Does anyone in the public eye use correct logic in arguments (anymore)?
November 24, 2004 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I have, per my Jesuit education, received too many logic courses. Many times I recognize people making the simplest of logical fallacies. Most often the slippery slope (if gays marry, then people will want to marry animals next) or the straw-man argument. I guess my question is, how valid is the medieval logic in our world today? I notice logical fallacies all over the op-ed and in everyday conversation to justify causes. I was beat over the head with the importance of using correct logic, but does it still hold validity? I've never seen the TV debates ever call each other out using logic. I'm not trying to ask a far out philosophical question, so more inside.

I realize it is both impossible and not expected that everyone have an intimate knowledge of all logical fallacies, but I guess just because of how political the atmosphere has been around here and the media -- it begs the question if I'm the last person to have taken any logic courses. Seriously, has anyone seen someone in the media retort with "that's argument by consensus, a fallacy" or something similar? Maybe someone with news experience ever reject something based on illogical premises? Or is logic really not all it is said to be? I understand that most shows like "Crossfire" and columnists like Ann Coulter are mostly theater, but it would seem so easy to just shut them up by responding with simple logic. Why is this not done?
posted by geoff. to Human Relations (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Unfortunately, you've put your finger on exactly the issue, logic is not a component of any public debate. It isn't just that formal logic is missing, so is anything resembling even loose associational logic. A logic of convenience, if you will. I don't think that makes it useless. Lack of logic makes for sloppy thinking. In individual discussion I think it's important to hold people to the standards of logic and evidence and all of the things that are not present in the news & punditry.

One of the most disturbing aspects of assertion replacing logic and evidence in discussion is the failure to develop critical thinking skills.
posted by OmieWise at 1:34 PM on November 24, 2004


I think you don't see people calling out logical fallacies in a debate scenariou because it is a purely defensive strategy. In a point/counterpoint setup, you don't want to use your counterpoint to negate, you want to use it to present an alternate view.

Also, I don't really think they listen to each other. They just spout their standard position on the issue, regardless of what their debater says.
posted by smackfu at 1:38 PM on November 24, 2004


well, you may also be taking people too literally. if someone says to me "if gays marry, then people will want to marry animals next" i take that to mean something more like "gays marrying is as strange, in my system of morals, as people marrying animals (so it worries me)". conversations aren't computer programs.

also, the world is complicated (a self referential, non-linear system with unpredictable feedback, populated by actors with incomplete information, blah blah blah). so logic isn't necesarily the most useful tool. what people say reflects the heuristics they use to make decisions - and those heuristics are not "logical".

finally, if you said "that's argument by consensus, a fallacy" most people won't understand you.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:40 PM on November 24, 2004


seem so easy to just shut them up by responding with simple logic

missed that. have you ever tried? i doubt very much you will "shut them up".
posted by andrew cooke at 1:42 PM on November 24, 2004


This is an excellent question.

I also wonder if specifically consumer societies erode critical thinking, as life is bought and sold through emotion.
posted by orange clock at 1:43 PM on November 24, 2004 [1 favorite]


90% of Americans are idiots. It's that simple.

pwb.
posted by pwb503 at 1:49 PM on November 24, 2004


George Lakoff's theory of "simple framing" suggests that the only way to "win" an argument is to get the other person to state his/her illogical point of view so clearly that he/she sees the argument's illogic.

I find that this is one of the few ways one can "win" an argument (the other, in my experience, is by introducing new evidence from a source respected as accurate by both parties). However, one still "loses" more than one "wins".

orange clock, do you have an example of a pre-industrial society in which critical thinking was held in high regard by the majority of the population? Because I think that critical thinking is generally disregarded by most people, in most places, in most times.

Even in societies that were very big on formal logic (Periclean Athens, Imperial Rome, T'ang Dynasty China), critical thinking, per se, often fell by the wayside.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:51 PM on November 24, 2004


And pwb, don't sign your posts. The nice machine will sign them for you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:51 PM on November 24, 2004


Keep in mind that the goal of each person in a debate is to persuade people of their view. Some people are persuaded by logic, but many are not.

Even for people who can be persuaded by logic, it is a dangerous strategy, because refuting one particular argument your opponent uses to support his position does not refute the position itself. The logical person may well (and quite correctly, I note!) say, "You are right that 'gay marriage will lead to bestiality' is a fallacious slippery slope argument. However, the fact that a fallacious argument is made in opposition to gay marriage, does not mean that opposition to gay marriage itself is illogical. Such a conclusion would itself be fallacious."

