Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bad Thoughts

I am currently reading Bad Thoughts by Jamie Whyte. It's an enjoyable book, so far, and one I would reccomend- it talks about the logical fallacies we are all susceptible to.

One of these that frustrates me is the "pot calling the kettle black" argument. We've all experienced it, maybe even used it. You are watching, perhaps, someone play a game of some sort, and say "you aren't doing well there..." Their response? "Yeah, well you can't do any better!" Huh? It might well be true that I can't do any better, but thats hardly the point. It doesn't make you good. Just better than me. Often it's applied against people who don't even claim to be good at that. This is true for morality- the mother telling her daughter to be more careful, with the retaliation "well you weren't!". It might be frustrating to have a murderer tell you not to murder, but it does not stop murder being wrong. Ultimately this argument answers nothing, other than to bring the other person down with you.

I must admit that I have used this before, in the heat of the moment- perhaps because it does feel unfair to have someone tell you off that you know they've done before, and will do again. It doesn't make your action right however, and I think we should all keep that in mind.

3 Comments:

At 2:01 am, Blogger Phil Plasma said...

I, on the other hand, seem to operate in the 'treat-figurative-as-real' world too often. I don't know any pots or kettles who talk with each other to compare colours.

 
At 4:47 pm, Blogger The Venomous Bee said...

I read a book called "Attacking Faulty Reasoning" (very good, if you want to look at everyday examples of illogic, by T. Edward Damer.) to improve my academic skills. It discussed things like the pot-and-kettle argument, among other things, but I found that the difficulty is that some people you argue with who know you well insist on dismissing the remainder of a discussion because: "well, you're reading that "how to win arguments" book!"

So. Hm. The book does tell you that there are times when you will not be able to reason with someone. In these cases, it advises dropping the subject. I'm not very good at that yet.

 
At 4:23 am, Blogger Kelly said...

I chuckled a bit when I read this. Very good post. This needs to be said more often. In fact, that's why I brought up the religious discussion immediately in my first post on capital punishment, because I was trying to head off that argument at the pass.

 

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