Jump to content
Ryoshun Higoka

An Argument Clinic, or How to Disagree with Civility

Recommended Posts

The fact that "pics or it didn't happen" is equivalent to calling someone a liar is an important point, because it illustrates why some of these fallacies are easy to fall into -- because there are some times when they aren't fallacies. E.g., if you know that someone has lied to you before, repeatedly, then "show me proof or I won't believe you" is The Boy Who Cried Wolf. It's not a bad idea to mistrust someone whom you know to be a liar: in legalese, the term is falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus: "false in one thing, false in everything". This isn't universally applicable: someone who might lie to cover up an affair might NOT lie about a crime they'd witnessed, for example. But in most jurisdictions in the U.S., to the best of my knowledge, someone who has previously been convicted of perjury -- i.e., they lied under oath and the prosecution was able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they lied under oath -- will not be allowed to testify about something else. So while it's technically a fallacy to say "proof or I won't believe you" to someone who's lied to you before -- because you have no proof that they're lying this time -- it's not a bad idea, because that's the way to bet.

But... when you apply that to someone whom you have no reason to suspect of lying, then it's the Argument From Silence fallacy. And, as Ryoshun Higoka has pointed out, it's also really rude to be calling someone a liar based on no evidence at all. If you find their claim hard to believe, that's one thing -- "You're telling me that FFG already sent you a copy of the Core Set, months ahead of the official release date? Pics or it didn't happen!" There, there's some evidence to suggest that they are lying about this claim. But when you know of no evidence to suggest that the person is lying, then it's rather rude (to say the least) to blithely assume bad faith.


There's also a point I want to mention about No True Scotsman, which comes in two forms. One of them is a fallacy and one of them isn't. Remember, a fallacy is invalid reasoning in a logical argument. Now let's look at two similar statements:

Example 1: No Samurai would ride cavalry. (Friend: "But the Unicorn Samurai ride cavalry all the time.") Okay, well, no true Samurai would ride cavalry.

This is an attempt to defend the earlier statement by redefining the terms; a classic example of the No True Scotsman fallacy. But this one...

Example 2: No Samurai would ride cavalry. (Friend: "But the Unicorn Samurai ride cavalry all the time.") Which is why although they claim to be Samurai, I refuse to consider them true Samurai.

This isn't a good, well-laid out logical argument (the guy certainly hasn't proven his initial statement), so I often see people claiming that this is also the No True Scotsman fallacy. But in fact, the guy is making a different claim. He is claiming that there is a certain category he calls "true" Samurai, with a certain standard of behavior that one must measure up to. Otherwise, you're in the other category, "Samurai in name only". You may call yourself a Samurai, but that doesn't in fact make you a Samurai, because you have failed to measure up to the standard of behavior. Just as living in an airport hanger and calling yourself an airplane doesn't make you an airplane in truth, because you fail to measure up to the "can fly when given jet fuel" standard.

Now, this second form can still be a flawed argument, because it might contain a false premise. If nobody else agrees with the standard of behavior the guy is laying out, they will say "You're talking nonsense. Riding cavalry has nothing to do with one's birth. The Unicorn Samurai are still Samurai, because they were born into the Samurai class." But his argument might contain a true premise. Maybe it's a commonly-accepted standard in Rokugan that Bushi should do their fighting on foot, and using a horse is considered to be "cheating" in some way. The Unicorn Bushi, although born into the Samurai class, are thus breaking the accepted social rules, and may find themselves shunned by those who consider themselves to be the "true" Samurai, because they're acting in ways that are "beneath their station". (See also 18th and 19th century British society, as portrayed in LOTS of literature, for more examples of how social class was governed by somewhat rigid rules, and how breaking those rules would find you dishonored because "No "true" gentleman would act that way.")

