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     Volume 2 Issue 62 | March 30 , 2008|


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Debater 's Diary

Loopholes in Logic

“Logic is the art of going wrong with confidence.”
(Joseph Wood Krutch, The Modern Temper, 1929)

The Orient, i.e. China, Japan, Korea and surrounding nations have now surpassed the west in terms of technological supremacy. The reason is that these countries can now boast of possessing a lion's share of the consumer electronic goods market. They have been able to flood the international markets with their electronic commodities, because of the cost competitiveness they enjoy through mass production.

Is there anything wrong in the reasoning given above behind the assertion that the Orient is the emerging dominant force in the field of technology? Can you identify the loophole in the logic? Is it greater market share that determines which side has the upper hand in the hi-tech industry? Or is it something else?

Questioning the criteria and the standards that are used to make a statement can often reveal its fallacy. Technology is a dynamic field undergoing continual changes. The hi-tech industry has to constantly accommodate itself to the changing needs and demands of the consumers because of rapid developments and scientific breakthroughs. Therefore, dominance in this field cannot be determined by the ability of mass production through simulated reproduction of Western technology; rather it is the ability to innovate through extensive Research & Development that truly marks the leader in this domain. That is why the above argument does not pass the test of logic and is not adequate for forecasting the shift of technological power to the east.

Whenever you find yourself on a debating stage, remember that every argument that your opponents present has a counter argument, no matter how irrefutable and infallible it may appear. The various methods by which the logical flaws can be identified so that your task as a debater becomes easier have been the central theme of this 'Debater's Diary' section.

Suppose you are debating against the motion “Corruption, not economic limitations, is why Bangladesh cannot realize her fullest potential.” You could make your job easier by arguing for the grey area, i.e. the border in-between two or more things that is unclearly defined. Instead of outright rejecting the gravity of corruption, you can argue that both issues are equally disconcerting obstacles for Bangladesh. You can even argue that both are in essence the same problem, since poverty and destitution leads to corruption in the first place. Sometimes, reality cannot be sorted out into clear-cut categories. The criticism behind this method is that just as a tree cannot have two roots, a phenomenon cannot have two causes of equal significance.

Sometimes, a logically constructed hypothesis can be used to refute concrete facts. Suppose you are debating against the motion “The real terror is the War on Terror.” Your opposition may argue that the War in Iraq has converted Iraq into a breeding-ground of terrorists and suicide-bombers, which it previously was not. Therefore, this war has actually resulted in intensifying the threat of terrorism for the entire global community. While your opposition might be throwing solid facts at you, you have the license to speculate about the future, as long as you are rational. You can point out that Iraq was under the rule of a blood-thirsty dictator before the war on terror was initiated. You can then go on to argue that this war has provided Iraq with a realistic possibility of traveling along the path to establishing democracy, a path that has always proved to be a rough one. And it is a known fact that with the spread of democracy, the influence of terrorism through extremism becomes diminished. Therefore, you can make the reasonable assumption that once Iraq weathers the storm, it can play an effective role in making the Middle East, as well as the rest of the world a safer place in the long-run. Speculations and estimations based on sound logic can bring out the flaws in facts.

Samuel Butler famously said that if you follow reason far enough, it always leads to conclusions that are contrary to reason. This goes on to show that any statement, no matter how logical it may appear, can be brought down by logic itself.

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