dogma” from which I quote a few sentences. It is of course his account of the fallacy in which we are interested, not his views on the Bible.

"The homo unius libri, the man of no range in his reading, must almost inevitably misunderstand the Bible, cannot treat it largely enough, must be inclined to treat it all alike, and to press every word. . . . He has not enough experience of the way in which men have thought and spoken, to feel what


Jevons quotes the passage from the Book of Kings, “And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him'. But this is surely a case of amphibology. The accent on the word “him' changes the meaning of the passage only because it changes the ante. cedent to which the pronoun refers.

the Bible-writers are about; to read between the lines, to discern where he ought to rest with his whole weight, and where he ought to pass lightly. . . . And thus we come back to our old remedy of culture,-knowing the best that has been thought and known in the world; which turns out to be in another shape, and in particular relation to the Bible : getting the power, through reading, to estimate the proportion and relation in what we read. If we read but a very little, we naturally want to press it all; if we read a great deal, we are willing not to press the whole of what we read, and we learn what ought to be pressed and what not. Now this is really the very

foundation of any sane criticism. ... Things are on such a scale, and progress is so gradual, and what one man can do is so bounded, that the moment we press the whole of what any writer says, we fall into error. He touches a great deal : the thing to know is where he is all himself and his best self, where he shows his power, where he goes to the heart of the matter, where he gives us what no other man gives us or gives us so well.”'

The danger of this fallacy of accent is well recognized by jurists, and by their rules of evidence they try to guard against it.

««•I have always ’, said Lord Tenterden, “acted most strictly on the rule, that what is in writing shall only be proved by the writing itself. My experience has taught me the extreme danger of relying on the recollection of witnesses, however honest, as to the contents of written instruments ; they may be so easily mistaken that I think the purposes of justice require the strict enforcement of the rule'". This is one reason. But then Tenterden goes on

««• By applying the rule to such cases the Court acquires a knowledge of the whole contents of the instrument, which may have a different effect from the statement of a part.'

So with confessions and other statements against the interest of the person who makes them. The law gives them

* Greenleaf, “ Law of Evidence”, Vol. I, Sec. 88.

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