Abe Lincoln spent time in his 40s studying geometry. He studied and memorized Euclid’s Elements to make himself a better reasoner to make himself a better lawyer to be able to support his family. Did he get a new career? No. Did he take a second job? No. Did he study law more? No. The one thing he selected to make himself more successful in life was studying geometry. Dr. Drew McCoy, in “An ‘Old-Fashioned’ Nationalism: Lincoln, Jefferson, and the Classical Tradition,” does a good job of detailing Lincoln’s study of geometry and its influence on his life. After reading Any Growing Interest in Soccer a Sign of nation’s Moral Decay (see also her own site), I think Ann Coulter should study geometry. Or is this article humor? The reasoning is so poor and irresponsible, it must be humor. Or is it an attempt to “troll,” to get attention by making people angry? If so, she failed: her inability to reason and her lack of logic is so glaring and striking in this article, her anger and irrationality so clear, that the attempted insults are made innocuous. Unfortunately, one must turn and laugh at her instead of laughing at the object of her scorn. She can do some really good writing and some really good analysis (though she has her flaws and limitations), but she totally fails here. But, pretending she was serious, let’s examine her claims. This will be a good exercise in two aspects of reasoning that geometry teaches us and trains us to do: (1) classifying and (2) thinking through implications. Her first criticism of soccer was:
Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer. … In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self-esteem is bruised.So soccer is a communistic sport of the masses, where there are no MVPs? Soccer is nothing like basketball? They are totally, 100% different? In both sports, teams move up and down the court together. And in both sports, there are those who focus on making points, and those who focus on defending. If Coulter were logical, she’d have to criticize basketball on this point, too. And he would have to make it a criticism of volleyball. Looking broader, symphony orchestras should be criticized. If Americans went to more symphony performances than rock concerts, we should conclude, by this criticism, that America is in moral decline. If there are no MVPs in soccer, then why have so many around the world heard of Diego Maradona or Pele? Or were those people lies made up by anti-American activists? Does Coulter think those people were made up in conference by Occupy Wall Street? Who made up this video of Maradona and this one of Pele? Occupy Wall Street? A communist propaganda committee? A terrorist organization attempting to bring us down? What is it, Ms. Coulter? So nor has anyone ever heard of Messi or Ronaldinho or Ronaldo? More commie propaganda? Those videos fake, too? Messi and Ronaldinho. Ronaldo. Was Beckenbauer a Nazi agent intent on taking American down? (If those links no longer work, just search YouTube or some other video service.) Coulter fails to identify the concretes that come under an abstraction. She should identify all that falls under a concept. If the angles of a quadrilateral sum to 360º, that applies to a rhombus as well as a rectangle. What’s more, to bring in another point of logic, she is blinded by her rage, or some other emotion, and gives it priority over reality: but, in geometry, we cannot start a proof with “this is how I feel.” Geometry teaches us that premises, or, in general, reality, comes first; we reason from there. Now Ms. Coulter can dislike soccer if she wants; we all have sports we like and dislike. We can and should have preferences. That is not the issue. The issue is her attempt to argue for her position: her argument fails. To bring in another point of logic learned in geometry, proofs teach us the proper order in reasoning. In her article, Ms. Coulter follows the order: she feels something is the case; she hastily finds some reason to support it; then she runs her mouth. She has the order backward: she should, as in a geometric proof, start with the evidence of the senses (the “given”), reason from there, then make conclusions or judgements. Her second criticism is:
it’s a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys.So anyone can play soccer at age 6, because it requires such little athleticism, but no one can play football that young? Yeah, who am I to believe, Coulter or my lying eyes? (Look up “6 year old playing football,” and see the amazing athleticism. Girls could be on the field, easily.) No one plays football or baseball until high school, since they require such high levels of athleticism? Not last I looked. The videos of Pele, Maradona, Messi, et. al., show more than a little athleticism. They show some pretty amazing athleticism, technical skill, and cognitive ability (decision making; feints; reading the opponent). Those players, and others, had incredible balance, quickness, agility, and explosive movement. And no girls play high school football? Girls do not play softball? Clearly, Coulter is failing to do any simple thinking and any cognitive due diligence on this criticism, too. What’s more, girls can do some pretty amazing athletic feats. Rachel Lust. (Dancing has a long history of being a form of training for warfare. Look at some moves in breakdance and compare them with some moves in wrestling, grappling, and martial arts. Read “What Ballroom Dancing & the Martial Arts Have in Common” by Lori O’Connell (Pacific Wave Jiu Jitsu Website, Jan. 10, 2013), the Wikipedia entry on Capoeira, and do some research on your own. Captive peoples have used dance as a way to practice fighting all through history.) Girls do Krav Maga and other martial arts. Strong, muscular, athletic, girls do CrossFit. Coulter is doing a poor, irresponsible job of classification: she does not see what concretes actually fit under a concept or generalization, because she does not want to. She just wants to find some reason or other to attack something, reality and honesty be damned. She needs an antidote that can be found in studying geometry: classification and thinking through the implications of what we say. We need to, as Lincoln did — and as Galileo and Newton did — apply such methods to other areas of life: law, physics, journalism, every day claims. Another criticism Ms. Coulter makes of soccer is:
