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"This Index of Logical Fallacies
May 1, 2002 2:15 PM   Subscribe

"This Index of Logical Fallacies looks like it should be required reading for anyone who wants to participate in online discussions. (Hello, Metafilterians? I'm looking in your direction...)"

This from someone named Meg Hourihan. . .I found the link useful (very) while finding the linker very condescending, in this case. I guess we can consider ourselves slapped, huh?
posted by Danf (63 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, Danf, you have no idea what you have just said.
posted by johnnydark at 2:17 PM on May 1, 2002


I found the link useful (very) while finding the linker very condescending, in this case.

I'm sorry, that's argumentum ad hominem.

Off to the penalty box for you.
posted by iceberg273 at 2:19 PM on May 1, 2002


Wasn't Meg Hourihan the hot-lipped Major on M*A*S*H?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:22 PM on May 1, 2002 [1 favorite]


Meg's a long-time registered user. I have to say that I don't disagree with her conclusion. On MeFi there's never a shortage of "therefore I'm right" conclusions that are premised on shoddy logic.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:33 PM on May 1, 2002


Danf: megnut is user #227. She's old skool, yo!
posted by mattpfeff at 2:33 PM on May 1, 2002


How dare you nip the heels of an A-Lister!! ;-)

Shame, shame shame! You are my new hero.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:33 PM on May 1, 2002 [1 favorite]


Heh. Cheers, pardonyou?!
posted by mattpfeff at 2:33 PM on May 1, 2002


Megway.

Now, the fact that Danf doesn't know Meg from a twig, I think is an interesting view. Without any history behind you, you can't make certain comments or have an attitude, but if you are perceived to 'be someone' you can..

I guess that where you were going, johnnydark?
posted by rich at 2:34 PM on May 1, 2002


Oh, and missing the whole preview thing.. I'm more old skool. 227 has nothing on me, baby.
posted by rich at 2:35 PM on May 1, 2002


Because it's Meg, he isn't allowed to disagree? Please.
posted by owillis at 2:37 PM on May 1, 2002


Uh...now, my question is: Why couldn't Meg post this herself. I guess she doesn't care all that much about all the fallacies flying around this place.

And, what Owillis said.
posted by Su at 2:45 PM on May 1, 2002


Uh...now, my question is: Why couldn't Meg post this herself.

why should she have? if she doesn't care to, fine. i'm sure she'd be bitched at with much more fury if she had written a scolding front page posting.
posted by moz at 2:49 PM on May 1, 2002


No, he's not allowed to disagree because Meg has a point. This place would be a ghost town if logical fallacies were never used. That point has been made many times here before; Meg re-stating it here to the witless and willfully ignorant is a wasted effort, as I'm sure she knows.

He's also not allowed to disagree because Meg has credibility. Not because she's an imaginary A-lister, but because she's educated, literate, professional, experienced and well-spoken.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:50 PM on May 1, 2002


"Not because she's an imaginary A-lister, but because she's educated, literate, professional, experienced and well-spoken."

Not to mention small enough to conveniently store anywhere in your house or garage.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:53 PM on May 1, 2002


So can we all now stop misusing "begs the question" when we mean "raises/provokes the question"? Please?
posted by Zurishaddai at 2:56 PM on May 1, 2002 [1 favorite]


Mo Nickels, you're kidding, right? Do you know if danf is uneducated, illiterate, unprofessional, inexperienced and badly spoken? For all you know, danf is jakob nielsen, or some other web guru/personality. What do you know of danf that the rest of us don't?

Furthermore, he didn't disagree with her, he just said that she sounded condescending. It is possible to be right and condescending at the same time.

Can I disagree with you? I'm not educated, literate, etc etc. Or maybe it's the credibility issue...
posted by ashbury at 3:00 PM on May 1, 2002


Because it's Meg, he isn't allowed to disagree? Please.

He doesn't seem to be disagreeing so much as implying the dignity of MetaFilter has somehow been offended. Which you could make a case for, I guess, but you'd need to take megnut's history here into account to do so.

