Index of Recurrent Themes

The purpose of this post is to provide an index of recurrent themes appearing in Hinterlogics. Some will be familiar topics for those interested in logic an critical thinking. Others are more familiar to literary analysis and or the ethnography of speech, being part of an effort to get a handle on the relationship between reasoning and other aspects of communication and social interaction. As a general rule, I will use the recurrent themes present in an argument as the tags for that argument. The topics are presented below along with the examples in which they occur.

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Ad Hominem: This occurs when commentary about a person is substituted for an argument about the truth of something they have said.

Examples: David Silverman on Atheist Bilboards,

Causation: This topic poses a problem insofar as we do not want to confuse the assertion of a cause and effect relationship with reasoning in the form of an argument. The word “because” can appear both as an inference indicator urging us to draw a conclusion from an assumption and an element in a causal relationship. Determining which is which can be a problem. That said, determining the exact nature of a causal relationship poses a number of problems of its own. So, causation is always of interest in studies of logical an argumentation.

Examples: Caitlyn Jenner’s Political Priorities.

Counterpoints: This term could mean a few different things, but I am using it here to explicit acknowledgement of a point against the conclusion of an author’s argument.

Examples: Caitlyn Jenner’s Political Priorities.

Dialectics: Reasoning is often a product of an exchange between two or more people . Of course we can sometimes use missing assumptions and conclusions, etc. to squeeze the points made by one party into the argument of another, but sometimes it’s best to recognize that key inferences are taking place in the exchanges between people rather than a single utterance or text. When that happens, we put the example here.

Examples: Band of Brothers – Where Are We?

False Alternatives: This is a classic fallacy. It consists of assuming only two alternatives exist when others may be equally plausible. It may also occur when someone assumes that two alternatives are mutually exclusive when in fact they are not.

Examples: A Meme of RaceBand of Brothers – Where Are We?, Caitlyn Jenner’s Political Priorities.

Figurative Speech: It’s important to recognize when the language of an argument cannot be taken literally without substantially undermining the truth of key claims. While we may admire the creativeness of a good metaphor or the skill an author uses in constructing a nice simile, for purposes of logic, we will normally want to ask what was literally meant in such cases and rewrite the sentences accordingly.

…and yes, we’re fun at parties.

Examples: First Woman’s Argument, Russell Means – Mother Earth Will Retaliate.

Genetic Fallacy: Arguments fitting into this category construe the origins of an idea as grounds for rejecting it.

Examples: Mini-Hitchens History of Religion.

Incompleteness of Evaluation: In theory, one could (and perhaps should) provide a complete evaluation of all the elements of an argument, but in practice this almost never happens. People select small sub-arguments from a larger text in order to focus on questions most salient to their own concerns, and they may skip the evaluation of entire sections of an argument to focus on others. When there is something about the argument itself that seems to invite selective evaluation, it goes here.

Examples: First Woman’s Argument.

Indeterminacy of Reasoning: One of the difficulties of looking at argumentation in real life is that it’s not always clear what is being offered as a reason for what. Textbook examples tend to be carefully chosen to avoid this problem, but here we find it interesting. Such examples go here.

Examples: First Woman’s Argument.

Indirection: Sometimes people will frame a message as though it is intended for one audience when it is clearly intended for another. This is indirection, and it happens in arguments too.

Examples: Phil Robertson’s Argument from Rape.

Interactional Eclipse: Arguments tell about something, and we use logical analysis to try and understand how they do so. But of course arguments are also made in course of social interaction, and sometimes that interaction overshadows the reasoning in important ways. When an argument contains some feature likely to make this happen, it will appear on this list.

Examples: Michael Moore’s Thoughts on Snipers, Phil Robertson’s Argument from Rape.

Lost in Translation: This refers to shifts in meaning from one language or genre to another. Here, we are particularly interested in cases herein the usual methods of analyzing an argument to assess degrees of logical support may distort the intentions of its original author.

Examples: Caitlyn Jenner’s Political Priorities.

Micro-Reasoning: Sometimes an argument is so tiny that it’s tempting to just ignore it. The problem of course is that an awful lot of public discourse hinges on just such sound bites. When the shear brevity of an argument poses problems for analysis, I’ll be putting it here.

Examples: A Meme of Race, David Silverman on Atheist Bilboards, Mini-Hitchens History of Religion, Michael Moore’s Thoughts on Snipers.

Missing Assertions: Sometimes people don’t quite spell out an important part of their reasoning. When that happens, the example goes here.

Examples: A Meme of Race, Band of Brothers – Where Are We?, Caitlyn Jenner’s Political Priorities, David Silverman on Atheist Bilboards, Elizabeth Peratrovich Takes on the Douglas Inn, Michael Moore’s Thoughts on Snipers, Mini-Hitchens History Religion.

Paraphrasing: When significant elements of an argument must be rewritten to bring the logical elements of a text out for analysis, it will end up here.

Examples: First Woman’s Argument, Elizabeth Peratrovich Takes on the Douglas InnRussell Means – Mother Earth Will RetaliatePhil Robertson’s Argument from Rape.

Principle of Charity: The principle of charity entails that given a choice between different plausible interpretations of an argument, one ought to choose the one which gives the argument the best chance at a sound evaluation. not only does this help people to get along, it helps to focus discussion on substantive issues rather than simple and obvious mistakes.

Examples: David Silverman on Atheist Bilboards, Russell Means – Mother Earth Will Retaliate.

Provincialism: This informal fallacy occurs when someone appeals to local identity or loyalty to some specific interest group in place of a more objective argument in favor of a conclusion.

Examples: David Silverman on Atheist Bilboards.

Qualification: This refers to use of hedges in restricting or broadening the scope of an assertion. Careful wording can mean the difference between a patently false assertion and one that is more easily defended.

Examples: Caitlyn Jenner’s Political Priorities.

Reductio ad Absurdum: This type of argument attempts to disprove a belief by showing either that it leads to contradiction or to a claim which is patently absurd (i.e. one that contradicts another that people are unlikely to reject). It usually proceeds by starting with the view its author hopes to refute and drawing conclusions from that assumption. The conclusions drawn from this initial assumption will (it is usually hoped) lead to some form of absurdity.

Note that the inference from the claim to be refuted to its absurd conclusions is normally referred to as a sub-deduction.

Examples: Phil Robertson’s Argument from Rape.

Redundant Assertions: Sometimes people say the same thing in different ways. It’s important to recognize this when it happens and give the same point the same place in an argument.

Examples: First Woman’s Argument, Phil Robertson’s Argument from Rape.

Rhetorical Questions: Sometimes people use a question to imply a statement. Logic students are usually instructed to rewrite such questions as statements.

Examples: Elizabeth Peratrovich Takes on the Douglas Inn, Phil Robertson’s Argument from Rape.

Straw Man: When an argument misrepresents the stated position of another individual, it commits this fallacy.

Examples: Phil Robertson’s Argument from Rape.

Transposition: This is a basic principle of formal logic. When a statement reads If A, then B, then it can be transposed into If Not B, then Not A. Examples using transposition will go here.

Examples: First Woman’s Argument.

Voicing: This occurs when someone speaks for someone else in the course of an argument. Both can be real people, but this also occurs when a character in a story serves as the voice for an author or a some other party (real or imagined). Yeah, some of these examples are going to be weird.

Examples: First Woman’s Argument, Phil Robertson’s Argument from Rape.

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