Thursday, October 18, 2018

False Equivalence

False equivalence is a fetching concept. Understanding it is a good way of undermining a hyperbolic argument. Comparing apples with oranges is one kind of false equivalence. A person is not a car and while it might be poetically useful to use expressions like "putting “the rubber to the road,” it actually makes little sense for understanding the human condition, even for those who wear shoes with thick rubber soles. The following statement from President Trump is an almost perfect false equivalence: "Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent. I don't like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned," ("Trump criticizes rush to condemn Saudia Arabia over Khashoggi," The Washington Post, 10/16/18).There's an almost a comical side to many false equivalences since, for instance, a victorious candidate has really nothing in common with a winning horse and an unlikely winner is hardly a dark horse though that expression might simply qualify as a plane old figure of speech. A person with a famously busy social schedule who accuses you of being too busy when you try to make a date with him or her is employing false equivalence. Should a wealthy industrialist who drives around in a Ferrari be more required to ante up his money for philanthropy than the person who plays it closer to the vest? Why should ostentation be tantamount to generosity? Just because you like to show off your hard earned cash doesn’t mean you have to give it away. "The last shall be first" is a wonderful kind of false equivalence since it replaces a wish with a reality. Sure it’s a very pleasant and Christian notion (deriving from the Gospel of Matthew) that those at the bottom of the food chain will be rewarded for their penury, but it flies in the face of the facts.

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