Monday, March 12, 2012

[PL 211] Bloomberg arguing by analogy

In this interview, Michael Bloomberg (Mayor of New York City) seems to be making an argument by analogy.

What is the argument? Do you think it's a strong argument?


  1. he is arguing for the right to defend citizens with all resources available to them against terrorsits. He is thus justifying the use of and amount of force taken against terrorists. he is also thus justifying the loss of civilian life at the hands of his own armies and the presence of his own armies in outside countries.

    1. He is trying to justify Israel’s use of disproportionate force against Hamas by drawing an analogy between Hamas and a “mentally unstable person.” From a logical point of view, however, he fails miserably. Here is why.

      The analogy is supposed to be something like: Police : “mentally unstable person” :: Israel : Hamas.

      And the argument is supposed to go like this:

      (1) The police are justified in using disproportionate force to stop a “mentally unstable person” from breaking into an apartment and hurting its residents.
      (2) Like the police, Israel is trying to stop Hamas from hurting Israeli civilians.
      (3) Therefore, Israel is justified in using disproportionate force to stop Hamas from hurting Israeli civilians.

      For now, let’s put aside the controversial assumptions that Bloomberg makes here (e.g., that a “mentally unstable person” is always up to no good and that the police is always justified in using whatever means necessary to stop a suspect), and let’s focus on the analogy.

      For this analogical argument to be strong, the analogy must be strong. Is the analogy between Israel and the police strong? Not really. Unlike a police force whose task is to protect citizens, uphold the law, and maintain order, the force that keeps the Palestinians under occupation is a military force. The Palestinians are a people under occupation, not citizens of a law-governed state. Unlike citizens of a country, the Palestinians have not agreed, either explicitly or implicitly, to be governed by this military force. In police talk, we could say that the Israeli army has no (legitimate) jurisdiction in the occupied territories.

      Is the analogy between Hamas and a “mentally unstable person” strong? Not really. Fighting for freedom from occupation is generally not considered being “mentally unstable.” Many peoples have done that in the past, including Israelis, and we wouldn't say that they were “mentally unstable” for doing so.

      So, since Israel is nothing like a police force, and Hamas is nothing like a “mentally unstable person,” the analogy is weak, and hence Bloomberg’s analogical argument is weak.


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