Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What are we doing here?

Here's what we figure: Anyone can call "ad hominem" or "straw man." Even a right-wing pundit can do it -- you can tell because they do it all the time, whether or not the fallacies are being committed. But who has the guts and the keen logical know-how to apply the tenets of formal logic to mass-media rhetoric?

Not us. But we're doing it anyway.

Here's a little background: We met in logic class at nerd camp, twelve years ago, when we were 14 and 15. We did sorites and syllogisms and got drilled on the Aristotelian square of oppositions and were delighted by the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy. Neither of us became philosophers, though we have formal logic and rhetoric and symbolic logic and Boolean logic and philosophy of science under our collective belt. But we're still the kind of people who call each other up to say "oh my god, have you seen Wikipedia's list of fallacies? It's fantastic!" Laura has a book of sorites; she does 'em for fun, now that she's no longer training to teach LSAT courses. Jess reads logic texts on purpose, and does puzzles. We are, in other words, logical hobbyists. Dilettantes.

But that's all you need to be to feel oppressed by the irrational effluvium spewed forth by certain pundits, politicians, and talking heads. So we thought we'd bring our constant hair-tearing over these problems into the public eye. Why? Because we're good writers, because we're funny, because we enjoy checking Technorati obsessively. Because we want to join a larger conversation about how words mean things, sophistry doesn't trump reasoning, and logic exists whether you like it or not.


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