excerpted from caro's journal: topic: fallacies

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Does overly abstract thinking without the benefit of examples, lead to an inability to use quantifiers properly?
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As long as I'm here testing the program and installing search engines, I may as well comment on the fallacy-freeness of the last 8 days. It was nice to be in the almost-constant presence of another human being and not have to experience a single fallacy! Well, except for the phone calls that interrupted us to send us fallacies from afar--but that just made the contrast all the stronger. Thanks, Tom.
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2001_04_06:16: Personality Tests

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Personality tests. Meyers-Brigg.

Hasty generalization and fallacy of accident (first, they use very specific and not very well developed questions to make very peculiar broad sweeping generalizations; then they attempt to apply all these general rules to the individual taking the test.) Really bad combination.

Many questions commit fallacy of complex question; I found that I wasn't able to answer yes or no very firmly to too many of them.

Use of results of personality tests: Weirdly, people consider these tests to be meaningful, an informative tool with which to proceed into social or employment sitations. Talk about top-down rationalistic cathedralic thinking!

Undecided whether what is tested is actually personality (meaning that I should radically change my definition of 'personality'), or some small subset thereof, or something else. I guess "Some Psychological and Behavioral Factors Test" is considered too difficult a name to pass on to the general public, so they dumb it down to "Personality Test". (I feel like there are vast regions of my personality that aren't even touched by the questions nor the descriptions of the resulting evaluation.)

Amusing scores of my test in "metrics". I took the test, but the description of intj doesn't fit me very well at all. Some of the statements apply very well; others, not in the slightest.

I looked a couple of other descriptions. Ah, hah. That's where the rest of my personality is! I first checked the type that didn't have any of the same letters in its name. I also appear, by my own evaluation, to be an ESFJ! Oh, dear. I had not thought the Meyers-Brigg could be as bad as the Enneagram. I fit the description of the isfp just as well as the other two.

To fit me in I think I'd need a category something along the lines of fistpjne. This shows that the categories are not mutually and exclusive and jointly exhaustive, and in this case that indicates that the individual labels don't really pick out complementary classes. Deep-seated erroneous philosophical premises, such as the idea that Thinking and Feeling are opposites, and that if you are one you are not the other.

I find that the description of my astrological sign, Picese, is about as accurate.
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2001_08_07:16: Stossel's Fallacies

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I like John Stossel's commentaries, in general, but I usually find myself wishing that he'd be more meticulous, more consistent, and more careful to avoid fallacious reasoning. His "Give Me A Break" segments might be emotionally satisfying to the rebellious teenager still alive within, but they also have a tendency to play on the audience's irrationally-inspired emotions instead of tapping into their capacity to reason.

Single Celebrity Parents?

In the most recently telecast installment of "Give Me A Break," Stossel complained about single celebrities who have children. His main argument against this practice was, apparently, that children need two parents. There was no explanation given; it was just presented as a basic fact: two parents are better than one, without qualification.

This presupposition ignores a lot of important information--for example, two bad parents can be much worse than one parent (good or bad), as the children of (a) bad parent(s) (one or two or more) can attest. And some children would be willing to trade a pair of bad parents for Calista Flockhart any day!

True, the children of celebrities are psychologically stressed in a way that ordinary children are not. But again, Stossel does not invite the viewer to consider whether any child would better survive or even prefer the stress of fame to the stress of, say, prolonged physical or psychological abuse; the stress of a fast life to the stress of grinding poverty; the stress of being an unplanned, unwanted, unloved child, to the stress of being the child of a busy professional mother who planned and wanted her baby. None of this is considered. A child needs a father, says Stossel, sounding less like a classical liberal thinker and more like an unthinking Republican right conservative. What kind of father would you prefer, Mr. Stossel? An alcoholic one? A psychotic one? A violent one? An Amish one? Is it OK with you if both parents are professionals, and leave their children with day care? Or does a child need a parent (read, 'mother') in the home, in your opinion?