I also wonder if specifically consumer societies erode critical thinking, as life is bought and sold through emotion.

No, I just think that marketers realize better than many of us that many humans rarely or never make decision based on logic, and no human always makes logical decisions.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:58 PM on November 24, 2004


Geoff, I'm currently doing my undergraduate right now and I've elected to take an informal logic course. The majority of the students there taking it in hopes of doing well on the LSATs. But, the majority of them are also looking at ways to improve their reasoning. (and plus Prof. Allen is a pretty awesome guy)

You're right, a lot of tv shows out there where two sides are bashing head are doing so for show and neither side truly believes they can convice the other to subscribe to their ideas. However, that doesn't mean that serious academic writing doesn't involve properly formed valid arguments. In almost all of my classes, logical reasoning is critical in formulating our papers.
posted by phyrewerx at 2:05 PM on November 24, 2004


I also think a lot of people do not want to change their views. Thus any sort of argument is lost on them, because you're an idiot and I'm right. This is cynical, and granted not everyone is like this.

Yet as Sidhedevil pointed out, if there was some interest in rational thought, Christianity would have died when Jesus did.
posted by orange clock at 2:12 PM on November 24, 2004


...I think that critical thinking is generally disregarded by most people, in most places, in most times.
I recently took an exam for a federal (us) job that consisted of 1/2 logic and 1/2 english grammar. I was pleasantly surprised by the logic section because it made the test for this mostly clerical position a little more competitive.
posted by sophie at 2:13 PM on November 24, 2004


I also wonder if specifically consumer societies erode critical thinking, as life is bought and sold through emotion.

Yes. More specifically, they erode critical thinking by continuously bombarding us with messages specifically designed to circumvent logical or critical analysis through appeals to desire, fear, and other powerful instincts/emotions. In its most extreme forms, this reduces all choices to consumer choices (cf: our last election, in which logical argument about weighty political or economic issues was overwhelmed by a constant drumbeat of slogans designed to induce anxiety, fear, and identification with an image of a candidate). It also can lead to ironic detachment and cynicism.

As for the disappearance of logic more generally, I think it also has something to do with the persistence of faith-based styles of thought. For many people, logic takes a back seat to faith and, as Lakoff argues, things like logic and evidence are irrelevant. Moreover, what is logically consistent or obvious to you may not be to another person, and vice-versa. While you and I may see that "if gays marry, then people will want to marry animals next" is a logically fallacious slippery slope, others see it as an either/or question: either we have the "right" moral system (in which gay marriage and bestiality are outlawed), or we have the "wrong" one (in which anything goes).

We live in a scary time.
posted by googly at 2:19 PM on November 24, 2004


It's important to remember that many so-called fallacies (such as the "argument by consensus") are not, in fact, fallacies. They're heuristics. As such, they are perfectly rational and acceptable arguments, particularly in a sound-bite driven setting.
posted by gd779 at 2:23 PM on November 24, 2004 [1 favorite]


More specifically, they erode critical thinking by continuously bombarding us with messages specifically designed to circumvent logical or critical analysis through appeals to desire, fear, and other powerful instincts/emotions.

Since you and I both seem to regard critical thinking highly, I will challenge you to present evidence in support of this assertion. Specifically, as opposed to the alternate hypothesis that while such messages take advantage of a lack of critical thinking, they do not contribute to that lack.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2004


90% of Americans humans are idiots.
posted by loquax at 2:47 PM on November 24, 2004


Christianity? Hell, what about Judaism? Mithraism? Ancestor worship?

There were plenty of irrational/extra-rational belief systems in the world looooong before Christianity came along.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:49 PM on November 24, 2004


it begs the question if I'm the last person to have taken any logic courses

Funny that in a question about logic, you used an incorrect meaning of begging the question
please don't take it as a snark :-)
posted by reverendX at 3:15 PM on November 24, 2004


I'm glad someone else saw that! I was worried that I pulled a Dennis Miller on that one.
posted by geoff. at 3:26 PM on November 24, 2004


do you have an example of a pre-industrial society in which critical thinking was held in high regard by the majority of the population?

In Elizabethan England, kids studied logic (based on Ancient Greek & Roman models) in school. They also studied Rhetoric, which is, alas, more dead than logic ("rhetoric" is about mode of expression -- i.e. metaphore, figures-of-speech, styles of persuasion, whereas "logic" is about pure argument). Of course, I'm talking about educated classes -- not "the majority of the population," which was unschooled and illiterate. But it was mostly the educated class that made decisions.

