dstebbins

What is this logical fallacy called?

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It's a fallacy where one argues that X is justified because Y, but the problem is that Y is created by the very people arguing that X is justified so they can have a justification for it.

At first I thought the term "self-validation" could apply, but according to this webpage ... https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201407/self-validation ... that's a different concept. After that, I thought about using the term "self-justification," but while this fallacy may be a type of self-justification, that phrase encompasses every circumstance where you justify your own actions, even when your arguments are valid.

Here's an example of the sort of fallacy I'm thinking of: In the USA, African Americans are, bar none, the most common victims of police brutality, especially in fatal encounters. Statistically, that fact is undisputed. However, to counter this, some police and advocates of them argue that police killings of black people is not out of racism per se, but rather, because black people are statistically more likely to commit violent crimes than whites. Thus, these people argue, black people are more likely to put police in an ultimatum where they realistically feel that it's kill or be killed.

Now, obviously, that can be considered RAF (racist as sex) in its own right, so to back up their claims, they cite the arrest rates across the USA. Although blacks make up a disproportionate amount of police shootings in the USA, they also make up a disproportionate amount of violent crime arrests, and ...

... and this next part is very important ...

... the rate at which blacks are arrested for violent crimes is on par with the rate at which they get shot by police!

https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-black-americans-commit-crime

Well, that all sounds well and good, except for one problem: The police - a.k.a. the very people killing the black people in these statistics - are the same people who decide who to arrest!

Hell, that Channel 4 article doesn't even cite conviction rates! It only cites arrest rates!

Quote

38.5 per cent of people arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were black ... We’re talking about arrests not convictions

Innocent until proven guilty?! Never heard of it!

Another good example of this sort of fallacy at work comes from the novel "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." Specifically, this excerpt right here:

Quote

"I have decided to introduce the crystal ball a little earlier than I had planned," said Professor Trelawney, sitting with her back to the fire and gazing around. "The fates have informed me that your examination in June will concern the Orb, and I am anxious to give you sufficient practice."

Hermione snorted.

"Well, honestly... 'the fates have informed her' who sets the exam? She does! What an amazing prediction!" she said, not troubling to keep her voice low. Harry and Ron choked back laughs.

So what exactly would this sort of logical fallacy be called? Where you argue your actions are justified based on evidence that you yourself have a lot of influence, if not total control, over.

Edited by dstebbins

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3 hours ago, dstebbins said:

Neither of those seem to fit 100% what I'm looking for.

    How about :  cum hoc ergo propter hoc ?

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Hasty Generalization. Making assumptions about a whole group or range of cases based on a sample that is inadequate.

False analogy.  An error in reasoning occurs when claims are supported by unsound comparisons.

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13 hours ago, dstebbins said:

It's a fallacy where one argues that X is justified because Y, but the problem is that Y is created by the very people arguing that X is justified so they can have a justification for it.

[...]

Here's an example of the sort of fallacy I'm thinking of: In the USA, African Americans are, bar none, the most common victims of police brutality, especially in fatal encounters. Statistically, that fact is undisputed. However, to counter this, some police and advocates of them argue that police killings of black people is not out of racism per se, but rather, because black people are statistically more likely to commit violent crimes than whites. Thus, these people argue, black people are more likely to put police in an ultimatum where they realistically feel that it's kill or be killed.

Now, obviously, that can be considered RAF (racist as sex) in its own right, so to back up their claims, they cite the arrest rates across the USA. Although blacks make up a disproportionate amount of police shootings in the USA, they also make up a disproportionate amount of violent crime arrests, and ...

 

Since it's such a sensitive subject, I'd like to make very clear at the outset that I take no stance on the factual issues here. Only the logic interests me.

The first problem here is that the real world example you give us -- police and blacks -- does not seem to fit your own X-Y model of the opening paragraph.


X is the undisputed fact that blacks are the most common victims of police brutality. Y is the putative fact that "blacks are inordinately violent" adduced by the police to justify the undisputed high rate of brutality. And we'll let Z be the hypothesis "the police are racist against blacks".

(Obviously we're simplifying just a wee bit here into mutually exclusive categories)


Now, since you say "Y is created by the very people arguing that X is justified", taken literally, this presupposes Y is indeed the case. After all Y has been "created". In other words, applying your X-Y model to the real world, it is true that blacks are inordinately violent, though true only in virtue of the police themselves making it a reality. It's a problem of the police's own creation.


But your subsequent remarks seem to suggest you do NOT grant it (Y) is true that blacks are inordinately violent. You tell us Y might be considered "racist as sex".


