On the logical fallacy of package-deal thinking


Hmm, I’m probably  back, moFoto0067re or less… This is a post that has been waiting to get finished for moths anyway, and it’s one  in which I try to pin down a problem that I see in this world without having a proper term to describe it (as far as I’m aware) so I can use my self-coined term later and link to this post. It’s a thought-error that I will call the logical fallacy of package-deal thinking by lack of a better name.

We like in a world ruled by semantics, and yet sometimes for most people nameless things are more important than the named things that we see with every 3 mouseclicks. So I write this because I have the idea that it’s very important for all of us to be able recognise and be conscious of this thought error which is also a potent tool for manipulation, lest we be lured into potentially dangerous ideologies because they have just one thing in common with us and with Truth or general common sense. The fact that there doesn’t even seem to be a commonly used term to describe what I’m writing about here today is beyond worrying actually. (I do actually hope that someone proves me wrong and gives me a term and tells me it’s a widely recognised problem. Please do!!!)

So what do I mean with the ‘logical fallacy of package-deal thinking’? I would suppose the name is quite clear but I’ll take some examples here to explain it further. Let’s use American culture as a source of examples today because it’s so pervasive in and beyond the English-speaking internet, and because a lot of my readers seem to be Americans for some reason.
So again, correct me if I’m wrong and inaccurately describe American culture, but as I perceive it a lot of people in the US seem to think for example that as a Christian one is ‘republican’, and thus naturally for unrestricted gun ownership, and for whatever goes under the name of capitalism today. The same goes with the idea that ‘pro-life’ (being against abortion) is related to being for the death penalty and pro whatever war America is waging overseas at the moment.

I do hope that I’m just rehashing faulty stereotypes here as an ignorant European who doesn’t understand American culture, because making these bundles of concepts is actually completely nonsense. There actually is a lot more reason to be anti-war and death penalty if one is ‘pro-life’ (especially if one wants that term to have any meaning beyond the Orwellian redefinitions of ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ in the US abortion debates) .

The only connection is a historical context.

Or take the idea of ‘republicanism’. In Belgium a republican would be someone who is against the monarchy and in favour of a republic (like someone yelling ‘vive la republique’ at the coronation ceremony of the king  ). This is Jesus_gun-210x210not connected to anything else the ballast that the American Republican party has accumulated in the last decades, which would baffle an oldschool American republican too. So the thought-package connected to ‘republicanism’ (mostly the same things as go together with American ‘conservative’ ideology) is a very arbitrary box of unrelated stuff jumbled together by history and local culture.
In Northern Ireland a republican might be someone who is for the ‘Catholics’ (Irish nationalists) and against the Protestants and England.
So what’s the problem? It’s is very simple: Certain concepts that are actually unrelated are in peoples mind intrinsically tied to each other into packages, often under some umbrella term (which also changes meaning contextually, language isn’t fixed either and can be quiet fluid…) But except for that quite arbitrary thought-package in a certain context, there actually is no connection between the different things tied together at all.

Christianity has nothing to do with favouring ‘republicanism’ over a monarchy or even a direct democracy. Favouring a republic has nothing to do with capitalism or with Christianity at all, etc etc…

Most of these package deals are very contextual and have a very random historical origin of how they got lumped together.

But there’s more…
Most stereotypes are based on the same thing, and in these cases it’s often just generalisations that might be true for a majority of the group described. Assuming that I like cars, watching sports, enjoy violent films and have no respect for women just because I am a man would be a good example. (None of these applies to me btw. Sorry Mark Driscoll…)

To use more hip lingo, these idea-packages are somehow a subspecies of the in certain circles currently very popular ‘social constructs’. In fact they are are accidental (or in some cases manufactured) constructs of our culture, which are, like all constructs  actually very contextually defined, and often rather fluid and in most cases variable over time and space. But still in a given context they seem quite solid and it’s often very hard to go against them.

It also makes intercultural communication problematic. In the US something ‘conservative’ that is supposed to be connected to Christianity is obsessed with free market capitalism. In Belgium it’s the liberal party that has a similar ideology and is quite anti-religious…(well, no surprise, no matter what Americans call it is still neo-liberalism…) So our packages are completely incompatible. It’s liberalism and socialism that are on opposite sides over here…

And still we need the complete deconstruction of those packages if we want to do justice to reality and the people we encounter. Which is not always simple, and it can take a lot of energy to have to go against a certain ingrained package-deal that is taken for granted time after time after time. It can get very tiring, and needs understanding from the other side too (which won’t always come!).

And undeconstructed packages can actually make all meaningful conversation impossible…

It’s very hard to see through those package deals, and to not get tangled up in the guilt-by-association tactics that often flow from it. But it’s on everyones interest that we learn to see and avoid this logical fallacy.

Anyone with me?

peace

Bram

6 responses to “On the logical fallacy of package-deal thinking

  1. Thank you for this post, it’s an issue I’ve been seeing, and struggling with, recently as well.

  2. I was about writing “isn’t that called prejudice?”, but I realise prejudice we only have about others, this concept goes beyond prejudice or behind it, because you can have this fallacy also about your own package, like you think you have to vote republican once you become Christian (a friend of mine told me she thought so about voting for the party with the C here in Germany because she became Christian, so this does exist).

    • Yes, everything that is part of any version of the ‘left’ and ‘right’ dichotomy (or ‘conservative/progressive) would be included in this one, both on the own good side and on the other bad side…
      None of the things in the packages does really have to belong with the others, and they can be switched in different contexts.
      Ecologic awareness is ‘left’ ‘progressive’ to some, but to the Pope and his medieval namesake it’s just basic common sense.

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  4. No one wants to admit that the terms conservative and liberal are empty; they don’t mean anything anymore. Conservative and liberal parts are all doing the same thing – economic prosperity. In ancient greek times, conservative was the idea of one who loved the ancient wisdom of the past; that’s what I am.

  5. Pingback: “Welcome to my Book of the Damned!” | Brambonius' blog in english

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