Posts Tagged ‘debate’

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Tinfoil Turbans in the Closet

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2013 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu

Like a Turkish Imam, Turban tucked away behind the minbar and brought out for salat, some Tinfoil Turbanators keep their headgear well hidden.

They will go to great lengths to hide the extent that they believe, and so will veil their assertions as questions or shield them with analogy. This Tinfoil Turbanist will always avoid coming out and saying what they actually believe.

Maybe this is some attempt at staying hidden from the space lizards, maybe it is a fear of being questioned, who knows? What we do know is that it can be very frustrating to deal with such people, so I will offer what I have learnt doing so.

Clarification is your friend. Ask questions, often. It could be you who is mistaken, maybe they aren’t what they appear at first sight, the only way to know is to ask questions, lots of them. If they avoid answering, get frustrated with you or straight out go on the offensive, it is a good sign that peeking out from that baseball cap is a bit of tinfoil.

Don’t lose your cool. If they maintain the tactic of ‘just asking questions’, when it is clear that there are assertions being made, ask questions to, and do it calmly. Take the lead, show them where their ‘questions’ go. Usually the ‘just asking’ is a ruse to avoid being pinned down on a specific point. Don’t indulge them, it is like trying to grab an oiled pig! Instead let them do the talking, then, once an actual claim has been made, swoop onto it.

Let it go. Sometimes they will avoid the above, and continue to keep it vague, maybe throwing in some ad hominem. If that happens, let it go! There will be another day, and if nothing else it will have made it clear how wishy washy the whole thing is. This is especially sound advice if they bust out the box of personal attacks, questioning your motives, your intelligence etcetera. If this happens, you will either lose your adab, or they will make a fool of themselves. Neither is a good outcome. Walk away.

Eyes on the Prize. Your goal is getting at some kind of truth, remember that. The reason that such people can be such a cause of annoyance is because they keep what they view as the truth close to their chest. This shouldn’t phase you. Know that all the obfuscation, the ad hominem, only brings them further away from making a sound argument. Grin, bear it, and keep your eyes on the prize.

And, as always, Allah knows best.

Another quick one this evening, trying to keep them short, conceptual and sweet. I hope you are all well and I’ll be back soon insha’Allah

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‘And debate with them in the best of ways’; two logical fallacies.

In General Discussion on March 4, 2012 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu

😀

So, as you may have guessed, a lot of my posts have a strong relation to arguments I get to on the Wild West of discussion that is the internet. I thought I would discuss a couple of logical fallacies in relation to good discussion, and relate them to my previous post as well as the concept of adhab in Islam.

So to start with, we have what is called the ad hominem fallacy. This fallacy is often colloquially used to refer to insults, but it is more than that. The ad hominem fallacy is an argument that, rather than focussing on the points made, focuses on the character of the person making the points. Now it should stand to reason that the two are unrelated, yet we as humans often fall into the trap presented by this fallacy.

One of the main ways this occurs is accusations of hypocrisy. An individual will point out a contradiction between what a person advocates in their argument, and what they actually do. In reality an individual’s hypocrisy will rarely have any relationship with an argument (unless, for example, it is an argument about character). If I drank, yet told others not to drink, would my hypocrisy have any bearing upon the validity of my argument about the negative nature of drinking?

Another way this creeps in is through arguments about an individual’s motivation. It is a common tactic in discussions to point out that a person’s background is the reason behind the argument they are making. That may be true, but what does it have to do with the validity of the argument they are making? Nothing. A Palestinian or Israeli’s investment in the conflict does not make either of their claims more or less true. The truth of their arguments is what defines the truth of their arguments!

Finally, the most classic form of ad hominem is the aforementioned insults. If I’m thick as a block of wood, it won’t make me saying ‘one plus one equals two’ any less true. The character of an individual, any flaws, physical characteristics or anything else, are irrelevant to any points they make.

It is important to be able to both identify ad hominem in other’s points as well as your own. The first is in order to point out what is a cheap or ignorant tactic in a debate. The second is purely a matter of good conduct! You must remember that you never have to resort to ad hominem. Indeed if you do, you are showing that you do not trust your own arguments. As Allah says: ‘and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious’[1], not only does ridding your argument of such fallacies make them more sound, it will be an act of good adhab (manners) and an emulation of Prophetic character.

The second is related to the first, in that it is about irrelevant points of discussion. It is called the non sequitur fallacy. The literal meaning of non sequitur is ‘it does not follow’ and is similar to ad hominem (Latin for ‘to the man’) in that it is both easy to make and quite common, despite being easy to spot. A non sequitur fallacy is when there is a disconnection between two parts of someone’s argument. It can also refer to a point made against another argument that has nothing to do with it.

An example of the latter type of mistake would be me pointing out that ‘I think that Mushroom is disgusting, because it is a fungus and has a horrible slimy texture when cooked’. To which the person committing the fallacy would reply with ‘but mushrooms are a good source of protein’. While the point the person is making may be true, it does not relate to my assertion. It is thus a non sequitur.

An example of the former would be someone saying ‘you are critical of people un-critically accepting narratives, post-structuralists reject absolute truth narratives, and therefore you are a post-structuralist’. The first statement is true, the second statement is true, but the third is not necessarily true, it does not automatically follow.

This type of fallacy is surprisingly common, especially in political debates. They are however easy to avoid, simply by making sure that there is a link between each premise and its conclusion. Avoiding such fallacies is again a matter of good adhab, as non sequiturs are a type of falsehood. When one thing has nothing to do with another thing, but is presented as though it is, one is lying. The non  sequitur is thus often used by people deliberately to distract from the unsupportable nature of their own arguments. ‘Look at how bad it is for the Palestinians, things are worse there than here, so why ask for reform?’ sound familiar?

I pray you are all in the best of health and iman.

Til next time!

Walaykum Salaam Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Baraketahu.


[1] Surah An-Nahl , Yusuf Ali translation.