Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Ten Commandments of Logic (or Rhetoric or Argument) by Justin Caouette - it might come in handy for tonight's results coverage


...I'm sure I've broken every one of those commandments many, many times, especially in the heat of verbal battle - but at least I either know I'm breaking the rules, or at least have an inkling that I've just done something naughty, only I'm not sure what. When listening to the vast majority of politicians arguing (or uttering sentences packed with buzzwords and ready-made emotive phrases that sound relevant but don't actually mean anything except for "I'm nice and you're nasty"), I get the distinct sense that, while they probably realise they're employing a shopworn debating trick, they don't have a clue that they're also guilty of making a logical howler which a properly educated 15-year old should be able to spot after a moment's reflection.

I've got Madsen Pirie's handy little book How to Win Every Argument: the Uses and Abuses of Logic knocking around somewhere, and that's come in handy over the years. But the above meme (a useful little word, despite being invented by Richard Dawkins) would cover most of the substandard verbiage produced by the majority of politicians and commentators, whatever their persuasion.

Several people were arguing on Justin Caouette's Twitter feed (which can be found here) that No. 10 -"Thou shalt not argue that because a premise is popular, therefore it must be true" - is "wrong". I'm not sure why - although during the referendum campaign, the similar and similarly fallacious "appeal to authority" was more in evidence: e.g. the Prime Minister citing a long list of organisations which support Remain as proof that staying in the EU would be good for Britain - as if the fact that a lot of jolly important people believe in something somehow means it's true.  The Appeal to Authority has also been deployed ad nauseam by climate change alarmists to advance their cause, as in: "97% of scientists believe in man-made global warming, so man-made global warming must be real."

I shall have Mr. Caouette's little list by me if I can bear to watch the post-poll referendum TV coverage tonight. Though when the exit polls indicate a likely 10% win for Remain, I will probably slope off to bed, reflecting sadly on the simple fact that lies and logical fallacies usually work better than truth and logic when it comes to winning elections.

1 comment:

  1. 11. If a person holds Opinion A and another person who shares it holds Opinion B, it doesn't mean the first person holds Opinion B.

    12. If the definition of a problem has been broadened, it does not mean the problem has got worse.