So my first example is indeed an illustration of the No True Scotsman fallacy. But the second one, although having the same form of words as the No True Scotsman fallacy, is in fact something quite different: a statement that there are certain rules of behavior to belonging in a certain class, and that person X is not living up to those rules of behavior. And thus, although X claims to belong to class Y, since they don't measure up to the rules of class Y, their claim is false. This is not a fallacy. It can be an incorrect argument if its premise is false (the rules of class Y are not as rigid as the claimant is claiming that they are), but it is a valid argument that follows logically from its premises. And it is often mistaken for the No True Scotsman fallacy.

 

I think the reason I care enough about this to have spent an hour writing up this post is because I've seen too many cases of "That's a fallacy" used, well, fallaciously. Especially in the case of the No True Scotsman argument, because so few people recognize that it is not always a fallacy. E.g., "No true member of the Honors Society would cheat on a test. You have been caught cheating, and you are therefore expelled from the Honors Society. You may continue to claim to be a member if you want -- we can't stop you from saying whatever untrue things you want to say -- but you will not be a true member, and you will be lying if you claim to be one." That's not a fallacy. But I've seen people claim that that was the No True Scotsman fallacy, and refuse to listen to any reasoning otherwise. It was extremely frustrating. It's very important to be able to recognize fallacies, including things that look like fallacies but aren't, and it can take a lot of practice. It's worth doing, though, because the more you can learn to recognize actual good reasoning and tell it apart from fallacies, the less likely it is that you'll be fooled into believing things that aren't, in fact, true.

Edited by rmunn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ryoshun Higoka said:

It's important to also note that an Argument From Silence is different from simply requesting proof. It's always good to request proof. Where you can go wrong, however, is when the proof requested either isn't enough (Argument From Silence via Moving the Goalposts) or doesn't satisfy the audience regardless of its level of proof (your quintessential Argument From Silence).

Right.  The Argument from Silence isn't merely asking for proof or stating that someone has failed to prove their point.  It's saying that because someone didn't provide proof, this, in itself, somehow disproves their point (which is not correct).

16 minutes ago, rmunn said:

The fact that "pics or it didn't happen" is equivalent to calling someone a liar is an important point, because it illustrates why some of these fallacies are easy to fall into -- because there are some times when they aren't fallacies. E.g., if you know that someone has lied to you before, repeatedly, then "show me proof or I won't believe you" is The Boy Who Cried Wolf. It's not a bad idea to mistrust someone whom you know to be a liar: in legalese, the term is falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus: "false in one thing, false in everything". This isn't universally applicable: someone who might lie to cover up an affair might NOT lie about a crime they'd witnessed, for example. But in most jurisdictions in the U.S., to the best of my knowledge, someone who has previously been convicted of perjury -- i.e., they lied under oath and the prosecution was able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they lied under oath -- will not be allowed to testify about something else. So while it's technically a fallacy to say "proof or I won't believe you" to someone who's lied to you before -- because you have no proof that they're lying this time -- it's not a bad idea, because that's the way to bet.

But... when you apply that to someone whom you have no reason to suspect of lying, then it's the Argument From Silence fallacy. And, as Ryoshun Higoka has pointed out, it's also really rude to be calling someone a liar based on no evidence at all. If you find their claim hard to believe, that's one thing -- "You're telling me that FFG already sent you a copy of the Core Set, months ahead of the official release date? Pics or it didn't happen!" There, there's some evidence to suggest that they are lying about this claim. But when you know of no evidence to suggest that the person is lying, then it's rather rude (to say the least) to blithely assume bad faith.

To say, "Pics or I won't believe that it happened," is perfectly valid.  The fallacy comes from claiming that someone's lack of proof is somehow proof itself.  There may be times when we may notice a conspicuous absence, where one would reasonably expect proof to be easily visible if it exists, however this is usually not the case, and lack of evidence should not be assumed to be evidence of lack.

22 minutes ago, rmunn said:

There's also a point I want to mention about No True Scotsman, which comes in two forms. One of them is a fallacy and one of them isn't. Remember, a fallacy is invalid reasoning in a logical argument. Now let's look at two similar statements:

Example 1: No Samurai would ride cavalry. (Friend: "But the Unicorn Samurai ride cavalry all the time.") Okay, well, no true Samurai would ride cavalry.

