My wife gave my daughter a chore. After several minutes my daughter came down from her room to negotiate with my wife.
“You need to come and help me do my job.” (I should mention that she has a difficult time completing chores unless she gets a LOT of help).
She continued before my wife had a chance to respond.
“You cannot just tell me what I’m supposed to do without helping me do it. That’s like the evil step-mother in Cinderella. You need to help me.”
I had a tough time containing my laughter as I overheard this, but it reminded me that logic and reason are not some kind of social construct that gets imposed on humanity as we grow up, but they are tools inherent to the human thought process. If I were to take her reasoning and spell it out slightly more formally it might look like this.
- You gave me instructions for chores that I am required to do, but you have not offered to help.
- Cinderella’s step-mother gave Cinderella instructions for chores that she was required to do, but Cinderella’s step-mother did not offer to help.
- What Cinderella’s step-mother did was wrong, therefore,
- What you did was wrong.
It’s a classic argument from analogy. Of course, there’s more to the equation than her simplistic Disney-inspired interpretation of the facts, but I’m actually quite proud of her for eloquently articulating her perspective, and providing reasons for it. She negotiated well for her age.
And I enjoyed getting a good chuckle out of her negotiation tactics. Oh, the innocence of children…
Or, how not to argue with friends. Please take careful note of the part in the middle about providing evidence and asking good questions. Be that person. But be prepared for the fallout.
This is my second attempt at an “art of reason” article. The hope is to help people think through the truth claims they are presented with. We get hundreds of them a day so this is an important skill to develop. I hope this is helpful; let me know.
My wife and I enjoyed a nice getaway at a cabin in the woods. Around the property it is not uncommon to see wild animals, including wild horses. We didn’t see any while we were there, but I did notice that the home owners had put a pile of postcards on the kitchen counter. The postcards were meant to raise awareness about a government policy with respect to rounding up and domesticating wild horses every year. The postcard is designed to be sent to government officials as a message that the signator would like to see changes to the legislation in this respect.
The message on the postcard is intended to persuade us to let the wild horses remain wild. See if you can spot all the logical problems with the message of the postcard. Here it is,
Brilliant advice! Just read it and soak it in; internalize the concepts. Apply them in your life and conversations with others on just about every subject.
15 ways to detect nonsense
The inability to understand what makes a good argument, and the inability to critique arguments is one of the key ingredients in miscommunication and the tendency to become argumentative. As described previously, good arguments help keep the tempers down. In order to develop a sense for logical glitches it helps to examine bad arguments to see where they go wrong. This is something else I would like to explore through my blog. The first “Art of Reason” example comes from a Christian website so I cannot be accused of deliberately making non-Christians look bad.
By the way, I intend to mix up my Tuesday posts a bit. I’ve been focusing on debriefing conversations so we can all learn from them, but I’ll start diversifying the content a little bit. “Art of Reason” will be one of the themes I use to diversify.