1. Analyse the misguided reasoning that leads the villagers to conclude that the witch should be burnt in the Monty Python sketch. The ‘Witch Scene’, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, follows some very illogical arguments. It is an argument that has gone very wrong from the beginning. In this particular scene, the villagers along with a knight, come up with an argument as to why the woman is a witch. The town’s people say that she is a witch and should be burned.
The knight uses his logic and says that if she is a witch and must be burned, then she must be made of wood. He then goes on to say that if she is made of wood, then she must float, and ducks float so therefore she must weigh the same as a duck. The villagers go on to weigh the woman. With the magic used in movies, it is shown that she indeed weighs the same as a duck. They conclude that because she weighs the same as a duck, then she must be made of wood, and hence she is a witch. The villagers use their crazy logic to come back to the original conclusion that the woman is a witch. Although, through logic that seems to only make sense to the villagers.
This is just one scene from the movie that showcases the kind of irrational logic that is used throughout. There are three smaller arguments within in the main argument, with of course the main conclusion being that the woman is a witch. An argument is made up of premises to support a conclusion. Premises are the statements, usally one or more, that are used to support the conclusion (Halpern, p183). Premises are used in an argument to convince the reader that the conclusion is, or might be, true (Halpern, p183). The premises of the first argument are that the woman looks like a witch, she’s dressed like a witch and that she turned a man into a newt.
The conclusion is that the woman is a witch. The premises of the second argument are that you burn witches, that wood also burns so both witches and wood burns. Therefore witches are made of wood. Lastly, the premises in the third argument are witches are made of wood, wood floats in water and ducks float in water, meaning two objects that float must weigh the same, therefore the woman and a duck must weigh the same. Hence, the overall conclusion being that the woman is a witch.
The first error I found within these arguments is at the beginning where the villagers make the point about the woman looking like and being dressed like a witch. However, we then find out that it was the villagers that dressed her that way, and put the carrot on her nose, to make her look like a witch. This is the first faulty premise which makes the argument very weak from the start.
The first error I found in the argument is the point made about the woman being dressed like and looking like a witch. It was the townspeople that dressed her this way so this faulty premise makes the first argument very weak. The way by which they come to the conclusion that witches are made of wood is illogical. The link between the premise that wood and witches both burn and the conclusion that witches must therefore be made of wood is missing, being replaced instead with assumptions.
The two points do not connect making the argument invalid. This lack of evidence is also the problem with the last part of the argument. The assumption that things which float weigh the same amount is wrong, therefore providing no added weight to the argument that the woman is a witch. Overall, the argument was based on incorrect assumptions and the premises did not connect and were weak. I therefore found the conclusion unacceptable.
Another example of this uncouth logic is seen with the town’s people’s belief of the woman being a witch. The town’s people said that she shall be burned for being a witch, but the knight, in his use of logic says that if she is a witch, and must be burned then she is made of wood. The knight goes on to say that if she is made of wood then she must float, and that if she floats she must be the same weight as a duck. So they weigh her and from the magic of movies she weighs the same as the duck, concluding that she is a witch.
This shows the irrational logic that is being used in the movie, as well as the use of environment to draw a basis for conclusion. From this they arrive at the same conclusion they had in the beginning, that being that the women was a witch. Overall, the use of logic in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is that of a circular thinking. They all follow a circular path, which is that the original logic is stated and then the logic is broken down into processes then the conclusion is the same as what they started out with. This was the logic produced in the movie, an unusual and uncouth look at the processes of logic and how it is broken down.