This is an attempt to defend the earlier statement by redefining the terms; a classic example of the No True Scotsman fallacy. But this one...

Example 2: No Samurai would ride cavalry. (Friend: "But the Unicorn Samurai ride cavalry all the time.") Which is why although they claim to be Samurai, I refuse to consider them true Samurai.

I have to admit, I don't see any difference between those two examples.  I would consider both to be "No True Samurai" fallacies.  The whole idea of the fallacy is that someone is changing definitions or using a definition of a word that is not shared by the others in the discussion.  In both examples, the speaker is using the term "true Samurai" to try to mean something other than the term "Samurai".  If Samurai and cavalry are truly incompatible, then the term "true" is superfluous!  Simply show that the definition of a Samurai disallows the riding of cavalry, and your point is proven!  Resorting to the term "true Samurai" is an attempt to avoid this sort of proof, which is what makes it a fallacy.

I think I would go so far as to say that even the Honors Society example could easily be this sort of fallacy if used incorrectly.  If a requirement of being part of an Honors Society is that members must not cheat, then simply point to that requirement to prove that a cheater can not correctly claim to be an Honors Society member (or should not be a member, at any rate).  However, if this is not an actual requirement, then the claim is absolutely "No True Scotsman".

(Incidentally, this is one reason defining terms can be very important.  If you're ever discussing something with someone and you think you're using the same words in different ways, it is often very helpful to pause and discuss the definitions of the terms being discussed precisely so that everyone knows what others mean by the terms, so they don't think anyone's moving the goalposts or redefining terms mid-argument.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, JJ48 said:

I have to admit, I don't see any difference between those two examples.  I would consider both to be "No True Samurai" fallacies.  The whole idea of the fallacy is that someone is changing definitions or using a definition of a word that is not shared by the others in the discussion.  In both examples, the speaker is using the term "true Samurai" to try to mean something other than the term "Samurai".  If Samurai and cavalry are truly incompatible, then the term "true" is superfluous!  Simply show that the definition of a Samurai disallows the riding of cavalry, and your point is proven!  Resorting to the term "true Samurai" is an attempt to avoid this sort of proof, which is what makes it a fallacy.

If it's not shared by the others in the discussion, then it's an argument from a false premise, as I mentioned. ("If nobody else agrees with the standard of behavior the guy is laying out...") But it can happen that there are unwritten rules in society, like "No true gentlemen would lower himself so far as to be a merchant!" These rules aren't written down anywhere, so it's impossible to prove them by pointing to the definition. But they're widely accepted in society, so they are indeed rules -- and so the statement "No true gentleman would be a merchant" is, in fact, the closest you can come to pointing to the definition of the rules. And so there might not be a definition written down anywhere that says "No true Samurai would ride cavalry", and yet every non-Unicorn might agree with that statement and so they never saw the need to write down that particular rule. And thus, to make that claim explicitly wouldn't necessarily be changing the rules; it might be clarifying the rules. (Which is why the "Ain't No Rule" trope works in fiction, but in real life any team trying to put a dog on a basketball team would be disallowed. Because although the rule isn't written down, unwritten rules that virtually everyone agrees on, like "All players on the basketball team must be from the species Homo sapiens", are still rules, and would be treated as such if anyone tried to violate them.)

