An Interesting, If Mostly Fallacious, Argument

Here’s an interesting argument. It was inspired by my CT scan experience of this morning.

If indirect reasoning (such as “the CT Scan benefits me: I benefit the patient by being so benefited by the scan without a meaningful loss of “signal”, that is, benefit): if a significant part of the benefit is not just making my job easier, then all and any such chains of reasoning are valid no matter how long.

But this reasoning self-refutes. We know that even in a single step (scan benefits physician, which benefits patient) a non-zero amount of benefit “falls on the floor” and never gets to the patient. The physician may find it easier and more pleasant to gather with his colleagues away from the patient and coolly, “objectively’ and as a liability-reducing team, decide on the interpretation of the data. The patient may suffer by waiting too long (whether because of cost savings in a National Health type scheme, or radiation hazards in any scheme).


Let the benefit to the physician be BPH: let the benefit to the patient be BPA: BPH > BPA: perhaps to make the numbers more realistic, BPH > BPA * 1.1

The benefit to the physician over time increases more than the benefit to the patient because each time, the patient loses the personal touch and is irradiated. Therefore carrying it out “losslessly” to n steps is casuistry.

USA tax courts have forbidden taxpayers to deduct vacations, with the tax payer using the claim that her vacations lower her stress and all of the lower stress may be carried over to a customer benefit, which would be tax-deductible. Obviously (and, if this isn’t the explicit Tax Court reasoning, Tax Court judges being no philosophers, it’s implicit in the embedded logic), the benefit of a stress release spa such as Kamalaya in Ko Samhui is roughly evenly split between a personal benefit and, if you’re a CEO, the benefit to your customers, therefore too much benefit to a changing set of customers is lost over time, while your benefit continues to remain the same each year, and to grow, over time, to a large aggregate number.

When the benefits are equal…you’ve gone on a simple vacation which isn’t tax-deductible as far as I am aware in any tax code.

Now, if the spa conducts daily lessons, in good faith, in how to better, as a CEO or manager, serve customers, your benefit goes down and their benefit goes up to the point at which modern tax codes might let you deduct.

This is the logical and fair ground of the common-sense distinction between a vacation and a business trip. It’s an elegant bit of Kantian reduction to absurdity, where the classic reductio is generalized, in Kant, to a reduction, not necessarily to absurdity, but to something clearly not intended by your opponent.

Its grandest manifestation is found in the “amphiboly” of Kant’s Critique, for here and elsewhere, he shows that each and every metaphysician before Kant himself has essentially produced an excellent argument for the opposite team. “The world has no beginning in time” becomes “oops, it does”: “God exists becomes, dang, God doesn’t exist”: “ten thousand blasted angels can dance with Swedenborg on the head of a pin” becomes “no, you silly man, they cannot.”

Read the article on “Kant’s Philosophical Development” in the way-better-than-wikipedia Stanford Encycopedia of Philosophy: It’s an excellent account of how Kant grew from a self-hating “spirit seeker” no better in his own mind than the Swedish nut bar, Swedenborg, to a post-Kantian [sic] metaphysician.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: