What type of sophistry is this?
January 19, 2014 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Frequently in the climate debates the disbelievers claim that the real objective of global warming believers is to implement socialism, world government, or some variation thereof. Two questions: Is there a name or brief descriptive phrase for this category of sophistry wherein ulterior motives are imputed above and beyond the issue being discussed? Are there notable examples from history (say, soviet era and earlier) where this method was used? Thanks.
posted by Kevin S to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The logical fallacy is an ad hominem fallacy combined with a form of guilt by association - see this Wikipedia article for details. As for notable examples, what do you think the arguments against socialized healthcare in the United States were and still are to this day?
posted by graymouser at 10:27 AM on January 19, 2014

Appeal to motive.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:32 AM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

No, this is not a case of ad hominem at all. Individual insults may be, but in general, no. In addition to appeal to motive, linked above, slippery slope is another somewhat related one, but only if the denier is arguing in good faith (happens rarely).
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:34 AM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

In discussing logical fallacies, it seems closest to the straw man argument. See this Wikipedia site for a listing of many logical fallacies.

On preview, the "appeal to motive" is close as well.

This particular example is a function of political rhetoric, not just discourse, and it has been very widely used in all quarters for many decades.
posted by yclipse at 10:36 AM on January 19, 2014

It's a species of Bulverism!
You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly.

In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it "Bulverism". Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — "Oh you say that because you are a man." "At that moment", E. Bulver assures us, "there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall." That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

posted by pdq at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2014 [10 favorites]

Bulverism is now part of my vocabulary! And I will bookmark the list of logical fallacies. Appeal to motive sounds useful too.

Thanks everyone.
posted by Kevin S at 12:36 PM on January 19, 2014

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