The tricky thing, of course, is when two people are having a disagreement over definitions, and both people's definitions are agreed on by a large group of people so they're not just making things up out of whole cloth. For example, there's an argument that often happens that goes along the lines of "No true X would support Y" vs. "The ones who support Y are the only true X, and all the X who don't support Y aren't being faithful to their religion/country/class." And neither person is making up their definition, but has millions who agree with them that all X should do Y, or that no X should do Y. I could cite several real-life examples of those, but they would all be highly controversial (since millions of people would agree with one of the two competing definitions) so I decided it would be best to stay away from specific examples for this one. But I'm sure anyone could come up with a couple of examples of such arguments without breaking a sweat. And here, neither person is engaging in a fallacy per se, because the argument is precisely about what the definition of X should be: should it include, or exclude, Y? And both people understand perfectly well that the argument is over the definition of X, so there's no accidental or deliberate deception going on either. So even though both are making claims in the form of "no true X would..." or "all true X would...", neither one is actually engaging in the No True Scotsman fallacy in this case. Because they're not changing the definition -- there's a well-accepted definition that they're arguing from. The fact that the other person doesn't accept their definition is why they're having the argument -- and just repeating the definition won't get them anywhere with persuading the other guy, so they should actually cite some arguments for why a member of group X should or should not do Y -- but the disagreement over definitions doesn't make it a No True Scotsman argument.

P.S. I admit that my example 2 wasn't the best, because I completely failed to mention whether the other people agree with the guy or not. If he's trying to redefine what Samurai means, to a definition that nobody else agrees with, I can say "Fair enough" to those who'd still consider that to be "No True Scotsman". However, I'd still want to distinguish it from example 1, because in example 1, he's backpedaling to try to keep up his claim. Whereas in example 2, there's no backpedaling and no inconsistency going on. He wants to redefine what the term means, but at least he's being consistent about it. Which is why I'd personally call it a false-premise argument rather than a fallacy, because he's being logically consistent even though his position is incorrect.

Edited by rmunn
Clarified a point

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, rmunn said:

<snip>

Except that there are clear definitions, even in cases with multiple definitions.  The term "gentleman" had a definite meaning classically, as did the term "samurai".  Essentially, by differentiating between "samurai" and "true samurai", the speaker is saying, "You are a samurai, but I will create this new classification of true samurai, and define it in such a way that you're not part of it."  This, of course, merely begs the question of why we should care about this "true samurai" classification.  The mere fact that the speaker feels the need to differentiate between X and true X is usually an indication of this fallacy, unless the speaker can actually show that there are False X's in the X category.  However, while I may then use "true X" to refer to X that are not false, my definition is still just going back to the definition of X, so saying "he's not a true X" is really just the same as saying "he's not X".

Also, just an aside, but as someone who works with contracts, "Ain't no rule" absolutely is alive and well in the real world.  If a team did decide to put a dog on their team, a ref could not disallow it unless he could point to a specific rule.  Otherwise, the team being ruled against would probably sue the organization and could potentially win big.  Of course, that's one reason official rules manuals are so thick, and have some printed rules that allow for human judgement.  (For instance, the ref could perhaps point to a rule that says a player may be removed from the game if the player is deemed disruptive, and claim that a dog as a player is itself disruptive.  There may be some rules that would allow this sort of wiggle-room, but the ref still needs to be able to point to a rule.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, JJ48 said:

Except that there are clear definitions, even in cases with multiple definitions.  The term "gentleman" had a definite meaning classically, as did the term "samurai".  Essentially, by differentiating between "samurai" and "true samurai", the speaker is saying, "You are a samurai, but I will create this new classification of true samurai, and define it in such a way that you're not part of it."  This, of course, merely begs the question of why we should care about this "true samurai" classification.  The mere fact that the speaker feels the need to differentiate between X and true X is usually an indication of this fallacy, unless the speaker can actually show that there are False X's in the X category.  However, while I may then use "true X" to refer to X that are not false, my definition is still just going back to the definition of X, so saying "he's not a true X" is really just the same as saying "he's not X".

I agree with all of this, which is why my Unicorn example wasn't perfect. A better example, that I hope won't derail the conversation, would have been a statement like "No true Christian would deny the divinity of Christ, and therefore group X, though they call themselves Christians, aren't true Christians because they deny that Jesus was God." There are plenty of people who would disagree with that definition of what a "true" Christian is -- including, but not limited to, group X -- but that would have been a much better example of a non-True Scotsman argument because there really is a widely-accepted definition of what a Christian is, which includes agreeing that Jesus was God. So yes, the statement "he's not a true Samurai" would be exactly equivalent to saying "he's not a Samurai", and the word "true" in that statement isn't actually redefining anything. I agree with you 100% here.

