Passing Bull 137 – The either/or fallacy – again

Someone sent me an example from the U S.  An examiner, who claimed to have a Ph D, failed an exam candidate on one question for saying that Australia was a country.  The examiner thought it was a continent.  Why couldn’t it be both?

The fallacy might sometimes be called ‘the single cause fallacy’.  The U S President put such a fallacy on horrific show after the Florida murders of school children – in which murders he was complicit.  He said that the issue was mental health, not gun control.  Then, in a display of callous inanity which was revolting even by his standards, he suggested that these murders may not have happened if the FBI had not been preoccupied with the Russian investigation.  Is it not obvious that all three of those issues may have been involved in these murders?

On a lighter note, Phillip Coorey, whose work I like, began a piece in the AFR about a fallen politician as follows:

Party officials believe increasingly that Barnaby Joyce’s tenure as Nationals leader has become untenable but say the ultimate decision whether to keep him rests with Nationals MPs.

There is no error of logic or syntax there, but the choice of words is unfortunate.  ‘Tenure’ and ‘untenable’ involve the same concept and stem – holding.  So, the proposition is that the holding is unholdable.  In defence of Mr Coorey, it might be said that the subject does cry out for Basil Fawlty.

4 thoughts on “Passing Bull 137 – The either/or fallacy – again

  1. Mr G, I read the same US article about the examiner stating that Australia was a continent and not a country. I can imagine the examiner insisting that Arnold Schwarzenegger is an Australian 😀

    • Walt Some of the stuff coming out of the U S about education is frightening. About 30 years ago I read a piece that said most first year law students in Texas did not know which century the Civil War took place in or what ocean was off their west coast. I resolved to teach my kids geography and history.

  2. Dear Geoffrey
    Continuing this lighter note I would like to put forward the following for gold medal in tautology submitted by no less than the ABC NSW State government reporter.
    She reported that she had asked a Minister whether the government intended to look at the Minister/staffer code in NSW following the BJ fiasco and she said ” The government wants to keep the current status quo as it is”
    I hope your health continues to improve.

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