All these questions are left unraised, and unanswered; and people who are comfortable with Stossel's stated opinion, for whatever reason, won't bother to raise the questions themselves. If the "Give Me A Break" segment is supposed to be more than a personal whine-fest with the intellectual content of an Andy Rooney rant, then these are just a few questions that might be explicitly raised.

Charitable Giving?

In an installment about Philip Morris's charitable giving, which has by the time of this writing made it to the ABC website, Stossel challenges the giant corporation's claims to charity. This time, the challenge is blatantly fallacious, rather than simply guilty of sins of omission.

Like all businesses in the confused ethical climate of America, which attempts to mix the free market with the religious principles of self-sacrifice, Philip Morris is under tremendous pressure to demonstrate its altruism to confused consumers. If it fails to demonstrate its altruism (it believes), it will lose business directly, or indirectly through the loss of community good will. So it engages in charitable giving. But that's not enough. If the country doesn't know that it has given to charity, the good will will not be fostered.

This is how capitalism works: you tell people why you are good, and hope that they believe you and want to deal with you because of it. But Stossel says,
Give me a break! If Philip Morris really wanted to be charitable, it'd give all the money to charity instead of spending it on these ads.
With this claim, Stossel does more potential damage to classical liberalism, the free market, and the free society than corporations do by bowing to the requirements of altruism.

  1. By suggesting that the corporation can only really be charitable if it gives all the money to charity, instead of using some to advertise that it has given to charity, he eliminates the possibility of charity and compassion in a free and rational society. Why would a large corporation give to charity, especially in other countries, if not to get some benefit for itself? Why bother, if potential customers and friends scorn them, saying, "You should have given more!" To be truly selfish, on this view, Philip Morris should give nothing. I don't think that Ayn Rand would agree. Rather, I think she would take the position that, when a corporation gives by choice, it has every reason to expect that other people will want to know that and will respect it more for doing so. If it costs the corporation money to make this fact known, as it costs it money to make all facts about itself known, then that's perfectly consistent. I don't think that Christianity could consistently agree, either. If other people see you do charitable works, it encourages them to engage in charitable works too; thus, it seems to me that Christianity requires that corporations reserve some money to advertise the fact that they have given to charity.
  2. By suggesting that $115,000,000.00 (one hundred fifteen million U.S. dollars) is not enough, that if they want to be charitable they should have also given an additional $150,000,000.00 that it had reserved for advertising, Stossel is implying that reasonable charitable giving is not even possible: that only complete, thorough-going, self-abnegating altruism is truly charitable. This is the Good Samaritan Law writ large: It's better to not stop and try to help someone, because if you do stop and try to help but fail, you may be implicated in the person's injuries or death. It's an assault on human kindness and caring. And while Stossel may have in mind some larger programme of discrediting altruism, I don't think that destroying the idea that human beings may look out for one another without having to sacrifice their own lives, is a philosophically sound, or even the most efficient, way to do it.
  3. If Philip Morris gives their advertising budget to charity, then the revenues that were supposed to be generated by the advertising is not generated. Peter Singer, notoriously consistent egalitarian/utilitarian, would heartily agree to such a plan: the important thing is that the distribution of wealth equal out, and if that requires that corporations go bankrupt, that's perfectly acceptable--we consume too much in this country anyway. My point is not to discredit Stossel by associating him with Singer. My point is that Singer actually has the more consistent point here, and that Stossel is making an enormous concession to Singer's viewpoint by proposing that giving less than 100% is morally equivalent to not giving anything at all.
  4. Finally, it seems to me that Philip Morris does need to advertise to tell us who they are. Look at what Stossel himself says in reply to the spokeswoman's claim that the ad budget is necessary to let people know what the company does:

