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September 6, 2013 5:59 PM   Subscribe

An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments
This book is aimed at newcomers to the field of logical reasoning, particularly those who, to borrow a phrase from Pascal, are so made that they understand best through visuals.
posted by jenkinsEar (49 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pacific ocean?
posted by Mblue at 6:12 PM on September 6, 2013


Fantastic. I'm gonna make my 12 yr old read this.
posted by e40 at 6:33 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


SUATMM! Not only useful, but adorable too!
posted by _paegan_ at 6:36 PM on September 6, 2013


Needs more walruses, but very enjoyable. Despite the illustrations, his explanations are very clear and well laid out.
posted by sneebler at 6:41 PM on September 6, 2013


Ad hominem can be trickey, so here's an easy way to remember it.

"You're an asshole and therefore you're wrong" is ad hominem.

"You're an asshole and also you're wrong" is not ad hominem.

"You're not wrong, you're just an asshole" is ad dudeinem.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:42 PM on September 6, 2013 [31 favorites]


No ad baculum. I am sad.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:48 PM on September 6, 2013


Pope Guilty: ""You're not wrong, you're just an asshole" is ad dudeinem."

Say what you want about Godwin's Law, Dude, at least it's a heuristic.
posted by Apropos of Something at 6:49 PM on September 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


"You're a white rapper, doing commercials for Chrysler" is Ad Emimen
posted by HuronBob at 6:52 PM on September 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


and...great find, my wife will be sharing this with her 8th graders...
posted by HuronBob at 6:53 PM on September 6, 2013


Now if only someone would make an animated version of dialectically bad arguments along the lines of Douglas Walton or Frans H. van Eemeren.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:54 PM on September 6, 2013


I love this.

Just today I was thinking I should write a book for Christians on how to argue with adherents to logic and science and not lose. It would be like that scene in ST:NG where Data is playing that 3D game with some alien, and he keeps getting beat until he realizes he doesn't need to play to win, he just needs to not lose. As soon as you engage them with their rules you've lost. Stick to your rules. Bring them into your game and they are the ones that can't win.

Then I realized I'd need to live with myself.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:59 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just today I was thinking I should write a book for Christians on how to argue with adherents to logic and science and not lose.

Ironically, Pascal himself could have used it.
posted by klanawa at 7:12 PM on September 6, 2013


Wonderful, but kind of proves my point.

Pascal lost that argument as soon as he conceded he could be wrong, but it was better odds to play with the house. Don't play with the house...be the house. Again, don't play by their rules. In this cae he should have stuck to his guns and said, "It's not a bet. It's a belief." The idea that a rational person would make the irrational bet is dumb.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:30 PM on September 6, 2013


As soon as you engage them with their rules you've lost. Stick to your rules. Bring them into your game and they are the ones that can't win.


If you think this is a book that hasn't already been written, then come visit me. I'll take you on a tour of our Capitol Building while it's in session.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 7:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is very good, and I'd be pleased to buy it in print when it comes out. Although it seems somehow odd to me that the illustrations switch between different modes sort of randomly (i.e. between illustrating the fallacy, its debunking, or further commentary).
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:33 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Not a Cause for a Cause"

This is what I refer to as the Sadie theory of Homeland Security. Growing up, my dog Sadie would bark at the mailman every day, and the mailman never broke into the house to murder us all and (I assume) steal her bones. Therefore, barking at the mailman is effective.
posted by NoraReed at 7:36 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


"bad" seems so judgmental.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:38 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is great! I am definitely going to use this with my writing students.
posted by Tesseractive at 7:49 PM on September 6, 2013


Just today I was thinking I should write a book for Christians on how to argue with adherents to logic and science and not lose.

Rhetorical techniques for that are already well known. For example, the Gish Gallop: bombard your opponent with so much nonsense that they can't respond item by item with evidence. I submit that if you find yourself trying to defeat logic something has gone horribly wrong with your position.

Philosophy is formal training in how to lose an argument, on the premise that it's better to lose an argument and learn something than to win when wrong. Christians who master it either become atheists or better Christians.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:50 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


If you think this is a book that hasn't already been written, then come visit me. I'll take you on a tour of our Capitol Building while it's in session.