On Preview: Mo, I don't buy it. There's no such thing as an unimpeachable source; megnut has made a generalization that should be resisted, not celebrated. This place is still what you make of it, and while the fact that some educated, literate, professional, experienced and well-spoken individuals like megnut -- and yourself -- have stopped or slowed contributing weakens the site, it doesn't entitle you, or her, to dismiss it entirely.
posted by mattpfeff at 3:00 PM on May 1, 2002


This Index of Logical Fallacies looks like it should be required reading for anyone who wants to participate in online discussions. (Hello, Metafilterians? I'm looking in your direction...)

Hasty Generalization
Fallacy of Exclusion
Complex cause
Composition
Too Broad

I'm just sayin'...
posted by Opus Dark at 3:01 PM on May 1, 2002


Actually, I find Meg very condescending in many of her blog posts. Her analysis of the Lord of the Rings was particularly egregious, in my opinion. But, it's just that - my opinion versus hers.

And, to me, as a philosophical point, what mattpfeff said about unimpeachable sources. Regardless of the education, literacy, professionalism or experience they may or may not have.

I saw the Logical Fallacies some time ago, and while they were interesting to me, it was more from the standpoint that the page would make a good primer for arguing circles around your opponents, as opposed to how to fight fair.

I guess it all depends on what your view of the purpose of rhetoric (argument) is. Do you feel that the point of rhetoric is to play fair and straight, or is it to "win" the discussion. I believe there are very few people who are actually so enlightened that they don't care at all about "winning".
posted by Irontom at 3:05 PM on May 1, 2002


Just from my experience of reading Megnut, I find the whole post actually dryly funny. From the goofy riff on weblog journalism to the MeFi reference and ending with the preemptive strike on the Webbies, I think it's rather light-hearted and of the "don't take yourself so damn seriously" variety.

I read Meg cuz she's really not one for angry rants: generally she's sly and her anger level rarely gets past the "annoyed" level... which is a pleasant change from MeFi. (Ooo, take that!)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:09 PM on May 1, 2002


Usually I would say being "old skool" has no bearing on one's arguments, but in this particular case, her low user number is relevant. It shows she has a history with MeFi and adequate knowledge to make an informed critique. Whether we agree or not is up for debate but at least she's not talking out of her ass.
posted by drang at 3:14 PM on May 1, 2002


And she turns a sandwich into a banquet.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:19 PM on May 1, 2002


Meg's comment strikes me as a sly, affectionate nudge rather than a punch in the gut.

[Meg is slyly, affectionately nudging Metafilter, not me, to clarify.]
posted by gohlkus at 3:31 PM on May 1, 2002


...or, to use danf's original metaphor, I could have written "rather than a hard, open-handed slap." D'oh.
posted by gohlkus at 3:32 PM on May 1, 2002


Logic is to thought what morality is to conduct.
posted by quercus at 3:33 PM on May 1, 2002


Danf, thanks for being the one to prove the rule. Someone had to do it.
posted by kfury at 3:42 PM on May 1, 2002


On an unrelated topic: Danf, did you discover Metafilter because of 9/11? I noticed that's when you signed up.

Matthowie, it'd be interesting to see a graph of user registrations over time. Personally, I'd like to see if news-heavy times induce more people to turn to alternative, or at least individual, media outlets like MeFi...
posted by kfury at 3:44 PM on May 1, 2002


glad epistemic naivety wasn't on that list. i was getting worried.
posted by clavdivs at 3:50 PM on May 1, 2002


i'm glad i'm not an asshole-list blogger.
posted by quonsar at 3:51 PM on May 1, 2002


I thought she posted it with a wink this way. I mean compared to her tip to writing a weblog article, the weblog article is somewhat more mean-spirited (if not more true). And besides she is an, if not "THE", "A-lister" and therefore only allowed to be criticized by the "warbloggers." (That's the rule, isn't it?)
posted by rodz at 3:55 PM on May 1, 2002


Bah, humbug.

Though I like the style over substance fallacy mentioned, as it's often the basis of the existence of so many blogs. Wait, that was just a catty remark. But I don't see "being a bitch" on the fallacy list.