Also, just an aside, but as someone who works with contracts, "Ain't no rule" absolutely is alive and well in the real world.  If a team did decide to put a dog on their team, a ref could not disallow it unless he could point to a specific rule.  Otherwise, the team being ruled against would probably sue the organization and could potentially win big.  Of course, that's one reason official rules manuals are so thick, and have some printed rules that allow for human judgement.  (For instance, the ref could perhaps point to a rule that says a player may be removed from the game if the player is deemed disruptive, and claim that a dog as a player is itself disruptive.  There may be some rules that would allow this sort of wiggle-room, but the ref still needs to be able to point to a rule.)

Interesting; I didn't know that. Good to know!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do have a suggestion. Great job by the way. Enjoyed the read. 

It would be nice to illustrate how to counter such methods. Or... possibly a reference to read towards that end. Thank you for the psychology lesson.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, SavageTofu said:

I do have a suggestion. Great job by the way. Enjoyed the read. 

It would be nice to illustrate how to counter such methods. Or... possibly a reference to read towards that end. Thank you for the psychology lesson.

How to counter logical fallacies? Point them out. Do it gently, do it respectfully, and do it consistently. If somebody approaches you with an argument that seems rooted in a fallacy, ask them questions. Ask for help understanding it. Ask them to explain their position. Ask them to show you where they found their facts. Ask about their facts.

In all things, do it gently and respectfully. Understand that you can't change their mind - only they can do that. The best anybody can do is to provide information to help somebody change their viewpoint.

Some counterpoints I can relate:

Strawman Fallacy: Point out that the Strawman argument is not the argument you are having. Acknowledge their point and move the conversation back to the actual topic.

Bandwagon Fallacy: Point out that just because a number of people agree on a thing, that does not make that thing correct. Popularity is not proof.

Correlation Equals Causation Fallacy: Point out that coincidence and cause are unrelated. Ask for more information that they could provide to create the link between the two points they are trying to correlate.

Begging the Question Fallacy: This one can be tricky, but you need to dispute the begged question. Asking someone, "so, how's the sake addiction going?" to try to establish that person as addicted to sake is a cheap hit and should be pointed out as such.

The Ambiguity Fallacy: A simple definition helps eliminate this one.

Argument Against Origin Fallacy: Just because somebody discounts information because of its source doesn't automatically mean that the information is false. It's important to keep the data in context! For example, let's say there's an anti-Yobanjin scholar who writes nothing but "Yobanjin are sub-human monsters" scrolls. That scholar is an unreliable source. However, if he publishes a scroll that states that grass is green, that fact is still valid. We may not like the source, but that doesn't discount that grass is green. We can still safely discount his argument that grass is green because it's stained with the inhuman blood of the Yobanjin.

Black or White Fallacy: This is a common fallacy that can arise when people get deeply entrenched in their arguments, and the best counter is to gently point out that the choice is not a binary this-or-that choice. "Crab are brutish louts!" "Crab are the only samurai that understand duty!" How about "There are a lot of Crab samurai and painting them all with a single brush is not accurate or fair."? Nuance is important in understanding, and anything that is presented as an either-this-or-that choice removes all of the nuance.

Appeal to Nature Fallacy: This one's pretty simple to argue against - Arsenic is perfectly natural, and it's not good for you. Move along.

Ad Hominem Attacks: Just point out that it's not helpful to attack people to prove your point. If they continue ad hominem attacks, it's just going to further weaken their position.

Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy: This one is easy to dispute, but hard to actually help someone change their minds. Point out that the facts are cherry-picked, add context to the facts (and produce the missing information, if you can), backed up with reputable sources. But do it gently!

No True Scotsman Fallacy: Point it out. If no "true" person of a group does something, then what does that say about their definition of that group? Help them change the definition of the group or change their argument.