Oh no, come to Raleigh and I'll get someone to tour you. Bring wipes.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:02 PM on September 6, 2013


There is a rabbit Neil Degrasse Tyson.

I LOVE this.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:04 PM on September 6, 2013




Pascal's Wager is great because it proceeds from the assumption that God is not only all-powerful and all-knowing, but also kind of a chump.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:20 PM on September 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


Oh no, come to Raleigh and I'll get someone to tour you. Bring wipes.

I'll come every other day, but never today, OK?
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 9:36 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was disappointed to tell the truth. I mean the illustrations are nice but when I first heard the title I imagined there would be three or four short panels per argument with maybe a few lines of text to make things really clear.

With all the prose it's really just a logic textbook with some cartoons interspersed. Not really something I can hand to a ten year old and expect him to learn from. Which I suppose wasn't his target audience, so there you go.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:21 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Required reading for mefites who frequent the forums - me too! :)
posted by Vibrissae at 10:31 PM on September 6, 2013


This is good, but it's surprising to see induction still given as the method of science when induction has been shown to be both impossible and invalid over and over again. In fact the example chosen is the worst one possible; the speed of light is defined circularly for purely theoretical reasons and has nothing to do with any number of measurements made (although it used to).
posted by pixelrevolt at 11:17 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


No fallacy fallacy, that is the most useful one.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:36 PM on September 6, 2013


A want a t-shirt with a picture of the turtle saying "that escalated quickly" (as seen in the "slippery slope" segment)
posted by ShutterBun at 12:01 AM on September 7, 2013


The idea that natural language discussions can be reduced to first-order logic does a disservice to both. As the author says, "many years ago, I heard a professor introduce deductive arguments using a wonderful metaphor, describing them as watertight pipes where truth goes in one end and truth comes out the other end." Those pipes only work with capital-T Truth; try to feed in a 'probably' or a 'maybe' or even an 'almost certainly' and the pipes aren't quite so watertight anymore. Many of these fallacies are heuristics for dealing with the real world of messy probabilities and possibilities rather than an idealized world of total certainty. Take the bandwagon fallacy for example: if you believe that other people have similar reasoning abilities to your own, and you also believe that there is uncertainty in your own observations, then it can be entirely rational to trust a consensus of other people rather than your own independent conclusion.
posted by Pyry at 2:21 AM on September 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


Just today I was thinking I should write a book for Christians on how to argue with adherents to logic and science and not lose.

Well, good luck with that.
posted by Decani at 2:49 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


No fallacy fallacy, that is the most useful one.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:36 PM

You're so modest!
posted by chavenet at 3:37 AM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


"bad" seems so judgmental.

"Wikipedia-talk-page ready" is preferred.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:50 AM on September 7, 2013


Just today I was thinking I should write a book for Christians on how to argue with adherents to logic and science and not lose.

This statement reads like you've already failed to grasp a number of the points, even in cartoon form.

In any event, a lot of fallacies are actually 2500 year old examples of rhetorical Columboing aimed at the pre-Socratics, who generally approached arguments in a nuanced,holistic fashion instead of breaking them down into discrete bits to chew through. For example, the Hypocrisy Fallacy usually isn't an actual fallacy in many of its supposed deployments.

Let us say--to pick an example at random--that an-anti-religious intellectual links his own racist and sexist garbage positions to his denunciation of religion on moral grounds. We can point this out as a flaw in the person's--let's call him Dick Dorkins--this guy's moral argument, and raise it fans of Dick because in order to make a sound moral argument, one should present an admirable moral position linked to that argument. In the case, the fallacy is not operative because the equivalent bad act is linked to the position itself. This remains true even if the occasion of debate does not include those positions, because it is reasonable to assume said positions remain in force if they are consistently restated outside the occasion of the debate--exclusion of them in the space of the argument is a mere tactic.

In short, there's a surprising amount of subtlety in the specious reasoning behind Dickishness, even if its messages are forcefully phrased.
posted by mobunited at 4:12 AM on September 7, 2013


Wait... premiss is an acceptable variant spelling of premise?!
posted by lumensimus at 5:11 AM on September 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just today I was thinking I should write a book for Christians on how to argue with adherents to logic and science and not lose.