    But people know who Philip Morris is, it's a company that makes a lot of money selling cigarettes--a product that kills people.
    If this is the image that Philip Morris has, then advertising is sorely needed. Philip Morris owns Kraft Foods, whose products are in every kitchen in America--even mine! And I certainly didn't know until I saw the commercials, that it provides disaster relief to foreign countries. Whether one believes that they ought to get out of the cigarette business altogether is a separate question from who the corporation, as a whole, is.
The issue that Stossel may be trying, but failing, to address, is the issue of whether our society is confused about its morality, and the issue of whether corporations should attempt to assuage the confused public in quite the way that it has chosen. I agree that most people are confused, and that it's a bad idea for corporations to simply go along with the confusion rather than hire some philosophical consultants to help them implement a plan to change the climate. But I find his messages to be just as confused, and confusing. They make me wonder if he really is a classical liberal, or whether he's trying, fallaciously, to show how silly the philosophical ideas behind the free market really are.

Naturally, the "Give Me A Break" segment is too short to give detailed support of any kind of belief system or statistical data. But that is precisely why ideas in need of a great deal of support shouldn't be addressed in a short segment. Or, at least, they should be addressed in a more open-minded way that encourages the viewer to consider crucial data or questions rather than simply focus on Stossel's personal emotional reactions.

Stossel is trying to fill a role that is too big for him. He's just a guy with some philosophical presuppositions. He's not a philosopher. Or, if he does have the ability to think through the issues, he isn't ready to show it to his audience, or for some reason can't. Maybe he doesn't think we're smart enough to handle the reasoning. But if that's the case, then we're certainly not smart enough to be left free to do as each of us sees fit. Think about it.
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2006_09_07:11: The Rudest Tea Guests

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My stormy relationship with fallacious reasoning has completely changed in the last few years. I now understand that fallacious reasoning is automatic. Our brains are so constructed as to draw some but any connection. Induction happens, whether we guide it or not. Sometimes that connection is a plausible conclusion from evidence. Sometimes it is even a valid connection. Hasty generalization saves animals from being eaten by tigers, or by anything that might look at first glance like a tiger, or by anything that moved and so might qualify as a tiger. Run first, check premises later. Result: survival and reproduction. And that means that fallacies are an efficient, if not the only, stepping stone to real intelligence and judgment. Hence, fallacies are not a mistake to be expunged, but rather a basic function to be honed. Almost anyone can reason better--that, I know from empirical evidence to be true. But the process of thinking is most of the time of a rather random nature, and even people educated in the "laws of thought" will first make unfounded inferences, and then reexamine them (often only if forced to by others like them). These reflections have made me much more patient with people, although I still don't quite see eye to eye with people who have learned a better way to think yet continue to resort to unedited fallacious reasoning. More importantly, fallacies lie at the foundation of my work with Silhouette.
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2001_04_10:18: Irrational Man

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Why do people say irrelevant things? Examples:

  1. I asked the Credit Union new accounts advisor if they handle on-profit charitable trusts. She laboriously explained what I summarize here, where I attempt to capture the feel of the cotton wool without expending the same amount of time: She said, when people become members of the Credit Union, it's understood that they have to keep a minimum balance in their account in order not to be charged any fees. All members have to pay fees on an interest-bearing account, and it's only if it falls below a certain balance that they have to pay a fee.

    So, the Credit Union doesn't handle charitable trusts?

    No, because [repeat explanation].

    The answer, as far as I could see, was "No." Why didn't she say "No.," or "No, we don't have the personnel to handle that"? What was the deal about the fees and the minimum balance doing in there? I swear, so much of my time is frittered away in minutes here and there, by people making excuses like this.

  2. I called B&N because their web site wouldn't let me combine all my gift certificates and spend them all on one order, but instead wanted me to spend one certificate per order. I thought this was outrageous, so I called. The assistant said explained at length some irrelevant point, sandwiched between statements of "That's just our policy." I argued briefly with him, noting that it would be sad if someone told all her relatives to give her child B&N certificates for her birthday, only to find that she had to pay $100 to ship all those orders separately. He rejoined sympathetically, "That's just our policy."

  3. I called the company that distributes Fresh Start detergent to ask them if they had discontinued the item. They said they hadn't, and gave me the names of local supermarkets that carry it. Just to be sure they were stocked before I drove over there, I called Ralph's Supermarket, and I asked if they had Fresh Start detergent. Instead of checking the database, the guy ran and checked the shelf. Nope, he didn't see any. Well, did you check the database? Database? What do you mean, check the database?

