The Unseen Danger Fallacy


‘Commonly found in the more fevered corners of political ideology are the various fallacies of danger – those forms of argument that seek to stave off decision by conjuring up all manner of horrors that precipitate change might lead to (or, conversely, the disasters that delay will engender). The 19th-century political thinker and reformer Jeremy Bentham called this “the hobgoblin argument” since it warns of mythical horrors lurking unseen by all but the one kind enough to point them out to us.’

– “Can you spot a rhetorical fallacy?” The Guardian, 13 September 2013

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Hobbes, Erewhon and Religion


‘Having planted the subversive thought — that forbidding Adam to eat from one tree lest he die, and from another lest he live forever, is absurd and contradictory — Hobbes was forced to imagine alternative scriptures and even alternative punishments and alternative eternities. His point was that people might not obey the rule of men if they were more afraid of divine retribution than of horrible death in the here and now, but he had acknowledged the process whereby people are always free to make up a religion that suits or gratifies or flatters them. Samuel Butler was to adapt this idea in his Erewhon Revisited. In the original Erewhon, Mr. Higgs pays a visit to a remote country from which he eventually makes his escape in a balloon. Returning two decades later, he finds that in his absence he has become a god named the “Sun Child,” worshipped on the day he ascended into heaven. Two high priests arc on hand to celebrate the ascension, and when Higgs threatens to expose them and reveal himself as a mere mortal he is told, “You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound around this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into heaven they will all become wicked.”‘

Hitchens. C. 2007. God Is Not Great London, Great Britain: Atlantic Books (2008) p. 156-157

The Limits of Debate Fallacy


‘An increasingly common variant of such a tactic takes the form of a self-designated umpire who joins in with online disputes by asserting their authority to police the limits of debate. They declare that if they (a typical, reasonable and fair-minded person) find something hard to understand then it must be wrong or mere sophistry; that if they find something too extreme it must be completely insane; that if they feel someone has gone too far then they must have.’

– “Can you spot a rhetorical fallacy?” The Guardian, 13 September 2013

Libertarianism versus Determinism


‘So, a lot of us figure that our thoughts and actions are free. But, most of us also believe that every effect has a cause, and that everything that happens now, in the present, is the necessary result of events that occurred in the past. This view is known as hard determinism. And [many people would argue that both can be true]; that many of your actions are free, and that the world is governed by cause and effect.

But, it turns out, you can’t rationally hold both views. Because, traditionally, libertarians have defined free actions according to what’s known as the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. That might sound like the plot device for a sci-fi show, but this principle says that an action is free only if the agent – that is, the person doing the thing – could have done otherwise.

So, truly free actions require options. Determinism, by contrast, doesn’t allow options. It holds that every event is caused by a previous event. Which means that an agent can never have done anything other than what they did, and therefore, they are never free.’

– Green. H. (2016, August 15) Determinism vs Free Will: Crash Course Philosophy #24

The Authority Fallacy


‘A lot of fallacious forms of argument cluster around the use of “authorities”. It is often necessary in argument to make use of some kind of authority – if only because we want to refer to facts and findings. But authorities can also be used as a way to bully opponents by suggesting that in failing to agree with some venerated source they must themselves be weak-minded, ignorant or wildly and dangerously at odds with common standards.’

– “Can you spot a rhetorical fallacy?” The Guardian, 13 September 2013

Mussolini’s Rituals


‘Mussolini thought the Italians needed to be hardened, and he launched what he called an anti-bourgeois campaign. And among the things he banned, or tried to ban, anyway, was people shouldn’t shake hands, they should give the Roman salute, you know, raising their arm and their hand up in the air. […]

[A] man named Achille Starace, was kind of his circus master, who kept coming up with these ideas of rituals, mass rituals and other kinds of rites that he thought would make the Italians ever more devoted to their duce, which is the kind of Latiny term of leader that the Italians used to refer to Mussolini.

In fact, Mussolini required being referred to as DUCE, D-U-C-E,[1] it’s spelled, and it had to be written in capitals in the newspapers by the 1930s. It couldn’t just be written in the normal way.’

– Kertzer, D. (April 24, 2015) ‘Pope And Mussolini’ Tells The ‘Secret History’ Of Fascism And The Church. NPR.


[1] duce; ‘leader’ from Latin duco, meaning ‘I lead’. E.g. Il DUCE ha sempre ragione; ‘the leader is always right’.

How the Greeks Knew the Earth was a Sphere


‘As long ago as 340 BC the Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his book On the Heavens,
was able to put forward two good arguments for believing that the earth was a round sphere rather than a Hat plate. First, he realized that eclipses of the moon were caused by the earth coming between the sun and the moon. The earth’s shadow on the moon was always round, which would be true only if the earth was spherical. If the earth had been a flat disk, the shadow would have been elongated and elliptical, unless the eclipse always occurred at a time when the sun was directly under the center of the disk. Second, the Greeks knew from their travels that the North Star appeared lower in the sky when viewed in the south than it did in more northerly regions. (Since the North Star lies over the North Pole, it appears to be directly above an observer at the North Pole, but to someone looking from the equator, it appears to lie just at the horizon. From the difference in the apparent position of the North Star in Egypt and Greece, Aristotle even quoted an estimate that the distance around the earth was 400,000 stadia. It is not known exactly what length a stadium was, but it may have been about 200 yards, which would make Aristotle’s estimate about twice the currently accepted figure. The Greeks even had a third argument that the earth must be round, for why else does one first see the sails of a ship coming over the horizon, and only later see the hull?’

– Hawking. S. (1998) A Brief History of Time New York, United States: Bantam Books p. 2

Incomplete Intelligibility


‘In the language which is spoken when one expresses oneself, there lies an average intelligibility; and in accordance with this intelligibility the discourse which is communicated can be understood to a considerable extent, even if the hearer does not bring himself into such a kind of Being towards what the discourse is about as to have a primordial understanding of it. We do not so much understand the entities which are talked about; we already are listening only to what is said-in-the-talk as such. What is said-in-the-talk gets understood; but what the talk is about is understood only approximately and superficially. We have the same thing in view, because it is in the same averageness that we have a common understanding of what is said.’

Being and Time by Martin Heidegger, tr. John Macquerrie and Edward Robinson, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1962, I.5, §35 (H.167), p. 212