I suppose the "Metafilter user number" argument falls under some kind appeal to authority, or perhaps appeal to seniority. Anyway, I find that argument popping up a great deal. I'm not quite sure what that has to do with anything. I also want to see the "incorrect spelling" or "faulty grammar" fallacy mentioned as well. I think there's some net-specific fallacies that merits its own special list.
posted by meep at 4:05 PM on May 1, 2002


Of course I was kidding, you humorless fucks. Of course you can disagree with Meg. See what I mean about "willfully ignorant"?
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:10 PM on May 1, 2002


glad epistemic naivety wasn't on that list. i was getting worried.
Heh.
I'm just glad "Cross-species Bifurcation" wasn't tagged.
posted by Opus Dark at 4:11 PM on May 1, 2002


Mo Nickels: Fallacy of Provocation
posted by vacapinta at 4:16 PM on May 1, 2002


"Cross-species Bifurcation" =4xfurcation. (KIAs' new SUV)
posted by clavdivs at 4:25 PM on May 1, 2002


I agree with DanF. We don't need anyone, an "A-list" metafilerian or not, "nudging" us, directly or not.

It would be similar to me saying, "Hey, everyone in Meg's family, you'd do well to stop whoring around and read the Bible for some moral direction!" Well, maybe not as insanely put as that, but you get the idea.

Who the hell needs such nudging? I took logic in college and minored in philosophy. I don't need this sort of paternalistic crap, hence the reason I'm an adult, not a child.
posted by yarf at 4:41 PM on May 1, 2002


Wow. I hadn't realized until just now how very much MetaFilter has changed over the past year or two.

As I recall, when I first stumbled upon MetaFilter, the "About" page said something to the effect of: "discussions around here tend to run intelligent and civil". Intelligent and civil. I'll let you decide for yourself whether that description still applies.

Also: I like Meg's posting style quite a bit. It's painfully obvious that her comment wasn't intended to be an insult. Those who had their ire raised need to lighten up.
posted by gd779 at 4:44 PM on May 1, 2002


Meg's family is not a bunch of filthy whores, for the record. Though her boyfriend is, alas, a filthy whore.
posted by anildash at 4:53 PM on May 1, 2002


i don't really see much value to encouraging Mefi'ers to use more formal logic. anyone with half a brain can use formal logic to tear apart anyone else's posts. usually the "fallacy" triumpantly pointed out by the attacker is the result of careless wording or limited time to flesh out an argument rather than some deep flaw in the poster's reasoning. I actually find posts labeling other people's arguments as formal logical fallacies (that's a straw man! that 's a false dicotomy! you're begging the question!) more irritating than the logical fallacies themselves.

It seems to me that most stupid posts are the result of people pretending they are experts on topics they actually know little about.
posted by boltman at 5:11 PM on May 1, 2002


i don't think the friendly nudge was intended to get mefi'ers to use more formal logic; i think it was intended to get mefi'ers to use any logic whatsoever.
posted by pikachulolita at 5:18 PM on May 1, 2002


Someone posted the following:

"I saw the Logical Fallacies some time ago, and while they were interesting to me, it was more from the standpoint that the page would make a good primer for arguing circles around your opponents, as opposed to how to fight fair. "

From the site:

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. When you are establishing your own ideas and beliefs, evaluate them in the light of the fallacies described here.

When evaluating the ideas and arguments proposed to you by others, keep in mind that you need to prove that the others' reasoning is fallacious. That is why there is a 'proof' section in the description of each fallacy. The 'proof' section is intended to give you a mechanism for showing that the reasoning is flawed. Apply the methodology described in the 'proof' section to the passage in question. Construct your own argument. Use this argument - not the name of the fallacy - to respond
.

This is a great site, I liked it so much I'm mirroring it on my own site. "no self link" The point is that it needn't be used just to argue circles around your opponent. It is arguably more useful in analyzing your own posts before you make them.
posted by onegoodmove at 5:30 PM on May 1, 2002


I don't need this sort of paternalistic crap, hence the reason I'm an adult, not a child.

Yarf: You became an adult for a reason? Weird. I became one because time passed.
posted by rcade at 5:45 PM on May 1, 2002


Of course I was kidding, you humorless fucks. ... See what I mean about "willfully ignorant"?

Now there, folks, is a display of rigorous thinking to behold and admire. It ain't too often you see someone disclaim something they say and take credit for its perspicacity at the same time. ... Salutations, Mo Nickels.

