Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

  • Music:
A smart friend got taken in by an e-mail hoax last week. A hoax that is thoroughly debunked right here: Presidential IQ.

The debunking analysis is interesting & deep & well worth reading — while at the same time it is obvious in its essentials. Somehow, my smart friend did not at all pursue those essential argument flaws in his own mind, presumably because the hoaxsters share his politics & because their conclusions fit with his perceptions.

This hoax reveals how ideological columnists and show hosts enthrall their audiences: Start by assuming shared preconceptions and then take them where they want to go anyway! Your audience won't much care how you get there as long as it's fast. If your quick & unexamined path of the day sounds novel and exciting to them, so much the better!

In logic classrooms, people learn to judge conclusions according to the plausibility of their supporting arguments. Outside the classroom, people prefer to judge supporting arguments according to the plausibility of their stated conclusions.

The more grand and sweeping a proposed argument sounds — and the less that argument can affect your day-to-day behavior — the more likely you are to judge it merely by its starting and ending points.

Why are we like this? Theories of the moment:

1) Following an argument takes some work, and really checking its premises and steps takes more work. If you don't see an argument leading to a surprising place, then your careful critical energy feels better spent elsewhere. We each have to pick our battles, after all!

2) "Cui bono?" "Who benefits?" If you don't see anyone even possibly gaining anything by tricking you, then you're not so motivated to dive in & look for trickery.

3) Tribalism: We each want our friends & allies to be trustworthy & brilliant. And, we tend to benevolently assume that they are: After all, I might tell myself, he's like me in so many other respects, he's probably just as scholarly too! Ha! Because I can't imagine believing Proposition X for the wrong reasons (what would be the point?, I might think, what would be the appeal if I didn't understand its real basis?) or merely pretending to be interested in Proposition X (again, what would be the point!?) or knowingly using bad arguments to bolster Prop X...

I invite additional theories!
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