Lists of Fallacies Have an Important Shortcoming

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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73 Responses

  1. Dan Scotto says:

    This is a good post, and it brings to mind NN Taleb’s discussions of probability in *The Black Swan.* He puts on a dialogue between himself, “Dr. John,” and “Fat Tony”:

    NNT: Assume that a coin is fair, i.e., has an equal probability of coming up heads or tails when flipped. I flip it ninety-nine times and get heads each time. What are the odds of my getting tails on my next throw?
    Dr. John: Trivial question. One half, of course, since you are assuming 50 percent odds for each and independence between draws.
    NNT: What do you say, Tony?
    Fat Tony: I’d say no more than 1 percent, of course.
    NNT: Why so? I gave you the initial assumption of a fair coin, meaning that it was 50 percent either way.
    Fat Tony: You are either full of crap or a pure sucker to buy that “50 pehcent” business. The coin gotta be loaded. It can’t be a fair game. (Translation: It is far more likely that your assumptions about the fair-business are wrong than the coin delivering ninety-nine heads in ninety-nine throws.) (p. 124)


    • DensityDuck in reply to Dan Scotto says:

      Congratulations Fat Tony, you invented Bayesian analysis.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to Dan Scotto says:

      I’m reminded of the fact that I rephrase of Sherlock’s rule. (I used to think this was Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, but I’m suspecting instead it might be Robert Anton Wilson.)

      Sherlock’s rule: One you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.

      But, this is nonsense. The exact opposite is true.

      At some point, impossible becomes more likely than improbable, or, more specifically, something you have *decided* is ‘impossible’ is more likely than vastly improbably things.

      I.e., I know teleportation is impossible, but then I suddenly find myself in Australia, with no time having passed. So, ‘logically’, I am having a very realistic hallucination, which is merely very improbable, or I have teleported there, which is ‘impossible’. So the ‘logical’ conclusion is I’m hallucinating.

      …except, no, it’s not. Even ignoring the fact that ‘I have gone crazy and started having realistic hallucination’ is never a good conclusion to make(1), it’s not even the most likely. What is the most likely thing is that *I have misjudged the odds of teleportation*.

      This is because there’s no such thing as ‘impossible’ things, and there are a good subset of things we literally have no idea how ‘probable’ they are.

      Also, it’s rather hilarious to see someone talking about how logical fallacies only work in a universe of absolute truths decreed by God, and we should talk about probabilities instead…

      …when most people talking about *probabilities* are doing the same thing, where their thought experiences somehow have probabilities decreed by God, or they have simplified everything to coin flips.

      Claims are not assigned by all-knowing teachers, but *neither are the odds*.

      1) You should never assume you’re having a fully realistic hallucination, because there is no possible way that you can make better choices with that assumption. If it is true, you’re basically screwed anyway…you might want to talk loudly about what you’re seeing, so others can deal with you, but other than that, behave as if what you’re seeing is true. And, of course, that isn’t even how hallucinations even work.Report

  2. Chris says:

    Just going to copy my comment from one of those threads into this one:

    I think you’re misunderstanding the dynamic here. There is a very real sense in which, even when we’re considering arguments (and not just practical ones, but all the more with practical ones), their implications for life as demonstrated by the behavior of those who convey the arguments are relevant. If I argue that X will always lead to Y, and so I adopt Z, and I myself always end up at Y, then at least to the extent that avoiding Y is the reason why people tend to pick Z over X, my argument against X in favor of Z is called into question. If everyone who argues against X because Y, and chooses Z instead also ends up at Y, then the argument against X is pretty much out the window, right?

    Since we raised the spectre of Schopenhauer elsewhere in the thread, someone writing of Schopenhauer once said, “I profit from a philosopher only insofar as he can be an example… But this example must be supplied by his outward life and not merely in his books—in the way, that is, in which the philosophers of Greece taught, through their bearing, what they wore and ate, and their morals, rather than by what they said, let alone by what they wrote.” And again, there’s something to be said for this: if one has a philosophy, one should be able to live it, and if one loves it enough to hold it, one should love it enough to live it.

