Mouse Smash

JC Lau's blog about geekery, gender and other rants

This book should be required reading before you respond to someone on the internet

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Ad hominem

Ad hominem

I’m going to try very hard to keep this general, but it should be almost immediately obvious how this relates to a very current and heated shitshow going on in the gaming world.

As a philosopher, it really makes me cringe when I see arguments comments like the following: “some particular person is not a real gamer. She is a horrible stupidhead and shouldn’t be saying anything about video games.”

Common sense would tell you that that’s just false. The fact that someone isn’t knowledgeable about a topic doesn’t mean they ought not to talk about it. Sure, they probably shouldn’t talk as if they are an authority on the issue, but that’s different. Interpreting this charitably, for instance, it might be that someone is trying to learn about a topic, and they can’t learn about it without talking about it. Think, for example, about how hard it would be to understand quantum mechanics if you couldn’t discuss quantum mechanics.

Likewise, common sense would tell you that just because you don’t like someone as a person (as suggested by the use of “horrible stupidhead”) doesn’t mean that they don’t have something interesting, relevant or useful to say. The fact that you don’t like someone doesn’t necessarily detract from the quality of their argument.

Of course, the hard and painfully tooth-gnashing, head-desking bit is pointing out that someone is not on point because they’re sidetracked with arguing about someone’s character or something equally as extraneous. But that’s why Ali Almossawi’s Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments is so insanely delightful.

Appeal to Authority

Appeal to Authority

Almossawi and illustrator Alejandro Giraldo outline key logical fallacies using straightforward examples and clear explanations as to why they are problematic. Of course, online arguments don’t always have the obvious structure of the sample fallacies, and Almossawi does point out that this is only an introductory book, so it’s not as if everyone reading the book would necessarily get rid of all the bad arguments, name calling and mud slinging online. But imagine how much more focused and constructive our online arguments and discussions could be if we could avoid many of these errors.

It would be a beautiful thing, for sure.

Best of all, An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments is available in its entirety online under a Creative Commons license, although Almossawi is taking donations for however much you think reading it is worth. Given that, and how clearly articulated and understandable the fallacies are, there’s really no excuse for falling into those easy traps next time you respond to someone online.

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