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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

John Stuart Mill

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

Read this.

Seriously. Jason sent it to me. Great article.

I know philosophy bores many people. But read it. It’s great. And you’ll learn a thing or two. I know I did.


Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

I picked up “Thirteen Steps” by A Perfect Circle. Listening through it for the first time now. Good stuff. $2 more than I would have liked, but it’s good.

Also, I bought CKY’s newest one. Also good. A bit more metal than I expected, but I like it.

Random question — is there anything about philosophy that confuses or irritates you? Just looking for Wrestle that Shark ideas. Jason and I have a good one planned (about happiness), but I’ve got no idea what we’ll talk about after that.

I guess the point is that part of what I want to do is talk about philosophy for people who didn’t study it. That doesn’t mean dumbed-down — I just mean that when you’re neck-deep in something, you have no idea what other people think about the subject.

WTS #5

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

We’ve got a new Wrestle that Shark up. It’s Episode 5. We talk about Quantum Consciousness. Weird stuff.

Bullshit Arguments

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

Can I propose a small but affective ban on a rhetorical technique? I want to get rid of this argument:

If the roles were reversed, and Party X did this instead of Party Y, then Party Y would raise objections, but since the roles are not reversed, Party Y has no problem with its own behavior.

I hate those kinds of arguments. They are at best circumstantial ad hominem, perhaps abusive ad hominem. These sorts of arguments may even be question-begging.

People of all political affiliations pull this one. The most recent I heard was someone arguing that if Joseph Wilson were more sympathetic to George W. Bush’s politics, Democrats would have been screaming up and down that he had no business commenting on the president’s assertion that Niger tried to or did sell uranium-enriched yellowcake to Iraq.

There’s a lot to be said about the whole situation, but I’m confining this to this post’s thesis. I’ll not concern myself with the substance of the argument — just the technique.

To put it in even more simple terms, how many times have you heard someone say, “If the Democrats were doing this, Republicans would be screaming bloody murder” or “If Republicans did this, Democrats would suddenly be defenders of state rights”. Crap like that.

So why do I object to this line of argument? First of all, these sorts of claims are neither confirmable nor falsifiable because they are not talking about situations which actually exist. Or, as Sartre argued, you cannot argue that you are or were capable of doing something unless you actually did it. Likewise, it makes no sense to argue about how an opposing individual or group would behave in a hypothetical situation, because that situation never happened. Not only that, but a situation is always more complex than either sides of the argument want to acknowledge. What would result from a reversal of roles is not obvious or reliably determinable.

Second, the argument is incredibly ironic. Consider this: usually, when Party X is making this argument, they are asserting that Party Y is partisan and uninterested in doing the right thing. They are asserting that Party Y is only taking the attitude they are because of their current position. This is problematic because as long as this type of argument is considered acceptable, it can be applied by Party Y to Party X as well. They’d both be fallacious, but they’d both be equally fallacious.

And it’d still all be a bunch of nonsense.

In fact, I often wonder about people who make these sorts of assertions. Kind of like how a cheating spouse is likely to be suspicious of his/her partner. That is, people who do certain wrong things often suspect others of doing the same. So I have to wonder whether people who readily make arguments like this are exactly what they’re accusing others of being.

Now don’t take that last paragraph too much to heart. I can’t really back that up with much. It’s inductive at best. But that is kind of the way I see things, so I’m uncomfortable when one group accuses another of cynicism.

But more than these reasons why it’s a bad form of argument, I think it’s rude, hypocritical and unconvincing. Remember how mad you get when someone pulls this on you? They’re unfairly mapping all these motives onto you. But how many times have you used this argument on people, convinced that you were right?

And as I said, it’s unconvincing. Have you ever been swayed to take another position by one of these arguments? Have you ever said: “You’re right! I am an unprincipled, cynical partisan hack!” Only people who already agree with the person making the argument will agree with the assertion.

It’s a bullshit argument. If you agree with me, be sure to call people on it. Even people you agree with.

If you disagree, let me know why.

I scanned through Conversational Terrorism, and I didn’t see it there. I may recommend it.

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