Thursday, September 27, 2012

“Argumentum ad lazarum” in our everyday society

(Note: written in English for broader audience, I promise to transliterate this to Tagalog one of these days) Philippines is known for one common scene especially if you’re in the metropolis, squatters. However, in order not to offend both the masses and those that use them, let us the more soft term, informal settlers. Actually, you know the stereotype or the usual story. Person will build a house in another person’s property. Then, another group of people will come and stay in that propety. So on and so forth. Then, years after, when the owner of the property wanted to build, let’s say a factory, the settlers will protest. They will use the media, telling that they will not have a place to stay. Maybe some of you know how some (not all) have used this to earn money, but I’ll not move further. My point is not about the settlers per se, let the local government deal with them. It is how people have used poverty to justify their argument. In logic, it is called argumentum ad lazarum or appeal to poverty. The word “lazarum” was derived from the Biblical character Lazarus (of the Lazarus and the rich man parable). This argument is not exclusive only to social issues, but also includes everyday conversation. Let me give you an example. One time, a guy is inside his girlfriend’s house having a conversation with his girlfriend’s family. At the duration of the conversation, the guy is starting to notice that one of his girlfriend’s sister starting to be out of line. In order to be nice, he humorously reminded the girl not to act like and talk in that manner. Instead of being taken seriously, he was made fun of. To avoid mentioning offending words, he just walked out. However, due to cpredicted circumstances, he returned to his girlfriend’s house. Because of this, his girlfriend’s mother reprimanded him. It’s normal. The guy is wrong for walking out (but not for reminding the girl of her wrong attitude). The girlfriend’s mother stated, “YOU RICH PEOPLE DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE SENSITIVE”. THAT, I say, is an example of an appeal to poverty. Some people have used this way of speaking to have it their way, plainly because they are poor or in poverty. They can speak foul words, plainly because they are poor. That is so not fair, in a human sense of the word. For starters, being rich and being poor don’t have anything to do with correcting a person for her wrong attitude. The so called rich guy came in nicely and with respect. Yes, insecurities play a role on this, but one should put his composure and focus on facts – the fact that, in that example, a negative attitude must be corrected. Facts and evidence are still the best tool. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Let us not be stupid. Let’s not be blinded plainly because a person is poor. Poor doesn’t equate being right, the way speaking and writing in Tagalog doesn’t mean being humble. Facts, evidence, and logic. Even if it is difficult, let’s stick to them in matters like this.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Everyday Tu quoque

Note: Not meant to replace the philosophy teacher’s lecture note. Just a perspective. Have you encountered or witnessed a conversation or an argument in which one person started to make his position on a certain issue, only to be rebutted just because it either contradicted his previous stand or his loved ones are doing the contrary? If you are in that position, normally you may have tongue tied. You may have encountered concerned Instead of being enlightened, you were punched…figuratively. It is called in Latin words “Tu quoque” or “you too” in English. This is the type of fallacy or incorrect argumentation using the appeal to hypocrisy (hence the words “you too”). Fallacy, like we said, is an incorrect argumentation resulting in a lack of soundness. In Tagalog slang, this is synonymous with the words, “pambabara”. Tu quoque is one of those fallacies. In this kind of fallacy, a person who argued will be given a rebuttal that it is not valid plainly because that person is not credible enough to defend his argument due to the arguer’s inconsistency. In logic, this is a fallacy. Why? One of the essences of a good argument is that it should be solid enough. Now, if you wanted to rebut a good argument, then it should be rebutted with a solid logically sound statement. In the parliamentary procedures, tu quoque is a no-no, unless you’re intentionally doing it as a form of stalling or a way to lose the opponent’s composure hence having more time to come up with a better statement. Ideally, you rebut an argument using logically sound statement, not appealing to that person’s so called hypocrisy. This synonymous with what we call “clean hands”. Although most of us are not familiar with the do’s and don’ts of parliamentary procedures, we do this type of fallacy to dismiss a person’s solid statement, especially if that packs a punch. We’ll dismiss a person’s true statement about us plainly because his life is not credible enough. To certain minimal extent, this type of fallacy can be used to someone IF that someone is starting to be TRULY senseless. However, if the statement is sound and reasonable enough, then why use a loser’s tactic like tu quoque? Putting this in everyday life, we’ll not take a logically sound statement just because the source is not credible is also “dirty”. This is common in the bureaucracy. A government employee can never argue to a person under question because Mr. Government Employee’s list of mistakes will be made known (I call it the “black book” attitude). When that happens, tu quoque and mudslinging started to become relatives, if not siblings. Another tu quoque approach is questioning a person plainly because he is “insane”, “eccentric”, “out of this world”, etc. This time around, tu quoque started to have another sibling in the proverbial person of derogatory remarks. Let us prove ourselves professionals by not doing that loser’s tactic. Face the music, don’t hide under that loser’s tactic. If proven not true by using facts, not only will your argument be sound, but you won your case…with class and decency. Friends, it may not be right to put the parliamentarian style in an everyday conversation, but if we are a person of good character, we’ll listen to the argument, regardless of the source. If our attitude is not to follow a right statement because it came from seemingly wronged person, then I regret to tell you that you lose another learning opportunity. We human beings are imperfect. This is the very reason why it’s not right to make a person discredited in order to avoid listening to him or his so called foolishness. A person with good character will deal with the statement, regardless of the source. He’ll only disregard it if there’s no truth in it, not because the source is not credible due to being a “nut case” or “dirty”. Still doing tu quoque? Have it your way. We’ll respect that. However, let us remind ourselves we’ll not get closer to the truth if we do such thing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To be good or to be good only to us?

