If My Opponent Believes That, Then I Surely Can’t

Scott Alexander has a wonderful post highlighting ten fallacious ways that people hastily jump from seeing that their opponents think something to dismissing it. All ten are very good observations, with examples provided. Let me highlight three I found particularly amusing and send you to Slate Star Codex to read and bookmark the whole list so you never remember to never engage in these evasive thinking strategies:

2. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Means They Believe It Is The Answer To One Question, Which Is Kinda Like Believing It Is The Answer To All Questions, But It Isn’t: “Statists believe government can solve all our problems. They need to understand the world doesn’t work that way.”

6. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Is Kinda Like Hating The People Who Don’t Believe In It, And Hatred Is Wrong: “People need to get over their frothing hatred for euthanasia.”

9. Argument From My Opponent Believes Something, Which Might Suggest A Course Of Action, Which Could In Theory Be Implemented Through Violence, And Violence Is Wrong: “Transhumanists think AI may be dangerous, but this could encourage people to kill AI researchers, so holding this belief is irresponsible.” Or, “Environmentalist condemnations of the oil industry encourage eco-terrorist attacks on oil workers.”

Read and avoid all ten “arguments from my opponent believes something”.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.