by BenAlbahari1 min read21st Feb 201059 comments


Personal Blog

[MAJOR UPDATE: I have changed "Woo" to "Pitch" everywhere on the website and on this post due to extensive feedback from everyone. Thanks!]

I'm adding rhetorical-device/common-argument/argument-fallacy tags to the expert quotes on TakeOnIt and calling them "pitches".

The list of pitches so far is here.

Arguments have common patterns. The most notorious of these are rhetorical devices and argument fallacies. While these techniques are obviously not new and are published on several sites on the internet, they are woefully under appreciated by most people. I contend that this is partly because:

  1. Argument fallacies and rhetorical devices can be too general. Most of their real-world usage occurs in a larger number of specialized forms. These specialized forms are often unlabeled yet are intuitively recognized and prey on our cognitive biases. It takes a lot of cognitive energy to consciously connect the general form(s) to the specialized form.
  2. The sites about argument fallacies and rhetorical devices are not integrated with debate sites. A google for argument fallacies will give you pages with stagnant lists of fallacies where each one has perhaps a couple of historical or hypothetical applications of the fallacy. Why can't I see every debate where some expert or influential person used that fallacy, and why can't I see every fallacy used in a debate?

To solve these problems, I'm introducing the concept of a "pitch". Any quote from an expert or influential person on TakeOnIt can now be tagged with a pitch. A pitch is a label for a commonly used argument or strategy to persuade. You can think of pitches as the "tv tropes of argumentation". Here's some examples:

"The Consensus Pitch" 
"The Patriot Pitch" 
"The Convert Pitch"   

Pitches encompass both argument fallacies and rhetorical devices. However, they allow for greater specialization. For example, there is the "The Evil Corporation Pitch". On a more minor note, I personally think the names should be simple and ideally guessable from the name alone (e.g. maybe it's just me, but "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" feels like it has some Web 2.0 marketing issues).

Eliezer's "Conversation Halters" and Robin Hanson's "Contrarian Excuses" are good candidates for pitches. (My impression is the "halters" and "excuses" listed are perhaps too specialized for pitches, but in any case at minimum provide fertile material for pitches.)

I only implemented this feature over the last few days and before developing the concept further I'd like to get some feedback.

Personal Blog