Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


Monday, March 29, 2010

When did you stop beating your wife?

A recent article's reference to the rhetorical trap "when did you stop beating your wife" made me dig deeper.  Justify spends a lot of time working on bad reasoning without some of the ways to counter it effectively.  Although this is frequently a rhetorical and style choice rather than part of the hard work of good reason, its still nice to be prepared for loaded questions.  Additionally, you can use this technique, also known as framing, in reverse.  This quote by former VP Dick Cheney would make a great comeback to the question "why is conservation the right choice for America?"

"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."  (Note that this quote came from a speech and there was no interviewer.)


Question: Tell me how good conservation is.

Answer: Great, but too narrow.


Note that the best answer to the headline's question is "I never started."

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