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Contra-Sequitur Watch: Mark C. Taylor on restructuring the American University

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 15 years ago, in 2009, on the World Wide Web.

In logic, a non sequitur is the fallacy of asserting a conclusion which simply does not follow from the given premises. The world being what it is, I noted a while back that that isn’t a strong enough criticism for some popular arguments; we need a new category, the contrarium sequitur (or contra-sequitur for short), which is the fallacy of asserting a conclusion which is exactly the opposite of the conclusion that you should draw from the given premises.

As an example, take Mark C. Taylor’s April Op-Ed from the New York Times, on restructuring the American University. Taylor argues that American Universities have become timid, rigid, insular, and sclerotic. He believes that curricula and institutions must be fundamentally restructured in order to make higher learning more agile, adaptive and imaginative. And he reckons that if you want to make an institution more agile, adaptive, and imaginative, then the best thing to do is to abolish existing organs of self-management and bring American Universities under the control of a politically-appointed regulatory bureaucracy since colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated.

Oh, yeah. Of course. Because when I think of restructuring for agility, innovation, and imagination the first thing I think of is quick! let’s get a micromanaging politically-appointed regulatory bureaucracy set up to create a one-size-fits-all solution!

5 replies to Contra-Sequitur Watch: Mark C. Taylor on restructuring the American University Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Gary Chartier

    I couldn’t agree more, Charles.

    Taylor used to do interesting work in the philosophy of religion (he wrote about Hegel and Kierkegaard); then, he became cool. Sigh . . . .

    For all their flaws, universities are among the few places in which significant numbers of workers are actually able to play a meaningful role in managing their own affairs. Taylor’s remarks highlight just how un-radical, just how establishmentarian, self-proclaimed academic radicals can be.

  2. mb2p

    Doesn’t pretty much every editorial in the NYT count as a contrarium sequitur? =D

  3. Rad Geek


    Well, not every editorial.

    For example, I think that Krugman’s Op-Ed about anti-Cassandras — that is, professional blowhards who are wrong about everything and yet continue to be printed and taken seriously even after they are proven wrong over and over again — was basically accurate. The only problem with it is that Krugman doesn’t seem to realize that he himself is a paradigm case.

    (In fact Krugman would be the single most obvious example on the New York Times Op-Ed page, but for the fact that they also publish Tom Friedman.)

  4. Gabriel

    You should do a post about Krugman mirroring the excellent one about Friedman.

· October 2009 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-10-13 – On Big Charity:

    […] have some kind of problem critiquing Big Medicine (2, 3, 4), or Big Research, or Big Education (2, 3, 4), or Big Charity ( 2, 3), or Big Labor (2, 3, […]

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