Friday, July 25, 2008

I deceive, therefore I am

I'll start by quoting the following description of "sophistry" verbatim from Wikipedia:

"A sophism is taken as a specious argument used for deceiving someone. It might be crafted to seem logical while actually being wrong, or it might use difficult words and complicated sentences to intimidate the audience into agreeing, or it might appeal to the audience's prejudices and emotions rather than logic, i.e. raising doubts towards the one asserting, rather than his assertion. The goal of a sophism is often to make the audience believe the writer or speaker to be smarter than he or she actually is..."

Sadly so many of my fellow-countrymen, in the grip of emotions stronger than their logic, tend to fall easily for such arguments. As for the people who put forward the arguments, the last line of the above quote gives away their motivation. My stand on sophistry is not particularly sophisticated: whenever I see it coming, I turn tail and run for my life. Well, sometimes I don't run fast enough and then it comes up and enfolds me in its tentacles and before I know it, I've wasted days and days trying to debate with people who can't, or won't, think straight.

But this post isn't about me, rather it's about today's newspaper (HT) which reports a nice little example of sophistry in politics. Under the headline "Cremations for free from August 1", the paper describes a proposal of this city's Municipal Corporation which, in its original form, would have made cremations free for families below the poverty line, but has now been revised to apply to everyone. Explaining the rationale, a BJP corporator came up with this gem: "The [Municipal Corporation] should not distinguish between the rich and the poor".

What a heart-warming resonance this line has (assuming you're alive, I suppose!). And how entirely free of logic.

1 comment:

Ramanan said...

Do you mean people who read up Deepak Chopra and talk of Quantum Healing... am glad there's Ignobel Prize :-)