So, the first problem we need to clear up is, which of the following is being asserted?:


(i) blacks are inordinately violent (i.e. Y) -- though the police are the cause of this
(ii) It is not the case that blacks are inordinately violent (i.e. not Y). But Z is true: the police are racist (thus unfairly pick on blacks).


While you ponder that, allow me to offer a tale of three countries. Presidential elections were recently held in the neighboring nations of Honestinia, Indoctrania, and Corruptoslavia. The newly elected presidents -- Cleanass, Orwellass, and Dirtyass, respectively -- each won 90% of all ballots. The ballots, though not the voting process itself, were inspected and confirmed by UN observers. The facts are not disputed.

Press conferences were held in all three nations subsequent upon the results being announced. When asked to explain -- i.e., provide an explanatory justification for -- the unusually high degree of support, the three president-elects shrugged, "What you see is what you get. Ninety percent of the electorate turned out and voted for me".

 

President Cleanass's character is beyond reproach. What you see is indeed what you get.

 

Less well publicized is that President Orwellass has engaged in program of brainwashing his nation's citizens. It is indeed the case that 90% of the electorate turned out and cast their ballots for him, but ... for obvious zombie-esque reasons.


President Dirtyass, meanwhile, being far too busy attending to his slush funds, simply left everything up to his henchmen, who threatened to murder anyone who showed up at the ballot station. On the big day for democracy, not surprisingly no one turned out to vote. The ballots counted and confirmed by the UN were all filled in by Dirtyass's own men.

 

In summary, then, the fact X that each president received 90% of all ballots is undisputed. Three scenarios present themselves:


(1) In Cleanass's case, the justification (Y) for X is true: 90% of the electorate did indeed turn out and cast him a vote. Everything is as it should be.


(2) In Orwellass's case, the justification (Y) for X is also true. 90% of an albeit brainwashed electorate dutifully turned out and cast him a vote. All is not as it should be. Orwellass created his own justification.


(3) In Dirtyass's case, Y is false. It is not true that the electorate turned out in record numbers to express their support. Dirtyass's justification does not hold water. The true explanation for Dirtyass's landslide victory is Z : the election was doctored.


Back to the police and blacks, then...


It is not disputed that blacks are the most common victims of police brutality (X). 


(1) corresponds to the justification cited by the police (Y: "blacks are inordinately violent") as being true, moreover none of the police's doing.


(2) corresponds to the justification cited by the police as being true, but the fact that blacks are inordinately violent has been brought about by police action itself. 


(3) corresponds to the justification cited by the police as being false. It is not true that blacks are inordinately violent. The correct explanation for the undisputed fact X is that the police are brutal racists (Z).


Oh wait, I almost forgot about the name you requested for the logical fallacy. Well, er, inasmuch as "logical fallacy" implies a flaw in one's reasoning, I don't see that any logical fallacy has been perpetrated.


In case (1) the police are guilty of neither inappropriate behavior nor fallacious reasoning. 


Meanwhile in (3), the police justification is false. Any given police officer unaware of the real reason for the disproportionate brutality administered to blacks is simply ignorant, much like President Dirtyass who was far too preoccupied adding to his filthy lucre to pay much attention to how the election was conducted. Any dirty coppah who does know the real reason for X, but cites Y rather than Z, is lying. Lying isn't normally considered a flaw in one's reasoning, though. It's just kinda... dishonest. Oh yeah, and racism isn't very nice, either, though scarcely a logical fallacy.


(2) is the tricky one. The police might be held accountable for misconduct, i.e., turning peaceful blacks into violent blacks, just as President Orwellass turned non-supporters into supporters, but surely not for fallacious reasoning. After all, everything they said is true. I suppose we might chastise them for not telling the whole truth, assuming they even know it, namely, "Yes, it's true blacks are uncommonly violent, but let's not pretend you don't know why this is".

 


As a final thought, I often get asked by Taiwanese friends here, "How come you Brits won't allow Northern Ireland to be independent?", by which I think they mean, "Why don't you guys allow Northern Ireland to break away from the UK and unite with the Republic of Ireland?"


The standard answer from London, of course, is "Because the vast majority of Northern Ireland residents do not want to break away from the UK".


Any friends out there from Dublin may view the matter a little differently... "Yeah, yeah, but the vast majority are not real Irish people!!!!!"

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2 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

 

Since it's such a sensitive subject, I'd like to make very clear at the outset that I take no stance on the factual issues here. Only the logic interests me.

