The Unspeakable: Understanding the System of Fallacy in the Media | Prof. JOHN McMURTRY (1998)

At the heart of informal logic is its con­cern to detect fallacious structures of reason­ing in natural language discourse. The nor­mal procedure is: where we are able to iden­tify a flaw in premise, inference, relevance or the like in any route of reasoning, we hold that a fallacy has been committed and we seek to demonstrate it. Otherwise put, logical analysis is directed at what is argued, and fallacies are found in this or that par­ticular way of arriving at a conclusion.

This method of analysis is indispensable to sound logical construction of individual arguments, but misses the overall pattern of assertion and non-assertion for the par­ticular claims within it. What has been so far overlooked is that reasoning can be mis­led not only in its steps of making a case, but by what is ruled out from being made a case: not only by what is wrong within this or that route of assertion, but by what is wrong with the structure of these routes of assertion taken together. We have, that is, missed the forest for the trees, or more accurately, for the logical landscape within which the forest and trees are located.

I will argue that there is a deeper, more comprehensive structure of subverting reason that misleads our thinking across propositional routes, and not through any fallacy of any such route. And I will show that this disorder obstructs and deforms our thinking and our reasoning by a general system of deception which has so far operated underneath the reach of our tools of logical detection and correction.

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