    But none of this reflects the argument that you have made, which is that because certain individuals singled out by you, because they are powerful or visible, have failed to live the sort of moral life they are using to condemn the choices of others can’t be used to judge the arguments they used to condemn the choices of others unless a.) it was the arguments themselves (or the philosophy underlying it) that led them to fail to uphold the very values they claimed to be promoting, and b.) their behavior is representative of the people who share those values and arguments. You’ve shown neither of these things.


    • zic in reply to Chris says:

      But none of this reflects the argument that you have made, which is that because certain individuals singled out by you, because they are powerful or visible, have failed to live the sort of moral life they are using to condemn the choices of others can’t be used to judge the arguments they used to condemn the choices of others unless a.) it was the arguments themselves (or the philosophy underlying it) that led them to fail to uphold the very values they claimed to be promoting, and b.) their behavior is representative of the people who share those values and arguments. You’ve shown neither of these things.

      I tried clearing this up a bit to see if it made sense: [I]ndividuals have failed to live the sort of moral life they are using to condemn the choices of others can’t be used to judge the arguments they used to condemn the choices of others unless the arguments themselves led them to fail to uphold the values they promote or their behavior is representative of people who share those values and arguments.

      There’s a missing thing here; and that’s the consequences prescribed for violating the moral judgments; and failing to admit to and accept those consequences for oneself even as you argue that other should bear them.

      Hypocrisy undermines one’s arguments in much the same way that one bit of wrong information in a news report undermines the entire report, even if all the other facts presented are correct.Report

      • Chris in reply to zic says:

        Hypocrisy undermines oneself and, to some extent at least, one’s moral credibility. It does not undermine one’s moral positions, unless they are dependent entirely on that credibility.

        If everyone or the majority of the people who oppose gay marriage for “sanctity of marriage” reasons cheat on their spouses or get divorced or what have you, then there may be a case that their reasons are bullshit. If a few high profile proponents of such arguments do so, it just means their advocacy carries no real moral weight.Report

        • zic in reply to Chris says:

          Personally, I think much of the more strident moralizing flows from people who, in trying to exert control over themselves, instead try to exert it over others, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say,” and so it does suggest that their moral positions lack credibility at a most basic level. It’s not the drum and strang of families and communities seeking moral center, it’s the credibility of leaders who stir that energy; often doing so based on their own shortcomings but without dealing with their shortcomings.

          Newt Gingrich has no moral credibility to discuss family values, he has none.Report

          • Chris in reply to zic says:

            Personally, I think much of the more strident moralizing flows from people who, in trying to exert control over themselves, instead try to exert it over others

            I agree with that. I’d just say that all the more reason not to use the moral failings of the rich and powerful to judge moral arguments. Rather, use them to judge wealth and power.Report

      • Murali in reply to zic says:

        @zic, you might be right as a purely descriptive matter. Hypocrisy might undermine people’s confidence in the moral judgment of the hypocrite. Nevertheless, there is a separate question as to whether such a belief revision on other’s part is rational. Merely saying that lots of people form beliefs in that way does not make it rational.Report

        • zic in reply to Murali says:

          I disagree; I think it’s highly rational. We cannot know everything we need to know to make a rational decision about most things, so we rely on symbols and perceptions and signaling to some great degree.

          Not overwhelming oneself is, in fact, a rational decision.Report

  3. Marchmaine says:

    What have we discovered if Red Octopus wins?Report

  4. Barry Fernelius says:

    I remember Copi’s book from a philosophy class that I took in college many years ago. There’s an entire branch of study dedicated to evaluating arguments where the propositions have truth values aren’t always 1 and 0. It’s called fuzzy logic. It’s an unfortunate name, but a useful set of tools addressing the very problems that you discussed.Report

    • Chris in reply to Barry Fernelius says:

      There are other areas that deal with probabilities as well, of course.

      Fuzzy logic is about something even trickier: those times when the law of the excluded middle is violated at least a little bit. That is, when something is both a and ~a. (Ayn Rand wept.)Report

      • Patrick in reply to Chris says:

        Classic logicians have a problem with fuzzy logic because they declare that “something is both a and ~a” cannot occur by definition; if it occurs it is because you have improperly defined what “a” and “~a” are.

