I’m currently finishing Doug Wilson’s Confessions of a Food Catholic (review scheduled for Friday). In it, he references a quote from G. K. Chesterton:
Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.
We live in a time when fallacies are routinely embraced as fact because, and only because, they have become fashionable. It made me stop and think about the word fallacy and how we are able, despite all evidence to the contrary, to discard empirical truth for the sake of fashion and warm fuzzies. I could go into a long list of examples of the kinds of things I’m thinking of, but what would be the point? Instead, I’ll just begin with a dictionary definition of a fallacy:
- noun A false notion.
- noun A statement or an argument based on a false or invalid inference.
- noun Incorrectness of reasoning or belief; erroneousness.
- noun The quality of being deceptive.
We have reached a juncture in our social and political discourse where definitions of terms are no more. If you believe that literal, historical, or scientific understandings of words still hold true, you’re in trouble in the public discourse.
Facts aren’t fashionable. Even men and women of goodwill and a general agreement on broad principles stumble to communicate as everyone strives to be superior and the most ideologically pure.
When fallacy is treated as fact, and the truth is subjective, common American culture no longer exists in any meaningful, unifying way.
It’s an unfortunate development.