The word “baloney” refers to claims which are nonsensical or absurd taken either individually or collectively. This is also the sense in which I deploy the word “baloney” in this blog.
Nonsense is generated by two kinds of linguistic disorder: syntactic and semantic. We consider the “sentence” “Harry is and not can if does too of.” nonsensical on grounds of its syntactic disorder, the fact that its grammar is awry. In this case the “sentence” is nonsensical because the words don’t add up to make any sense at all.
Now consider the claim “Colorless green bananas are standing still and running.” This is not nonsensical or meaningless because it suffers from a disorder in syntax or grammar, but there is something wrong with the concatenation of concepts expressed by the words in the claim. We understand the meaning of the words individually, but they don’t add up to give the claim coherence or sense. “Colorless green bananas” is a contradiction in terms. So is “standing still and running”. In addition, the claim also commits what is called a “category mistake”. Bananas are not the sorts of things which can stand still or run. All these features make the claim sheer nonsense.
Absurdity pertains to what is logically impossible, or what is totally implausible. Logical impossibility pertains to what is contradictory or inconsistent, or to what cannot possibly be true given what is asserted by a claim. Thus it is logically impossible for colorless green bananas to exist in just the way it is logically impossible for married bachelors or square circles to exist. Total implausibility pertains to claims which contradict common sense, scientific truth, known facts, or which have no evidence. The denial of death, or of the reality of material objects, or of the regularities of nature such as seasonal changes is totally implausible because it contradicts common sense and the known facts. Claims of alien abduction are also totally implausible because they have no evidence. The denial that infections are caused by germs not visible to the naked eye, or the denial that chemical imbalances or deficiencies in the brain can cause mental disorders, is totally implausible because it contradicts scientific truth.
It is irrational to adhere to beliefs or claims which are nonsensical or absurd. Hence, it is irrational to subscribe to or accept baloney.
Baloney is not always easily recognizable, particularly in philosophical, religious, and political discourse. Even if we have, thanks to our native commonsense, an intuition of baloney in some talk or writing, it is not always easy to explain and show that it is indeed baloney. This is very true of philosophical, religious, or political baloney which is often cleverly disguised in a costume of impressive and evocative words and concepts, or embedded in a maze of assumptions, distinctions, and inferences. Hence, the need for techniques of analysis which can uncover baloney lurking beneath the surface of impressive and evocative words, concepts, distinctions, and inferences.
Since it is irrational to assent to or accept baloney, and since, sooner or later, irrationality is harmful to our well-being, baloney is, therefore, sooner or later, harmful to our well-being. Given the direct or indirect, overt or subtle, impact of philosophical, religious, and political views on our lives and society, it is certain that accepting or assenting to baloney in philosophy, religion, or politics is bound to have serious detrimental effects on our lives and society.
So, it is very important to identify and examine the many facets and masks of baloney in philosophy, religion, and politics.