Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Logical Mistakes

Being Logical, A Guide to Good Thinking, by D.Q. McInerny, Random House, 2004

As is obvious to any reader of this site, I was never formally taught logic during any period of my education. What a lapse, what a huge gap in my learning. I’ve read Plato and Aristotle, looked at any number of books on the subject (most too technical), yet I’ve still felt this hole in my learning. Hopefully a break for me and people like me, D.Q. McInerny has written the layman’s guide here in Being Logical, A Guide to Good Thinking.

Short, concise, with easy examples and without resorting to any complicated syllogistic formulation, McInerny lays it all out with an economy that is appealing to the ignorant. While no substitute for rigorous training in the subject until rational, logical is second nature, this slender volume could be a helpful desk reference when crafting persuasive arguments and essays.

Or at least it would be were it not for a number of disturbing and fatal flaws throughout that weaken, perhaps even cripple its entire premise. Before the introduction is even concluded, McInerny asserts his wish that his book play the kind of role in elementary thinking that Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style played for elementary writing. While this is laudable goal, we must recall that E.B. White wrote a book about that most illogical of subjects, talking animals, and is clearly bad company in which to be. One can easily assume that McInerny, in his attempts to align himself with such a specious thinking, is likewise afflicted with such glaring problems.

McInerny’s embracing sentient rodents certainly would rule him out of most critics’ list of clear, rational thinkers. He’s ruled himself out of mine, his rules of logic suggesting that he believes he “rules,” therefore he is some kind of cool philosopher king capable of not only lording it over us puny untaught logicians, but setting himself up as the fashionable authority. I think not. Was he elected president last year or any year? No, therefore, we can dispense with many of his rules. QED.

Because this is clearly illogical, McInerny is an illogical thinker. He arranges his book to demonstrate first the basic premises and the structure of syllogisms, but as he’s clearly a debased, lubricous pervert, I’m not sure why anyone should listen to his sickening ravings. If you were to read this book and come away with any other conclusion, you’d top my list for an ass-kicking, so you’d best not. Besides, this book never rocketed to the top of The New York Times bestseller lists, so it’s quite clear that the American people have seen through the kind of fallacious lying that McInerny peddles in this little collection of pages he dare call a book. Is it Proustian? Could you set it aside the great works of modern literature like Ulysses or Sound and Fury? You could not; McInerny isn’t fit to carry a remaindered edition of Franzen’s The Corrections.

The author, currently a resident of that most unreasonable of states, Nebraska, can hardly expect us to take him seriously when one looks at his resume. He taught for years at Notre Dame, a bastion of teaching from the Catholic Church, an organization that rejected such patent certainties as Galilean cosmology, so when you consider the source, it’s clear McInerny has little to teach we laymen. Anyone who would move from such a hotbed of illiberal thought to a worse one like Nebraska clearly can not be trusted, let alone taken as a master of his assumed subject.

Because free thinkers such as myself have always had to fight against the Catholic Church and its adherents, I can not recommend this book. Nor would I allow myself for one minute to believer that my readers, sophisticated, sexy, possessed of both incredibly sensual good looks and discerning intellects, would wish to make cute babies everywhere cry real tears of hard sorrow by rewarding a member of an organization rife with pedophiles and former members of the Hitler Youth. That association alone makes this book worth burning.

While reading McInerny’s book, I realized quite clearly that I could either ignore this book or I could become an internet stalker, hunting down the author and forcing him to retract the kind of faulty reasoning demonstrated throughout. I likewise realized that after reading this book, any logic I managed to pick up elsewhere would be won only through the strongest of efforts on my part to overcome this bad beginning. Even the title’s overly optimistic assumption that this book will guide you in good thinking demonstrates McInerny’s simply wrong belief that logical thinking is the only kind of good thinking there is. What about the imagination, McInerny? What about daydreams and emotions like love, which you so clearly discount?

While McInerny is no doubt a talented rhetorician and capable of nice short sentences, he is only about a seven on the straightforwardness and honesty scale. This is clearly far and away one of the worst books I’ve ever read on the subject of logic and it’s quite obvious that McInerny never taught a student anything good ever. The man is a monster and must be stopped.


candido said...

Hi, friend,

I just read that book. He is not only related to catholic churc, he seems to be a catholic himself (as you can see here: http://www.catholicsagainstcontraception.com/dr_mcinerny_contraception.htm).

Forgive me my ignorance, for I have to tell you that after I read the book, I had not find it to be faulty yet. I liked so much the subject of the book, that I was thinking that every child should be taught that. I thought I should read the book a lot of times and keep it for my future children.

I even began to write down the errors I saw in the book, so I could send them to the author. I found only one minor error in the reasoning through the book, that I would send to the author. The other errors were from the translation, because I read it in portuguese - so I would send them to the translator here in Brazil.

But when I began to look for more information about the author, I was terrified to find out that he taught in catholic schools. I was thinking about trying to contact McInerny, to humbly try to understand how he can believe catholicism and yet teach logics.

Then I found this article. Man, I hope you are interested in talking a little with me about this, because I didn't find all that errors in the book as you said. I think that probably I won't want to use it to teach my future children, for moral reasons. But I would like to know what are all that errors that you tell about, because I'm still unable to see them.

I also would like to know if you would recommend some other book on the subject.


John Mitchell said...

This article sounds like a bunch of Red Herring, as well as other fallacies.