For many people, logic takes a back seat to faith and, as Lakoff argues, things like logic and evidence are irrelevant.

I don't exactly disagree, but it's interesting that arguments like "if gay people marry, we'll have people marrying animals, next," are, though illogical, using the trappings of logic. They are flawed but they are aguments that appear to be based on (faulty) reasoning -- not on pure faith. There's a world of difference between such arguments and "homosexuality is wrong because it's a sin."
posted by grumblebee at 3:33 PM on November 24, 2004


you used an incorrect meaning of begging the question

No he didn't. He used it in the way it's commonly used in everyday speech. Which begs the question, reverendX: do you participate in everyday speech? ;=)
posted by grumblebee at 3:36 PM on November 24, 2004


googly, I do not believe people now are more illogical than they used to be, if I may summarise your position thusly, and I would be most interested to know why you think that.

geofft., it seems to me that you are confusing rhetoric with logic. Debating is always in terms of rhetoric, and logical reasoning is inimical to rhetorical devices.

You are not the last person to have taken logic courses, but you are in a very small minority - a minority that has always been small, and will no doubt stay small. Those medieval logicians (and their Greek antecedents) weren't typical of their day, and the only reason you might get that impression is that in their day literacy was the preserve of a scholarly elite, whereas now any boob can get their opinions out there with much less effort.

You might ponder on how useful pure logic is in the world we live in anyway. The dubiousness of our data and the complexity of argument make logical analysis very difficult for the average bear. Hence the predominance of heuristic reasoning. Until we're ruled by Platonic philosopher-kings, you might as well get used to it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:51 PM on November 24, 2004


DevilsAdvocate:

Point #1: Look at the history of marketing. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advertising tended towards more "logical" forms of persuasion - e.g., "buy this car rather than my competitor's, because it costs less and is more reliable." Around the middle of the 20th century, marketers increasingly turned away from attempts to persuade consumers by logical argument, and towards associating their products with images meant to inspire desire, fear etc. (Think how many times you see TV commercials that have little or nothing to do with the product itself). If we believe that there has been a decline in critical thinking abilities over the past 100 years, then there is at least a correlation between the two, though proving cause would be difficult. cf: Jackson Lears, Thomas Frank, Roland Marchand.

Point #2: Its hardly a secret: look at marketing literature itself. Read some marketing textbooks or take a class. Marketing is specifically designed to discourage critical thinking and encourage choices made on the basis of emotion or identification. Marketing strategies have been imported into all sorts of other arenas, including politics and education. cf: The work of Arlie Hochschild, Stuart Ewen, and many many others. See also the excellent recent Frontline special, The Persuaders, which features a brief interview with Frank Luntz, the political consultant whose specialty is testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate. A quote from the program: "It's all emotion. But there's nothing wrong with emotion. When we are in love, we are not rational; we are emotional. When we are on vacation, we are not rational; we are emotional. When we are happy, we are not [rational]. In fact, in more cases than not, when we are rational, we're actually unhappy."

As for this:

Specifically, as opposed to the alternate hypothesis that while such messages take advantage of a lack of critical thinking, they do not contribute to that lack.

This is an excellent point, but I'm afraid that its a bit of a chicken-or-egg question. Does marketing create a lack of critical thinking, or does it merely take advantage of a lack of it? I'm not sure that one could empirically prove one or the other, and I suspect that the causal arrows work in both ways in a vicious cycle.

But yes, I do think it contributes to the erosion of critical thought. First, indirectly, as the more marketing penetrates into all areas of our life, the more difficult it is to develop the critical thinking skills that allow us to identify messages as marketing. Like political propaganda, consumer messages tend to overwhelm us through sheer repetition.

This is compounded by the fact that education - the very arena in which we are supposed to teach such skills - is increasingly dominated by marketing. Oil companies write textbooks about energy and the environment for high schoolers; drug companies run continuing medical education seminars for doctors in order to "teach" them about new drugs; and public relations firms create "viral" and "guerilla" marketing campaigns that masquerade as word-of-mouth.
All of these things directly contribute to the erosion of our ability to teach people how to think critically about the messages that they are receiving from the world in which they live.


