On Teacher’s Advice


“When you meet with opposition, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.”

– Bertrand Russell

Paraprosdokian Synonym


A paraprosdokian synonym is a rhetorical device used for humorous purposes. The compound is derived from the Ancient Greek words synonymo paraprosdokia i.e. συνώνυμο meaning ‘synonym’; παράπροσδοκία, from παρά meaning ‘against’, and προσδοκία meaning ‘expectation’.

The structure of the joke usually includes two statements, questions, or clauses; the first sentence always communicates a valid message; the second reveals the fact that the first sentence was in fact a euphemism (in a paraprosdokian synonym, a euphemism – from the Ancient Greek euphemia i.e. εὐφημία, meaning ‘the use of words of good omen’ – is usually a double entendre).

Examples include:

“Maybe we can go down together,
and go to Marjorie’s party as well.”

“We could do it together,
and collaborate on the assignment as well.”

“Are you going to give me the grand tour?
And are you going to show me your apartment as well?”

“We’ll probably be on the job together for some time,
and work on the presentation as well.”

Political Opinions


Why do some opinions matter less than others in politics?

1.1. Fact:
One person is better informed about a certain subject than another.
1.2. Fact:
One person is (because of, for instance, intelligence, education, training, experience, physical build, age, sex, psychological health, et cetera) better suited for one certain activity than another.

2.1.A. Fact:
Every activity is like a definable area of work or knowledge.
2.1.B. E.g. Fact:
For example: to kick a door one needs to know how to kick a door to some extent; to play chess one needs to know how to play chess to some extent; to practice carpentry one needs to know how to shape wood to some extent.
2.2. Fact:
A specific area of work or knowledge is a domain of expertise, i.e. something for which one person can be better suited than another.
2.3. Conclusion:
An activity is therefore a domain of expertise.

3.1. Fact:
To practice politics is to practice an activity.
3.2.A. Conclusion:
The practice of politics is therefore a specific area of work and knowledge.
3.2.B. Conclusion:
Politics is therefore a domain of expertise.

4.1.A. Fact:
Definition: ‘α is better argued than β’ means ‘α is (more) grounded in reality than β’.
4.1.B. Fact:
Definition: ‘α is (more) grounded in reality than β’ means ‘α is based on an empirical truth, as opposed to β’.
4.1.C. Fact:
Definition: ‘α is based on an empirical truth, as opposed to β’ means ‘α is based on one or more facts, as opposed to β’.
4.2. Conclusion:
That is why ‘α is better argued than β’ means ‘α is closer to that which is true, as opposed to β’.

5.1. Fact:
There are several domains of expertise.
5.2. Fact:
There are several different opinions within any domain of expertise.
5.3. Fact:
One opinion is ‘better argued’ than another.
5.4. Fact:
A prerequisite for having a domain of expertise is that opinions which are ‘better argued’ are more relevant within the domain than others (i.e. matter more; i.e. worth contemplating and talking about).

6.1.A. E.g. Fact:
Let us suppose, person γ knows virtually nothing of the Inuktitut language (an Inuit language which belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language family, spoken in mainly in northern Canada).
6.1.B. E.g. Fact:
Person γ can claim the Inuktitut language is not a polysynthetic language. Person γ does not believe in polysynthesis, senses it does not feel right, that it sounds wrong, it does not resonate within him, person γ is not a fan.
6.1.C. E.g. Question:
What does this mean for the way we study the Inuktitut language?
6.1.D. E.g. Answer:
Well, it does not. Person γ does not know anything about the Inuktitut language. The opinion of person γ is ‘less well argued’ as that of others i.e. ‘is closer to that which is true, as opposed to other opinions’. We know this to be the case, because it can be empirically proven that the Inuktitut language is in fact a polysynthetic language.
6.2. E.g. Conclusion:
Person γ therefore has an opinion that is not worth contemplating.