    I asked to speak to the manager. I said that the boy had checked the shelf, but wasn't it possible that they were just out? The manager said she would check the database, and I didn't even have to tell her what a database was! This was progress, I thought.

    She said she'd talked to her manager, and found that the product was not in the database. Ah, Ok. I'd ordered products at all sorts of stores, including Ralph's, in the past, that they now stock. Socrates always had it easy, because Plato had his interlocutors give sensible answers to his questions. Real dialogs go like this:

    Can you special order Fresh Start for me?

    [pleasantly] No, we can only order products that are in our system.

    Well, if you don't carry it, it wouldn't be in your system, right?

    That's right, all of our products are in our system.

    So if you were to order Fresh Start, you'd be ordering a new product?

    No, we can only order products that are in our system.

    [speechless pause on my part] Oh. Well, can you order it for me?

    [getting perturbed] That product is not in our system. We can only order products that are in our system!

    Right, but you can order new products, can't you?

    Oh, yes! What would you like to order?

    Fresh Start detergent.

    [now talking very slowly and enunciating very carefully]
    As I've been trying to explain to you, we can only order products that are in our system. That product is not in our system.

    So you never order any new products? Surely, new products that were just developed, are not in your system.

    [pausing between words so that the Moron Customer can understand] We. Order. New products. ALL. The time.

    Can you see why this isn't making sense to me?

    [brightly] Oh, yes! I can see why it doesn't make sense!

    [sure that she didn't see at all] Ok, thank you. Good bye.


    How can we eradicate this kind of conversation from the universe? Somehow I feel like it is new. I don't remember people saying things like this to me a few years ago. It's like they were given a list of Answers during their job training, and if your questions doesn't fit one of the Answers, well, too bad! Is the List of Answers to Questions the substitute for logic classes that people have come up with? Is this something that more Objectivist academics could fix by teaching Objectivist method to college students?
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The mp3 version of the "How to Win Arguments" talk is on the web site--or rather on Ted's web site, linked from mine. It's a nice, real way to kick off the Fallacies Project. The great thing about giving it away for fre e is that more people will hear it. Its value, for me, is in its potential to reach a lot of ears, some of which will hear, and some of which latter will contact their brains and advise them to attend.
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2001_04_18:17: Appeal To Schizophrenia and Three Interviews

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The Appeal to Schizophrenia: Insult your opponent. Become a moving target, darting from one topic or area to another. Ascribe a variety of hateful motives in each area to your opponent, creating increasingly interesting and comical insults as you go along. Desired Effect: Your opponent will be so offended and so convinced of your irrationality that he or she will feel that it is no longer necessary or possible to respond, at which point you can use the final blow: the Appeal to Non-Opposition, or 'Qui ne dit pas, consent' Strategy.

Failing to obtain the Desired Effect, an almost-equally satisfying result would be to have the opponent chase you around to all the topics, attempting to deny or rebut the unsupported claims in each area. Comedy ensues as your opponent expresses outrage and demands apologies, and you explain how irrational and overly-emotional he or she is being, pointing out that Serious, Intelligent Thinkers insult each other all the time and no one minds, and then flit off to the next topic.

Strategic hint: Be sure to maintain at least a thin thread of tangential connection between the topics. For example, don't dart directly from "Pornography is Man's right, so you're a piss-ant voodoo mumbo-jumbo tribal oppressor-victim-mentality aardvark of a sniveling bleeding-heart liberal femi-nazi" to "Elephants should be kept in small cages, so you're an envirofreak commie".