        I have yet to meet a classic logician that can tolerate reading any mathematics after about 1890.Report

        • Chris in reply to Patrick says:

          I don’t know that I’ve ever met a classic logician.Report

          • Patrick in reply to Chris says:

            Sure you have. It’s everybody on the Internet who read a book on logic and rhetoric once… and as Vikram points out (admirably), all the intro texts are very basic.

            Basically, all of your high school debate team guys who didn’t go into philosophy when they went to college, but became business majors.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Patrick says:

          Wasn’t that the reason Alice in Wonderland came about?Report

        • Barry Fernelius in reply to Patrick says:

          Fuzzy logic can be used to approach a number of real-world problems. (You can Google it as well as I can.) It’s a good tool in certain contexts. (And most of the time the probability of a is much higher than the probability of ~a–or vice versa!)

          Pros of Classical Logic: Mathematical rigor and Absolute Truth (Ooo!)
          Cons of Classical Logic: Is an abstraction that is often an insufficient model of many real-world situations.Report

  5. Tod Kelly says:

    @viktam-bath You mention deduction, but fallacies do have a secondary (and much more often used) purpose: as a debating tool, carefully used not to discover truth but to dissuade observers from accepting evidence that does not support your position.

    This very much supports your OP, obviously.Report

    • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      The fallacy he mentions isn’t even a formal fallacy of deductive reasoning, but an informal one applicable (perhaps primarily so) to non-deductive reasoning.Report

  6. Stillwater says:

    In the world of formal deductive logic, a proposition like “All Eskimos like fish” is not proven until you have assessed the position of every last Eskimo (or survey everyone who doesn’t like fish and find that none of them are Eskimos).

    I think it’s more than that, actually. It’s proving that any Eskimo likes fish (that is, even Eskimo’s who aren’t part your sample, eg, dead ones, future ones, hidden ones…). Which means, in the world of deductive logic, that liking fish is a necessary (not contingent) condition for being an Eskimo.Report

  7. veronica d says:

    A few points:


    Probability theory is really nice, and indeed it is mathematically sound. However, no one actually uses it the way the “Yay Bayesianism!” articles talk about. There are a couple reasons for this. First, it is computationally intractable, which is to say, in a large, multivariate probability space (that is, any useful probability space), the various degrees of independence and the shape of the conditional probabilities, which is were the interesting data is found, are computationally intractable. All real-world work based on these principles will use some abstraction of the full Bayesian methods, often graphical models in the style of Judea Pearl. Choosing such an abstraction weakens the general mathematical soundness.

    (This is to say, you’re making assumption that might not be correct. These are assumption about how to apply Bayesian methods, so you cannot account for their choice in the model.)

    (Highly technical point: there is probably a fixed point of “probabilistically model your choice of a model within your model,” but it is unlikely to be Turning computable. I haven’t proven this, nor seen it proved. Call it an educated guess.)

    The second reason no one uses this stuff the way you see in articles is this: Which variables should I measure? What should I consider “A proposition”?

    After all, we are not trying to find the truth or falsehood of individual propositions. Instead, we are trying to find out how things fit together, and what effects an action will have, including hard-to-measure second order effects. (This is the “law of unintended consequences” stuff.) Choosing what measures we take, and what we cannot measure, but believe is a confounder, and so on, shape the outcome entirely.

    tl;dr beware toy problems you see in blog articles.


    On this:

    A smart supporter would ordinarily not present a bad argument if a good one were readily available.

    The problem with this is that the public discourse on most controversial topics is pretty terrible, and do I want to rest the validity of transgender rights on arguments made by loud activists on television? Or, instead, would I hope that those who are undecided about transgender rights would deliberately seek out better arguments?

    If I by chance make a bad argument, but on a topic that is true, should I hope that others do not dismiss the issue, but that instead they look a little bit deeper, keep an open mind, and look critically at any new evidence that comes, before they reach a stern conclusion?

    How should I act when someone makes a bad argument?

    Thus much rests on what we mean by “a smart supporter,” because it might not be so obvious. When hearing about a controversial topic, the people I end up hearing were likely not chosen because they are “smart,” but instead because they are loud, or well positioned in the media, or entertainingly horrible. (For instance, right now who seems to be getting the most attention about transgender rights?)

