Missing Noses and Morality’s Absence

Academics often confidently express their own opinions and promote popular ideas in intellectual circles while presenting them as the results of rigorous research. While they provide arguments to support their views, claiming that these arguments prove their point, they are often simply sad logical fallacies. Regrettably, the absence of formal logic education in our schools has allowed the absurdity of such claims to go unnoticed, convincing those unaware of the flawed reasoning.

A professor, for example starts off by suggesting that humans are not moral creatures because there are some folks, like sociopaths, who lack a sense of responsibility. But just because a few individuals lack a conscience doesn’t mean the whole human race is morally bankrupt. With a hat tip to C. K. Chesterton, it’s like saying noses don’t exist because a few unlucky souls lost theirs in an unfortunate accident. This is the fallacy of composition, which occurs when someone assumes that what is true for a part of something must be true for the whole. In this case, the argument takes the behavior of sociopaths and applies it to all of humanity. But it is not correct to generalize the characteristics of a few to the entire group.

Our friend then proceeds to claim that humans can’t possibly possess any morality because some individuals are more responsible than others. The fallacy of relative privation, or the “not as bad as” fallacy. The professor dismisses the concept of morality by comparing it to an extreme version of the same problem. However, the presence of a range of responsibility levels does not invalidate the existence of morality as a whole. Just as the differences in the length or olfactory capabilities of noses do not negate their fundamental existence, variations in responsibility levels do not undermine the essence of morality.

And finally, the professor claims that humans are not moral creatures because conscientious people in different cultures and circumstances behave differently. The fallacy of cultural relativism. It is the belief that moral judgments are relative to a particular culture or society. However, diverse moral codes and behaviors across cultures do not diminish the significance of morality in human existence. It’s like saying humans don’t have noses because they come in different shapes and sizes, and some folks enjoy the scent of gin while others, who had a bad experience with the stuff in college, crinkle their noses in disgust.

Just as noses are not fairy tales for the gullible, the existence of innate human morality is not disproved by these flimsy arguments. A triangle is still a three-sided figure, a dog is still a four-legged creature, and a hand is still a five-fingered marvel. These truths don’t crumble just because someone clever can sway the ignorant with fancy words or an exception to one or the other exists.