Instead, move from "Pornography is Man's right, so you're a piss-ant voodoo mumbo-jumbo tribal oppressor-victim-mentality aardvark of a sniveling bleeding-heart liberal femi-nazi" to "And furthermore, contrary to your obvious hidden premises, there's nothing wrong with elephants having sex in any manner or position that they choose and selling videos of it if they want to, which brings us 'round again, full circle, to your absurd whiney complaints about sado-masochism being a problem because as we can plainly see all kinds of mammals, including humans and elephants, enjoy having sex in cages. Haven't you ever been to the zoo, little Miss (or Mister) Marx?" This leads quite naturally into insults about the person's envirofreakish-communism and lack of scholarship.

Sometimes it isn't so easy to maintain this kind of tight integration via ideas alone. In a pinch, you can just repeat in your conclusion one of the words you used in your premise; to maintain your opponent's interest, let the word be one of the more damning insults. This is called "distributing the terms" and is easily sketched in a Venn diagram should your opponent raise any awkward objections about relevance.
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There's something about Objectivism that makes it seem OK to psychologize. What is it? Rand was fond of ascribing motives to people. She thought she had it all figured out; she knew why people were altruists, why they w ere Marxists, what psychological features were necessary for liking certain colors rather than others.

It sounds so plausible. And it's so Freudian.

If there is even one case that runs contrary to a theory, then you have to back off the universality of the theory, even if the theory is about human psychology. If there are several, then your theory starts to look pretty inaccurate. I know my own case. In my case, I used to believe that socialism was a good idea, not because I felt I was too weak to handle reality, but because I thought other people were--and not all of them, but some of them. What was wrong with my thinking, was that I was only focusing on a very narrow class of people (children, mostly, but pe ople who were variously incapacitated, or very elderly, too), and I simultaneously failing to take into account the broader context (which I won't go into here). I know from my own case that it was not that I wanted someone to take care of me. I di dn't feel I needed to be cared for. It never even occurred to me (until I started hearing accusations regarding my motives) that I might be the recipient of the benefits. And this wasn't selflessness on my part, either: I just figured I'd do my thi ng, other people would do theirs, and we'd all contribute to the pot so that people who needed it would benefit. Nor was it that I just generally had a bad opinion of people: children really can't take care of themselves, and certain incapacities prevent adults from doing so.

This all made perfect sense to me, and there were people before me who had thought about these things to (whatever their motives were--I assume they were similar to mine). And they had a fairly neat little plan which was no t quite implemented in my country. I thought a great deal about variations on the plan and justifications therefor. I read Rawls and Waltzer and Marx and a great deal of literature from all ages, and the facts and the opinions and the arguments all seemed to point in one direction:

Socialism was good.

I can remember making certain kinds of arguments, when I was first confronted with this strange beast, the Objectivist. I remember arguing that this wasn't too dissimilar from requiring tha t people get innoculations in order to live in a certain area, and paying for the vaccine and the service for people who couldn't pay themselves. Why? Because people who aren't innoculated get sick, and since the technology is not perfect I could still ge t sick even if I'd had the vaccine, or children could get sick, and it was worth it to me to pay taxes in order to prevent this. Socialism in general was like this. You just don't want desperate people lying around, because desperate people turn to crime, and I become a potential victim. In fact, it was difficult for me to wrap my mind around the idea that socialism was related to altruism. That might have been the way other people with higher ideals thought of it, but not me!

The first time I m ade the above argument from analogy, I was straightforwardly accused of believing in slavery. I hardly knew what to say, it was such an absurd notion. Denials were of no avail: I simply believed in slavery, or I couldn't possibly have an argument for taxa tion enter my head at all. Well, I can be a stubborn little analytic philosopher, and I don't usually succumb to name-calling tactics, so I just bit the bullet and said, "OK, OK! So I guess I believe in slavery, if that's the way you define it." I expecte d my "opponent" to relax then, my having granted him his premise for the sake of argument. But devil's advocacy, I was to learn the hard way, had no place in orthodox Objectivism. He stalked away from me, muttering "Jesus!" as though I'd just revealed how very corroded my soul was. Since I didn't believe in slavery any more than I lusted after power, I was stunned by this display of moral indignation in the middle of what I thought was a philosophical discussion.