    (Trust me, the trans community did not vote Caitlyn fucking Jenner to be our spokesperson.)

    I might dismiss “The Republican Party,” insofar as it seems to be full of idiots who creep into its power structure. This is not the same as rejecting conservative argument, where we might rightly assume the smart proponents are not to be found where TV cameras are pointing.

    (I mean, obviously I do reject conservative argument, but it would be foolish to base that opinion entirely on the buffoons on Fox News.)


    Much human insight seems to arise from “system 1” style thinking, and often a person will have some kind of intuition about a problem that is difficult to communicate or prove.

    Which fine. The point is, we then engage in “motivated reasoning,” and find what arguments we can to support our points. It is as easy to dress up these beliefs in “Bayesian drag” as it is in “classical logic drag.”


    Most attempts at “rational discussion” are pretty irrational, and the “moves” of using “fallacies” seem neither worse nor better than the “moves” used by the LessWrong crowd (which seems to be the epicenter of much of this development). That crowd is certainly pretty smart, but they are just as quick to deploy “cached responses” as any other group.

    Mostly they just link to the sequences and then get smug.


    On the other hand, I agree strongly with the LessWrong rationalist mantra:

    If it is true, I want to believe it is true. If it is false, I want to believe it false.

    A bad argument my a ninny on television is not much evidence either way. Most arguments by everyone are bad.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to veronica d says:

      I take it you are unhappy with Caitlyn. This is OT for this thread, but I’d like to hear more about that. I kind of figured that all publicity is good publicity.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Doctor Jay says:

        As I’ve heard it elsewhere, Caitlyn Jenner has chosen to become the stereotypical male’s vision of the stereotypical woman. It’s not so much “discovering a true identity” as it is “cosplaying a sexy chick”.Report

        • Brian Murphy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          So cis women who pose for VF aren’t women either? With friends like you, the transgender community doesn’t need enemies.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Brian Murphy says:

            :rolleyes: Wasn’t saying it myself, bro. This is what I’ve *heard* people say, and I was passing it along as a response to Doctor Jay. I’m not claiming to be anything at all as regards the transgender community.Report

            • Brian Murphy in reply to DensityDuck says:

              You’re saying that CJ isn’t really a woman bc she doesn’t meet your standard of femininity. [Deleted by Kazzy]Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Brian Murphy says:


                Please disagree with others to your heart’s content, but do so abiding by the commenting policy. You’ve clearly got stuff worth saying to say, so please allow us to here it.

                More here:

              • Brian Murphy in reply to Kazzy says:

                So it’s ok to say CJ isn’t really a woman, but a little profanity gives you the vapors? That’s a real enlightened community you have here at the LoOG.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Brian Murphy says:

                @brian-murphy – I think you are misunderstanding what @densityduck is saying. He himself is making no such argument. Rather, he is relaying to @doctor-jay his understanding of why some people may be less than thrilled about Caitlin Jenner’s actions as a high-visibility trans representative/advocate.

                You also came in snarking “TLDR” at @veronica-d, who is not only just about as far ideologically as you can get from Density Duck, but is herself a trans woman, with a vested interest in the topic.

                Basically, it looks you came loaded for bear, without really understanding what was going on. Take a breath, or else people are going to assume you are here to troll.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Glyph says:

                I don’t think Brian’s here to troll. He’s been here commenting for a while.

                Plus, I very much get that this is a topic that makes people see red. I assume that when someone loses it at moments like this, it has a lot to do with all of the constant stuff that goes on all day everyday prior to these kinds of comments just as much as it does the comments that set people off.

                IOW, since the one of the goals of the denizens of the intertubes and social media seems to be to drive people crazy by offending them, it shouldn’t be so spurning when someone feels like they’re being driven crazy.Report

              • RTod in reply to Brian Murphy says:

                Aaaaand I think that’s enough for this sub-sub thread.

                DD — when people ask a specific person (that isn’t you) a specific question (that isn’t directed at you), please try not to throw a match on it to see if you can make the site flame up. Thanks in advance.

