Page images

commonly treated. Of this numerous examples will be given in the sequel.

2. The Fallacy of Confusion

§ 139. This fallacy is recognized in the books as one of the most common and pernicious; and, indeed, it is a commonplace in philosophy that the use of undefined terms is one of the most fruitful sources of error. The nature of the fallacy is explained under Rule I. of the Rules of Logic. A few examples will be suffi. cient to illustrate its nature.


$ 140. UTILITARIANISM.—The most serious example of this fallacy is presented by the theory of Utilitarianism ($ 132 ad fin.), which for the greater part of a century has exercised a predominating and pernicious influence over English thought. The theory, briefly stated, is that general utility is the paramount and sole standard of right and wrong and of the just and unjust. But the term “ general utility" has no definite meaning; because it is impossible to determine from it who are the people whose utility or welfare is to be consideredwhether a mere majority or less, or two thirds, or three fourths, or other proportion; and hence the proposition must be regarded as nonsignificant or nonsensical.

$ 141. EDUCATION.-So he who asserts the benefit of education is, in general, talking nonsense. For education is but the development of character,-mental, moral, and physical, -and may be either good or bad. For there is an education of the thief, of the bully, of the tramp, as well as of the honest man, of the hero, of the efficient man, or of the scholar, or statesman, or philosopher. And so, even

, among legitimate kinds of education, there is an education of the mechanic, of the farmer, of the laborer, of the lawyer, of the doctor, and many other kinds. Consequently, when one asserts the benefit of education generally, without defining the term, the proposition is nonsensical.

§ 142. PROTECTION.–So the man that asserts that he is in favor of the protection of American industries is, in general, talking pure nonsense. For there are many kinds of protection, as, e. g., (1) The prohibition of all foreign imports that compete with our own industries; (2) the equalization of the cost of production; and (3) the encouragement of infant industries; and until we are told which of these various kinds of protection is intended the proposition conveys no definite meaning.

$ 143. EXPANSION.-So when an American · announces himself as an advocate of territorial expansion he is, generally, talking nonsense; for there are many kinds of expansion, among which three may be especially distinguished, namely: (1) The acquisition of contiguous homogeneous territory essential to the safety of the government, as, e.g., in the case of the purchase of Louisiana; (2) the acquisition of contiguous and homogeneous territory desirable as giving room for the expansion of population, but not essential to the safety of the government, as, e. g., the acquisition of California, New Mexico, etc.; and (3) the acquisition of territory far removed from our own, of a climate unsuited to our people, and inhabited by an alien and non-assimilable race.

Such a country must be governed by despotic power, and its acquisition must therefore be distinguished from other kinds of expansion by the name of Imperialism.



$ 144. The nature of this fallacy is explained under Rule II. of the Rules of Logic. As there explained, the fallacy is of two kindsconsisting, the one in the use of a term in an improper sense, i. e., in a sense not permitted by the usage of the language - the other, in using a term in an unreal sense, i. e., as denot. ing a notion to which there is no corresponding reality.

The former kind of the fallacy is not admitted by logicians generally; for it is an unfortunate delusion of philosophers that they are at liberty to define a term as they please. But whether this claim be admitted or otherwise, it has been the source of infinite error; so that the violation of the rule, if not regarded as a fallacy, must at least be regarded as a most prolific mother of fallacy. For where a term is used in a novel sense, though clearly defined, it is hardly within the power of the human intellect



to emancipate itself from the influence of its usual and proper signification. Hence, inevi. tably, the use of improper terms will result in the fallacy of Ignoratio Elenchi.

Examples $ 145. WHATELY'S DEFINITION OF LOGIC. -Whately's definition of Logic as “the science and art of reasoning," and of Reasoning as consisting solely in syllogistic inference, presents an instructive example of the Fallacy of False Definition. This definition excludes from the province of Logic the doctrine of Judgment, and, as involved in this, the doctrine of the Term, and also that of the fallacies called Nonlogical or Material, thus mutilating it of its most vital parts. But these subjects are invariably treated of by the logicians, including himself, and—as is now generally admitted belong to logical doctrine; which is an effective reductio ad absurdum of the definition.

$ 146. STEWART'S DEFINITION OF REASONING.–From the same false definition of Logic, and of reasoning, Dugald Stewart deduces the paradoxical conclusion that not only Logic, but reasoning itself, is but of little utility; which constitutes a still more effective reductio ad absurdum of the falseness of the definition.'

1“Of the different elements which enter into the composition of reason, in the most enlarged acceptation of the word,

« PreviousContinue »