7.1.A. E.g. Fact:
Let us further suppose, person γ knows virtually nothing about biology.
7.1.B. E.g. Fact:
Person γ can claim evolution is a hoax. Person γ does not believe in evolution, senses it does not feel right, that it sounds wrong, it does not resonate within him, person γ is not a fan.
7.1.C. E.g. Question:
What does this mean for the way we study the evolution?
7.1.D. E.g. Answer:
Well, it does not. Person γ does not know anything about evolution. The opinion of person γ is ‘less well argued’ as that of others i.e. ‘is closer to that which is true, as opposed to other opinions’. We know this to be the case, because it can be empirically proven that the evolution is not merely a hypothesis but a proven theory.
7.2. E.g. Conclusion:
Person γ therefore has an opinion that is not worth contemplating.

8.1. Fact:
In politics, there are – like in any other domain of expertise – opinions that are ‘less well argued’ than others, i.e. ‘is closer to that which is true, as opposed to other opinions’.
8.2. Conclusion:
There are therefore opinions in politics that matter less than others.

Garbled Cause and Effect


Rhetorical fallacies are subtle errors in speech and writing. – The manipulation of rhetoric and logical thinking. The following fallacies can be categorised as ‘Garbled Cause and Effect’.

Affirming the consequent

Assuming there’s only one explanation for the observation you’re making.

“Marriage often results in the birth of children. So that’s the reason why it exists.”

Circular logic

A conclusion is derived from a premise based on the conclusion.

“Stripping privacy rights only matters to those with something to hide. You must have something to hide if you oppose privacy protection.”

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc

Claiming two events that occur together must have a cause-and-effect relationship. (Correlation = cause)

“Teenagers in gangs listen to rap music with violent themes. Rap music inspires violence in teenagers.”

Denying the antecedent

There isn’t only one explanation for an outcome. So it’s false to assume the cause based on the effect.

“If you get a degree, you’ll get a good job. If you don’t get a degree, you won’t get a good job.”

Ignoring a common cause

Claiming one event must have caused the other when a third (unlooked for)  event is probably the clause.

“We had the 60s sexual revolution, and now people are dying of AIDS.”

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Claiming that because one event followed another, it was also caused by it.

“Since the election of the President, more people than ever are unemployed. Therefore the President has damaged the economy.”

Two wrongs make a right

Assuming that if one wrong is committed, another wrong will cancel it out.

“Sure – the conditions in this prison are cruel and dehumanising. But these inmates are criminals.”

See other: Rhetorical Fallacies

Non Sequitur


A non sequitur, literally ‘it does not follow’ in Latin, is an inference that does not follow from the premises; it is a logical fallacy resulting from a simple conversion of a universal affirmative proposition or from the transposition of a condition and its consequent. All formal logical fallacies are special cases of non sequitur.

“Non sequitur: when a train of thought proceeds from A to B and back again to Q.” – Bill Griffith, Zippy the Pinhead

Simply put, it is a statement that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said; it is an invalid argument in which the conclusion cannot be logically deduced from the premises. For example:

  • It has been very cold this weekend. Global warming is a left-wing conspiracy.
  • Many people consider Jesus their personal saviour. The Bible is completely true.
  • She is a lesbian. She hates men.
  • I lived in a house without a basement; that house flooded. Houses without basements will definitely flood.
  • Wood for furniture comes from trees; trees should not be cut down. Therefore, no new furniture should be produced.
  • If you do not buy this type of dog food, you are neglecting your pet.
  • If evolution is true, why help the poor?
  • God does not believe in atheists, therefore atheists do not exist.
  • If man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

Manipulating Content


Rhetorical fallacies are subtle errors in speech and writing. – The manipulation of rhetoric and logical thinking. The following fallacies can be categorised as ‘Manipulating Content’.

Ad hoc rescue

Trying to save a cherished belief by repeatedly revising the argument to explain away problems.

“… But apart from better sanitation, medicine, education, irrigation, public health, roads, a freshwater system and public order… what have the Romans ever done for us?”

Begging the question

Making a claim while leaving out one or more major contributing factors that may affect the conclusion.

“If we label food with warning labels, it will encourage people to eat more healthily.”

Biased generalising

Generalizing from an unrepresentative sample to increase the strength of your argument.

