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The State of the Union and LSAT Fallacies

  • by M Hope Echales
  • Jan 27, 2011
  • Advice on Logical Reasoning, Politics

The State of the Union and LSAT Fallacies
Article by Adam Unger, Blueprint’s LSAT instructor in Boston.
So you’re into politics (or at least appear like you’re into politics), and are watching the State of the Union between rounds of Cool Ranch Doritos™. Inevitably, after the speech and the official responses conclude, the pundits roll in to deliver their own take on what happened, and to try and convince you their opinion is the correct one.

Luckily, you’re also studying the LSAT, and have all the logical tools you need to parse the spin, and spot whether their arguments are valid. So settle in kids, while we play “spot the political fallacy” game. It’s not as fun as Twister, but during LSAT study season it’s darn close.

Let’s take a look at the Democratic response to representative Paul Ryan’s speech. The democrat targeted Ryan’s comments regarding Social Security and Medicare:
“The phrase that Paul Ryan said that caught my attention was that people in and near retirement will be protected. Well, but ‘in and near retirement,’ that means that people who are not near retirement will not be protected.”

On its face, the argument seems plausible enough, so let’s see what it looks like when we break it down into its underlying logical structure.

Premise: In and near retirement ⇒ Protected

Conclusion: Not in and near retirement ⇒ Not Protected


If it’s not obvious yet, it should now be clear that our speaker stumbled into the fallacy of the inverse. Sadly for him, you can’t claim to know what will happen for people who aren’t near retirement, only something about those who are. Or in LSAT speak, don’t switch the sufficient and necessary conditions, people.

If you can stomach it, political news shows like Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, Keith Olbermann (before he got fired) are great sources for putting your LSAT skills to use. If you can’t, not to worry, there’s always the Jersey Shore – turns out that The Situation getting play every time he goes in the hot tub is probably correlation, not causation.

Source: On the segment, “Progressive Reaction”.