Is MIMS Affirming the Consequent?

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Brendan Nyhan accuses Mike Huckabee of a logical fallacy:

Mr. Huckabee, for his part, responded with trademark humor. “The Air Force has a saying that says if you’re not catching flak, you’re not over the target,” he said. “I’m catching the flak; I must be over the target.”

This is basically a form of affirming the consequent. If you're over the target, you'll catch flak and Huckabee is catching flak "therefore" he must be over the target. Nyhan says that MIMS makes the same error in "This is Why I'm Hot":



In particular, he thinks "I'm hot 'cause I'm fly / You ain't [hot] 'cause you're not [fly]" is an example of the fallacy. I disagree. Nyhan's reading depends on construing MIMS as trying to make a logical inference with "'cause" as a material conditional but there's no need to do that. Interpretive charity suggest that we should understand MIMS to be making two logically independent causal claims: (1) he's hot because he's fly and (2) you're not hot because you're not fly. Perhaps MIMS believes that x is hot if and only if x is fly, or perhaps he doesn't. I don't, however, see a fallacy here.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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