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Help Me learn how to think things through systematically

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Atreides99 Posted: Fri, Nov 30 2012 9:58 PM

So I downloaded "Thinking as a Science" by Henry Hazlitt by this website and have an introduction to logic book that I got off of amazon and I have two logic questions that I'm curious about.

I've seen articles here that will say things like say they will quote a liberal thinker saying something stupid which I totally agree with and then they will respond to this by saying "that sounds a lot like the rhetoric of Sir Oswald Mosley"- though entertaining to me isn't this phrase guilt by association? 

Also I noticed that Stephen Kinsella will start talking about patent and copyright laws by saying their terrible origins is this okay simply because he is stating the facts or is this a little bad way to have an interview since this is breaking the fallacy of genealogy. Also the same could be said of the terrible origins of every public education system would this not also be breaking the same fallacy by argueing this way?

Please help me get a leg up here guys. Thanks.

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Neodoxy replied on Fri, Nov 30 2012 11:08 PM

When presenting a criticism I tend to start with the meaty stuff and then go on to talk about the more superficial negative aspects of what I'm criticizing. I find most other approaches disingenuous and questionable. In the case of Kinsella, things with a broad historical background are often talked about in their historical sense first. In the case of IP this is especially understandable since this helps us to understand what the IP laws consists of and why they are there. This does not mean that it doesn't serve as a rhetorical trick to promote anti-IP thought for reasons which aren't strictly correct.

I by no means defend any fallacies performed by anyone who agrees or who disagrees with me beyond saying this: not everyone can be convinced and motivated by pure logic alone; sometimes rhetorical tricks are necessary even if they are fallacious. What ultimately matters is the validity of the argument, even though I do generally hate criticisms which don't come out with their important arguments in a timely manner.

It's good that you're spotting stuff like this. To see the dangers of focusing on such fallacies look at the recent thread on the anti-Mises Facebook post.

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AJ replied on Sat, Dec 1 2012 12:09 AM
There are plenty of fallacies, errors, and simply inefficient acts of expression committed by nearly all thinkers. The idea is to purge as many of these errors as possible from your thinking and communication processes. Austrians are way further along at this than the mainstream, but not perfect by any means. I perceive Mises to be the best Austrian in this regard, but he certainly floundered plenty of times as well. As Hazlitt may have mentioned, errors originating from semantic issues are the most insidious and therefore usually the last to get removed.
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Also the same could be said of the terrible origins of every public education system

I've considered this myself. The point of analyzing the history of public education is to rebut the claims that "Well, if the market was so good at doing it, why did the government need to step in to provide it?"

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...sometimes rhetorical tricks are necessary even if they are fallacious.

I've noticed you do that, and I find it [insert negative word here].

Not only that, you are shooting yourself in the foot, because you lose credibility, like the boy who cried wolf too many times. Using fallacious arguments makes people think you are intellectually dishonest [which you are by definition, if you use arguments you know to be wrong and try to trick people with them] and they will give less weight to your valid arguments. "Oh, him", they will say. "He's just a smooth talking sophist anyway. Pay him no attention."

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..."that sounds a lot like the rhetoric of Sir Oswald Mosley"

If that's all they've got, they haven't got anything. The idea is what counts, not who said it.

After an idea has been refuted on its own merits, you can then point out that yes, the nutjobs and so forth are the ones who propose it.

Same with Kinsella. If all he has is that they have bad origins, bad origins doesn't imply bad today. But if he mentions it as a supplement to the logical arguments, then it's OK.

 

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Smiling Dave is correct. Something can only be a fallacy if it's in context of attempting to prove a certain point. Information can be provided alongside a point, but I wouldn't consider that a fallacy. 

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Neodoxy replied on Sat, Dec 1 2012 2:00 PM

"I've noticed you do that"

Where, exactly? I'd really like to know.

"Not only that, you are shooting yourself in the foot, because you lose credibility"

So that's why Paul Krugman has at least tens of thousands of readers and you don't? Mainstream academic discourse is absolutely bursting with fallacy, just as much as informal discourse. The fact is that not everyone is a truth seeker and people are remarkably fallible. This means that it's oftentimes much more effective to deal with things on a basic level even if it's not strictly speaking "true" or "important". For instance how many Keynesians have been born out of the basic logic "the economy runs of spending, therefore we need the government to spend"? How many beginner Austrians do you think are brought over by things which are at least partially talking points?

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"I've noticed you do that"

Where, exactly? I'd really like to know.

You don't mean where exactly did you do it, because you know that better than me. So you must be asking where exactly did I catch you. What's the point of telling you? To help you hone you sophistry skills?

But just to make you happy, I'll give you an example, mainly the very post I am replying to. You write:

So that's why Paul Krugman has at least tens of thousands of readers and you don't?

