Wednesday, March 30, 2005

On the Tu Quoque Fallacy

In light of the news that former Boy Scouts of America director, Douglas Smith Jr., pleaded guilty to child pornography charges, many have drawn connections between Smith's behavior and the BSA's policy against gay scouts and scouters. The general argument seems to be that the Boy Scouts' policy on homosexuality, in light of Smith and his behavior, is especially ridiculous--here's a guy talking so forcefully against gay people in scouting and, when no one is looking, he's downloading child-pornography! Implictly flowing from this line of reasoning seems to be the claim that the Boy Scouts shouldn't be banning gay people from scouting.

I wonder how much this sort of argument could fall under the tu quoque fallacy? It seems to me that the Boy Scouts' position regarding homosexuality is separate from the behavior of its members; just because Smith was deviant doesn't mean that the moral values and reasoning behind the Boy Scouts stance on homosexuality are logically invalidated.

Despite this, however, these comments about irony and hypocrisy resonate and make sense. If a parent who smokes tells us not to smoke, we naturally scoff and probably do so with good reason. However much I respect logic--always admitting that I have never demonstrated it that well!--nicely separated from reality and easily syllogized, I think that context--and in this case, character--plays a significant role in our arguing and reasoning. Artistotle, after all, had three types of appeal, and only one of them dealt with logic.

Given that Smith was a leader in an organization largely dedicated to establishing, developing, and maintaining moral values and character, it seems worthwhile to examine the character of its members, using the standards of evaluation that they have articulated for themselves. It certainly feels like it makes sense, at least.


Blogger Patrick said...

somewhat tongue in cheek...

was it male or female children in the pornography?

3/30/2005 9:29 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I don't think any official announcement was made, but someone involved assured everyone that there were no males involved. At least one minor crisis was averted!

3/30/2005 10:29 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

So, in that case, you may have a pedophile on your hands, but at least he's not leading a girl scout troops.... and if he somehow manages to transmit his abberant tastes for the 12 year old female form to those under his wardship, it won't be anything they're not already struggling with in an akward and cootie-avoiding way...

Pedophiles... kinda like the ancient greeks to my mind... i just can't understand... I suppose that's a good thing

3/31/2005 11:14 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I guess I can't be too harsh on those Greek pedophiles since one of the canons of the rhetorical tradition, The Phaedrus is an exchange between a teacher and his young student.

3/31/2005 6:49 PM  

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