Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Necessary and Sufficient

The Circus of Blabbermouths that currently blend talk shows with political news on US radio and television is succeeding on appeal to the basest human instincts: fear, hatred, and anger.  Since none of these emotions are good, why are secular televangelists like Bill O’Reilly, Russ Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Don Imus, Lou Dobbs successful in promoting these emotions of the weak-minded?

Secular televangelists are blabbermouths with religiously held political convictions, convictions held on faith rather than reason, who portray themselves as reporters.  They succeed in the wake of a widely failing education system and contribute to that failure by teaching belief on faith rather than reason.

Secular televangelism runs on the fuel of necessary arguments. What does that mean, I heard someone think. What is a ‘necessary argument’?

Necessary in the sense I have in mind is a philosophical term for one half of a valid argument. If I show evidence or even proof that [all dope users drank milk as children], I have taken the first of two required steps in proving a causal connection between drinking milk and dope use.  But I haven’t proved that point yet; I’ve merely shown evidence for it. I have made a necessary but not sufficient argument.

In order to produce a complete, or as philosophers call it, a ‘sufficient’ argument, I have to show that [no non-drug user ever drank milk]. That no one can do because it is not a true claim. A necessary and sufficient argument must be based on proof that all and only X is Y.

The anger and mean-spiritedness that serves as the religion of the secular televangelists compose an issue aside from the argument structure they use.  Here I merely want to comment on two important words in philosophy.  An argument is not won by the loudest debater but the one who (1) has factual evidence and (2) necessary AND sufficient arguments.  The US airwaves today are filled with haranguers who base their necessary-only arguments on anecdotal evidence and settle debates by  trying to yell the loudest.

Using these slipshod methods it is easy to prove that white is simply a lighter shade of black. 

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