Certainly, I could lie. You would never know. But all I can say is, look into your own heart. Did socialism ever strike you as even moderately plausible, or did you know any good person who did? If so, was the motivation really an evil one? Was the motivation to control people? Was it an expression of hatred of humanity? Was it power lust? I suppose it is a kind of power, to be able to prevent children from dying of starvation or suffering from abuse and neglect, but I fail to see the evil desiring it.

I don't say that this is impossible. People have bad motives for ever so many things that are good in consequence or in appearance. But, you know, it just would never have occurred to me, before that discussion, that anyone might believe that taxation was a good thing, because sh e wanted to wield power over someone else or wanted to own slaves.

Metaphors are a neat rhetorical device. "Taxation is slavery" is an elegant slogan. But slogans can only be taken seriously if, when the metaphor is dismantled and analyzed, the t wo concepts really do have the same referents, or at least have something to do with each other. Metaphors can't go proxy for careful thought, though they so often do.
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My little germ of an idea from yesterday has developed into one whopper of a core dump today. I've got enough material here for a logic textbook, and there seems to be no end in sight!

Some of my favorite ad-hominem-poisoning-the-well fallacies are shooting out in all directions on the wetheliving lists. I don't subscribe to Atlantis; the bits that people make me read are quite enough, speaking of bullshit (see "perl"). But OWL has gotten pretty wild now itself. When I moderate discussion lists, I simply don't publish fallacious arguments: they got sent back to the writer with instructions for revision.

This is the sort of thing that just a tiny bit of philosophy education teaches you: you don't make fallacious arguments, and when someone points out to you that you have committed a fallacy, you don't repeat the fallacy more loudly and augment it with more fallacies; you look it up, study it, make sure you never, ever do it again. Fallacious arguments are a scandalous embarrassment to philosophers, because they know they ought to know better, ought to have caught it.

It's incredible to me--literally--that fallacious arguments are not only common among Objectivists, but shouted proudly and acceded to readily by listeners. I have to honestly look at reality and see that this is indeed happening despite my fondest whims to the contrary; but I can't help but hope that the smart people are just sitting at their computers, shaking their heads sadly, and hitting DELETE over and over, unable to bring themselves to walk out amongst wild animals who proudly proclaim that they cannot be reasoned with. You're out there somewhere, aren't you? Please, talk to me!

Some people respond to cogent arguments offered on OWL, by yelling more offensively and more loudly on ATL. How do insults win the case? Or is it that these people just can't distinguish anymore, between an insult and an argument?

It is shameful.

As if Objectivism didn't have enough obstacles to acceptance amongst real, respectable thinkers, we've got to go all over the internet bullying each other with fallacies that 100-level undergraduates are too embarrassed to commit.

I blame Rand for this, and Peikoff, and all the other early Objectivists who slung mud with abandon. It doesn't matter if you also give good arguments: you don't use fallacious ones, ever. One reason you don't, is that the teenagers who enroll in your ranks before their minds are fully formed may not be able to tell the difference between arguments and mud. And when push comes to shove, it's much easier and faster to whip out a nice loud indignant fallacy than it is to test reality and think through the real argument. Objectivists would do well to cultivate a sense of self-consciousness about their methods, the own ignorance, and the utter lack of such methods in any respectable academic or technical discipline or business, and learn to feel embarrassed by their own willful errors. Do everybody a world of good.

Yes, Nathaniel, then we should all accept and forgive ourselves. But mostly we should fix what we screwed up.

So, while y'all are doing your doggonnedest to make sure that Objectivism is the laughing stock of rational thinkers everywhere, fortunately for all of us there are people in academia writing relentlessly calm, reasonable papers and having peaceful, forceful discussions, holding forth with the point of view of which you demonstrate so little understanding when the rubber hits the road. And some day, hopefully very soon, reasonable people will understand that Objectivism really doesn't have more than its share of lunatics and idiots, because, after all, look at what we've written.

