Thursday, April 19, 2012

“How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”–N.Bohr

In the past few weeks I have gathered quite a bundle of ideas that shall make up Act Two and since I’ll be getting more than mere tons of free time, a continuation is in order and can be expected shortly.

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I’ve been thinking of writing short stories as well. You know, small horror flicks where blood, guts and gore create an eerie climate and death. The usual. “There is a small line between life and death. It is amazing how long a man can linger there.” Alas, first I really should continue with the previous engagements. Yes, plural.


I’ve found that demagoguery is a fine weapon to have in one’s arsenal. It is like arguing with a stupid person – they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience (via Samuel Clemens), except with demagoguery you are the stupid person. The opposing side gets befuddled, your simple tactics confuse the eggplants out of them. A quick response is nearly impossible. And within all that confusion of the opposing side, mistakes are plentiful. This means you don’t even need your own arguments, you can use the opponent’s (or opponents’) own words to contradict their logic, which perplexes them even further. All while you find a small, yet powerful brick, with which you shine and the other side gets hit in a painful and humiliating manner. Figuratively speaking, naturally. The danger with demagoguery is that it is remarkably easy to spot.

The basis for the next paragraphs is this page, concentrating on logical fallacies. While these fallacies can be considered accidental, in case of a deliberate implementation, this can and should be considered demagoguery.

Argumentum ad hominem is one of the most common methods, which is why it is so easy to spot. This is exactly why it hardly ever works. Argumentum ad misericordiam is by far a more reliable option – people feel empathy and with an emotional speaker the audience can be gripped with ease. Argumentum ad logicam is an easy method that usually goes unnoticed. Sure, attacking the opponent’s logic is effective, leaving all of your points hanging is also a bad choice. It should be used in moderation, to avoid excessive stress on the partner’s points, in which case all the third party hears is those points. By partner, I mean the person that is trying to oppose your point of view (or whose point of view you are attempting to oppose). While this is not regular usage, I shall use it as a kind of a shout-out to a person who used it.

Argumentum ad numeram is not a wholly bad road to travel down, either. This has the downside of being a very narrow alley of possibilities of usage. By this I mean that you can hardly ever use it in a manner that does not diminish your authority on the matter. But if you can use it so, perhaps as an example that you have comrades of thought, and afterwards explain the logic, it works. However, in this case, it is no longer a fallacy of argument, but instead an introduction to the argument. Argumentum ad verecundiam is a nice one as well, I like to use it sometimes, unfortunately it is worse that playing Russian roulette – you can be blamed for using it even when you don’t and it can easily be missed when you do. This is best used to demonstrate your extensive knowledge (or make it appear that you have it if you don’t), however if push comes to shove and you are blamed for using this technique, a mere explanation (perhaps saying that since you thought everyone were acquainted, for random instance, with the theory of categorical imperative of Kant, it needed no further explanation) will do away with the accusation. Cum hoc ergo propter hoc (and post hoc ergo propter hoc) has to be used with finesse and dicto simpliciter works nearly every time, hence they need no further commentary.

A naturalistic fallacy can occur accidentally or deliberately and usually goes unnoticed, as any argument that uses it, goes so as well. Hence it is a pretty useless point. Non sequitur is a nice thing to use. Sometimes a member or two of the third party notices it, but most of the time nobody gets it, unless the logic is very bushwhacked. It is always more effective to add a hint of truth to every lie, it makes it easier to swallow. Slippery slope has to be used with caution, overdo it and people will think you are three fries short of a Happy Meal, underdo it and nobody will care. Straw man is similar in that fashion. Tu quoque is a neat one as it is not actually a flaw of argumentation, it merely states that both sides are wrong and hence there is no victor. In the case that you are weaker and have a mistake that the opposing side stresses, yet has it as well, it is very reasonable to stab them in the back with their own knife – take them down to your level and you become more or less equal again. Instead of climbing up, you drag them down. And once you’ve done that, you have the first choice to take a chance at getting back on the ladder. That is a pretty good advantage, why else would the white side win more often than the black side in chess?

Note that the last sentence can be considered a part of demagoguery, even though it is not a structural part of an argument, but rather an illustration. It carries no weight other than clarification of point. People mistake demagoguery for many things, which is rather sad. But, as everyone knows, humans are not infallible and cannot be considered as such. However, the use of demagoguery can be extremely useful in certain scenarios, especially if one is forced to improvise. To some people it comes naturally when they have nothing else to speak about, others need to think about what, how and when to use. But it is a very stylish double-edged sword – it can be used to strike the enemy down, but might as well cut your own throat. To use it properly means caution at every step. And if that caution as been taken, you can easily beat your opponent with experience.

If I remember, I shall continue on this topic sometime later and write about how to avoid getting hit with the sword of demagoguery if one prefers not to use it, but their partner chooses it as their weapon of choice.

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