My argument was that, ceteris parebis, a person who uses faulty logic loses credibility compared to one whose logic is always impeccable. You refute that by comparing me to Paul Krugman.

Can you spot the flaw?

The rest of your argument is another example. It seems to be this:

1. People are stupid and convinced by idiotic arguments all the time.

2. Therefore a person who uses false arguments knowingly is intellectually honest and remains respected by those who know he's a liar.

Can you spot the flaw?

But maybe I am mistaken. Maybe you mean the following:

1. People are stupid and convinced by idiotic arguments all the time.

2. Therefore the price of being known as intellectually dishonest and a liar by the intelligent few is outweighed by the benefit of fooling the many idiots for their own good.

3. Everyone shares the value judgement I made in 2, and thus will retain their respect for me.

Can you spot the flaw? 

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SD,

The standard definition of credibility is the quality of being trusted. Just because Krugman lies like a mofo doesn't mean he lacks credibility. I think that he lacks credibility, and he certainly lacks credibility in the eyes of people who can see through his bullshit, but he is still trusted by millions of people and thus has credibility to those people.

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gotlucky,

That's not the point.

Case 1. What if Krugman said publicly, "I have sometimes lied in the past, and will keep on lying in the future at times, to try and convince you that my position is right." Will he lose credibility?

Case 2. What if someone trusted Krugman and later figured out on his own that Krugman was using flawed arguments at times. Will he retain the same degree of trust in Krugman?

 

 

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Then you and Neodoxy are talking past each other.

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Neodoxy replied on Sat, Dec 1 2012 6:45 PM

"You don't mean where exactly did you do it, because you know that better than me. So you must be asking where exactly did I catch you. What's the point of telling you? To help you hone you sophistry skills?"

I don't think that I make such errors, or if I do then I do no more than anyone else. I would like you to either prove me wrong so that I can correct my reasoning or state that you have little reason to actually believe that I do this. Based upon some of the arguments I have seen you make in the past (and knowing myself) I believe the second possibility is more likely. I heartily encourage you to help me improve my argumentation/logic skills, I may well be entirely wrong.

"My argument was that, ceteris paribus, a person who uses faulty logic loses credibility compared to one whose logic is always impeccable. You refute that by comparing me to Paul Krugman."

I have no problem with that in and of itself. I don't find it very useful, however. This is because there will be practically no arguments which are close enough that can even be thought of like this. My point is that people who resort to talking points will often have greater success: see modern politics and mainstream rhetoric. This is also obviously because you ignore the rest of the paragraph which I wrote

"1. People are stupid and convinced by idiotic arguments all the time."

This is an example of the massive conflation you're criticizing. I made no such argument extending to ALL people. Many people for sure, but by no means all. Also being smart does not necessarily mean that you will respond to smart arguments.

"2. Therefore a person who uses false arguments knowingly is intellectually honest and remains respected by those who know he's a liar"

You're right that you're wrong here and that this is not my argument.

"2. Therefore the price of being known as intellectually dishonest and a liar by the intelligent few is outweighed by the benefit of fooling the many idiots for their own good."

Even though your premise is still wrong, and this conclusion wouldn't follow from it, this is still somewhat along the lines of my argument.

"3. Everyone shares the value judgment I made in 2, and thus will retain their respect for me."

I don't even know where you got this.

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Neo,

If you don't use fallacious arguments on purpose, but merely approve of other people doing that [after all, you did approve, calling fallacious rhetorical tricks "neccesary" ] then I'm glad that you have resisted the temptation, despite considering it neccesary.

I for one don't think they are neccesary at all. On the contrary, I think they are ultimately harmful. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that the intelligent people are the ones who count, that they ultimately fashion the opinions of the masses, and that they are turned off seeing someone trying to pull the wool over their eyes, even if it's for their own good.

I think this thread has been hijacked enough. If you want me to give examples, send me a private communication.

 

 

 

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Walden replied on Sun, Dec 2 2012 1:07 AM

The most common problem mistake I see is people not giving criterion or importance to what is relevant and what isn't. It's the tendency to dwell on insignificant details at the expense of the bigger questions.

A lot of internet discussion falls in this category.

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Atreides99:

Please help me get a leg up here guys. Thanks.

Those fallacies are a few fallacies of relevance, which are essentially various ways an argument might rely on evidence that wouldn't support a conclusion.

Fallacies are a bit more specific than attempts to deceive in general; they are specifically flaws in arguments. If the evidence provided is not actually part of the arguments but is only mentioned on the side, the arguments won't be fallacious. The arguer might be trying to use psychological tricks to predispose you to accept conclusions irrationally, but these actions don't affect the validity of the arguments and are only a form of deception in general.

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