                Brian — admittedly, our standards are probably few and far between to the outside observer. But even *I* get a little uncofmy when the threads are used to call people the c-word, the n-word, the r-word, etc., even when inserting the “word” part.

                Your overall point is perfectly fine, but maybe not the c-word in the future. Thanks in advance.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to RTod says:

                “please try not to throw a match on it to see if you can make the site flame up.”

                I was anwering the question. If anyone started a fight, it was Brian. I don’t know what his baggage about this is.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to RTod says:

                Yeah I didn’t see DD throw any matches or gasoline.Report

              • veronica d in reply to RTod says:

                DD probably doesn’t even realize he’s being a “type.”

                Which is to say, there is this thing where right wingers and radical feminists will uncritically repeat each other’s positions, but only when attacking trans people. (And also sex workers, but anyway.) I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, as both groups hold trans women in equal contempt —

                but still, talk about strange bedfellows.

                Anyway, the argument that DD was making rests on the radfem premise that women who try to look beautiful are submitting to the patriarchy and thus bad.

                Which, nonsense. But anyway —

                The argument then goes on to suggest that trans women do this to excess, in fact they do it singularly, in fact this is all you need to understand about trans women. Thus trans women are uniquely bad and the most terrible agents of patriarchy.

                Again, the first premise is nonsense and so the conclusion does not follow. But more, it’s completely false to suggest trans women are more likely to be feminine or submissive, compared to cis women. We are not.

                It’s true that in the 1970’s, when much of the radfem theory about trans women was first developed, trans women were required by doctors to present hyper-femininine and to be appropriately womanly, which in the minds of sexist doctors meant pretty and submissive.

                (I’m not exaggerating. Doctors would comment in their notes that they found attractive trans women more likely to be telling the truth about our condition. They were too stupid to realize how creepy this was.)

                Anyway, these arguments largely died out as the second wave died out. Nowadays you mostly only hear them from TERFy retreads and the occasional right winger, who when presented with an opportunity to express contempt for trans women will not hesitate to repeat the blatherings of some 70’s-era lesbian separatist.

                There is a nice social science research paper waiting behind all of this.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “Anyway, the argument that DD was making rests on the radfem premise that women who try to look beautiful are submitting to the patriarchy and thus bad.”

                I’m not making an argument. I’m passing on what other people said, in response to a question that was asked. And I made that clear.Report

              • zic in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Yup. I thought you made it clear. You might have linked an argument and said so-and-so says; you might have disclaimed agreement, all of which might have made it more clear, but I do not think you trying to flame things or whatever, if that’s any comfort, @densityduckReport

          • veronica d in reply to Brian Murphy says:

            DD is not a “friend” to the trans community.

            Regarding Jenner, it’s a free country and she has exactly as much right to be a tawdry tabloid icon as the rest of her family — which is, sure she can do it, but I don’t have to like it.

            Try to imagine sitting in a movie theater with a friend, when they decide to show some shitty trailer for some trans-themed thing. Which okay, it’s good they’re making stuff with us in it — although cis people don’t make stuff that is truthful about us, because the public is not interested in our real lives —

            Which actually our real lives are hella boring. Our genders are boring. Our transitions are boring. Our surgeries are boring. Our junk is boring.

            Tranny sex is boring. (Well actually, no, that part is pretty fun.)

            Anyway, we’re really fucking boring people. I mostly talk about math.

            Anyway, blah blah blah. I can go on about how the media sucks and literally everything they say about trans people is shallow false nonsense created to tweak the sexual preoccupations of cis people, and has not much to do with us.

            Which actually maybe that’s kinda exploitative, since people think that stuff is true and then decide how to treat us based on that shit.

            You know, like pass laws about us.

            But anyway! (I’m ranting here.) I’m in the movie theater. A preview for a trans thing comes on. A bunch of bro-dudes are in the next row.

            I get to hear a group of bro-dudes say dumb shit about trans women. They are just heee-laaarrr-eous.

            (They’re not hilarious.)

            Which, you know, shit like that gets old. Every asshole has an opinion about me, which many seem eager to share.

            So now we have Caitlyn in the media, a “big story.”

            But it’s a boring story and now I can’t just go sit at a bar without other patrons rambling on about dumb shit.

