Bad Logic from Tully Borland

by Theodore Kupfer

Response To...

A Philosophy Professor Makes a ...

Everything David says about Tully Borland’s piece in The Federalist is true. At the risk of piling on, I write here to call attention to a particular argument that Borland makes, one that indicates either sloppy logic or plain sophistry.

Borland begins the piece by stating the claim he means to defend. “Even if Roy Moore did what he is accused of doing, Alabamans are within their rights to vote for him, and they shouldn’t let Democrats and Never Trumpers shame them into not voting,” he writes. Roughly translated, the claim is that it should be legally permitted for Alabamans to vote for Moore and culturally permitted for them to vote in the special election. It obviously does not follow that Alabamans should vote for Moore, though, which is the claim made in the headline of the piece. Just because someone should be permitted to vote for Moore does not mean she should.

As David points out, Borland is a professor of philosophy, so deontic logic must not be on the curriculum at Ouachita Baptist. The first claim, that Alabamans are within their rights to vote for Moore and shouldn’t be shamed out of voting, is true if a world in which Alabamans can vote for whomever they please is better than a world in which they can’t. In other words, it’s true if democracy and a democratic ethic are good. But the second claim, that Alabamans should vote for Moore, is true if worlds in which Alabamans vote for Moore are better than those in which they don’t. And to defend that, you have to show that voting for Roy Moore beats the alternatives — which, as David shows, Borland fails to do.

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