THE CRITICAL THINKING PROFESSOR’S DILEMMA

 

  • S asserts that not-p.
  • S is paid. Therefore
  • S is paid to assert that not-p.
  • The likelihood of the truth of not-p varies inversely with what one is paid to assert it.
  • If one’s been exposed to the evidence available to her for p, and yet she asserts that not-p nonetheless, she asserts what she believes to be false, and she does so because she’s paid to assert it. Therefore
  • anyone who asserts that not-p is asserting what she believes to be false because she’s paid to assert it, or else she’s a dupe of those who assert what they believe to be false because they’re paid to assert it. Therefore
  • p.

 

(3) does not follow from (1) and (2). (4) is pulled out of the arguer’s ass. (5) fails to realize that one can be exposed to evidence without being convinced by it. And even if (5) were true, (6) doesn’t follow from it. And worst of all, nothing in (1) through (6) entitles the arguer to (7).

This astounding set of inferences is made all the more astounding by being drawn by people who’ve spent a lifetime learning how not to draw them,. And who’ve taken unstinting pains to teach their students not to draw them either.

How is this possible? The answer can only be that they’re so convinced of p on grounds independent of this shilling argument that they don’t think it matters whether any supplementary arguments for p are sound or even valid.

It wouldn’t matter if they were addressing the shilling argument to those already in their tribe on the p versus not-p debate, though in that case one wonders why any further argumentation is even called for. But it does matter to any of their students who are as yet unaligned, and have taken pains to learn what was taught them about invalid arguments.

The shilling argument is a particularly egregious example of critical thinking skills thrown out the window in the service of a heart-felt conviction. If one sifts through the threads, be they on desmogblog.com or False Flag Weekly – I’ve found that these stupidities are pretty much evenly distributed – she can confidently cover every fallacy there is, and some of which she wouldn’t have thought anyone over six years old was even capable.

The key question, for those of us professional philosophers psychopathic enough not to have any heart-felt convictions – be it about anthropogenic climate change or 9/11 or whatever – is what to do about these blogs. Keep silent and be thought a fool? Or open one’s mouth and remove all doubt? For logic aside, in the real world of conversational implicature, a criticism of an argument for p is taken to be a subscription to not-p. I’ve already been described as a global warming denier and as a paid spokesperson for the official story about 9/11, notwithstanding I neither know nor care one whit about either of these issues. And now, because I’ve been foolish enough to announce that I don’t think any criticism of the State of Israel is anti-Semitism, I’m soon to be listed as one of Canada’s most notorious Holocaust deniers.

The temptation, of course, is to just retire, or at the very least go to ground. Right now I’m waffling between the two. Any suggestions?

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