S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Truth need not be obscure

"Sophistry" seems like a rather arcane word for a blog post. But we hear a lot of sophistry on the Sunday morning talk shows. So it is pertinent.

  • I just looked it up in the dictionary to make sure my understanding was correct. The word means 1) "Plausible but fallacious argumentation." or 2) "A plausible but misleading or fallacious argument."
  • My online Thesaurus offered these words as similar: "Plausible but invalid reasoning: casuistry, fallacy, sophism, speciousness, spuriousness."
  • The Famous Quote given by my Bartlett's online resource is this:

AUTHOR: Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
QUOTATION: Destroy his fib or sophistry—in vain! The creature 's at his dirty work again.
ATTRIBUTION: Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. Prologue to the Satires. Line 91.

My point is this. The word sophistry has been pertinent to the political debate for many years. Armando at DailyKos used the word in his recent post on the possible appointment of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court, pairing it with obfuscation.

Obfuscation is often the reason that people in a debate resort to sophistry. The idea is to distract from the truth of the argument on the other side, to obscure waht the argument is really about, to throw one's opponent off, or to reiterate a lie often enough to make it seem plausible. The goal is to win the argument with a preemptive strike, not to further the discussion or explore the truth.

So is it any wonder that such tactics make our heads spin? Democrats have been having a hard time finding their footing in these fierce debates. However, we may be getting some help. Three leading Republican Senators now apprear to also be trying to oppose the administration's sophistry about the so-called "war on terror" in Iraq. To quote from this NYT article:

For Democrats, who have spent months trying to put the public spotlight on the issues of detainee treatment and the war in Iraq, the three Republicans are like some kind of gift from the political gods. After the Senate overwhelmingly adopted Mr. Warner's measure on the war, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, stood slack-jawed. "It's gigantic," Mr. Biden said.

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