Since last year, I’ve rested from the rigors of teaching. No, I still love teaching, or being a student. If given another chance of time, I will go back to graduate school to pursue another Master’s degree or pragmatically the Ph.D. Although I am teaching one class in Public Speaking, teaching more than one or 3 classes has not been my thing since last year due certain priorities. Still, as my wife can attest, I am and will always be a teacher regardless of the paths that will be given to me in the days to come. I am sure we hear or read the words “teaching is the noblest profession”. Fellow mentors, or tormentors, despite the salary which leads most of us to go “Loandon” (Loan dito, loan doon or Loan here and there.), a part of us say that there is fulfillment in teaching. This is especially felt by those teaching pre-teens below students. You’ll notice them learn how to read and write. Eventually, you’ll notice them grow academically, psychologically, spiritually, and physically. You’ll see the overall growth. You can’t help but be happy, even if you’re not the type who grins a lot. Since the time I graduate college in 2001, I considered myself a teacher, although my real teaching years are 5 years (2002-2004, 2009-present). I salute teachers who taught for more than a decade. However, alongside this salutation is also a reminder. There’s a reminder that there is a temptation. Yeah right, we might say that it should be with an “s”, so make it tempationS. Yes, as teachers, we are experiencing temptations. There is always the temptation to amass large amounts of debt. Yes, these times, our kids wanted to have the latest gadgets, latest phones, latest etcetera, forgetting that their parents are just Teacher 1 in a public school or a low rank teacher. Hence, the temptation to go, well, “Loandon”. There is also the temptation of falling for your students. Let me tell you this with all honesty: students especially nowadays are pretty. Especially if you’re teaching high school and in your mid 20s (for example), some female students can even pass as your prospective date. With just right conditions and seemingly conniving circumstances, a young or even old male teachers will be tempted to date a student, or worse than that. Since even our law itself considered teachers as persons in authority, there is also a tendency of corruption. Yes, we heard of teachers running away the student fund or overpricing student related expenses (let us be professional and proper: if you’re not that kind of person, don’t be hurt. This is just for example’s sake). No, I am not talking about that temptation. This is the temptation that, when we give in, doesn’t automatically make us go to jail or have our PRC cards revoked. This is the temptation of drawing our students, both former and current, to the US-WORLD. This is the temptation of self-centeredness. Since we’re teachers, there is a temptation of teaching our students to be good…to us, to those that pertain to us, and similar to us. Yes, we teach them values. However, there is the tendency to teach our students subjective values. To explain this further, let me give questions. Do we teach them to be good or to be good only to us? If we saw our students starting to be friendly to another teacher that we don’t like, do we rationalize our insecurities by disguising it in a form of concern? If that is concern, is it a concern that the students might be in danger in that another teacher or is it just plain jealousy because “our precious sons and daughters” no longer surround us? When calling for our former and current students for help, is it for them to be better or for yourself? If for yourself, is it because you really need a helping hand or just their attention? When we’re being called “daddy”, “dad”, “mom”, “mommy”, “ate”, “kuya” and similar terms by our students, do we feel good? If yes, do we remind ourselves that, after the terms of respect is given, to keep our composure and move forward to our job? Do we teach because we wanted to be heard (not bad to certain extent)? Do we call our students “son”, “daughter”, or “anak”? If yes, do we call them as such because we’re just plainly sweet or because we are building our own yes-men/yes-women army to be used in “future purposes”? Are we teaching students some real “high standards” or you’re just too overprotective? Do we teach them values because they need them or because we need these students? Are we teaching the alma mater values for students to be better people or just because we wanted a product that is called OUR OWN? Are we teaching our students to remember what we taught them or do we teach them to remember US built in the guise of teaching? Teachers and aspiring teachers, let us remember that our students have their own lives. Let us remember that they are individuals, not our army. In fact, even army guys and gals have their own lives. Let us minimize, if not let go, our insecurities by teaching the students what they need. Once they’ve learned, let us move forward and teach another. Yes, cherishing our past students are good, but let us be reminded that it is our duty, not merely our pressure to teach them. Teach the students to be loyal to the right teachings, not to us. Teach the students to remember what they need to learn, not remember what makes us happy if the students do it in the first place. Teach objectivity, help them with subjectivities and relativities. Well, even yours truly find this one a tough one, but in order for us to be efficient, effective, and emotionally secured teachers, let us keep reminding ourselves with these, or more.