This is subtitled “Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders.” It’s a short treatise by a graduate student in Philosophy at Cambridge. This is the sort of philosopher my Topologist friend might appreciate: he very nicely slices up a variety of bullshit and serves it garnished with humor. It’s a rah-rah book. There’s nothing in here to convince a politician, priest, or journalist that he’s wrong, or to explain logical argument. It does make rationalists feel good to read, though—and at 155 tiny pages, it’s not a large investment.
I remember when I would have completely understood everything in this book. At this point, that feels more difficult. Now it seems like the author doesn’t understand—that some statements have purposes other than conveying simple truths, that an argument is won in practice by emotionally convincing an audience, not by rationally convincing your debating partner. The ancient art of Disputation is no longer practiced. If about to be immersed in a designed society, I should be very glad to know that Mr. Whyte was involved in the design. Since he did not construct our present culture, his insights into how cultures ought to be built seem of limited usefulness. We can work towards that world, but we are unlikely ever to live in it.
Books read this year: 43