            I mean, it’s not like they really engage with the issue, really learn, really think. It’s just — you know — a great big dick joke at my expense.

            I suppose this isn’t really Jenner’s fault exactly. She’s trying to navigate the same shitty, transphobic culture as the rest of us.

            But still, what the fuck does she know about living trans, the long crushing drag of being “out”? The stuff she has to talk about, the self realization, coming “out,” transition, hormones — this is such a small part of what we are, so cliché and overdone. We’ve heard this story before, and cis people find it endlessly entertaining, but don’t seem to care about the rest of our stories.

            Ain’t Jenner’s fault, but she chooses what role she plays in the mess. For example, she could stay away from the cameras for a few years, until this living as a woman stuff has sunk in.

            In the meanwhile, Janet Mock deserves more attention. As does Laura Jane Grace. As does Imogen Binnie. These are women with shit to say.Report

            • veronica d in reply to veronica d says:

              Oh, let me add, from a theoretical perspective, this is an issue of hypervisibility, which the best run down of the topic is from Trudy:

              Hypervisibility but as a stereotype, a punchline, or a controlling image is not respect. It is not adoration. It most definitely is not love. Ever. Being a Black woman means being regularly seen, but never for who I actually am. It means appearing in spaces but only as a stepping stool for Whites, Black men and even some non-Black people of colour. It means that whenever I discuss a dearth of nuanced (not necessarily “positive” now, as that can be dehumanizing and one-dimensional as well), dynamic, and complicated portraits of Black womanhood appearing in the media and for people interacting with Black women to treat us as nuanced, dynamic, and complicated beings, what humans are, I regularly receive responses that amount to “at least you are seen” by non-Black people of colour, “well that’s what y’all are like” from Black men and “well, you should be thankful that we have not completely erased you” by Whites. However, I do not want to be seen, consumed as a non-human product, appropriated, plagiarized, trolled or threatened because “at least” that is some form of attention…that I did not ask for in the first place. The attention economy is a plague. []

              Obviously she is talking about black women, but the analogy to other groups should be pretty obvious.

              Anyway, I am suggesting that Jenner is going to mold herself to be an easy to consume hypervisibility product. She might over time rise above this, but given her track record as a Kardashian, I would be surprised.Report

              • Glyph in reply to veronica d says:

                Jenner is going to mold herself to be an easy to consume hypervisibility product. She might over time rise above this, but given her track record as a Kardashian, I would be surprised.

                I said this the other day on another thread, but Jenner’s penetration of (and apparent thirst for) the public consciousness long predates her Kardashianness.


                After Olympic success, Jenner decided to cash in on celebrity status, requiring her to forgo any future Olympic appearances. Her agent, George Wallach, felt at the time that there was a four-year window as holder to the title of “World’s Greatest Athlete” to capitalize upon. Wallach reported that Jenner was being considered for the role of Superman, which ultimately went to Christopher Reeve. She was also considered for a dog food commercial.[40] Soon after the Games, Jenner appeared on the front of Wheaties brand breakfast cereal as a “Wheaties champion”, being the second of role model athletes who appeared as spokespersons for the brand.


              • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

                Jenner was being considered for the role of Superman, which ultimately went to Christopher Reeve. She was also considered for a dog food commercial.

                And a carrot in the Bakersfield Produce Board’s Salute to Root Vegetables.Report

            • Brian Murphy in reply to veronica d says:


            • she has exactly as much right to be a tawdry tabloid icon as the rest of her family

              That’s right neighborly of you 🙂Report

            • DavidTC in reply to veronica d says:

              Ain’t Jenner’s fault, but she chooses what role she plays in the mess.

              She’s is one of those people that did something famous once, and have been living off that fame ever since. I find it hard to care about such people. At least she’s originally famous for being skilled, instead of a sex tape or just being a rich attractive person, but still.

              But, in an odd sense, that does make her more ‘courageous’, sorta. Like you said, she could have, a decade ago, refused to get back in the public eye, and silently transitioned without anyone really noticing. Or a year ago, when her marriage fell apart, re-disappeared from the public eye…she’s wealthy enough, IIRC.

