On ‘logical arguments’ on the Internet

Well, more precisely, reddit (and the internet in general) is obsessed with informal fallacies. I’ve rarely, if ever, seen someone point out a formal fallacy. I assume this is because formal fallacies are more bookish and difficult to identify. One formal fallacy I’ve become rather decent at identifying is equivocation, or “the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning or sense (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time)”. However, to my chagrin, I’ve noticed that the use of this fallacy is often taken as cleverness, and the person who uses is generally greeted with lots of upvotes by people who, in all honesty, don’t care one way or the other about the argument and merely support whoever says stuff they believe in.

I’ve noticed something funny about the way people generally use the term “logic” or “reason”. Do they mean that they break their arguments down into Aristotelian terms, or some other formal logical system, and analyze the truth values of each? No, generally, they do not. Generally they mean something like “intuition”, and are simply putting on airs. I would love to see the person who uses logic and reason and decides that, after all, his views are wrong. Instead, we see millions throughout history saying “I have discovered objective truth, and wouldn’t you know it, it just happens to be everything I believed in”! Of course, I am going to draw fire for this statements. However, it is one thing to say there is objective truth, it’s another to say you know what it is.

With informal fallacies, it is unfortunately true that a lot of them are, well, common sense. Think of, for instance, correlation equals causation. Of course if something happens once, it’s more likely to happen again. That is essentially the basis of science, it is otherwise known as “induction”. I suppose that, on some level, there’s always the possibility that inductive reasoning could’ve been flawed. But it becomes massively unlikely after a while. An experiment is much more likely to be wrong because of error than random factors inexplicably overwhelming the results. It’s really not even worth considering. Humanity is engaged in a struggle for the truth, there’s nothing wrong with probabilistic evidence, as the signal will typically emerge from the noise in the long run.

However, in typical experience, I’ve become somewhat cynical about the usefulness of arguing. The arguments that people use often aren’t even particularly important in themselves, they’re just facades people throw up to shield a belief. When someone loses an argument, they usually just switch to another one. This is what Nietschze was getting at when he famously used the tactic of looking past the argument itself and merely considering what type of person would make such an argument - examining their inner motivations. Which is actually somewhat sensible, since the argument itself is so rarely the important subject. However, if you think about it, that’s an ad hominem attack, is it not?


July 8, 2012

On why Jim is his best friend…

Because he will speak up for me when I can’t.

Halloween, 5 years ago. Jim and I go to the club dressed as ninjas. My ninja costume is authentic so I have no pockets and am covered everywhere except eyes. I am a silent killer. Give Jim keys to the apartment for safekeeping since I can’t carry them. Meet up with other friends at the club.

While at the club I met a nice Hooters girl who was dressed as a nurse. Nurse struck up a conversation with me and I participated in said conversation by ninja gesturing. About 10 minutes later she asked me to accompany her home. I go with it but can’t help notice that she must be completely hammered, especially given that I’m completely covered and haven’t said a damn word to her. It was my ninja duty to safely escort her home, 10 blocks away, so I accompanied her by foot. Jim was left at club.

Nurse asked me into her apartment, but I decline as ninja senses pick up on the fact that she would freak out the next morning if she awoke next to a man who’s face she literally had never seen before; also, ninja honor would not permit me to take advantage of her highly inebriated state. With a silent goodbye nod, I jump out her window into the night. I thanked the ninja gods for first floor windows.

Back to club, Jim has ninja vanished. Friend outside club is on his cell phone and he motioned me over with a pale look on his face. He places his phone on speaker and I hear a whisper: “I’m in some bushes.” It’s Jim.

Jim explained that he presumed I was sleeping over with Ms. Nurse and proceeded home when he was lightly rear-ended by a drunk driver, which didn’t result in any damage. However, other driver was completely drunk, muscle-bound, and violent. The other driver got out his car and began to scream at Jim in a drunken haze. Said driver happened to bring with him a baseball bat and chased after Jim. Jim fled and was hiding in bushes as the drunken maniac was stumbling around trying to find him.

I bolted out of the bar towards Jim’s location, ninja running half a mile to get there. I arrived there a few minutes later and see the cars pulled to the side of the road and see that drunk guy has spotted Jim, who has now ninja climbed into a tree. The drunk was hitting the tree with his baseball bat, screaming for Jim to come face him. I run up to the drunk and jump on him from behind and apply a ninja choke. Jim sees this as his cue to ninja descend from tree and grab the baseball bat. Slowly, the drunk began to pass out. Then the cops arrived.

The cops saw two men dressed as ninjas, one with a baseball bat in his hand, the other choking out some poor man. Weapons were instantly drawn. Jim dropped the bat, all parties were handcuffed and separated. After about 30 minutes of speaking to Jim, cops figured out what happened and arrested the drunk guy for DUI and attempted battery. We’re free to go.

Hopped in Jim’s car, drove home and when we arrive at the door, find that Jim has lost my keys. He realized that he must have lost them in the bushes or tree so we drove back. Keep in mind, the area was located behind a shopping center. By that time, it was 4am, no moon in the sky, all businesses were closed, pitch black night. We used Jim’s cell phone as a light source, scouring the grass for a sign of my keys. Suddenly new cops appeared, responding to reports of two burglars dressed in black, attempting to burglar aforementioned shopping center. We were in handcuffs. Again. Five minutes later the backup squad car shows up, containing the same officers from the first incident. They recognized us and Jim stammered out the situation. Laughs were had, police assisted with finding our keys, and we were ultimately successful and returned home, 6 am.

The entire night I had not uttered one word. Ninjas are silent. Jim did all the talking and spoke for me when I didn’t. That’s why he’s my best friend.


June 23, 2012