Appeal to Authority Fallacy: This can be tricky as well, because it's hard to be gentle while pointing this one out. Just because someone is an expert in their field doesn't mean that they're an expert in all fields. A Dragon fire shugenja being quoted on the ring of fire and communicating with the kami is a reputable source. The same shugenja holding forth on the best Mantis shipping routes is not a reputable source, and trying to use him as an expert in that field is an Appeal to Authority Fallacy.

Middle Ground Fallacy: While this can be appealing - trying to provide compromise by having everyone meet in the middle - in some cases, you simply can't. Point it out gently by pointing out the middle ground isn't actually the best compromise in the specific case.

The Anecdotal Fallacy: Accept that a person's own experience is important, but gently remind them that their unique experience doesn't extend to the rest of the community.

 

Anyway, there's a few ideas for you. Remember to be courteous, respectful, and polite.

And also know when it's time to walk away. If someone is simply trolling, there's not a lot you can do other than accept that this person's too entrenched to have the conversation.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
41 minutes ago, Ryoshun Higoka said:

<snip>

Excellent points.  I just want to add also that one needs to keep in mind that pointing out a fallacy does not prove your point or disprove your opponent's, especially when the other person is making multiple points at once.  I have personally seen discussions where one person made four or five points, and one of the points contained a logical fallacy.  Their opponent pointed out the one fallacy, and then refused to engage with the other points or hear any more from that person because they felt that pointing out the one fallacy meant they "won" the argument, somehow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, JJ48 said:

Excellent points.  I just want to add also that one needs to keep in mind that pointing out a fallacy does not prove your point or disprove your opponent's, especially when the other person is making multiple points at once.  I have personally seen discussions where one person made four or five points, and one of the points contained a logical fallacy.  Their opponent pointed out the one fallacy, and then refused to engage with the other points or hear any more from that person because they felt that pointing out the one fallacy meant they "won" the argument, somehow.

That's actually a fallacy! It's called The Fallacy Fallacy - it's when you presume that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has been made, that the claim itself is wrong.

And people who think they "win" arguments... sigh... you win by creating understanding, not by shaming your opponent into silence!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also - it's important in a conversation to not "point out the fallacy" - that's actually pretty rude, and just makes you come across as arrogant and self-satisfied. Instead, go to the heart of the fallacy - if someone makes a Strawman argument, simply calling it a Strawman argument doesn't get you anywhere. Instead, point out that the argument that they're making doesn't really apply to the discussion that you were having, and redirect the conversation back to the original point.

Does that make sense?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd also like to call attention to a common misunderstanding about the Argument from Authority fallacy: Quoting an expert on their subject of expertise is an entirely legitimate way to bolster an argument, which means that arguments from authority aren't always fallacious. Some people have started to call the fallacy "Argument from False Authority" to make that more clear.

2 hours ago, Eugene Earnshaw said:

No, I'm pretty sure you win if you post last in the thread.

Man, you missed an opportunity there. You should have waited, like, 2 weeks before posting that.

2 hours ago, Ryoshun Higoka said:

Also - it's important in a conversation to not "point out the fallacy" - that's actually pretty rude, and just makes you come across as arrogant and self-satisfied. Instead, go to the heart of the fallacy - if someone makes a Strawman argument, simply calling it a Strawman argument doesn't get you anywhere. Instead, point out that the argument that they're making doesn't really apply to the discussion that you were having, and redirect the conversation back to the original point.

Does that make sense?

Definitely. Pointing out logical fallacies to people also changes the focus of the argument away from what you were discussing originally and into the realm of pure logic, which is a great way to make everyone lose interest in what you have to say.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
38 minutes ago, Fumi said:

I'd also like to call attention to a common misunderstanding about the Argument from Authority fallacy: Quoting an expert on their subject of expertise is an entirely legitimate way to bolster an argument, which means that arguments from authority aren't always fallacious. Some people have started to call the fallacy "Argument from False Authority" to make that more clear.

