Catholic Blog Argument Fallacies
Thanks to commenter RL for a truly inspired idea! Most Catholic bloggers and commenters would like to think they argue like Saint Thomas More in the video clip. Unfortunately we, and I include myself in that “we”, more often argue like Norfolk, Cranmer and Cromwell. In hopes perhaps of improving the quality of Catholic combox debate, here is a list of Catholic blog fallacies taken from comments made to Darwin’s post here:
1. I have the biggest encyclical!-Cite a few passages from an encyclical by one pope to “win” a debate on a contentious subject. Never mind what other popes may have written on the subject, ignore the history of the Church on the subject completely, and certainly never concede that the pope perhaps was making a general statement that might not fit all situations. Throwing in a bit of Latin is always a neat touch. Then, when other commenters resist the fact that you have “won”, you can, more in sorrow than in anger, either imply, the best tactic, or state flatly that they are dissenters and that they are not now arguing with you but the Vicar of Christ.
2. You heretic, you!-(Dawin Catholic contributed this): Don’t forget that no intra-Catholic-blogsphere throw-down is complete without accusing someone of engaging in a heresy at least 1000 years old.
The following are from RL:
3. Heresy Fallacies-Accusing your opponent of heresy without identifying the article of faith denied and usually basing it on something not even remotely dealing with heresy. Usually the charge is leveled at someone who doesn’t agree with your political policy prescriptions. i.e. Reductio ad Calvinism. “You disagree that every family making over $50,000 a year should be taxed at 80% which is a clear indication of Calvinism, something I have come to expect from people of your ilk”.
4. Etymological Fallacies- Derailing a conversation or accusing your opponent of ignorance for either not accepting your excessively broad or an inappropriately narrow definition. Examples:
Fallacy of Relativistic Definition: “Not all anarchists are people who oppose governance, some, like myself are for an all-encompassing dictatorial state”.
Fallacy of Anal Nitpicking: “Ah ha! I got you now! You said that all people have a right to life. The Catholic understanding is that people are PERSONS and you just betrayed your inherent radical Calvinistic individualism! Heretic!” (Note how well different fallacies can be combined to work together).
Inconsistent Etymological Fallacy: (Yes, one can apply the above two fallacies at the same time, plus legitimate usage!). “The problem with you on the Right is that you don’t know what a conservative really is, this no doubt due to your radical individualistic Calvinism.” Words have meaning and they have context. It’s not uncommon for a word to have different meanings in different contexts. We are rational beings so we can use our ability to categorize to make good use of these things. In the above example, we have someone being rather anal and condemning the (legitimate) usage of a word being in a particular context (conservative as applied to the US political parties) all the while exercising legitimate context usage when he/she says “the Right”. Even though, the Right technically dates back to the French Revolution and refers to those, oddly enough, that would be considered “Conservatives”. Bringing in the “C” word has the dual effect of counting as a Relativistic Definition AND a Heresy Fallacy.
We have a good start on a list. Please make your contributions in the combox!