[/climbs off soapbox]
posted by googly at 3:53 PM on November 24, 2004


joe's spleen:

Good point. I shouldn't have used the word "disappearance," which implies a diminishment of logic over the course of time.

I don't think people are on the whole more illogical or irrational than they have been in the past, but I think that the sources of illogical thinking are in constant flux. Marketing and consumer culture and faith-based thought are two contributing factors, and both have waxed and waned over the centuries.
posted by googly at 3:57 PM on November 24, 2004


You might ponder on how useful pure logic is in the world we live in anyway. The dubiousness of our data and the complexity of argument make logical analysis very difficult for the average bear.

I disagree. Though logic shouldn't be used in all situations, there are always utterances that can be show fallacious through pure logical reasoning. And the reasoning required isn't tough to learn. It just isn't taught.

Modern (American -- I can't speak for other cutures) humanities education has little to do with reasoning. Oddly, it has little to do with emotion. It's a weird bunch of rituals that allow one to become part of the "intelligencia club."
posted by grumblebee at 4:41 PM on November 24, 2004


90% of Americans are idiots. It's that simple.

It doesn't take a genius to understand logical fallacies. Most of the concepts are fairly easy to grasp. It doesn't matter if people understand the concepts; our culture values emotional appeals much more than logical ones.

If you look at the election, there were logical fallacies galore, sprinkled with a healthy dose of outright lies, which were reported and noted fairly frequently by the mainstream media and groups like factcheck.org. Did it matter? Nope. It was all about "values" and "feeling safe."

While I was typing this, someone knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to by some wood. Eerie.
posted by Otis at 4:43 PM on November 24, 2004


grumblebee, everyday signs commonly refer to "Blue Plate Special's" and "Farm Fresh 'Sweet' Corn"; everyday Presidents commonly say "nucular"; everyday posters on the intarweb commonly type "per say" and "to all intensive purposes".

None of those are correct. "Begging the question" does not mean "posing the question" no matter how many people get it wrong.

I am open to linguistic change, but "begging the question" does not mean "posing the question" or "opening the question".
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:55 PM on November 24, 2004


Sidhedevil : You asked about pre-industrialist societies that held logic in high regard.

I would like to point you to pre-industrial america. Take a gander at the Lincoln-Douglas debates. They were a travelling show, that played to sell-out houses that featured debates that would last hours and hours and hours. On one particular evening, they held a recess for dinner, and just about everyone in the audience came back for the second half, after dinner. Or the federalist papers. They had a viewing audience that was approximately equivalent to what the superbowl gets today. Literacy rates back then were hovering around 90%( for whities i presume, I'm not quite sure where Neil Postman gets that figure, but anywhoo). Television is not a medium which can allow for complex debate. It is however, a completely emotional medium. You don't sit down with someone and talk about the various positions the characters in friends took visa vis joey's new girlfriend, and talk about the logical merits or each, no, you talk about the jokes or about how the girl is hot or something like that.....

Classic example. Think of Colin Powell. Think of Voltaire. What is the difference in the mental expereince of thinking about each?

Colin Powell produces an image, Voltaire, an idea or a quote.

It's just that simple. Images aren't logical really. at all. I could disagree with the voltaire quote, but not really with a picture of colin powell. Sucks huh.

Oh well.
posted by Freen at 6:22 PM on November 24, 2004 [1 favorite]



None of those are correct. "Begging the question" does not mean "posing the question" no matter how many people get it wrong.


What do you mean by "mean"? Do you think there's some cosmic force that fixes meaning? If so, I disagree. "Begging the question" means whatever it means to an individual person. One reasonable way to apply a "fixed" meaning is to accept common usage ("no matter how many people get it wrong").
posted by grumblebee at 6:22 PM on November 24, 2004


There is no way that the phrase "begging the question" can logically mean "posing the question". "Begging" has a specific meaning, which is not the same as "posing". Language exists in a context which is larger than the context of any given location's usage patterns at any individual moment in time.

"Begging the question" is a term of art from a particular discipline--the discipline of philosophy. No professional philosopher would use the phrase "begging the question" to mean "posing the question" in a discussion of formal logic.

Since this is, indeed, a discussion of formal logic, the term was used erroneously in the context of this discussion. Even if there was some sense in which geoff.'s statement was "accepted usage" in some other context, it is still incorrect in the context of this particular discussion.

