Response to Kilner

Commentary by
Benjamin Turcea

Christopher Kilner suggested in the Oct. 30 issue of The Aquinas not only that the United States is not the best, but that his audience is to blame. He uses sophistry and commits the fallacy of division to blame all members of our community, except himself, for what he argues is the deplorable state of our nation and its despicable citizens.

Most of the opinion piece supports his thesis and argues after Aaron Sorkin that America is “not the greatest nation on earth.”
In the fifth paragraph, however, Kilner goes beyond attacking America. He argues that our generation is “influenced by rhetoric, not reason,” then blatantly insults his readersin an effort to anticipate their reactions and prove his superior ingenuity.

According to Kilner, Americans should directly derive morality and standards of behavior only from reason. If, as he asserts, we should avoid “rhetoric,” we would have no way to communicate our own moral feelings or opinions. Those leaders tasked with shaping public discourse could not discuss their visions, and the author himself could not argue.

Kilner plays a complicated game: by appealing to the use of reason over “rhetoric,” he tacitly argues that he writes purely rationally. Moreover, he uses “rhetoric” to connote fallaciously deceptive arguing, which is more appropriately called ‘sophistry.’ Rhetoric, on the other hand, uses reason to uncover the truth of things.

In the last two paragraphs, Kilner moves into sophistry disguised as good rhetoric and blames all of us. The penultimate paragraph commits an interesting ad hominem fallacy. He assumes his opponent to be every person who reads the article, namely, “you.” He preemptively reproaches his audience, and then he claims that any response that we make will be inherently meaningless.

Ultimately, Kilner engenders apathy and further harms discourse. By declaring that any response we make will be meaningless, he seems to remove any chance that we might have to improve at all.

Luckily, Kilner reveals that he has committed a logical fallacy but assures all that “you do not care.” In fact, some of us do. In a sophisticated way, Kilner implies that he can double down and use this line of reasoning as true rhetoric, if and only if he recognizes that it is a fallacy. However, recognition of fallacy does not legitimate its use.

Some members of our generation are lackadaisical, apathetic and opposed to protection of our humanity. Some members of our generation contribute selflessly every day to our communities, educate themselves incessantly and buckle down to steer the U.S. toward the ideals of a country of value.

In incriminating an entire country, Kilner should not blame each citizen. Kilner’s argument fails because he only challenges us to “throw off our chains” after assuring us that we will never do so.

Nov. 6, 2014

One Response to Response to Kilner

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