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Infinitesimals

Voicemail has its uses, for example, when one won't be able to pick up the phone for awhile, but needs to relay a message immediately, or when other forms of communication are not possible, i.e. e-mail or texting is inconvenient or irrelevant.

However, I still usually end up ignoring it, thus rendering most of the pros as moot.

(1) Oct 10, 08 - 11:18 AM

On the subject of high school friends, just because you're different, doesn't mean you can't be friends.

(0) Jun 17, 07 - 11:41 PM

Pi is wrong.

Well, actually, maybe it would just be better to use what is currently known as 2*pi. I've always thought it would be easier if sine and cosine had periods that were just pi, not 2pi.

So should pi be 6.283185...? Should pi be the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius, instead of diameter? If so, it would take about 50 years for this to gain any momentum in the mathematical community.

(0) Apr 20, 07 - 1:07 AM

The Art of Persuasion

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 | 11:50:39 PM
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Sometimes, you need to make a point, but you really have no clue what you're actually talking about. So, to circumvent this minor setback, one needs to become an actor: you're actually an expert on the topic. Everything you say is right. It doesn't even matter if you really don't know, you're just that good. This is the art of persuasion, argumentation, or in layman's terms, BS.

Just about every student who has ever had to write an essay or paper knows what BS is. The way I see it, there are two types of BS, an upper level and a lower level.

For the lower type, all one needs to succeed is a confident tone and an uneducated audience. For this sort of BS, one is effectively lying. If it sounds believable (at least to those who don't know the truth), then it works. This only goes so far. One can't answer the question "What is two plus two" with "five" and expect everyone to accept it willingly. Most people are adamant in their belief that the answer is truly "four". Lying only works when you know the audience is ignorant to the truth.

The next level of BS is more complex. Sometimes it is lying, but with evidence buried in truth, lies that elicit emotional reactions, semi-truths that only work in a certain way, or truths that are really unrelated to the original argument. Why do two and two make five? Because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Does it matter if it's four? Humans made up the number to represent this given value, one can have it represent a different value; "4" is an arbitrary symbol. Two parents and two children make 4 people and 1 family: 5 altogether. If I put more thought into this, I could probably make better arguments, but at least now, one has to put much more effort to refute the counter-examples. One has to find the fallacy in the argument.

So am I advocating the use of BS? One might say I am actually helping people avoid such arguments from others; when one has mastered its use, one is also able to see its use in others.

There are many other ways to argue in, what some may call, underhanded tactics. To learn more, pay attention to politics. Campaigns, lobbying, one can find many more ways to make one's point without actually addressing the point itself, or addressing the point from a more desirable point of view.

It might be considered evil, but if you're really good at it, that won't matter. The truth is only a minor setback.

Edit: on a somewhat related topic, ad hominem is only good when you can't really tell that it is ad hominem. Otherwise, it makes one look uneducated and unable to put forth a real argument. Now if you're in middle school (or a high schooler who seems like they should have been held back a bit), I might be able to see how calling someone a "cocksucker" would "win" you the argument. In any other situation, might as well just reverse the "argument" right back to yourself.

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