I think it's more a matter of arguing JUST because someone is an authority.  If I make a claim about dueling based on what a Kakita duelist said, and you make a logical point against the Kakita's claim, and then I counter with, "Well he's a master duelist and you're not, so obviously he's right and you're wrong," THAT is arguing from authority.  I'm actively avoiding actually addressing your argument by simply stating that an expert has to be right and the non-expert has to be wrong.  The point is that experts are not above review, even by laypersons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, JJ48 said:

I think it's more a matter of arguing JUST because someone is an authority.  If I make a claim about dueling based on what a Kakita duelist said, and you make a logical point against the Kakita's claim, and then I counter with, "Well he's a master duelist and you're not, so obviously he's right and you're wrong," THAT is arguing from authority.  I'm actively avoiding actually addressing your argument by simply stating that an expert has to be right and the non-expert has to be wrong.  The point is that experts are not above review, even by laypersons.

This is all true. That's why I said "bolster" an argument, not "prove" an argument. An expert opinion is a useful and valid piece of evidence, but it can't prove a point all by itself, and it definitely isn't immune to refutation. It's possible to use an appeal to authority fallaciously, which is what the formal fallacy is about. But the point I'm trying to make is that such appeals aren't always fallacious.

For example, let's say I claim that black holes don't exist. Since you can't shove my face into one (I hope), if you want to prove me wrong you'll have to show me some data. But those data were produced by experts, and I don't have the technical knowledge to understand how they collected them, or to verify that they're legitimate. Nor do I have the money and free time necessary to gain that knowledge. Thus, at some point, your only recourse is an appeal to authority.

Sometimes you have to simply believe* the experts, because it's impossible for one person to be informed about everything. The world is too complex for that.

 

*Of course, it's also wise to leave an asterisk by that belief, in case the experts turn out to be wrong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another thing to realize is that debates on the Internet are usually in public fora, which means that you're not just trying to persuade the other guy, you're also trying to persuade the dozens of other people who are reading the discussion thread. There will be many times when you're debating some jerk who just will not listen to reason no matter what you say. But if you can persuade the people who are silently reading the conversation and not saying anything -- the "lurkers" -- by making better points than the other guy, and making it clear that his points are strawman arguments or logical fallacies, then that's a clear win. You'll never know how many lurkers you've persuaded, of course, since it's inherent in the term "lurker" that they read but don't post, and most Internet fora don't tell you how many people are reading the thread. But always keep in mind that even if you haven't persuaded the guy you were arguing with, and you feel like you "lost" because you couldn't change the mind of someone who was Wrong On The Internet™, you may well have persuaded dozens of people who would otherwise have been fooled by his fallacies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, rmunn said:

Another thing to realize is that debates on the Internet are usually in public fora, which means that you're not just trying to persuade the other guy, you're also trying to persuade the dozens of other people who are reading the discussion thread.

 

This is pretty much the only reason I ever wade into an internet dust-up. The number of times that I've persuaded my interlocutor to truly reconsider their position is pretty small; I'm more hopeful that my points might have some influence on the lurkers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, rmunn said:

Another thing to realize is that debates on the Internet are usually in public fora, which means that you're not just trying to persuade the other guy, you're also trying to persuade the dozens of other people who are reading the discussion thread. There will be many times when you're debating some jerk who just will not listen to reason no matter what you say. But if you can persuade the people who are silently reading the conversation and not saying anything -- the "lurkers" -- by making better points than the other guy, and making it clear that his points are strawman arguments or logical fallacies, then that's a clear win. You'll never know how many lurkers you've persuaded, of course, since it's inherent in the term "lurker" that they read but don't post, and most Internet fora don't tell you how many people are reading the thread. But always keep in mind that even if you haven't persuaded the guy you were arguing with, and you feel like you "lost" because you couldn't change the mind of someone who was Wrong On The Internet™, you may well have persuaded dozens of people who would otherwise have been fooled by his fallacies.

*Lurking* :ph34r:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...