The first problem here is that the real world example you give us -- police and blacks -- does not seem to fit your own X-Y model of the opening paragraph.


X is the undisputed fact that blacks are the most common victims of police brutality. Y is the putative fact that "blacks are inordinately violent" adduced by the police to justify the undisputed high rate of brutality. And we'll let Z be the hypothesis "the police are racist against blacks".

(Obviously we're simplifying just a wee bit here into mutually exclusive categories)


Now, since you say "Y is created by the very people arguing that X is justified", taken literally, this presupposes Y is indeed the case. After all Y has been "created". In other words, applying your X-Y model to the real world, it is true that blacks are inordinately violent, though true only in virtue of the police themselves making it a reality. It's a problem of the police's own creation.

No, police claim that blacks are inordinately violent, as evidenced by the blacks' high arrest rates. Police have near total control over the high arrest rates. So the hypothesis is that blacks are inordinately violent and therefore deserving of police brutality, but it lacks any evidence that the advocates of that hypothesis can't directly manipulate.

7 hours ago, et pet said:

    How about :  cum hoc ergo propter hoc ?

According to that fallacy, it is when someone assumes causality when coincidence is just as probable.

Examples:

A tenant moves into an apartment and the building's furnace goes faulty. The manager blames the tenant's arrival for the malfunction. One event merely followed the other, in the absence of causality.
The Brazilian footballer Pelé is said to have blamed a dip in his playing performance on having given a fan a specific playing shirt; after getting the shirt back his performance recovered. The loss of the shirt was given as the reason for his dip, and its return the cause of his recovery. However, it was later discovered the shirt returned was not the original shirt.

In those two examples, there is no causality whatsoever. In the two examples I gave in my OP, there is indeed some causality; the only thing that is in dispute is what the causality is. Is the cause of the problem racism by cops, or violence by blacks? Is the cause of the early lesson a legitimate prophecy, or the fact that the teacher sets the exam?

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2 minutes ago, dstebbins said:

No, police claim that blacks are inordinately violent, as evidenced by the blacks' high arrest rates. Police have near total control over the high arrest rates. So the hypothesis is that blacks are inordinately violent and therefore deserving of police brutality, but it lacks any evidence that the advocates of that hypothesis can't directly manipulate.

Ok, then if it's not true that blacks are inordinately violent, the scenario that interests us is my (3):

 

9 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

Meanwhile in (3), the police justification is false. Any given police officer unaware of the real reason for the disproportionate brutality administered to blacks is simply ignorant, much like President Dirtyass who was far too preoccupied adding to his filthy lucre to pay much attention to how the election was conducted. Any dirty coppah who does know the real reason for X, but cites Y rather than Z, is lying. Lying isn't normally considered a flaw in one's reasoning, though. It's just kinda... dishonest. Oh yeah, and racism isn't very nice, either, though scarcely a logical fallacy.

 

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35 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

Ok, then if it's not true that blacks are inordinately violent, the scenario that interests us is my (3):

 

 Agreed but there is a (4/V), confirmation bias isn't ignorance.

Edited by dimreepr

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45 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

Ok, then if it's not true that blacks are inordinately violent

It is disputed that blacks are inordinately violent!

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1 minute ago, dstebbins said:

It is disputed that blacks are inordinately violent!

Well, if it's true that blacks are inordinately violent, then either (1) or (2) obtains.

If it's not true that blacks are inordinately violent, then (3) obtains.

Of course, another possibility is that I'm confused again.

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7 minutes ago, dstebbins said:

Well, the question I asked in the OP is still unanswered: What is this fallacy called?

It's not a fallacy, it's complicated... 

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5 hours ago, dstebbins said:

Well, the question I asked in the OP is still unanswered: What is this fallacy called?

 

The reason, or one of the reasons, why I think everyone has been struggling to pin a name on it is: no logical fallacy has been perpetrated.

 

8 hours ago, Reg Prescott said:

Oh wait, I almost forgot about the name you requested for the logical fallacy. Well, er, inasmuch as "logical fallacy" implies a flaw in one's reasoning, I don't see that any logical fallacy has been perpetrated.


In case (1) the police are guilty of neither inappropriate behavior nor fallacious reasoning. 


Meanwhile in (3), the police justification is false. Any given police officer unaware of the real reason for the disproportionate brutality administered to blacks is simply ignorant, much like President Dirtyass who was far too preoccupied adding to his filthy lucre to pay much attention to how the election was conducted. Any dirty coppah who does know the real reason for X, but cites Y rather than Z, is lying. Lying isn't normally considered a flaw in one's reasoning, though. It's just kinda... dishonest. Oh yeah, and racism isn't very nice, either, though scarcely a logical fallacy.


