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Hierarchy of Disagreement
May 21, 2008 9:47 AM   Subscribe

The Hierarchy of Disagreement: Based on Paul Graham's essay "How to Disagree" (prev), the diagram ranks the types of arguments that can be made. Not quite the same as logical fallacies but a useful guide to measure whether you're making a good argument or if "you are an ass hat".
posted by GuyZero (34 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
You could also invert that pyramid and call it "Time wasted arguing on internet/usenet/fidonet" .
posted by srboisvert at 9:54 AM on May 21, 2008


His "central point" is actually at the top of the pyramid. What an ass hat!

*waits for Nobel Prize Committee for Internet Arguing to phone*
posted by DU at 9:58 AM on May 21, 2008


Wait, I don't see fruits and vegetables anywhere in that pyramid.
posted by everichon at 9:59 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also: u r a bundle of sticks
posted by everichon at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2008


Wow, thanks for this post GuyZero!

The CreateDebate site looks very cool, too (a long time back, I had an idea almost exactly like this that died on the vine for lack of follow-through, so I'm glad to see the idea making its way into the world anyway, because it's a good one). I think this might actually qualify as best of the web for a change...
posted by saulgoodman at 10:00 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh yes, CreateDebate does look awesome, but only in a hilarious way. When you see numerical scores assigned to (and ranked above in the UI!) the arguments you know you've got a really deeply profound intellectual tool.

It's like how Hot or Not is a never-touched-a-woman nerd's vision of a dating site. This is debate for people who want to score points, not actually reach a conclusion based on facts.
posted by DU at 10:16 AM on May 21, 2008


Some of the debate topics and results are a little vexing though... For example:

Jesus Christ, Real Historical Figure or Mythological Fiction - 95 Real; 106 Fiction ?!?!

Didn't really think there was much serious debate over the likely existence of the guy who came down through history to us as Jesus, but maybe I'm not up on the latest scholarship.

And how many points do you get for arguing that the form of the topic itself is flawed:

Which extreme form of government is better, Anarchy or Dictatorship? - 34 Anarchism; 41 Dictatorship.

Anarchism, at its most idealized extreme, isn't a form of government at all, so this is kind of like comparing a basket of apples to--well, a basket of nothing.

/side rail
posted by saulgoodman at 10:16 AM on May 21, 2008


ooh, LUNCH!!
posted by pyramid termite at 10:18 AM on May 21, 2008


DU: yeah, the more closely I look at it, the more I'm afraid you might be right... i think, though, that the substantive quality of the debates will depend largely on the kind of community that forms around the site.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2008


It's like how Hot or Not is a never-touched-a-woman nerd's vision of a dating site. This is debate for people who want to score points, not actually reach a conclusion based on facts.

Or it's a sneaky way to introduce otherwise less reflective and uncritical people to the habits of rigorous critical thought and debate by appealing to their baser, competitive impulses.

posted by saulgoodman at 10:23 AM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


It looks to me that when you comment on someone's argument, you actually give points to that argument. Do I just not understand what's going on?

I wonder if a person could make a debate site that actually worked. It would be neat to have something similar to Wikipedia, but for debates. Requiring cited sources with some sort of arbitration process might get it close.
posted by anomie at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2008


I'm in the business of assigning absurdly exacting numerical scores to arguments, and I'm pretty skeptical about the practice, but I'll be using this graphic in my informal logic class.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:39 AM on May 21, 2008


From the page: "Graham postulates that all arguments falling below Contradiction are unconvincing."

Unconvincing to whom? In any case, I'm not so sure, given that many otherwise intelligent people seem to think that identifying an ulterior motive of the person making the argument constitutes a refutation of the argument, when in fact it's nothing more than a slightly dressed-up ad hominem. The existence of an ulterior motive is perhaps reason to be more suspicious and examine the argument more closely than one otherwise might, but it is not a refutation of the argument. Yet a lot of people consider it convincing.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:43 AM on May 21, 2008


I would say that there's a further aspect that could be added to this diagram to represent those times when an argument is bested through a kind of refutation-through-ignorance. A modest example has been prepared.
posted by Jofus at 10:44 AM on May 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Just because you call someone an asshat doesn't mean you're wrong--it may mean you don't want to waste the time pointing out logical flaws to someone who can't follow logic. And the distinction between Ad Hominem and Name-Calling is what, exactly, besides those asshat color choices? And the distinction between "explicitly refutes the central point" and "finds the mistake and explains why it's mistaken; uses quotes" is what, exactly, besides those asshat color choices? And "finds the mistake and explains why it's mistaken" is a mistake, because the mistake is not mistaken--the person is mistaken. The mistake is discovered. He means "explain why it's a mistake". And people who draw neat geometric diagrams in an attempt to prove that the infinite diversity of logic and opinion must fall within their anal and arbitrary boundaries in order to be valid? Asshats.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:45 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


the infinite diversity of logic and opinion must fall within their anal and arbitrary boundaries in order to be valid?

So we're denying the laws of non-contradiction now?
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:58 AM on May 21, 2008


the distinction between Ad Hominem and Name-Calling is what, exactly, besides those asshat color choices?