The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport. Most sports are sublimated warfare.And the implication is that there is no violence in soccer? Then, as a close to home example, why are my shins not straight? Where did the bumps come from? Even with shin guards, I’d get the hell beat out of my shins. All that beating probably helped build up my shins’ bone density, though. The game we played in high school was not easy, either; we played physically; Ms Coulter’s “girls” would not have been able to play. What’s more, even the fans fight. Santa Catarina. Chivas. Copenhagen. Do an Internet search; you’ll find plenty more stories and videos. And, when some players do poorly, they can be killed. (This is a murder possibly, but, as far as I know, not certainly, connected to a game.) But that means focusing on an individual, which, Coulter says, is not done in soccer. Guess those stories are just a “capitalist conspiracy” against the “holy communist masses?” But I don’t condone the violence as Coulter seems to do. Though I hope she does not. She should also put this in terms of history, a subject she should know and use more than she does (actually, fails to use, probably by omission — i.e., deliberately) in her article. Ancient Rome was on the way down, not up, when the gladiator games and circuses became popular. Should we praise the gladiator games because they offer the “the prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury” or because they are “sublimated warfare.” Is boxing (a foreign sport!!) “sublimated warfare?” Though she would, properly enough, probably not include gladiator games and boxing under “sublimated warfare.” Her seventh criticism of soccer was:
It’s foreign. In fact, that’s the precise reason the Times is constantly hectoring Americans to love soccer.Well, that’s the real clincher!! Soccer is foreign! Ewwww!!! It’s like tennis and ice hockey and golf!!! Fight the damned sports!!! They are anti-American!! They are attempts of the UN to take us over!!! Golf is just an attempt by the British to enslave us again!!! And so we have to speak against the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown as anti-American? Horse racing is an import, too. And boxing? And are martial arts bad? Soccer is foreign like John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, Aristotle’s writings, the Hippocratean corpus, English common law, Newtonian physics, the lateen sail. And that’s a problem? Soccer is foreign like cherries, tomatoes, and the potato. No more cherries, tomatoes, or potatoes for us? And what about Thomas Paine? Or Einstein? Or the great Toscanini? Should we criticize and denounce them? Coulter’s claim is too silly to take serious. The lack of thought, the willful unwillingness to see, that led to criticism seven is amazing. Her article is ludicrous. After writing her article, in a tweet, Coulter gave us still another illustration that she is illogical and cannot think in context or put concretes under a principle properly. She said: “”More evidence soccer is for girls. Player from Uraguay caught BITING an opponent yesterday. Not punching. Not a cross-body block. BITING!” So Mike Tyson is a sissy???? I don’t think so!! You tell him that to his face, because I sure would not!! Personally, I knew someone who said he was in Vietnam who bit someone in a fight. The guy I knew was an MP and was trained in martial arts. He was out in the jungle one day, and came across an enemy soldier. In that area was just the two of them. They were isolated. The fight was vicious and bloody and to the death. They guy I knew was in such a state, such a rage and fury, that he forgot his training and resorted to primitive tactics like biting and scratching. Not “cross-body blocking.” Biting. The guy was *definitely* not a sissy. Looking at this situation more broadly, by Coulter’s “logic,” we should conclude that war is for “girls.” Ms. Coulter: will you please classify correctly? Will you please think through the implications of what you are saying? All this is available to Coulter; some she should already know. She, like us, has access to the Internet, so she can easily do research on soccer, its physical demands, and the conditioning of its athletes; she can watch videos to see the play and the players for herself. She can see what other concretes/examples fall under her criticisms. But did she? No. Her research is beyond incompetent. Objective research and reasoning were willfully omitted — i.e., she was dishonest. She violates logic on a fundamental level: she follows a blind “I want it to be,” and ignores the evidence of the senses. Logic is fundamentally an art and science to keep our concepts and ideas related to reality, to the evidence of the senses. Coulter jettisons logic in this article, and, in doing so, jettisons reality from her consciousness, jettisons reality from her writing. She has done better in some things of hers I’ve read or listened to, but here, she fails miserably. Please do not write or think as Ms. Coulter did. Do like Abe Lincoln: study geometry to learn, among other things, how to classify, how to put related concretes under an appropriate concept, and how to think through implications of what you are saying. You will also learn how to root your ideas down to the evidence of the senses and to follow chains of reasoning. It’s a practical discipline we need for success in life. An implication of this? Teachers and students of geometry should apply the methods they teach and learn in geometry to other areas of life on a regular basis. We should take reasoning in reality seriously.