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Why bad arguments are so persuasive

Often, campus progressives complain about oppression, racism and sexism by using a combination of “virtue signaling, broad generalizations, over simplifications and false dichotomies.”

Writing on Intellectual Takeout, Patience Griswold cites the 16th century scholar Richard Hooker to explain how these bad argument tactics manage to persuade large numbers of people:

Virtue-signaling, the use of rhetoric to indicate one’s own virtue and moral standing, is a powerful and subtle means of persuasion. Hooker notes that his opponents: “[A]re always attacking…with great zeal and indignation, which usually gives an impression of integrity, zeal, and holiness, since people tend to think that such men would never be so offended by sin unless they were quite good themselves.”

On establishing false dichotomies, “Once you have established that everything wrong with the world stems directly from your political opponents’ platform, the natural next step is to persuade them that the only possible alternative is your solution,” Griswold writes.

She cites Hooker’s observation that having “captured men’s imaginations, they put forward their own… as the only possible solution to all these problems, and sing its praises to the sky. Just like sick men, those who are unhappy with the status quo will imagine that anything they hear praised is the answer to all their ailments, but that most of all which they have least tried.”

Read the full post at Intellectual Takeout, which also delves into the explanations behind broad generalizations, over simplifications, as well as “the allure of confirmation bias.”

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