              So I have oddly mixed feelings about her. I’m not a fan of most people that choose to be famous as a profession…but *someone* has to be the first famous person to do this in front of the public, and better a famous person who *wants* to be there than someone unwillingly forced into the spotlight. (1)

              Of course, most famous != best spokesperson, but there’s no way of stopping the media from doing that. The media outlets that already *were* taking trans issues seriously will still be booking Mock and the others. The ones that weren’t will be booking Jenner, and that’s probably better than *nothing*.

              1) Actually, we already had that…Chelsea Manning. Of course, she physically couldn’t be a spokesperson.Report

              • veronica d in reply to DavidTC says:

                @davidtc — She’s not the first famous person to do this. Nor is she the first trans woman to become a huge media darling (that honor goes to Christina Jorgensen).

                She might be the most famous person to transition. (I don’t think people like Laura Jane Grace or Lana Wachowski had the same profile.) And she is (so far as I can think of) the first big tabloid star to do so. So there is that.

                In any case, beyond all the media analysis, this affects my day to day life. Hypervisibility has a direct and immediate effect on me. Just walking around in public it is there.

                And yeah, that stuff was latent in the culture before Jenner came along. If it was not her, it would be other stuff (such as the trans related movie trailer I referenced in my other post).

                But still, right now it’s Jenner, and it’s big, and it’s nauseating. It turns up the volume knob big time.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to veronica d says:

                Nor is she the first trans woman to become a huge media darling (that honor goes to Christina Jorgensen).

                Yes, but she became famous afterwards. (IIRC) Half the thing with Jenner is that she was very visible *before* coming out.

                As for, Lana Wachowski, despite being a well-known director, she doesn’t really count as ‘famous’. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her give an interview, now that I think about it. (And I have the sort of genre tastes that mean her and her brother are exactly the sort of interviews I would have stumbled across.)

                I admit I don’t really know about anything about Laura Jane Grace. Don’t know anything about punk rock. She’s not famous enough for me to have heard of…of course, for what it’s worth, two years ago, I couldn’t have told you who Bruce Jenner was, either, except ‘Some vaguely famous person I heard mentioned by news, but have never cared enough to look up who he is.’.

                She might be the most famous person to transition.

                That’s sorta what I was getting at. And not just famous…*tabloid* famous.

                But still, right now it’s Jenner, and it’s big, and it’s nauseating. It turns up the volume knob big time.

                I have to suggest that this is something that *had* to happen, at some point, on the way to normalizing trans people. I’ve heard people compare it to Ellen coming out, and while that is a bit trite, it’s not entirely wrong.

                But, yeah, it’s probably annoying as hell to suddenly have more attention. Even ‘well-meaning’ questions by curious people would get tiresome after a while (As I heard Janet Mock explain once, it’s normally considered somewhat rude to ask people questions about their genitals.), and I’m sure ‘well-meaning’ is not a good description of some of the attention.Report

              • veronica d in reply to DavidTC says:

                @davidtc — Yeah, it “had to happen at some point” is true, but darnit I wish we’d had an Ellen-style coming out and not quite this.

                I mean, a lot of this is about subtle shades rather than bold hues — and I don’t want to sound like I hate Ms. Jenner, cuz I don’t. But I like DeGeneres in ways I do not like Jenner.

                I dunno. I feel like —

                It’s like this: Jenner is not the first trans woman the public could glom onto and make a “big deal.” Janet Mock exists. Laverne Cox exists, and both of those women did make some media splash, but not this kind of splash.

                And I think because neither figure was quite willing to become a tabloid darling. Jenner is.

                And the public wants what it wants, and it does not want to consume us from a place of dignity, so neither Mock nor Cox would do, since they both knew how to stick up for themselves and tell interviewers to stuff it.

                (Plus there’s probably some race stuff there also. But anyway.)

                Neither would Laura Jane Grace quite do — and not cuz punk rock, but because she would never submit to the camera the ways that the salacious public wants.

                I mean, look, let’s be blunt. Go look at Jenner’s big cover picture. Notice something?

                What part of her body does the camera invite you to focus on? Why?

                (Am I the only person who noticed this?)

