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Saturday, June 29, 2002 ( 3:21 PM ) (Permalink)

The Coulter-Couric Quoting Out of Context "Catfight"

NBC's Today show on Wednesday featured an interview with Ann Coulter, author of the recent book Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. The interview consisted mainly of Coulter and interviewer Katie Couric trading accusations of quoting out of context. The most interesting accusation concerns whether Couric quoted biographer Edmund Morris out of context when she attributed to him the statement that Ronald Reagan was an "airhead"; according to Coulter, Morris had written only that he was an "apparent airhead", which is quite different.

Monday, June 24, 2002 ( 2:10 AM ) (Permalink)

What's New?

A link to a paper by Douglas Walton in the Resources section of the fallacy of Loaded Question.

Sunday, June 23, 2002 ( 2:09 AM ) (Permalink)

Blurb Watch

In a Washington Post review published on Friday, June 14th, Hank Stuever wrote of the new movie "Scooby-Doo":

"Both as homage and satire, it deepens characters who were never meant to be more than fluff. This gets irritating by the movie's end, but in the first 20 minutes 'Scooby-Doo' is pure fun. (Attention, blurb writers: "PURE FUN!!!"—The Washington Post.)"

I assume that Stuever was poking fun at the tendency of movie ad blurb writers to quote reviews out of context, but a week later the ad for "Scooby-Doo" printed in the New York Times used Stuever's suggested quote! This is not quite as brazen as the David Manning incident, but it's pretty shameless.

Monday, June 17, 2002 ( 10:10 PM ) (Permalink)

A Clarification of the Clarification

On second thought, I don't think that the "point of clarification" in the previous Q&A post actually clarifies; if anything, it makes things muddier. Here's another shot at it:

The reason why Alvaré's argument begs the question is because she adopts the controversial premiss that a fetus is a human being without arguing for it. If someone on the other side of the issue were to adopt the equally controversial premiss that a fetus is not a human being without arguing for it, then that argument would beg the question for the same reason Alvaré's does.

I hope that clears it up!

( 1:35 AM )


"TimNBern" writes in to ask a question about the Example used for the fallacy of Begging the Question:

"If Ms. Alvaré is begging the question, then are not her opponents begging the question when they adopt the premiss that the fetus is not a human being, and then reach the conclusion that there is only one human being involved?"

A point of clarification: If Alvaré had openly adopted the premiss "a fetus is a human being", then her argument would not have begged the question. Of course, it would not have convinced anyone who disagreed with the premiss, either. Instead, she ignores this crucial issue, which is why the argument begs the question.

To answer your question directly: If someone on the other side of the issue were to argue that abortion is a private decision because only one human being is affected by the decision, this argument would beg the question in exactly the same way that Alvaré's does.

Thanks for the question!

Friday, June 14, 2002 ( 1:46 AM ) (Permalink)


"Logic is not everything. But it is something—something which can be taught, something which can be learned, something which can help us in some degree to think more sensibly about the dangerous world in which we live."
(David Hackett Fischer, Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, Harper & Row, 1970, p. 306.)

Sunday, June 09, 2002 ( 1:11 AM ) (Permalink)

What's New?

Norman Jenson wrote to suggest adding named anchor tags to the individual examples on the fallacy examples page, so that links could be made directly to a specific example. This is now done, and the names for the tags are mostly the last names of the authors of the examples.

He also pointed out a problem with finding the permalinks to individual entries on this weblog, namely, they don't show up in the address window when you click on them. I think that this is because only the address of the frameset page shows up there. If you want to link to a specific entry, there are a couple of ways that you can find out its permalink: either view the html code directly, or add the name of this page—"blogger.html"—into your address bar and go directly to the page, thus removing the frame. Then, you should be able to see the permalink in the address bar when you click on the "#". Please let me know if you have any trouble with the links to examples or weblog entries.

Update (11/23/2003): The second suggestion no longer works, however the first is still correct.

Update (10/14/2012): This site no longer uses frames, so everything in the second paragraph is now irrelevant. If you click on the permalink for an entry, you should see the URL for that entry in the address window.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002 ( 12:52 AM ) (Permalink)

Fallacies in the News

Jonah Goldberg has a good discussion of slippery slope causal arguments in a recent corrections column; see "Good Intentions Matter". Apparently, he was inundated by email fallacies.

The only point on which I think Goldberg went wrong is in his claim in the last paragraph that some slippery slopes are valid. Even supposing that some special interest group promotes cause A as part of an agenda to achieve Z, what's wrong with accepting or rejecting A on its own merits?

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