The Corona Paradox
(The Truth and the Elegance of Reasoning)
by Danny Castillones Sillada
The Elegance of Reasoning, 2012, by Danny Castillones Sillada
“When the intensity of emotional conviction subsides, a man who is in the habit of reasoning will search for logical grounds in favor of the belief which he finds in himself.”
~ Bertrand Russell
A SOUND REASONING is not exclusive to the logicians, philosophers, or scientists. Everyone can be rational because it is inherent, as human being, to seek the truth based on reason and common sense. One does need a degree in PhD to be rational, but an attitude with decency, nobility, and humility to seek the truth that illuminates the condition of humanity and the highest good of the society.
Every day, we are barraged by fallacious arguments from newspaper to television, from social media to a daily conversation. In social network, for instance, we are quick to react to any ‘popular issue,’ as if our mind is programmed to respond and virally spread any “hot topic” without rationalizing whether the given data possesses an epistemic value or denuded with meaning and substance.
What is a fallacy and how does it affect our logical reasoning amidst the insalubrious prêt-à-porter information being guzzled on us by social media, mass media, and mass culture?
THE CORONA FALLACY (Definition and Etymology)
Fallacy, from Latin “fallacia” literally means “deceit,” is an error of reasoning or inference, either deceptive or contradictory in context and substance.
There are various kinds of fallacies that can be found in any argument, written or verbal. The most recent one is derived from Chief Justice Renato Corona’s testimony before the impeachment trial court on May 22, 2012 before the Philippines Senate. His testimonial discourse, with all due respect to the Chief Justice, is laden with fallacious inferences and suppositions in an attempt to deviate the allegation against him on undeclared assets and hidden dollar accounts.
By definition, The Corona Paradox (The Corona Fallacy), as coined by this writer, is a complex fallacy that circumnavigates on circuitous irrelevant issues, culminating in a new supposition that leads to self-contradiction (ad absurdum) and implausibility (ad ridiculum) of the proposed argument. It is a digression from the main thesis, which begets more fallacies in the process of reasoning, thus subverting the veracity of the argument with absurd and contradictory inferences and conclusions.
This kind of fallacy is common among politicians and government officials who are caught in the quagmire of corruption, sex scandals, lies, and deceits. Instead of giving a straightforward answer to the allegation against them, they engage in a litany of denial by redirecting the issue either toward their self-serving repertoire of achievements or to their political opponents as an orchestrated “black propaganda” or “smear campaign” against them.
Don José: Captain Pedro, why don’t you expose your unexplained wealth and dollar accounts to the townsfolk of our barrio?
Captain Pedro: That’s a blatant lie, Don José! I’m an honest man, I have done many good things to the barrio, and the whole townsfolk can attest to that. Besides, you are up for revenge against me when I favored to divide your 99-hectare rice farm to the farmers. I earned my family’s wealth through hard work, my wife’s inheritance, and from my mother (tears begin to well up from Captain Pedro’s eyes). However, to satisfy your idiotic curiosity, I’ll sign a waiver for the investigation of my dollar accounts, but I’ll only release it only to the barrio if you also sign yours so that the townsfolk will also know of your hidden dollar accounts. Now, the Captain of this barrio wishes to be excused from any of your nonsense scrutiny.
In this argument, Captain Pedro committed fallacies after fallacies in an attempt to deviate the accusation against him on his unexplained wealth and dollar accounts.
The first fallacy is Argumentum ad Verecundiam (argument from modesty, or out of “authority”) when Don Pedro bellied his opponents invoking his “authority” as captain of the barrio against his accuser(s) or “my words against theirs.”
The second fallacy is Argumentum ad Populum (popular opinion or belief of the people) when Captain Pedro appealed to the kind indulgence of the townsfolk who could attest to his achievements, and as an honest captain of the barrio.
The third fallacy is Argumentum ad Hominem when Captain Pedro attacked Don José’s character as “vindictive” because he divided the latter’s rice farm to the farmers.
The fourth fallacy is Argumentum ad Misericordiam (Appeal to Pity) when Captain Pedro cried after mentioning his mother, seeking sympathy not only from Don José but also to the townsfolk of the barrio.
The fifth fallacy is “The Red Herring” (leading to a completely different argument) when Captain Pedro came up with a new supposition to cover up the allegation against him by proposing to sign waiver for the investigation of his dollar accounts on condition that Don José should also sign a waiver to expose his own dollar accounts.
The sixth fallacy is the Tu Quoque (“they are doing it, so I’m doing it too”) when Captain Pedro implied that Don José should call it quits (psychological blackmail by self-absolution) because he had also a hidden dollar accounts (psychological blackmail by implication). In this manner, Captain Pedro indirectly admitted the accusation against him (a contradiction to his claim that the allegation against him was a blatant lie and that he was an “honest man”) with the intention to implicate Don José of his own wrongdoings (transference of guilt).
