People who use the language, but not the rules, of rhetoric

Have you ever been in argument with someone who has a handlist of rhetorical terms, but no idea what the definitions are? Is there someone out there telling them they can win any argument if they learn about these common informal fallacies, but they don’t bother reading past the heading?

You make a long and putatitive post on some subject… say, chili recipes. You think chili shoud be cooked for 4-6 hours in crock pot. Mr. Opponent, likes to make it in a pressure cooker for 75 minutes, so he accuses you of one sidedness and wishful thinking. When you say you prefer pinto beans to kidney beans, he says, “that is black and white thinking,” When you say that in any case we should all agree that ground cumin is a must, he writes, “that’s another strawman argument.” When you talk about chopping the onion by hand instead of using a food processor because you don’t want to liquify the onion, he submits that you are “begging the question,” and perhaps “denying the antecedent” in the bargain.

Really, nothing is better than logic (formal and informal) for engaging a debate, but lately these clods throw the terms around just as casually as any other insult “you’re a moron and your mother dresses you funny, and that’s an illicit conversion.” It destroys the whole notion of using rhetorical terms to clearly communicate the rules and transgressions of a debate.

Well, that’s about all. My rant is done, and I feel better.

Oh, and if you think you can make chili without ground cumin, you’re anti-chili and possibly a commie.

Nice ad hominem, toad-licker.

(In case it’s not obvious: :wink: )

Perhaps I should state for the record, though, that I have no idea what you’re talking about.

I think the rant needed a synathroesmus.

skutir, that rant is worthy of being a sticky over on GD, but I do see the misuse everywhere. Well done!

(Cumin is good in stew too.)

There’s only one fallacy worth deploying in any debate, and that’s the old standard “Argument ab anum!”

I teach logical fallacies in my class, and tell them "I don’t care if you remember the names, so long as you remember the concepts … "


Some of them doing it are probably mine.

I have found this to be an excellent resource to prevent myself from just the sort of thing you are talking about, skutir. I believe I got that link from this very board.

This happens a great deal on a couple of the creation/evolution boards that I sometimes visit - I think it often happens as a result of a naive debator having his own use of fallacy pointed out - ‘Ad Hominem’ is one of the most commonly misused, so much so, you’d think it was defined as ‘when someone disagrees with you and isn’t afraid to say so’.

Wow, great link, thanks for re-posting it.

when it obviously means ‘when someone disagrees with me and isn’t afraid to say so’


One of my very favorite websites, d_reguy. Dr. Curtis deserves a Novel Prize for fighting ignorance when they finally start giving such an award. (Of course Mr. Adams gets the first one, but Curtis will get one in the second or third year… the Snopes people get one, too).

Still, it must be a fun class… I think logic and rhetoric are great subjects. One of my favorite classes in college was Symbolic Logic.

The posters I can’t stand are the ones who ask for a cite on a matter that doesn’t require one (such as a statement of personal opinion, something painfully obvious or a hypothetical example).

If I make the comment “More than 3 million people die every year from eating improperly cooked chili beans” or “Chili is by far the most popular dish in North America”, then it’s relevant to ask “Cite?”. If I say “White bean chili is made with white beans instead of red”, “Big Bubba’s uses way too much cayenne pepper”, or “if more people ate chili then there’d be more kidney bean farms”, asking for a “Cite?” is idiotic.

It happened again today. “That’s another strawman,” said a poster who had no idea what a strawman is. He was right that the post was fallacious, but it was a standard-issue red herring. Really, they got to give out licenses for this stuff that you earn by passing a written test.

“You’re being willfully obtuse.”