And I will dispute that "begging the question" = "posing the question" is "accepted usage" in any context, but even if it were accepted usage in, say, casual conversation, that's not relevant to this discussion.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:16 PM on November 24, 2004


The fact that geoff (someone who claims to understand formal rules of logic) used the phrase "begs the question" by accident in a discussion about logic reveals how common this usage is. Until the last few years when I've discovered a pile of semantic wranglers bitching about the meaning of the phrase on the internet, I had never in my life heard that phrase used in it's "proper" way. Indeed, used in it's "improper" way I find it quite poetic and useful, and clearly millions of other people who don't have the good luck to be professional philosophers do as well.

It's just a group of words. The idea that a group of words could have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used can't be too hard to grasp, can it?
posted by Jimbob at 7:37 PM on November 24, 2004


I'm (almost) a professional philosopher and had a bad hang-up when it came to non-technical usage of "begging the question". I finally had to concede when I realized that the technical usage, having the conclusion assumed in the premises, was obviously a secondary usage of the phrase.

Back in the day when these terms were settling into their roles, it was probably a common occurence for someone to include the conclusion in the premises, which caused listeners to respond "But that begs us to question why you believe premise 2..." (where premise 2 is the conclusion or something close). Naturally, this kind of thing could go on for some time before, in closed philosophy circles, people started shortening the above to "You're begging the question."

So I had to give it up. Expect me to still fight tooth and nail when people start using modus ponens to mean any old logical inference.
posted by ontic at 7:40 PM on November 24, 2004


Sorry, the above meaning that the way logicians use the phrase is just a special case of the ordinary usage rather than the ordinary usage getting something wrong.
posted by ontic at 7:43 PM on November 24, 2004


Jimbob, I have met people who thought the phrase was "for all intensive purposes" and had never, ever known it was actually "for all intents and purposes". That doesn't mean the phrase actually is "for all intensive purposes", does it?

I used to think that I was pledging allegiance to "One nation, invisible". It made sense to me, because one pledges allegiance to an abstract concept, not a physical landmass. But I was wrong.

Having said that, even I grant your point that "begging the question" is used to mean "posing the question" in ordinary discourse, it's still not appropriately used to mean that in a discussion of formal logic. "Charm" means one thing in ordinary discourse and a different thing in a discussion of quantum mechanics, for example; this should be the same.

ontic, the reason that the logical fallacy of presupposing the premises of an argument is called "begging the question" is that that is a word-for-word translation into English of its Latin name, petitio principii. It's not a very good translation; this article explains why.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:58 PM on November 24, 2004


"Begging the question" is a term of art from a particular discipline--the discipline of philosophy. No professional philosopher would use the phrase "begging the question" to mean "posing the question" in a discussion of formal logic.


It was a good question, and the swervejackers are jeolous.
posted by orange clock at 8:08 PM on November 24, 2004


Wait, I thought we had answered the actual question, and had just devolved into silly bickering.

Freen, I liked your post a lot.

However, I have to say that when I read the word "Voltaire", the very very very first thing I thought of was this picture, and the next thing I thought of was "I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it," which of course, as we all know, Voltaire never actually said (it was the way an early twentieth-century biographer summed up his attitude, and it has since then been believed by many to be an actual Voltaire quotation).

On the other hand, oc, I guess we are answering geoff.'s question--we're all smart, highly educated people and none of us can stay on-topic, so why should the rest of the world be any different?
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:22 PM on November 24, 2004


Ah, nothing quite like semantics to get people riled up into a pedantic frenzy.
posted by stp123 at 9:04 PM on November 24, 2004


Metafilter: Getting people riled up into a pedantic frenzy.

On a more useful note, I never knew that about the Voltaire quote; thanks, Sidhedevil.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:23 PM on November 24, 2004


Sidhedevil: Thanks for the link. So much for arm chair etymology...
posted by ontic at 12:48 AM on November 25, 2004


Sidehedevil, the reality is that this isn't a convention of philosophers. I'm pretty sure no one speaking in this thread holds a PhD in philosophy, and it's not even my first major. If you know what he meant, and he knows, and everyone else knows, it's really, really not worth mentioning. Nor getting upset about. And yes, even technical usage of words changes over time, so even if this was a convention of philosophers, I wouldn't be too surprised to hear the non-technical usage of the phrase. If someone had said "you're begging the question!" and the response was "but I haven't even stated any premises!" then, ok, I'll grant that you can get upset about it then.

Food for thought: historically, spits and spats over The Correct Meaning have almost entirely been used to exclude undesireables from debate, rather than clarify terms. Not accusing you of that motivation, but it's something to consider.

