Thursday, February 23, 2006

Timeo Danaos Et Dona Ferentes

When I heard this piece of news, I was momentarily relieved.

I understand that the jury may be out on the economic impact of the Madison smoking ban. What I could not understand, however, was the refusal of an exemption for cigar bars. No, this was not originally offered.

I should say cigar bar (singular) because to my knowledge, there is only one. Think about the owner of such an establishment when the government that rules your city basically tells you that you will go out of business.

To put it more plainly, who would go to an non-smoking cigar bar. Isn't cigar smoking a sine qua non of the cigar bar.

Why momentarily relieved, you ask?

Well, I thought that Mayor Dave had come to his senses and realized that compromises could be made and that maybe-just maybe-he is a more reasonable person than I had originally thought. This was not to be.

He makes two of the most annoying general arguments that are clearly fallacies of reasoning (read the article to pick these out).

Mayor Dave, I accuse you of commiting the "slippery slope" fallacy and that old favorite post hoc ergo propter hoc.

You see, dear magistrate, just because one action MAY lead to another, it cannot be asserted that it WILL. The "slippery slope" is false because it supposes a chain of cause and effect into the future which is clearly impossible.

Also, you will note that just because Event X precedes Event Y, it does not mean that X causes Y. Let's posit a fun example. My birth in September of 1977 preceded the election of Ed Koch as mayor of New York City by two months. One could say that the two are related.

A less extreme example. You have a chicken vindaloo for dinner. It is spicy and you have nothing to drink. You go out to get a beverage and, while on the way, are killed by ruffians. It could be said, were post hoc ergo propter hoc true, that your liking for spicy food caused your death.

But wait. Maybe I am committing the greatest fallacy of them all.

Yes, you guessed it. Argumentum ad verecundiam.

I supposed that the mayor, because he is the mayor, has some sort of higher faculty for diagnosing problems and hashing out solutions. Isn't that what politicians should do?

Should but don't. Silly boy. I know better than that.


Matthew "I sleep with a Latin major" Jenks said...

The only appropriate response is this:

"Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur."

Anonymous said...

The worse thing about it for the poor cigar bar owner is that he thought there would be an exemption for cigars until the night that the resolution passed. He was assurred there would be and then they were like, "OK you've got six months to close down. What you just signed a new lease, oh well."