Answering Criticism with Criticism

Several years ago, I became very interested in the art of debate. This led to a deep dive into logical fallacies. I must admit, at the time I was exploring such things not only to become better at arguing my point, but to better point out the shortcomings and failures in argument of my opposition.

If we can rise above such hubris, we can instead look upon mastering argumentative techniques as a guide to understanding. If both parties are willing to open their minds up to the possibility that it could be changed, then making evidence-based arguments while not committing fallacies may do just that. At least, it would provide a better understanding of the world.

Over the next several weeks, I will explore some of the fallacies that I have seen with the most frequency. In this mini exploration, I hope to provide examples of a breach in this fallacy from both the left and the right view.

Tu Quoque

Tu quoque is the logical fallacy of avoiding criticism or having to address the point of an argument by returning some criticism of your own. This is much like a small child who has been caught hitting her sister to which she responds, “she hit me first!” I mean who wants to address whether hitting is right or wrong and whether you are in the wrong by committing the act?

First an example of tu quoque from the right. An article or comment on social media points out that Donald Trump has not conceded the election after losing and that this is unprofessional and unpresidential behavior. Instead of addressing this point, someone on the right may point out that Al Gore did not concede the election to Bush for over two weeks in 2000.

A claim is implied that not conceding an election is unprofessional and unpresidential. Rather than confirm or reject that this is unprofessional behavior, we have reduced ourselves to the four year old with the criticism, “you’re guy did it first!”

Now an example of tu quoque on the left. An article or comment points out that Nancy Pelosi has done nothing but try and stop everything Trump tries to do. Instead of addressing whether or not the leader of one of the houses of Congress should behave in such a way, someone on the left points out how Mitch McConnell did the same thing to Obama during his term.

Again, instead of addressing and discussing whether political leaders should try and work with those across the aisle and keep the well being of U.S. citizens in their interests, we again reduce ourselves to childish tu quoque.

I know there are inaccuracies in the claims of both examples, and that debate on such could be fruitful. The point here was only to show the fallacy and childish nature of tu quoque when responding to criticism, so that you can avoid the fallacy. Pointing out the fallacy I’ve noticed does little good, and it is best to just walk away from tu quoque.

Featured photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

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