They are not supposed to be flung around like argumentative broadswords.

onegoodmove, you are going to deprive everyone of their favorite sport!
posted by mattpfeff at 5:55 PM on May 1, 2002


you humorless fucks

large, on white, short sleeves, please.
posted by yhbc at 8:04 PM on May 1, 2002


Every single one of you, and the general population of Metafilter, are ignoramouses unable to conceive that someone else may have an opinion different from yours that is valid, and should challenge the way you actually think about things yourself. You refuse to let go of your own ideas and opinions and instead find as many ways to belittle a person when your own supposed truths are so fractured they couldn't support a piece of lint.

Well, maybe not all of you. But those of you who don't know who you are.. well, there you are.
posted by rich at 8:31 PM on May 1, 2002


So can we all now stop misusing "begs the question" when we mean "raises/provokes the question"? Please?

Amen, Zurishaddai.
posted by Hankins at 8:43 PM on May 1, 2002


Every single one of you, and the general population of Metafilter, are ignoramouses unable to conceive that someone else may have an opinion different from yours that is valid, and should challenge the way you actually think about things yourself

rdr has redeemed us all.
posted by vacapinta at 8:55 PM on May 1, 2002


boltman:

I actually find posts labeling other people's arguments as formal logical fallacies (that's a straw man! that 's a false dicotomy! you're begging the question!) more irritating than the logical fallacies themselves.

when i was small, my brother and i would get into arguments. he would ask me why i wanted to play this video game or see this movie, and i would tell him, "because." he would then ask "because why?" i would respond: "because because." he would respond: "because because why?" we would go on until we got bored.
posted by moz at 9:11 PM on May 1, 2002


Arguments sometimes have nothing to do with Logic. And perhaps sometimes shouldn't have anything to do with it.

Whatever Meg's position - metafilter, to me, is not only about arguments but the sharing of ideas. Sometimes those ideas are embedded in arguments, sometimes in badly formed arguments; but that does not mean the ideas should not be shared. Indeed, it means more that those ideas are rooted out and given proper criticism.

Maybe logical fallacies are rampant here - oh well. Would it be better to lose the ideas for the sake of following a particular form? I'm not so sure.

"Logic is like the sword—those who appeal to it, shall perish by it"

- Samuel Butler

“Though logic-choppers rule the town,
And every man and maid and boy
Has marked a distant object down,
An aimless joy is a pure joy”

- William Butler Yeats

“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

- Lewis Carroll
posted by alethe at 9:50 PM on May 1, 2002


From the how to use the index page of the Logical Guide to Fallacies

Finally - a point about logic and truth.

The idea of logic is truth preservation. What that means is that if you start with true beliefs, your reasoning will not lead you to false conclusions.

But logic does not generate true beliefs. There's no easy way to do that
.

A distinction that is sometimes missed.
posted by onegoodmove at 10:08 PM on May 1, 2002


There's another similar (more comprehensive) list at http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html.
posted by mstillwell at 11:52 PM on May 1, 2002


"...her low user number is relevant. It shows she has a history with MeFi and adequate knowledge to make an informed critique."

Uh, not necessarily. It shows only that she registered with MeFi very early, but does not at all indicate that she has "a history" or "adequate knowledge" about Mefi, its users, its customs & courtesies, etc. I'm sure there are some low-number users who signed up, got bored, and moved on. I don't if that's true with Meg (too lazy to look her up in index), but I just wanted to point out that there is not necessarily a direct link between low-user ID and MeFi history. Isn't that what the FPP for this thread is supposed to remind us...?
posted by davidmsc at 6:50 AM on May 2, 2002


I am glad that these days the so-called "A-list" are far less important then they were before. This society loves to reward and study the lucky in order reinforce narritives of achievment.
posted by johnnydark at 6:53 AM on May 2, 2002


Wow, that really hurt my eyes.
posted by elgoose at 7:24 AM on May 2, 2002


Zach is an a-lister?

I thought he was with the bizzaro world a-listers like sjc and me.
posted by rich at 7:25 AM on May 2, 2002


Gosh. . .I had no idea that this firestorm of posts would be unleashed. Apparently I did something equivalent to crapping in the reliquary.

1. I thought that the link was worth posting, and that it had relevance to this group. The comment about the fact that I found it condescending was seconday.

