Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bad Argument: claiming the 3 stages of truth is on your side

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (Photo credit: Christiaan Tonnis)
When supporters of suspect scheme want to sound grandiose but without much evidence (a lot like conspiracy theorists), they will often cite this quote:
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
-- usually attributed Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher (b. 1788)
The intention of the citer is to IMPLY that whatever they want to believe (be it UFO, time travel, or scam, or whatever), but cannot defend, will "eventually" be accepted as "the truth". 

The problem is Schopenhauer never said it. What he said was:
Der Wahrheit ist allerzeit nur ein kurzes Siegesfest beschieden, zwischen den beiden langen ZeitrÄaumen, wo sie als Paradox verdammt und als Trivial gering geschÄatzt wird.
Which in English, says:
To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial.
(See citation)

Nothing about ridiculed or violent opposed. Further research of all Schopenhauer works failed to produce a quote even SIMILAR to it. Clearly, this quote ain't right. Yet it was attributed to Schopenhauer by Harper's Book of Quotations (1981 et al).

Any way, what about the quote itself? What the citer wants to say is as follows:
a)  all "truth" went through ridicule and opposition before being accepted
b) you are "ridiculing" my belief
c) my belief is "truth"
Which makes absolutely NO SENSE at all. Think about it.
a) All prisoners are convicted criminals who were first arrested.
b) You were just arrested.
c) You are guilty and you WILL be convicted.
However, not all arrests lead to convictions. Thus, this is NOT a logical statement.

Here's a real quote that says the same thing:

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
- Carl Sagan 

So don't be fooled by a bad argument that employs bogus logic.  Just because they're being laughed at doesn't make them right. Learn WHY they're being laughed at, THEN decide you want to laugh along.
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