Consequently, Captain Pedro was shackled by his own self-contradiction and the absurdity of the condition of his argument.
THE BIRTH AND HISTORY OF 'THE CORONA PARADOX'
On May 22, 2012, millions of Filipinos watched the televised testimony of the chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona, before the Senate impeachment court due to an allegedly undeclared assets and dollar bank account deposits on his SALN or Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
In an attempt to diverge the accusation against him, Corona attacked the incumbent President of the Philippines, Benigno S. Aquino III, who allegedly orchestrated the impeachment against him as a reprisal to his decision to divide the 6,435-hectare Hacienda Luisita (partly owned by the family of the President) to the farmers.
After an emotionally charged three-hour testimony: from a self-assured posture to a livid voice, from lachrymose eyes to a docile face, Corona culminated his argument with a ‘proposal’ that would dramatically change the 40th impeachment hearing of his case.
He stunningly broached a scheme to sign a waiver authorizing the investigation of all his dollar accounts. And it was during that particular gripping moment, when Corona flailed his pen in the act of signing the waiver, that the audience inside the Senate amidst millions of televiewers, who were favorably awed by his seemingly good-natured intent, seemed to pause in eternal silence--but not for long.
After signing the waiver, Corona unexpectedly hurled a tsunamic statement that stunned the audience, transmogrifying their emotional expectations into a bleak landscape of disgust and dismay. He proposed that he would only release his signed waiver if Senator Franklin Drilon (member of the Senate impeachment court) and all the 188 lawmakers had already signed theirs in exposing their respective dollar accounts to the public.
Then, in a dignified and imperious demeanor, he invoked his authority as Chief Justice of the Philippines by excusing himself from the impeachment hearing, pending the signatures of the 188 lawmakers. Consequently, that defiant gesture had infuriated the Senate President, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, calling Corona’s act as disrespect of the Senate impeachment court.
On May 28, 2012, he was found guilty and was removed from his office as Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court when the Senate voted 20 to 3.
Corona could have won the sympathy of the Filipino people (they could have understood, forgiven, and, in due time, forgotten the allegations against him) had he signed with pure intention and submitted his waiver with no terms and conditions. But it was too late to swallow back what he had already spitted out in the Senate’s courtroom.
Arguably, his challenge that the lawmakers should also sign their respective waivers to expose their hidden dollar accounts hints a psychological blackmail by self-absolution and by implication (transference of guilt to the accusers or, in this case, the lawmakers) in his favor.
His proposal elicits an implicit suggestion to be absolved from the issue of “dollar accounts,” as if he was blatantly asking the lawmakers to acquit his case (psychological blackmail by self-absolution) because they, too, have their own hidden dollar accounts (psychological blackmail by implication).
The outright contention of the argument to redirect his own ‘culpability’ toward the lawmakers is a digressive paradox of self-contradiction (ad absurdum) leading to an indirect admission of his own guilt (a contradiction to his testimony that all allegations against him were fabricated lies and that he was an innocent man with “clear conscience”).
Worse yet, the improbability (ad ridiculum) on the condition of the “waiver” educes a stalemate response since-- as already expected by Corona--the lawmakers will not execute their own waiver because, in the first place, they are not on trial but Corona himself.
In the end, Corona was trapped by the dilemma of his own convoluted fallacies, or shall we say, The Corona Paradox!
THE TRUTH AND THE ELEGANCE OF REASONING
The elegance of reasoning is intricately woven within an objective proposition of facts and coherent statements, not by a pullulated travesty of emotional appeals and strategic psychological intimations.
One can cry over the death of one’s mother or sibling, but it will not illuminate the Truth if it does not address the real issue. Emotional sentiments cannot substitute the epistemic value of the truth because they are subjective and affective experience.
Anyone can twist the truth but not the contingent elements that surround it, i.e., (1) the “knower,” (2) the inextricable occurrence of the “object” to be known, and (3) the empirical existence between the knower and the object to be known within space and time.
No one can prevent any individual from seeking the “object” of the truth; neither can anyone hide it unless he or she is a Super Human Being who can magically deface the occurrence of the truth within time and space.
The Truth illuminates the human intellect to seek its presence with grace, probity, and rationality, and not the human intellect to create the Truth in order to illuminate its presence for personal interests.
The truth exists because it is simultaneously and universally felt and perceived by intelligent beings that live within the perimeters of its ontological presence.
The Truth may be quantifiable but not mutable!
How to cite this article:
Sillada, Danny Castillones. “The Corona Paradox (The Truth and the Elegance of Reasoning).” Manila Bulletin (Manila) 11 June 2012: F1-2. Print.