Let’s use the golden standard for creating arguments, modus ponens. Check out the Wikipedia article if you’re not quite sure how it works.
If voting for the war indicates bad judgment, then anyone who voted for the war has bad judgment
Joe Biden voted for the war
Therefore, Biden has bad judgment
I realized I should put a little bit more into this post to clarify things a little. The point of this post is related to Obama's main tenant of his campaign, that he has great judgment, and that his judgment is proven by the fact that he would have voted against the war in Iraq. So the premise of this argument is Obama's, not mine. I just wanted to make that clear.
Monday, August 25, 2008
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Let's break down your argument. You may want to re-read the Wikipedia article: the term "implies," philosophically speaking, is an absolute term. I.e. if I'm married, I'm necessarily a spouse. Since I am a man, I can say I'm married so I'm a husband. If voting for the war indicates (is an indicator of) bad judgment, that vote necessarily isn't the cause or other necessary relation of the bad judgment.
Since an "indicator" simply "points" to bad judgment, it can't be stated that the person who made the decision necessarily has bad judgment.
Also, I think Obama's pointing to the multitude (not just the initial vote about the war) of McCain's positions that turned out to be the wrong positions as the indicator of bad judgment. If you compare the positions of the two candidates side by side, it's pretty clear what he means. McCain siding with bush 90% of the time is pretty indicative of the type of judgment McCain has.
I.e. you've misstated the premise.
With the argument not really being modus ponens AND a misstated premise, you don't really have a valid argument.
My argument form is solid, so lets get back to the premise. Again, as I stated, it is Obama's premise, not mine. He used it repeatedly against Clinton in the primary season when she was trying to make the experience case. Obama repeatedly said that Clinton had bad judgment because she voted for the war. So did his new running-mate
I'm not saying the form of the argument isn't solid: it's the right form just the wrong implementation. What I'm saying is that the relationship between the two statements must be necessary. By using the term "indicator", you say that the relationship between two statements is not a necessary relationship, which is a precondition for the acceptance of the modus ponens argument.
If we go to the wiki example, it's like reforming the argument to say: on Tuesday I might be at work; it's Tuesday so I'm necessarily at work. It's obviously not a necessary relationship and thus not a modus ponens argument.
Obama's argument is that if you look at the record of McCain, there are many such indicators. He's not saying it's a necessary relationship, but a likely one based on several such indicators (given, voting for the war has been punctuated by the Obama campaign as a big one). He also points to McCain's wanting to leave Afgahnistan to enter Iraq, his refusal to put a date on withdrawal, his voting record being tied so closely with Bush's... The list goes on.
that's a nice little syllogism there...
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