Analysis of and commentary on South African politics from a liberal perspective. Winner: Best Political Blog 2012.

Tag: Logic

10 steps to avoid moralising

AFEATURE: South African public discourse is awash with moralisers – people who care little for argument or reason, evidence or logic, but rather wish nothing more than to shout their position from the treetops, in the belief that it represents some universal truth. The effect of this on debate is damaging. It is also infectious. What follows below is a list of ten suggestions to avoid moralising. Hopefully, they constitute a helpful guide to some of the pitfalls inherent to moral indignation, and how best they can be overcome.

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Trevor Manuel and the ghost between the lines

FEATURE: Trevor Manuel, like Thabo Mbeki before him, is no stranger to mispresentation in order to try and make his point. In 2009 he took issue with a number of critics who suggested that Springbok coach Pieter de Villiers was not up to the job, acussing them, effectively, of racism. On one such occassion he responded to Business Day editor Peter Bruce with an argument that not only warped what Bruce had actually said, but contradicted his previous position in doing so. In the article below I tried to set out why his argument was both flawed and devious.

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The many-tentacled cash cow, and other mangled metaphors

FEATURE: Before there was Marius Fransman – the reigning king of convolution – there was Edwin Naidu, who would, week-in and week-out, generate for the Sunday Independent a series of metaphors so mangled they would produce in equal quantities much laughter and confusion. And not just mixed metaphors but a wide range of cliches, unoriginal and over-used, if that isn’t redundant.  In the 2008 article below, I look at some of them and set out just how bizarre and devoid of meaning many of them are. So, if you want to see why Vodacom is a many-tentacled cash cow, read on!

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Sound judgement is a weapon against moralising

ARTICLE: Good judgement is not only the key to making good decisions but, by promoting and protecting it, the best way to ensure a society values its component parts: evidence, reason, logic and principle. Very often the urge to moralise about an issue means these important ideas are forgotten and, instead of trying to understand something, in order to best respond to it, we merely condemn it out of hand, the result of some unthinking emotional impulse.

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What constitutes good argument?

ARTICLE: What are the structural characteristics of a good argument? Many of the key ingredients are well known: evidence, reason, logic, language, but how do they all relate? Also, what combination results in a powerful argument and what combination results in a weak argument? I have tried to answer some of these questions in the short piece that follows below.

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On critics and criticism

ARTICLE: Related to (and in many places overlapping with) this article, the piece below appeared in Rapport this past Sunday. Again, it is on criticism and critics, but it does have something aditional to say about pessimism and how it relates to critical comment. From those interested in the Afrikaans version, it can be found here.

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