It already exists and it is called Summa Theologica.
posted by michaelh at 5:22 AM on September 7, 2013


The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
—Richard P. Feynman.
Love it.
posted by adamvasco at 5:30 AM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd like a version with a link to each page for easier forum refutation action.
posted by fingerbang at 6:24 AM on September 7, 2013


I love how logic is largely a tool for reenforcing our own preconceived notions.

Atheists see logic as a path to unbelief. Religious people like myself see it as a path to God.

In reality, virtually every argument is premised on some assumption. You assume atheistic things your logic pipes will pour out atheism. You assume religious things your logic pipe pour out theism.
posted by vorpal bunny at 6:48 AM on September 7, 2013


This is good, but it's surprising to see induction still given as the method of science when induction has been shown to be both impossible and invalid over and over again.

Justifying induction has never been shown to be impossible, and it certainly hasn't been done over and over again. (Hume's attempt to show that justification of induction is impossible, for example, is itself invalid.)

The standard view is just that we don't know how to justify induction yet. Why that instead of concluding that it is unjustified? Basically (1) because we have not the slightest clue how to do science without it, and (2) as with external-world skepticism, almost nobody really believes inductive skepticism...so we keep on expecting/hoping that some day we'll be able to justify it. Obviously skeptics think that the rest of us are something akin to superstitious...

Some people might object to (1) because they think falsificationism constitutes an alternative to inductivism, but the prevailing view is that it doesn't, that the well-known problems with falsificationism are fatal. That's the prevailing consensus, anyway...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:14 AM on September 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


cjorgensen, that would be great. Then I wouldn't feel like such a fake walking around with this PhD in math.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:25 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is good and useful to a total dumbass like me. Thanks for posting!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:48 AM on September 7, 2013


You assume atheistic things your logic pipes will pour out atheism.

Well there's a bunch of bullshit. I know this isn't a scientific sample, but nearly all of the atheists I know (myself included), started off with at least a default belief in god, but were frustrated by the contradictions and illogical precepts in religion. They started thinking, asking questions, finding answers, and eventually shed religious belief via logic. They didn't start off looking to justify atheism. In most cases, it was a very long process, and even difficult at times, and nearly all of us (again, my circles) found it at least a little frightening at first to take that final step towards dismissing belief.
posted by Ickster at 11:42 AM on September 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


v.bunny:Atheists see logic as a path to unbelief. Religious people like myself see it as a path to God.

I think Atheists see science as a path to unbelief. The fact that logic works as well for apologetics as it does for science should concern you, in light of the above.
posted by sneebler at 12:23 PM on September 7, 2013


I didn't say justifying induction was shown to be impossible, I said induction itself was! This is due to a simple asymmetry in the logic of universal statements: if my theory is that all bears are brown, seeing any number of brown bears in a row couldn't possibly prove my theory (or even make it more likely, since nothing could rule out seeing an infinite number of contradictions in the future), whereas seeing a single black bear deductively refutes my theory. So science chooses deductively between conjectured theories by falsifying them, yeah. I don't know anything about a prevailing consensus to the contrary, but then I am quite out of touch.
posted by pixelrevolt at 3:19 PM on September 7, 2013


I'm pretty familiar with most of these fallacies and I had a hard time puzzling through what the point was of many of these pictures. I have a hard time believing this would as helpful to someone unfamiliar with fallacies as even that fallacy poster we were discussing a couple weeks ago.
posted by straight at 6:57 PM on September 7, 2013


v.bunny:Atheists see logic as a path to unbelief. Religious people like myself see it as a path to God.

That might be true. Agnosticism has been my choice. I'm completely atheist concerning your (or anyone else's) holy texts and dogma. But let's not derail.
posted by converge at 12:24 AM on September 8, 2013


I read the book but still don't get what the reference to room 12A. Can anyone explain?
posted by yulik at 2:04 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Room 12 is Abuse
posted by ShutterBun at 10:44 PM on September 8, 2013


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