Absurd argument
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - September 24, 2020 - 12:00am

It was in my pursuit of college education that I developed some kind of a weird habit. I thought it was tolerable to pluck from thin air a word or combination of words to dovetail to a given situation. It was my venturesome (call it audacious) personality to coin a term or invent a label or two to describe something for which I could not immediately find a more appropriate word.

There was this example of a case when I invented the term “negative acceleration” in my Political Science 10 subject to describe the formative years of Mandaue as a new city. When my teacher, Atty Alicia Alburo asked me to explain, I remember positing that as a town, the pace of growth of Mandaue was fast but in the early years of its cityhood its acceleration would be somewhat slowed because it would still adjust to its new status. But, it would eventually regain its previous momentum to develop as a bustling city.

In my English 3 subject, called Argumentation and Debate, I also coined a term - argumentum ad absurdom - to describe a proposition that was fallacious because it was downright absurd. I imagined that the term did not exist. But I believed that an absurdity of a debater’s argument would only show its fallacy thus necessitating my coinage. My greatest pleasure came when the teacher, Mr Wilfredo Justimbaste, used it to describe a classmate’s line of reasoning during a mock debate. “Hey”, he said, “that’s argumentum ad absurdom”!

I recall this word invention of mine when I heard President Rodrigo Duterte during a video news footage last Tuesday evening. It appeared that earlier Vice President Leni Robredo raised her concern on the inefficacious way government is fighting the coronavirus. Stung by the comments of Robredo, the president said something like this “xxx if you Leni, want to do away with COVID-19, sprayhan natin ang Manila with pesticide xxx”. What argumentum ad absurdom!

To be honest, I still have not yet grown accustomed to the foul mouth of President Duterte. To me, every time he laces his statements with expletives, he dishonors the high office of the presidency. I surmise that each occasion he uses “p___ ina”, not only does his mother cringe in her grave, his wife (and mother of his children) also feels her decency being assaulted by her own husband. I even venture to surmise that his present live-in partner harbors the same feeling of dishonor in times he resorts to indecent lingo. Capping his dirty language with “argumentum ad absurdom”, is aggravation.

Why absurd? In the same television news program, the video footage of Robredo’s press briefing was also aired. In my simple understanding, there was nothing that the vice president said that would be considered as personal attack against the president. Robredo’s opinion (and my God, she is entitled to it) focused on areas to improve our struggle versus the virus. The World Health Organization has listed the Philippines as having failed to control the COVID-19. It was when she pointed to our country’s deficiencies that the president sounded his absurd declaration. Truth hurts. Against a truthful Robredo statement, probably only an “argumentum ad absurdom” may be raised. Why would Duterte talk about an absurd thing like spraying pesticide in Manila using an airplane?

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