(2) is the tricky one. The police might be held accountable for misconduct, i.e., turning peaceful blacks into violent blacks, just as President Orwellass turned non-supporters into supporters, but surely not for fallacious reasoning. After all, everything they said is true. I suppose we might chastise them for not telling the whole truth, assuming they even know it, namely, "Yes, it's true blacks are uncommonly violent, but let's not pretend you don't know why this is".

 

A second reason might be confusion (it confused me anyway) caused by the word "justification" which is ambiguous between:

(i) epistemic justification : What reasons do we have to believe that X is true?,  and

(ii) explanatory justification : Why is X the case?  (where the truth of X is presupposed)

 

The latter is the sense that concerns us here. That is, for example, if X is the proposition "Man has been to the Moon", what concerns us is not providing good reasons to believe X (in order to convince the conspiracy theorists perhaps), but rather, how do those who sent men to the Moon justify this action (in order to convince those who consider it a waste of money perhaps).

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3 hours ago, Reg Prescott said:

A second reason might be confusion (it confused me anyway) caused by the word "justification" which is ambiguous between:

(i) epistemic justification : What reasons do we have to believe that X is true?,  and

(ii) explanatory justification : Why is X the case?  (where the truth of X is presupposed)

 

To elaborate on this a little more...

By and large, when we speak of logical fallacies, the sense of justification that we have have in mind is epistemic. That is to say, we challenge a conclusion that has been arrived at through what we take to be improper reasoning.


For example, we might challenge a particular conclusion X by saying that this conclusion is reached by way of circular reasoning, inappropriate appeal to authority, inappropriate induction, equivocation, or that the conclusion X runs afoul of the base rate fallacy, the genetic fallacy, or any one of a plethora of reasoning errors.


What we are saying, then, in each of the above cases is that the claimant, in virtue of flawed argumentation, has not given us good reason to believe the conclusion: the epistemic justification is insufficient.


This stands in contrast to what I've termed explanatory justification. E.g. "Why are you late for class, Johnny?" -- "I was abducted by aliens, Miss Smith".


In this case, depending on whether or not Johnny was indeed abducted by aliens, his justification passes muster. In other words, assuming the alien abduction is true (unlikely!) we say that Johnny has a good reason for being late for class, as opposed to saying "There is good reason to believe THAT Johnny was late for class" (epistemic justification). Otherwise his lateness is unjustified: he does not have a good reason for being late.


In the former case Johnny is telling the truth; in the latter case he is lying. In neither case is Johnny guilty of fallacious reasoning. At worst, he's guilty of telling porky pies.

 

So with regards your own example, dstebbins, the first question is: Do the police have an explanatory justification for the fact that blacks are victimized more often than other races? The fact itself is not disputed; it stands in no need of epistemic justification.

The reason/excuse given by the police is that blacks are inordinately violent. In this case what is required is an epistemic justification for the putative (i.e. disputed) fact that blacks are unusually violent: what good reasons, if any, do we have to believe this conclusion? (as opposed to "Why is it the case that blacks are unusually violent?")


It's only here, then, that the possibility of a logical fallacy might arise. 

 

The epistemic justification offered by the police makes appeal to arrest rates. You seem to concede that the arrest rates adduced by the police are kosher. The arrest rates are another undisputed fact. Therefore, no logical fallacy has been committed. The conclusion ("Blacks are unusually violent") is adequately supported by the premise ("Blacks are arrested more often for violent crime than other races").

The final question, then, is "Why are blacks arrested to a disproportionately high degree?"; this undisputed fact stands in need of explanatory justification.

And you, like Miss Smith, smell a rat. That arrests rates are high is not disputed. Why they are high may be due to inappropriate police action. The police, like Johnny, may not have good reason to justify (explanatorily) the inordinately high, though universally conceded, arrest rates.

If they don't have a good reason, they're guilty of inappropriate arrests. If they do have a good reason, all is well, at least at the local constabulary.

Police misconduct is a possibility. Whether or not this is the case, I still see no evidence of fallacious reasoning. Bad behavior hardly constitutes a logical fallacy.

I suspect it's the repeated occurrence of the word "justification" -- vacillating between two different senses -- that erroneously leads us to believe a breach of proper reasoning has been committed.

