Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Fallacy of the Day

Encarta points to two great sites on logical fallacies: the Nizkor Project, and Stephen's Guide.

Taking a leaf out of the Samuel Pepys diary-as-blog idea, it would be fun to get this stuff in daily doses, rather than as a big wodge. It's really all about application. As Stephen Downes points out, "The names of the fallacies are for identification purposes only. They are not supposed to be flung around like argumentative broadswords. It is not sufficient to state that an opponent has committed such-and-such a fallacy. And it is not very polite. This Guide is intended to help you in your own thinking, not to help you demolish someone else's argument."

Matching the Fallacies to current events is fun. For example, the claim that the absence of evidence that cellphones cause harm means that they're safe is an Argument from Ignorance. The classic "Have you stopped beating your wife?" is revealed as Complex Question, in which two unrelated claims are joined and one is forced to respond to them as a single proposition. (The two questions in this case are: are you beating your wife, and have you stopped?)

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