Sunday, June 04, 2006

Doggerel #10: "Sophistry"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This is one of the words that got me to contemplate this series. It was heavily abused by Fore Sam, who was actually a sophist himself: Sophistry is the use of rhetorical arguments that are invalid, but still persuasive to people who don't recognize them for what they are. Logical fallacies and propaganda techniques fit very snugly into that category. The big problem that really annoyed me was that he was accusing me of "sophistry," even though he had no conception of what the word really means.

Fore Sam's butchered definition of "sophistry" seemed to include any of the following:

Pointing out a quote of his as evidence of his sophistry.

Using common knowledge Latin.

Pointing out how his argument mirrors that of a sophist.

Proposing alternate explanations that are simpler than his.

Calling his bluffs.

Asking questions about the core issue.

Pointing out how evasive he is when he ignores questions about the core issue.

Using the phrase "straw man" to point out when he's putting words into other people's mouths.

Explaining very simple concepts to him as if he was a child.

The other problem with Fore Sam's abuse of the term is that it is, in itself, a type of sophistry. Just because I use Latin phrases or whatever to describe the very basic errors he makes does not mean that they aren't errors.


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