Sunday, January 25, 2009

Learning to Argue from the Movie Thank You For Smoking

Nick Naylor works as a lobbyist for Big Tobacco. His job is to spin the truth to make sure that the tobacco companies don't get outed as cancer salesmen. To do this he uses all the logical tricks (and logical fallacies) in the book. The following is an exchange Nick has with his young son, Joey, about argumentation:

Joey: “So what happens when you’re wrong?”

Nick: “Joey, I’m never wrong.”

Joey: “But you can’t always be right.”

Nick: “Well if it’s your job to be right then you’re never wrong.”

Joey: “But what if you are wrong?”

Nick: “Okay, let’s say that you’re defending chocolate and I’m defending vanilla. Now if I were to say to you, ‘Vanilla is the best flavor ice cream.’ You’d say..?”

Joey: “No, chocolate is.”

Nick: “Exactly, but you can’t win that argument. So I’ll ask: ‘So you think chocolate is the end all and be all of ice cream, do you?’”

Joey: “It’s the best ice cream. I wouldn’t order any other.”

Nick: “So it’s all chocolate with you, is it?”

Joey: “Yes, chocolate is all I need.”

Nick: “Well I need more than chocolate. And for that matter I need more than vanilla. I believe that we need freedom and choice when it comes to our ice cream, and that Joey Naylor is the definition of liberty.”

Joey: “But that’s not what we’re talking about.”

Nick: “Ah, but that’s what I’m talking about.”

Joey: “But you didn’t prove vanilla was the best.”

Nick: “I didn’t have to. I proved that you’re wrong – and if you’re wrong, I’m right.”

Joey: “But you still didn’t convince me.”

Nick: “Because I’m not after you. [pointing to a group of everyday Americans] I’m after them.”

Horrible logic - but it works. Sophism and relativism at it's best (or worst?) What can I say? I love dark comedies!

No comments: