The same cloth fallacy

Tuesday, 16 April, Year 5 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

I've just had an amusing twitter exchange with one Peter Earle, who obviously has no idea who he's talking to. In case that last bit worries you, dear reader, on the grounds that you have no idea who he is either, allow me to protect and serve : Peter is an ex-advisor to the Economic Development Commission of Piscataway, NJ.

Our exchange went something like this :

pete_earle I can't stand this fawning over Presidential reactions to crises. I'll be dipped the first time I give a crap how some politician emotes.

Mircea_Popescu @pete_earle You don't understand. That's all that Obama does. If you buy a poodle you'd better be interested in how its hair looks.

pete_earle @Mircea_Popescu No, kid, you don't understand. That's all *any* of them do.

Mircea_Popescu @pete_earle Back in my day they could sort-of play an instrument at least, kiddo!

pete_earle @Mircea_Popescu Until you realize that they're all cut from the same parasitic cloth, you're a lost soul and have my sympathy. Briefly.

Mircea_Popescu @pete_earle Well, conversely, unless you realise that this same cloth fiction empowers them to stay shitty you're stuck. They don't mind it.

There's no substantial disagreement between us here. We both agree Barack Hussein Obama is best approximated by a sock with two buttons sewn in. He thinks I'm younger than him, going probably by looks, I think he's younger than me, going by what he writes. As you can see, perfect agreement and complete harmony - all up to, until and except the same cloth fallacy.

Let's - for amusement - attempt to employ this sample of broken reasoning to situations more closely familiar than the vast, general and thus misunderstood body politic.

Take, for instance, women. During a lifetime any one man will meet a number of women. Be it three to four women a year a la George Costanza or fiddy women a night like this guy (currently incarcerated) it's nevertheless going to be a number.

Some of these women will be intelligent, some will be stupid, most will be somewhere in between. Some will be well read, others will be uneducated louts. Most - in between. Some will cook well, some will suck well, most will dress well if they have the money for it. Some will be trustworthy, others will not, some will make good company, most will not, endless perpetual and eternal list, which is why dilly-dallying with women is so much fun. The only certain point in all this is that he who thinks "all women are cut of the same cloth" is going home alone. This is so common and so obvious that we can't even distinguish cause and effect anymore. Is he going home alone because he believes all women are cut of the same cloth, or does he feign to believe that because - lo and behold! - he's forever alone yet again ? Who's to know anymore.

Consider the case of children. Suppose you take a gaggle of thirty nine year olds and order them to write the multiplication table in their notebook fifty times for tomorrow. Tomorrow comes as it always does and... well. If you take the notebook of each child, count the number of times they've written the multiplication table and for each time missing to fifty you apply one strong switch to their bare buttocks the net result will be a grand total of 1500 multiplication tables written in 50 notebooks the next day. Plus, maybe, one (attempted) suicide or two.

If you take the notebook of each child, similarly count the task completion and give out candy for each accomplishment you will generally see no improvement in the volume of completed tasks, but you will see a marked decline in the physical and moral health of your gaggle. Physically speaking they will become fat - which is a sin, at nine - and morally speaking they will become specialists at negotiating sweets payscales per various tasks.

Finally, if you don't bother to look into the notebooks, but simply declare that all children are cut of the same cloth (which is technically true, as they come out of their mothers' respective salmon colored velvet) you will ensure zero future performance of any task set out whatsoever.

This is how things work : punishment ensures performance exactly as specified, reward ensures insufficient performance as specified but some performance of no particular value or interest in your specification and the same cloth fallacy ensures failure. Complete, thorough and unmitigated failure.

We might perhaps spend our time trying to decide whether it was the failure that bred the fallacious reasoning or vice-versa, but unfortunately I lack the time : there's a number of nine year olds tied in my basement I have to attend to.


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