Wow! I must be in a bad mood! And I was feeling so perly a little while ago!
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2001-04-05:02: Porn, Dogs, and Seduction.html

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An odd piece of paper came into my mailbox yesterday. According to this piece of paper, the great power of Objectivism lies in enabling its advocate to embarrass and silence an opponent, the implication being that the silence was an indication that the opponent had conceded.

Interesting point of view. I wonder if example number one has reached the writer's eyes, or if he'd get it if it did.

Sometimes, people don't know how to respond to an assertion or argument, because they are flabbergasted by one's idiocy, not because they agree. I am frequently shocked into silence when people say things that I never expected any rational being to say. True, it is sometimes a function of my naivete and my projection of good will and good sense onto other people, that is the cause of my shock. But naivete does not equal concession to a more powerful opponent; sometimes it's just an indication that one hadn't thought the world could be quite that bad. For example, I was shocked into complete silence when a student objected in class that no one would ever have children, if sex didn't feel good, and her 40 classmates--all of them Catholic nurses and mothers--nodded in wise assent as I looked to them for help. I had to let the class go on break at that point because I just didn't know what to say. I was able to offer a rejoinder after the break, but for 15 minutes all I could think of were those poor kids! [Yep, kid! Hadja cuz it felt good. We knew we might get saddled with you, but man that was some hot lovin'! That's why your 8 brothers and sisters are here too, birth control (and all them deviant ways o' lovin') bein' against God's law and all.]

I usually take other people's silence to be an indication that I have not made myself clear. It's a good premise to double-check.
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See "Reading".
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Apparently, the lady doth protest too much.

I need to get pregnant, and fast, before my desperate longing for children drives me even more mad than I already am! Someone, who shall remain nameless, "read" my essay, "The Shame of Not Wanting Children". This essay, which he interprets as a long list of reasons for not having children (it isn't, actually, but nevermind the facts), proves that what I really want to do is that which it comes naturally for me to do: squeeze out pups.

I claim there's a fallacy here. What does it mean, to say that someone has committed a fallacy? In some cases it means that there is an implicit false premise which the arguer is relying upon. Here, the claim is that anyone who bothers to support her decision to not reproduce, really wants to reproduce.

Why would anyone think that? One possibility is that there is a generalized, perhaps folk-psychological premise at work, something like, "People who argue against a proposition actually really believe that proposition." Unfortunately, this premise is clearly false.

But maybe the person means, in the special case of children, anyone who bothers to argue for reasons not to have them, really must want them. Maybe there's something at work like, "No one would spend time on something that really didn't interest them; you spent time talking about children, so you must be interested enough in them to want to have them." Amusingly, however, the opposing case can now be made: "Anyone who bothers to argue for reasons to have children, obviously doesn't want them."

Or maybe it's only in the case of arguing against having children, that this is true. I'm not sure how one gathers evidence for this, unless it's just obvious that the people who actually do have children, are the people who argue most strenuously that one shouldn't have them. I'm pretty sure that's not true, though.

OK, let's say one can legitimately wonder why in the world I bother to talk about the issue? Can't I just not have children and shut up about it? There are several reasons.

One, I'd love to shut up about it. The fact that I'm not going to have children doesn't usually cross my mind until someone else starts trying to explain this weird psychosis of mine that prevents me from producing offspring. People like this are constantly advising me to have babies. They are inescapable, and they are everywhere. Unlike most of my girlfriends, who have trouble finding men who share their interest in children, every one of my boyfriends has tried to talk me into making new people for him. Just my luck.

Two, I do think about other people's decisions to have children, because I see children everywhere being abused or neglected, and because I interact with adults whose parents treated them badly and now they are taking it out on other adults.

Three, I'm a philosopher, and I see both ethical and logical problems with an advanced society that continues to claim that, among all the myriad capacities that human beings have, THIS PARTICULAR capacity MUST be exercised, whatever may become of the other capacities.

But, the lady doth protest too much. Why do philosophy, or landscaping, or programming, when I could be a mother?? Therefore, I'm joining the human race, and looking for someone to get me pregnant with all speed.

Stud service needed. Inquire within.