19 July 2008

A few years ago I bought a book, it was called How to win every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic by Madsen Pirie, President of the Adam Smith Institute. It is, without doubt, one of the best book I’ve bought and/or read. What’s great about it is that you can just dip into it anywhere and remind yourself of the techniques in argument that are entirely commonplace in political discussion.

The reason I mention this is because I’ve just read a piece by Unity on Liberal Conspiracy which, unusually for Unity who I have significant respect for (even if I do have trouble reading his posts to the very end sometimes), is little more than one great big fallacy. The parts in question relate to his conclusion about some obscure organisation called the “Centre for Open Politics”. Unity points out that

In reality, the two founding members of the ‘Centre for Open Politics’ are Harry Cole, formerly the Vice-Chairman/Treasurer of Edinburgh University Conservative Future, and Amanda O’Brien who, earlier this year, was listed on campaign blog of Michael Rock, the current national Chairman of Conservative Future, as the Deputy Chairman of Essex Conservative Future.

Moreover, as an article posted at Conservative Home in July 2007 reveals, Cole spent much of last summer working out of Conservative Central Office with the previous Chairman of Conservative Future, Mark Clark, and Justine Greening MP, on the preparations for Conservative Future’s national Fresher’s Week recruitment drive and was even given his own e-mail address on the official conservatives.com domain.

He goes on to draw the conclusion on his own website that this impacts on the credibility of any argument they might make. This is the classic

ad hominem circumstantial

fallacy at play. Rather than taking on the argument it takes on the bias of two people and draw conclusions about the validity of an argument they make upon those circumstances of the arguer.

From a logical point of view this is a really crappy argument. The bias of a person does not itself make an argument made by the person invalid. Just because two people have been involved in X in the past it does not follow that their involvement in Y is linked to X as a ‘false flag’ operation.

This does not negate that the Centre for Open Politics might actually be what Unity says it is. The point is that the argument to justify the assertion that Unity is making is logically fallacious. Unity goes on to say that he will be contacting

the Electoral Commission, myself, to advise them of Cole’s undisclosed background in the confidence and advising them that there is ample evidence to suggest that Cole has submitted a wholly vexatious complaint.

All the “evidence” he refers to however is circumstantial. Again I stress, this is not an argument that Unity’s conclusion is wrong, it’s an argument that his route to reaching the conclusion is a logical pile of poo and essentially vexatious reasoning.

Published by Dizzy Thinks here

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