                Actually, I don’t exactly blame the photographer and producers for choosing that. It seems — I dunno — kinda to have a few levels of irony. But I bet the public hasn’t the insight to know what is happening. I bet they won’t see any need to self examine the direction of their gaze.


                And neither would Imogen Binnie do, since she’s a raw voice and the public doesn’t want to be challenged.

                On and on, I can name trans woman after trans woman who was “available” for attention, but none of them are what the cis public wants.

                Julia Serano. Sibil Lamb.

                Yeah, any big burst of attention is going to suck. But this big burst of attention sucks in particular ways.Report

  8. Burt Likko says:

    I notice that the phrase “inductive reasoning” is absent so far from this discussion. Absolute proof and certainty are not a criterion for induction, inductive reasoning helps us get to the truth in ways deduction cannot, by taking note of the strength of evidence and the strength of what is reasonable and expected based on available evidence.

    To the inductive reasoner, the tipster at the track offers arguments in favor of betting on Red Octopus. Those arguments are just that, arguments. They may contain evidence (“Red Octopus won his last three races by five of more lengths each.”). But the fact that the tipster has bet on Blue Squid is also inductive evidence. That, too, is not dispositive: the tipster may actually think that Red Octopus is most likely to win, but perhaps has made a mathematical calculation that the odds on Blue Squid are disproportionately high compared to Blue Squid’s chances of winning.

    Nevertheless, it’s evidence of what what the tipster thinks the smart bet is. A deductive reasoner may well look at this evidence and decline to bet on Red Octopus. But it takes induction to go the next step and bet on Blue Squid.Report

  9. Saul Degraw says:

    This seems relevant. Basically people are destined to define expert as “someone who agrees with me”. Sometimes I find it amazing that we survived and achieved so much considering that we seem hardwired for conflict and disagreement:

    • zic in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      That’s a funny take on voting.

      I loved Drum’s last graf, where he (so he says,) gives his preference:

      As it happens, my own guess is that highly engaged voters probably vote more stupidly than people who live normal lives and don’t even know what GDP is, let alone whether it’s gone up or down under the current occupant of the White House. If I had my way, anyone who shows an actual interest in politics—all of us who read and write this blog, for example—would be deemed obviously neurotic and forbidden from voting for dog catcher, let alone president. People like us would get to rant and rave and publish op-eds, but only people who are bored by us would actually get to vote. Any objections?

      Neurotic I say. Obviously not fit to make a rational choice.

      We are back to a successful investment strategy being monkey’s selecting stock with darts as the preferable alternative to hedge funds. My personal take is that this topic reeks of Heisenberg’s uncertainty; and it all depends on which way you look and what you measure, and while you’re doing one thing, someone else looks the other way and measures something different.

      And both answers are true.Report

  10. Sam says:

    (Sorry for having missed this until now, I think, but then maybe not, as everybody tends to hate the position that I not only take, but blindly and angrily defend.)

    A question perhaps – when you’re arguing with someone, are you trying to are against that person or against the arguments. My bet would be that the people outraged at my position are very good at ignoring the person and simply having at the arguments themselves. That would preclude the sort of “I don’t believe the thing that YOU’RE saying because I know that YOU’RE a hypocrite!” position that I like to take. Because I’m arguing with that person, and if that person has lived a life that runs counter to the argument that he’s making, I have no interest in the argument being made. The personal hypocrisy undermines it to such an extent that believing his/her claims becomes not only impossible, but a total waste of my time.

    If your interest is in arguing against the idea, create whatever little fun rules you’d like against what is and isn’t allowed to be said, but if I didn’t sign up for that game – and I was never smart enough to join the debate club – I don’t see why I’m bound by its rules.

    Sidenote – when I was a kid, I would occasionally get in fights. I’m not proud of this, but it happened, usually with my friends. Anyway, I always went straight for the face. And I always got the same, “Why are you hitting us in face when we fight?” complaint, as if there are rules man. But I didn’t want to be in fights, and it seemed to me that going straight for the face ended fights as quickly as possible. So I always went for the face. Was I bound to a set of fighting rules I never agreed to. I tend to think not. I suppose the members of the debate club think otherwise.

    Such is life.Report