17 February 2008

How to Take a Philosophy Class: Argumentation and Debate

Everyone thinks logic is pretty great, and if you don't, you're a turd. That's two free fallacies for you right there. No, I said fallacies. Put your pants back on.

Why is logic so good? Certainly not on its own inherent merits! The point of logic is to win arguments and debates. Everyone likes winning, and if you don't, you're a turd. Do you have some weird inferiority complex or something?

Like I said, logic is for winning and consequently holding it over the heads of your future discussants. Logic can be used not only in an one-on-one situation, but also in group arguments and mass debates. Mass, space, debates. Put your pants back on again.

How can you use logic to your advantage? Below are five great ways, from brutish to elegant, to assert your superiority and leave your interlocutors crying softly into their copies of the Organon.
  1. Ad Hominem Abusive: Aggressive and overt, ad hominem abusive is exactly what it sounds like. Your opponent says something about Michael Jackson's Thriller that you don't like? Just throw down a snarky remark on the arguer's inability to, for example, grow their own hair or read beyond a third grade level. By attacking them personally, you show just how dumb their argument really is.

  2. Argumentum Ad Populum: Having trouble keeping down your child's burgeoning mental capabilities? Need to market a lousy product so your boss doesn't beat you with a riding crop? Want votes and support from thoughtless, allegedly law-abiding citizens? Simply slap down the appropriate variety of argumentum ad populum and watch the magic happen. By appealing alternately to authority, the masses, or tradition— imaginary or otherwise— you guarantee that your upstart opponent will find no recourse but to fall in line with what everyone already agrees is right.

  3. Equivocation: If you can't use one of the more straightforward tactics listed above, using equivocation is better than nothing. But, nothing is better than simply punching your opponent in the nose to shut them up. Which means, of course, that equivocation is better than punching your opponent in the face. Do you see what I just did there? I exploited variations in meaning to convince you that equivocation is better than punching your opponent in the face. Really, it's not, just get in a good one then run like hell.

  4. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc and Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: These subtly related methods— both non sequiturs— can be used to easily confuse and mislead an opponent, perhaps so you can land that left hook. Post hoc ergo propter hoc (or, pheph) requires a chronological assumption of causality, while cheph is a bit more free-wheeling in regards to the space-time continuum. This tactic can be used on it's own, such as, "Tommy wailed on the guitar and the puppy died, so Tommy is a puppy-killer." More fun, however, is in combination with ad hominem abusive, such as "Tammy got lupus after she started going out with Steve, therefore Steve is a disease-ridden douche-chill. Steve."

  5. Begging the Question: This is hands-down the best way to win a debate, and has nothing to do with raising questions. Suppose I beg the question while I'm arguing. Obviously, I'm in arguing right now. That just shows you how well begging the question works. Not only did I just win that argument, I probably also blew your mind. Your mind. For the last time, please keep your pants on.

With all the new knowledge and important life-skills you've just learned, you must wonder why I'd share what must surely be treasured wisdom with a bunch of hoopleheads like yourselves. The answer is simple. I'm just that great of a guy. Anybody who says otherwise is going to get clocked. No, clocked, like punched. With a fist. In the face. Seriously, friend, we're going to have to staple those to your waist or something.

4 comments:

Scottish said...

Everyone knows Thriller, and Thriller is a glorified coaster, so everyone knows that Thriller is a glorified coaster, and anyone that doesn't agree with me is a mouth-breather who's going to get clocked in the face.

Mel said...

I've always found your mom to be a satisfying end to any argument. What else can you say? You could retort with another your mom insult but it's already been done so you look dumb twice. I suppose it would fit into category one. How nice to know that the method I've been using has a name. I feel so validated.

anna said...

Andrew Koehl would be proud ;)

bethanybeams said...

Props for the Thriller argument. I will have to try that the next time it comes up in conversation.