Justifying anything you want
I’ve touched on ‘justification‘ in several posts over the years. A recent event last week, made me think even more about it.
As always I try to define or refine what I mean by words like justify or justification. Google addicts may now pause to check what the words mean.
What is the concept?
To justify something means that you show how and why some course of action, or a decision is the right one. People who do this are normally personally invested, or directed by an organisation to ‘justify‘. When they come to conclusions, they may believe they are right but not necessarily so. The main point is making the case for X, Y, or Z actions or decisions.
Justifications may be sound or unsound, objectively. But subjectively an individual can make whatever case they like. How sound a justification is, depends on a whole number of things. Importantly logic and sound reasoning are the big issues. In other posts I’ve separated logic from reasoning. Logic stands quite separately because it is nested in mathematical constructs. Reasoning is subject to all sorts of pitfalls e.g. biases.
In 2018 I delineated the concept:
- It comprises reasoning.
- The form of reasoning is aimed at achieving an end.
- Reasoning need not be sound but it can be.
- The validity of reasoning depends on how well logic was applied. In other posts I was careful to separate reasoning from logic.
- Anybody can reason in a way that serves their ends. Not everybody can reason based on the independent laws of logic.
A nameless highly qualified medical doctor – a gastroenterologist – and I, had a short discussion about ice, in the kitchen of digs where I’m staying at the moment. Yes – I said ice! What – have you got a reading problem? He was purchasing ice cubes in bags from a local supermarket and had stored them in he bottom of the freezer. He told me that I am welcomed to use his ice. I politely declined. I could see that the cubes were not used for months. I could infer that because ice cubes tend to melt and fuse to other cubes if left for a long time (even if the freezer isn’t partially defrosted). I’d have to knock the bunch of cubes on a table top, to separate them from each other.
I said that I just use an ice tray which I refill from the tap. Yeah – with tap water! Chrysst is that a problem?! So he went that he prefers to purchase ice cubes instead of using tap water to make ice. That’s fine – cuz apparently everybody is entitled to make their own choices about anything; even situations prohibited by law. Did I say there was a law about making ice cubes in your freezer? I did NOT!
His rationale for buying ice cubes was, “I don’t know what’s in that water [from the tap]”. At this point, I’m totally flummoxed. So I say, “You don’t know what’s in the air you breathe either but you breathe it.” Then there was a bit of a stutter and a swift moving on. In case anyone missed it, the operative words are ‘know‘ and ‘don’t know‘.
Stupid: Ridiculous! You’re having an argument with a gastroenterologist in a kitchen about ice cubes?
CW: Except there was no argument. I said it was a brief discussion.
Stupid: But you challenged him about what’s in the air he breathes.
CW: Challenge? You are nuts. I simply pointed out that by his form of logic he should not be breathing the air he does, because he doesn’t know ‘what’s in that air’ – recalling that he doesn’t favour making ice with an ice tray filled from the taps, on same grounds.
Stupid: So you’re arguing that he should stop breathing air. You’re trying to kill the man!
CW: Utter rubbish! It’s up to him if he wants to stop breathing air on the grounds that he doesn’t know what’s in that air. Suicide is his option. Chrysst!
Stupid: Well, you’re wrong. You can’t go around telling people what water to consume.
CW: Chrysst! I’m not going around telling people what water to consume! Right – I’ve had it. You’re back in the cage or box or whatever.
After that annoying interruption, I had to take a lie down ????. You see how hard it is for me to write these blogs?
Right – where was I?
The reality is that he doesn’t know what sort of water was used to create the ice cubes he purchased from the supermarket. He can’t know what was in that water either. The supermarkets could be supplying ice cubes made by using basic unfiltered and untreated tap water. The packets are never labelled ‘created from absolutely pure water without germs or chemical contamination‘.
The justification above
So Mr Gastroenterologist has created a form of reasoning that is devoid of logic and has no foundation in evidence.
The way it works is to say “I don’t know what’s in that [water]” as if to imply that something ‘sinister’ may have been in the water used to make ice cubes sold in supermarkets. But he doesn’t know the latter, either. He wouldn’t know or not know ‘what’s in the air he breathes’ when driving down a motorway. By his logic he should stop driving his car on the motorway because ‘Dear God – there could be all manner of toxic gases out there!‘
How it works, is that you create a silent non-existent comparison (devoid of evidence or any real knowledge), to whimsically support the preferred option.
And think – highly educated people like him – all around the country are ‘reasoning’ (an insult to the word) in the same sort of way.
What does it mean?
I’ve always said, and I’ll say it again and again, “Education, does not teach people how to think soundly and apply the rules of logic”.
Critical thinking skills are not part of the curriculum in most Western educational systems. And why? Well, George Carlin said it all many years ago in clip below.
Nothing. You bugger off, and do as you like. Justify whatever you want!
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