Like lawyers everywhere I relish every opportunity to throw around obscure Latin phrases, to confuse and confound the uninitiated. This blog’s headline is an example, although it will be instantly recognizable to students of logic amongst the readership, as well as those who keep a copy of Aristotle’s Prior Analytics on their bedside table.
It refers to a type of argument that seeks to destroy a proposition by taking it to the extreme. In legal argument it is sometimes employed along with its sister, the “Floodgates” argument (“judge, if you find in favor of the idiot on the other side, it will open the floodgates of litigation”)
Let’s have some fun with Reductio Ad Absurdum. Readers of my companion blog will know that I’ve been alternately bemused and incensed by the swelling tide of political correctness that seems bent on erasing the names of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie from public view, because of their actions against aboriginal people. There have been shrill demands for their names to be removed from schools, bridges and even pubs that have been named after them.
Logically then, any historical public figure whose actions were abhorrent by today’s standard should receive the same treatment. May I present Chief Maquinna, a well known chief of the Nuu-Cha-Nulth. While history will remember him best as the chief who welcomed Capt. James Cook to Nootka Sound, it also records that he was an enthusiastic owner of slaves. Slavery of course, was an established part of First Nations culture, pre-European contact, but Maquinna is also known to have captured European whalers who strayed into his territory, keeping them as slaves, and putting some to death when they attempted to escape. It seems to me that the chief’s conduct ticks all the same boxes as Sir John A. and Sir Matthew.
So, when various school boards vote to rename schools named after Sir John A. McDonald, surely the name of Maquinna Elementary school should also get axed (there are two schools named after Maquinna, incidentally, one in Vancouver and one in Port Alberni )
Last, but not least, since the Kingston pub Sir John’s Public House recently felt compelled to change its name to simply ‘The Public House’ to avoid offending patrons, should not Tofino’s venerable Maquinna Hotel follow suit ? Ironically the Maquinna Hotel bar is a favorite First Nations watering hole, being conveniently located just above the pier where the water taxi from the Ahousaht First nations Reserve docks.
Reductio Ad Absudum ?