I think in his definition, Ad Hominem has to explicitly state a characteristic of the person and suggest that the characteristic makes them wrong. Name calling would be "you're uneducated" and ad hominem would be "I'd expect that kind of thinking from someone like you who didn't finish high school".

the distinction between "explicitly refutes the central point" and "finds the mistake and explains why it's mistaken; uses quotes" is what, exactly, besides those asshat color choices?

In the "central point" case, the person is refuting the main point of the other person's argument, rather than just a random claim in the middle of it. It happens all the time in internet arguments, someone will say something like "Of course it should be legal, people have been doing it for 30 years" and somebody else will say that the're wrong because people have only been doing it for 20 years. They are technically correct, but they aren't refuting the main point (that it should be legal).
posted by burnmp3s at 11:05 AM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not a logician or rhetorician (though I played one for a little while as an undergrad), but here's my take:

And the distinction between Ad Hominem and Name-Calling is what, exactly, besides those asshat color choices?

Ad hominem is a plausible seeming argument that relies on some kind of personal attack on the arguer that has nothing to do with the specific argument being countered--a way of dodging the actual substance of an argument while seeming to participate in a serious attempt to counter it. Name-calling is just what weak-minded little babies do to show the world that, while they may not need anyone to change their diapers anymore, their reasoning and communication skills are still sorely deficient.

"explicitly refutes the central point" and "finds the mistake and explains why it's mistaken; uses quotes" is what, exactly, besides those asshat color choices?

Well, you can point out a mistake in a specific argument someone uses to make a particular point without necessarily refuting the point itself. For example, I'm personally okay with gun rights and tend to favor a conservative approach to establishing gun control laws, but almost none of the arguments advanced by gun rights supporters seem even remotely credible to me. So, while I don't refute the central point--that gun control laws should be kept to a reasonable minimum--I dispute most of the common arguments for that position, and when the topic comes up, I don't usually offer an argument of my own in support of gun rights (although I think you can make a reasonable one based on the 9th Amendment).

But then, I'm an unapologetic asshat who actually thinks rules of reasoning, debate and critical thinking serve a valuable purpose other than just being part of The Man's age-old conspiracy to keep me from talking out of my ass, as God intended.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:08 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Name-calling is just what weak-minded little babies do to show the world that, while they may not need anyone to change their diapers anymore, their reasoning and communication skills are still sorely deficient.

Ok, that. That was priceless. I've got tears in my eyes.

posted by lysdexic at 11:19 AM on May 21, 2008


MetaFilter: Namecalling is just what weak-minded little babies do.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2008


(irony is good for the heart.)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:24 AM on May 21, 2008


It's encouraging to see a correct understanding of ad-hominem being espoused in the article. Now if everyone would just start using "begging the question" correctly, I could die a happy man.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:34 AM on May 21, 2008


It's encouraging to see a correct understanding of ad-hominem being espoused in the article. Now if everyone would just start using "begging the question" correctly, I could die a happy man.

Well, that begs the question - what do you consider correct usage?
posted by TypographicalError at 11:52 AM on May 21, 2008


DU, are you being ironic?

MetaFilter: This is debate for people who want to score points, not actually reach a conclusion based on facts. [7 users marked this as a favorite]
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2008


Well, that begs the question - what do you consider correct usage?

That's just mean.
posted by GuyZero at 11:54 AM on May 21, 2008


What do people why don't understand this pyramid think they are doing? Seriously. I do not understand the ass hats. Could it be any clearer?
posted by ewkpates at 12:03 PM on May 21, 2008


Could it be any clearer

Just tell me where the dull razor blades go, k? TIA
posted by everichon at 12:13 PM on May 21, 2008


Ad Hominem (literally translated meaning "to the man") forgoes the logos (or logic) of the argument and addresses the ethos (or character) of the arguer. It's only a logical fallacy in the most rigid sense of the and one is ususally only accused of it in extreme or unwarranted uses. Rhetorically speaking though, it is an often evoked and often effective maneuver of persuasive reasoning. An example might be, "Why are you trying to convince me that Lipitor is right for me? You aren't even a doctor."
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:15 PM on May 21, 2008


Well, that begs the question - what do you consider correct usage?

*commits hara-kiri*
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:35 PM on May 21, 2008


What do people why don't understand this pyramid think they are doing? Seriously. I do not understand the ass hats. Could it be any clearer?

You must make a distinction between people why don't understand this pyramid and people why understand it and disagree with it. Then we can decide if you're one of those people why don't understand the asshats, or one of those people why understand the asshats but disagree with them.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:50 PM on May 21, 2008



Mr. Mojo, I think that guy really is a doctor, just one that never actually practiced. Actually now that I think about it, he really isn't a doctor, he just has an md. Please ignore me.
posted by zach4000 at 2:14 PM on May 21, 2008


Jofus: "I would say that there's a further aspect that could be added to this diagram to represent those times when an argument is bested through a kind of refutation-through-ignorance. A modest example has been prepared."

A recent example of that rhetorical strategy in action
posted by Rhaomi at 5:56 PM on May 21, 2008


Rhaomi - it's the 4chan school of sophistry
posted by Jofus at 1:00 AM on May 22, 2008


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