2. I have nothing against Meg. I've even used her lentil soup recipe. If I was only dimly aware of her "somebody" status, I'm well aware of that now. I suspect she is getting a little merriment out of this thread and I hope that she is not offended by the original post. But then I'd be distressed if I offended anyone (well maybe Settle would be an exception to that. . *smile*).

3. My sign-up date was on or around 9/11 although I was trying to figure it out since August. .there was a freeze in signups, or I just didn't know how. . .I can't remember. So how about Matt just eliminates me and everyone who has signed up after me (whenever that was) then you'll have solved the Newbie Problem, Le Pen-style.

4. Kevin, apparently my obtuseness knows no bounds. What rule did I just prove?
posted by Danf at 7:39 AM on May 2, 2002


Now there, folks, is a display of rigorous thinking to behold and admire. It ain't too often you see someone disclaim something they say and take credit for its perspicacity at the same time. ... Salutations, Mo Nickels.

Matt: Note that I was kidding about not being allowed to disagree. Not the willful ignorance part, of which you provide another good example. Everybody else figured it out, you pretender to intellectualism: by cherry-picking only those things which you can intentionally misinterpret, you allow yourself to buck up your flagging self-worth through disclosing what you believe to be a factual revelation, but which was, in truth, the first thought any thinking person had long since discarded as useless. Give it up and go back to parsing the Times.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:58 AM on May 2, 2002


Down with lists!
Up with Venn Diagrams!

(repeat)
posted by iceberg273 at 8:04 AM on May 2, 2002


Note that I was kidding about not being allowed to disagree. Not the willful ignorance part, of which you provide another good example. Everybody else figured it out, you pretender to intellectualism

Mo! You protest too much! If any posts here have the pretense of intellectualism, surely they are yours, which, instead of addressing what people have said, address your dim yet unfounded views of those who posted them. Please note that I haven't said a single thing about your person (well, actually, strike that -- I said you were an educated, literate, professional, experienced and well-spoken individual; I may have to reconsider). You, on the other hand, persist in calling me a "humorless fuck" and a "pretender to intellectualism" and presume to know how I feel about my own worth. I won't bother disputing you, of course; you haven't made a case.

Now, as to what's actually been said. I can take a joke, and I did -- I simply observed that, if you were kidding, you dropped your solitary jest in among earnest remarks. This is a confusing sort of rhetoric, and I will fall for it every time -- especially if the writer is known to have certain feelings towards his subject, and he fails to give a single clue that he jests. As for what you perceive as pseudo-intellectualism, you might in fact be correct -- my response to your "humorless fucks" crack was indeed tongue-in-cheek; having been called one, I felt bound to act fittingly -- and did so deliberately.

As for slighting what I do on my own website, give me a break. It's an amusement in which I've invested nothing but leisure time, and which makes no claims to quality. Your trying to put me down by attacking it is certainly rude, but even more ineffectual; who the fuck cares?

I have nothing against you, Mo; I'm very sorry you're taking what is just a simple misunderstanding personally. But, fuck, man -- if you just assume that anyone here who isn't completely hip to your every jest, and sympathetic to your every view, is a dumb fuck, well, why bother? It's not hard to make anyone look bad; but what's the point?
posted by mattpfeff at 9:15 AM on May 2, 2002


See now, this is why we should be using inline tags. ~They've never confused anyone!!~
posted by daveadams at 9:25 AM on May 2, 2002


As one of the other humorless fucks, I concur with mattpfeff. I had no way of knowing that you were kidding. Unfortunately, dry, sarcastic humor a la British wit doesn't translate very well onto monitor. Without the gestures and tone of voice, it's impossible to know when somebody is being jocular or earnest. You may say that the position you took was ridiculously obvious to everyone as being false, yet people do have strident and extreme opinions, as is seen in many threads in Metafilter. How was I supposed to know?

daveadams, I agree with you too.
posted by ashbury at 9:50 AM on May 2, 2002


The best MeFi threads read like your brain processes. Enabling understanding and empathy of arguments via intelligent debate. Broadening the general understanding, if you will. Sometimes the best way to understand is to argue against yourself. NOW STOP BITCHSLAPPING!!
posted by boneybaloney at 1:14 PM on May 2, 2002


Oh dear.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:27 PM on May 2, 2002


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