“Our website poll found that 90% of internet users oppose online piracy laws.”

Confirmation bias

Cherry-picking evidence that supports your idea while ignoring contradicting evidence.

“It’s obvious 9-11 was an American-government led conspiracy to justify war in Iraq and Afghanistan. No plane hit the Pentagon.”

False dilemma

Presenting two opposing options as the only two options while hiding alternatives.

“We’re going to have to cut the education budget or go deeper into debt. We can’t afford to go deeper into debt. So we’ll have to cut the education budget.”

Lie

An outright untruth repeated knowingly as a fact.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

Misleading vividness

Describing an occurrence in vivid detail, even if it is a rare occurrence, to convince someone that it is a problem.

“After a court decision to legalise gay marriage, school libraries were required to stock same-sex literature; primary schoolchildren were given homosexual fairy stories and even manuals of explicit homosexual advocacy.”

Red herring

Introducing irrelevant material to the argument to distract and lead towards a different conclusion.

“The Senator needn’t account for irregularities in his expenses. After all, there are other senators who have done far worse things.”

Slippery slope

Assuming a relatively small first step will inevitably lead to a chain of related (negative) events.

“If we legalise marijuana, more people will start using crack and heroin. Then we’d have to legalise those too.”

Suppressed evidence

Intentionally failing to use significant and relevant information which counts against one’s own conclusion.

“The Iraqi regime possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

Unfalsifiability

Offering a claim that cannot be proven false, because there is no way to check of it is false or not.

“He lied because he’s possessed by demons.”

See other: Rhetorical Fallacies

Faulty Deduction


Rhetorical fallacies are subtle errors in speech and writing. – The manipulation of rhetoric and logical thinking. The following fallacies can be categorised as ‘Faulty Deduction’.

Anecdotal evidence

Discounting evidence arrived at by systematic search or testing in favour of a few firsthand stories.

“I’m going to carry on smoking. My grandfather smoked 40 a day and lived until he was 90!”

Composition

Assuming that characteristics or beliefs of some or all of a group applies to the entire group.

“Recent terrorists attacks have been carried out by radical Islamic groups. Therefore all terrorists are Muslims.”

Division

Assuming that characteristics or belief of a group automatically apply to any individual member.

“Many Conservatives wish to ban gay marriage, discredit climate change, and deny evolution. Therefore all conservatives are homophobic, anti-environmental creationists.”

Design fallacy

Assuming that because something is nicely designed or beautifully visualised it’s more true.”

“Everything Shakespeare has written must be true.”

Gambler’s fallacy

Assuming the history of outcomes will affect future outcomes.

“I’ve flipped this coin 10 times in a row, and it’s been heads. Therefore the next coin flip is more likely to come up tails.”

Hasty generalisation

Drawing a general conclusion from a tiny sample.

“I just got cut off by the woman driver in front. Women can’t drive.”

Jumping to conclusions

–Drawing a quick conclusion without fairly considering relevant (and easily available) evidence.

“She wants birth control in her medical coverage? What a slut!”

Middle ground

Assuming because two opposing arguments have merit, the answer must lie somewhere between them.

“I rear ended your car but I don’t think I should pay for all the damage. A fair compromise would be split the bill in half.”

Perfectionist fallacy

Assuming that the only option on the table is perfect success, then rejecting anything that will not work perfectly.

“What’s the point of this anti-drunk driving campaign? People are still going to drink and drive no matter what.”

Relativist fallacy

Rejecting a claim because of a belief that truth is relative to a person or group.

“That’s perhaps true for you. But it’s not true for me.”

Spotlight

Assuming an observation from a small sample size applies to an entire group.

“This large shoe manufacturer employs children in sweatshops. Therefore all shoe companies are evil child-slave owners!”

Sweeping generalisation

Applying a general rule too badly.

“Those young men rioted because they lacked morally responsible fathers.”

Undistributed middle

Assuming because two things share a property, that makes them the same thing.

“A theory can mean an unproven idea. Scientists use the term evolutionary theory. Therefore evolution is an unproven idea.”

See other: Rhetorical Fallacies