Exemplar of a fallacyPosted: January 4, 2016
In my last post, I commented on a piece by Greg Thompson (@GFThommo). He then wrote this rebuttal. It raises some interesting points, not least that we have different understandings of parliamentary democracy (on his final point – I do think that democratic decisions can be made about what to fund with tax dollars – this is precisely what the first English parliaments were set-up to do).
However, the post is mainly of note for its use of the Straw Man fallacy: Thompson makes a series of arguments against positions that I did not express. I am a fairly reasonable person and so I can handle a little exaggeration. Yet these clearly go too far:
I wrote: “There are several currents in modern sociological (and hence, educational) thought. Although you should never accuse a critical theorist of being a poststructuralist and so on, these theories share certain outlooks.”
Thompson argued against the position that: “All sociological/critical theory/poststructural work share certain outlooks”
I wrote: “I may not understand the equations of string theory but I can pick up a copy of New Scientist and read a pretty straightforward explanation of what it is; enough to get a sense of the debate around whether string theory is science or maths.”
Thompson argued against the position that: “While Science and Maths are difficult, New Scientist (and presumably other publications) make this complex work like string theory easy to understand.”
I wrote: “Indeed, postmodernism has been quite viciously lampooned. From The Sokal Affair to ‘how to speak and write postmodern‘, there are intelligent scholars lining up to take a swipe at it. Is this unfair? Is it a double standard?”
Thompson argued against the position that: “The Sokal Affair showed that postmodernism is nonsense.”
The problem with arguing against a straw man is that it doesn’t advance the argument.