I'd add something on-topic but I think the question was answered long ago.
posted by kavasa at 1:18 AM on November 25, 2004


It's a logical fallacy to assume that logic can resolve any but the most trivial of issues involved in public debate.

One reason for this is the complexity of most interesting issues. The number of relevant facts is enormous, far too big to be subject to logical reasoning, and any "logical" arguments starts by considering some small subset of these facts to be relevant to the argument. The ideology, emotional appeal, and image or metaphor-making are in the choice of which facts are relevant. Many of the "facts" cannot be confirmed or even known, and logical reasoning breaks down when people argue over which assumptions are valid and which ones are invented to support the argument. andrew cooke has it right, a fallacy like "argument by consensus" is just another name for the heuristics we use to separate the "facts" we choose to think are credible from those we choose to doubt or exclude from our reasoning.

Another reason is that most public debates are as much about normative values as about facts, where people argue based on differing visions of what a desirable outcome would be. Logic can't tell you what you believe is "good", "right", or "just". So most arguments use techniques that try to change people's moral vision, rather than their reasoning.
posted by fuzz at 6:47 AM on November 25, 2004 [1 favorite]


Indeed, used in it's "improper" way I find it quite poetic and useful, and clearly millions of other people who don't have the good luck to be professional philosophers do as well.

Millions of clueless computer users use the term "hard drive" to describe the big metal box that all the wires plug into. Computer engineers will tell you that "hard drive" refers to a specific class of storage device; calling the entire computer a "hard drive" is inaccurate, or at least misleading. So how does this work? Are we supposed to accept the incorrect meaning of "hard drive" simply because so many poorly-educated people use it? To the contrary: the correct meaning of a technical term is the one accepted by the community that established it. Computer engineers give us the correct definition of "hard drive": I don't think it's unreasonable that we look to logicians for the correct definition of "begging the question".

historically, spits and spats over The Correct Meaning have almost entirely been used to exclude undesireables from debate, rather than clarify terms.

Well, yes. Correct usage of technical terms, like proper spelling and correct grammar usage, is a shortcut that helps you quickly determine whether someone knows what they are talking about. There's nothing sinister about this; if some person calls their whole computer a "hard drive", I'm not going to waste time trying to discuss computers with them, because it's clear that they don't know what they're talking about. Similarly, if someone misuses "begging the question", that's a clue that they probably don't know the actual meaning of the term; this hints at further deficiencies in their education and thus reduces their credibility.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:10 PM on November 25, 2004


Sidhedevil: "nucular" has been an accepted pronunciation of "nuclear" for decades. In English, words aren't always spelled like they sound, nor do they only have one pronuncation. Get over it.

Of all the things people could make fun of Bush for I don't understand why people can't focus on deficiencies of say... logic, rather than perceived deficiencies in pronunciation which really matter very little in his current job.
posted by grouse at 3:59 PM on November 25, 2004


Mars - sure. And statements like that say to me that you haven't even bothered to educate yourself in the simplest basics of sociolinguistics. What's your point? That I should just give up because you haven't taken an intro course in the subject and are (quite obviously), speaking from a position of ignorance? By "excluding groups," I mean groups like "black people" and "poor people." But, no, you're right. Language is an immutable fact, just as inherent to the structure of the universe as the laws of physics. It neither changes over time, nor are notions of Right Language used to put groups at a disadvantage.

Argh.

I need to write a miniature essay with footnotes and recommended reading, so I can just link to it instead of explaining this over and over and over and over again. Let me put it this way: when someone refers to their computer as the hard drive and I give up, I realize that this is because I'm lazy. I may not go to that person from advice, but I don't pretend that they are incapable of understanding topics in computing.
posted by kavasa at 4:03 PM on November 25, 2004


Okay, well Jesus Christ. I am well aware of the term "begs the question" and its relation to philosophy. I realize that it is not proper usage but I started using the term "begs the question" before I started taking logic and philosophy courses. I did not start using the term "hard drive" before I started talking about computers. The simple fact is that how many times has anyone actually referred to "begs the question" in the "correct" sense versus the common usage? Personally, I think I've used the term correctly once on a term paper or so. I'm sure I'd stop using it if I talked to philosophy majors all day and constantly used it "correctly".

I have a feeling this thread is dead, but I needed that last word dammit.
posted by geoff. at 11:19 PM on November 26, 2004


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