September 25, 2008

Apologies for the Lack of Posting

I've been devoting my full attention to the financial crisis.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 06:38 AM | Comments (3)

September 16, 2008

Laws of Logic Make the Political Scene

...and get completely mangled in the process, unfortunately. In this column about the McCain campaign's desire to have things both ways on every issue (via Yglesias), Jonathan Rauch puts the following words into the mouth of McCain advisor Steve Schmidt:

"You may have heard of the law of the excluded middle. No? It's from philosophy. Logic, to be specific. It says that if X, then not not X. Wait, bear with me. If a statement is true, then the negation of that statement cannot also be true. Otherwise everything could be true at once. You'd have fuzzy logic."

(Schmidt then goes on to say that this law isn't in the Constitution but was written by left-wing academics, so McCain can ignore it.)

But of course that isn't the law of the excluded middle, which says that P or not P. It's the law of double negation introduction. Double negation (as opposed to elimination) is intuitionistically acceptable, and excluded middle isn't. What Schmidt really means to reject is the law of non-contradiction, which says that P and not P is false (and is intimately related to double negation introduction).

Rejecting the law of the excluded middle might show an openness to nuance and rejection of false dichotomies, depending on your logic of vagueness. But I don't think any logic of vagueness will let you get away with rejecting non-contradiction or double-negation introduction. (I could be wrong, though.)

I also note that in asserting that everything could be true if a contradiction were true, Rauch assumes that we are not working with a paraconsistent or relevant logic; his description of these as fuzzy logics seems inapt, but we'll let that slide.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 06:47 AM | Comments (3)