Edited by Reg Prescott

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1 hour ago, Reg Prescott said:

The epistemic justification offered by the police makes appeal to arrest rates. You seem to concede that the arrest rates adduced by the police are kosher. The arrest rates are another undisputed fact. Therefore, no logical fallacy has been committed. The conclusion ("Blacks are unusually violent") is adequately supported by the premise ("Blacks are arrested more often for violent crime than other races").

 

Er, forget this bit. It's a load of crap.

It's a mighty dubious inference.

Back to the drawing board... :wacko:

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1 hour ago, Reg Prescott said:

You seem to concede that the arrest rates adduced by the police are kosher.

Uuuuuh ... no ... actually my OP implied the complete opposite, that the arrests that police use to justify their racial profiling are themselves caused by the very racism police say they don't have.

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6 minutes ago, dstebbins said:

Uuuuuh ... no ... actually my OP implied the complete opposite, that the arrests that police use to justify their racial profiling are themselves caused by the very racism police say they don't have.

So the arrest rates are genuine (i.e. kosher). The police are not lying about the rates themselves.

It's just that the police may be arresting inappropriately. E.g. arresting blacks for violent crimes when no such crime was committed, or arresting blacks for genuine crimes of violence disproportionately compared to other races.

Right?

Edited by Reg Prescott

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2 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

So the arrest rates are genuine (i.e. kosher). The police are not lying about the rates themselves.

It's just that the police may be arresting inappropriately. E.g. arresting blacks for violent crimes when no such crime was committed, or arresting blacks for genuine crimes of violence disproportionately compared to other races.

Right?

If the arrests are done out of racism, they are not "kosher."

4 minutes ago, Reg Prescott said:

So the arrest rates are genuine (i.e. kosher). The police are not lying about the rates themselves.

It's just that the police may be arresting inappropriately. E.g. arresting blacks for violent crimes when no such crime was committed, or arresting blacks for genuine crimes of violence disproportionately compared to other races.

Right?

Kosher - adjective - being proper, acceptable, or satisfactory.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kosher

Arrests done out of racism are the complete opposite of that.

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1 minute ago, dstebbins said:

If the arrests are done out of racism, they are not "kosher."

Yes, but I said the arrest rates, not the arrests.

 

We're just slightly at cross purposes. But saying the same thing. I think.

 

You're not suggesting the police are making up the arrest rates, are you? If they're not making them up, then the figures are "kosher" in my terminology. The appropriateness of the arrests themselves may be dubious.

 

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!

Moderator Note

Please return to the topic of this thread. If anyone wishes to discuss the details of POC and the criminal justice system, I would suggest opening another thread. 

 

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37 minutes ago, iNow said:

^Exactly

 

The only dubious inference in question is:

 

Premise: Black arrests for violent crime are disproportionately high

Conclusion: Blacks are inordinately violent

 

A charge of begging the question could only be sustained if the conclusion was somehow already contained -- implicitly or explicitly -- in the premise.

I don't see that it is.

 

Compare:

Premise: North Korean soldiers have proportionately more medals for courage than American soldiers

Conclusion: North Korean soldiers are more courageous than American soldiers

 

Nowhere in the premise is the conclusion to be found.

 

It could just be, of course, that they hand out medals for courage willy-nilly in Pyongyang.

 

In both the above cases, let us grant that the premise is true -- by hypothesis.

It's also possible that both conclusions are true.

But in neither case is the conclusion entailed by the premise. As things stand, it's an invalid inference. Further premises would be required to make the inference valid.

In a genuine case of begging the question, the conclusion is entailed by the premise or premises, for it is already contained therein. E.g.

Premise: Donald Trump is an aardvark

Conclusion: Donald Trump is an aardvark

Edited by Reg Prescott

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5 hours ago, Reg Prescott said:

Premise: Black arrests for violent crime are disproportionately high

Conclusion: Blacks are inordinately violent

5 hours ago, Reg Prescott said:

A charge of begging the question could only be sustained if the conclusion was somehow already contained -- implicitly or explicitly -- in the premise.

I don't see that it is.

But the (assumed) view of the police is that blacks are violent. and that's why they arrest so many of them.

That factor is inherent in the process of arrest.
So, it's a self fulfilling prophecy.
Looking at arrest rate as a proxy for criminality should be reasonable, but, if (as we suspect) the police are biassed then it's no longer valid.
If you use that measure of criminality to drive the arrest rate then there's a feedback loop.

Essentially they are arrested for being black, so they are arrested for being black.

 

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