Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Arguing With Geeks 2

Sophistic Monosensicalism — Not to be confused with precision of use, Sophistic Monosensicalism is the insistence that a word only has one (narrowly specific and literal) sense, in an attempt to challenge the relevance of a statement in which that word is used in another (general and/or figurative) sense. For example, one might describe a key theme in a work as being the “marriage of opposites”, citing numerous examples, from the wedding of male and female protagonists to a recurrent checkerboard motif, from the use of the Yin/Yang symbol to the employment of burning lake imagery in which fire and water are combined, and so on. Where these features are self-evident, the sophistic monosensicalist will not challenge the accuracy of the observation but will instead insist that “marriage” refers only to the instituionalised union of husband and wife, in order to redraw the goalposts and exclude the weight of evidence; there is only one example of “marriage” in the work, they will insist, so this canot be a key theme. While this may take the form of a literalism that is technically justifiable on etymological grounds, it is distinct from nitpicking in so far as it refuses to recognise a universally-accepted generalised sense of the term that is included in the dictionary definition and is therefore incorrect.


Blogger Therem said...

Gosh, I get the sense that both of these "Arguing with Geeks" posts are aimed at me. Here's the question: do you actually want to engage in real discussion on your blog? Because if so, making fun of the people who respectfully disagree with you isn't the best way to go about it.

9:58 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Shit, no, these really aren't aimed at you, Therem, and it's not about making fun of anyone. And sincere apologies if it came across that way. This is just meant as a light-hearted poke at certain methods of argument you get on the interwebs, and is *way* more inspired by (foolishly) tracking back to the various sites where folk have linked to that BSG post, reading the subsequent comments, and being painfully reminded of just how *head-meets-desk* such discussions can be.

It was reading a comment that "nitpicked" the word "union", actually, that made me wish there was a term and definition for that argumentative strategy, an easy reference point so that when you run into an example of it, you could just say, no, that's... whatever. Like not having to explain every time what an ad hominem insult or Straw Man argument was.

With our discussion? Articulating why I thought you were wrong to specify "faith" as religious sort of made me realise the number of discussions I've been in where I *wasn't* able to articulate that, arguments that just got bogged down in semantics. Made me want to define the problem as a general problem. Hence the blog entry.

Bear in mind that, this being "Notes From the *Geek* Show", I'm including myself in the "geek" category, so this is all intended in a "Turkey City Lexicon" way -- i.e. this is what we've all probably been guilty of at some time or another. I mean, I might think your take on "faith" on that BSG thread was "Sophistic Monosensicalism", but I'm pretty sure I've argued on the same principle myself on many occasions.

So it's not intended as a personal dig, seriously. If you took it that way, I apologise unreservedly.

2:21 am  
Blogger Therem said...

Belatedly writing back to say... message received. I've had plenty of frustration arguing with fellow geeks, so all power to you. :-)

12:19 am  

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