Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Out of Context

More random thoughts, continuing this series:

1. I wonder if those who claim to believe in "moral relativism" are actually expressing their opposition to certain varieties of moral absolutism (to which they have strong moral objections).

2. Are there names for the fallacies that are the opposite of "straw man" and "ad hominem"? These fallacies would be, respectively, describing your own position to sound more attractive than it really is, and appealing to the good character of someone who makes an argument you agree with.

3. Advertisements very often show couples (who are always presumably married), but there must be a set of rules somewhere about what kinds of couples can be shown. You'll often see a couple made up of two white people or two black people, but you almost never see a clearly interracial couple in ads. I don't think you ever see a same-sex couple unless the ad is somehow about gay people. I can't remember ever seeing an ad with a couple in which the woman is brunette and the man is blond. And I doubt I've ever seen an ad where only one person in the couple is overweight. We want to see diversity, but we want it to be predictably homogenized diversity.

3 comments:

Drew. said...

Re: number 2. I'm not sure of the fallacies you described have official names or not, but I wanted to add another one that struck me today, which is a form of the ad hominem. Something like: you've made a point or expressed a sentiment that I've heard x make. I don't like x, therefore your point/sentiment is invalid. Sort of like guilt by association.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Yeah. Something similar, but even worse, is responding to someone's argument with: "You always say that!" As if that proved them wrong.

Conversely, just because something is often said, doesn't make it true. It's amazing how often this is overlooked.

Ann Althouse said...

Re #2: That reminded me of something similar, which I try to do in teaching law, which I think of as the opposite of a straw man (but not the way you're talking about). I often require a student to make the best argument for the position they are more likely to want to argue against (or I do it for them), because I think that's key to making a strong argument. If you imagine the other side's argument is weak (ie, make a straw man), then you'll have a false impression of how strong you are, because the weak argument/man is easy to fight. So make that man as a strong as you can get him, and then show your stuff.