The Ethical Skeptic

Challenging Pseudo-Skepticism, Institutional Propaganda and Cultivated Ignorance

Plural Arguing – I am Not Convinced That Even You Believe You

Propose to me one justification for your argument and I might believe it. Propose to me two justifications for your argument and I won’t believe that even you believe it.

The Driving Range

When a golfer heads to the golf course, he or she usually does one of three things. He will use the driving range to hit a bucket of balls. They might play an entire hole or more of golf, or she might just relax and putt on the practice putting greens. These three sets of activity are what I have chosen to elucidate the principle of plural arguing. Hitting a bucket of balls or repeatedly sinking putts, are analogous to the exercise of repeatedly ramming home point after point in an argument – hoping that it produces a good round of golf. This is the essence of the plural argument. It is a smattering of talking points, which in reality serve only in a futile endeavor to convince self, on the part of the one making the argument in the first place. It is a hint that the arguer does not fully believe their assertion, and further that they do not grasp the single critical path logic element (if such exists) needed to elegantly refute the very argument inside which they are pretending to be competent.

One will note – that in a plural argument laundry list, no conjecture risk is ever undertaken, no points made by opponents are ever mentioned nor recognized, points are all memorized from some other highly constrained source material, they contain no original ideas, are not organized in any sequential fashion, nor ranked according to gravitas or type of critique. The reality is that the laundry list creator does not understand such logical argument complexities in the first place. That is why they rely upon talking points. It is akin to just hitting the same shot, off the practice tee, over and over – hoping desperately for a win (which will help convince them they are right).

Plural arguing is a method of rhetoric and persuasion, which does not recognize that two-sided argument styles are much more effective means of making a scientific argument. In the plural argument style, the activist is trying to convince themselves that they are right, by gauging how impactful their argument list is, upon opponents. It must be a crushing defeat – therefore long lists of ‘reasons why’, are imperative. It is a form of one way communication, perception of overwhelming force and imperious method of argument which is highly ineffective in reality at convincing anyone.

“Research findings on the effectiveness of these three types of messages are consistent and clear. Two-sided refutational messages are about 20 percent more persuasive than one-sided messages.”1

When you hear the rhetoric coming from the anti-supplement crowd for instance, it usually comes in the form of a tetrad of contention (immediately below). These arguments are a desperate attempt at throwing things against the wall and hoping that one of them sticks, or that the entire smattering of things being thrown will somehow intimidate the opponent into flinching. This is the essence of plural arguing. There is nothing of real critical path merit offered by the proponent in plural arguing (such as in the case of a Gish Gallop for instance), rather a cache of semi-related points, which do not hit at the meat of the critical path logic being addressed: e.g. Do supplements offer an increase in well being for at least some of the population? That is the scientific question. Even though we as scientists must collect the measure of ‘well being’ through observations by eyewitness participants, that is the breaks of the game. To avoid this critical task of science (under the lame excuse of eyewitness testimony being weak), is well, pseudoscience. Today, we purposely avoid studying supplements precisely because it affords us the luxury of a Gish Gallop or a set of apologetics as follows (see an example of this here: 8 Alarming Truths That Make Supplement Marketers Squirm):

Supplements occasionally include impurities or absences of the labelled constituents.

People spend a lot of money on supplements.

Supplements many times lack studies demonstrating evidence of claimed benefits.

You can get most all the nutrient you need from a typical Western Diet.

Each conjecture is posed independently and relates in name only to the critical path logic: efficacy or necessity of supplementation on the part of the general public. Each point might individually even be correct. Most often, as is the case with these four plural arguments, they are organic untruths – true as a statement, but implying or relating a falsehood. Nonetheless, they constitute a method of avoiding risk in conjecture, as no point serves to reinforce any other ones, and if any one point is shown to be wrong, the others still stand as ‘case closed’. The typical arguer who proposes this very tired set of rationality, has bought into a completely different principle of which they are trying to convince themselves:  I do not want people taking supplements. They cannot give a good reason to their conscience for this conjecture, so they resort to posing an onslaught of ominous-sounding related arguments, which skirt around the main syllogistic point in an effort to convince themself that their predilection is ‘accepted science’. You heard me right, they are tying to convince themself. And they use their ability to perceive that they have quashed an opponent, as their gauge indicator that they must therefore be right. Hence the robust investment in eristic argument and rhetoric they usually employ.

I can use this same equivalent method of rhetoric and logic structure to explain why seeing doctors is a bad practice.

A doctor in Delray Beach was indicted for conducting unnecessary and expensive procedures and handing out unwarranted or illegal prescriptions.

Spending on healthcare has increased 450% over the last 15 years, yet American health is in decline.

Studies show that most doctor visits produce no outcome, and people who visit doctors more often, also tend to be sicker.

If you live a healthy life, exercise and keep a positive outlook, just like most 110+ year-olds – you will spend a life not having to see doctors much or at all.

Of course, if I used four such points of casuistry in order to attempt to assemble a modus ponens which contended that you should not see a doctor, I would be practicing quackery – making a diagnosis and recommending treatment approach without any knowledge, qualification nor skill. The recommendations against using supplements, constitutes the same exact form and logic of plural argument quackery. It is every bit the ‘making diagnosis and recommendation for treatment without any knowledge, qualification nor skill.’

Please note that several argument points which reveal a critical relationship and path of dependent logic (such as the deductive elements of a murder trial prosecution) are not the same thing as a talking point list. An ethical skeptic must understand the distinction between sound, constrained critical path syllogism developed by a sequence of propositions, versus simple laundry lists of conjecture.

Practice Putting

A plural arguer in this case would be more honest if they actually assembled a modus ponens which dealt with the logical critical path they were actually (and surreptitiously) employing. For instance:

Supplements serve to reduce medical and pharmaceutical industry revenues and shift those revenues to a competing industry. As a member of the former I want my government to regulate supplements as drugs or ban them completely.

Now that is an argument. Not an ethical one, and of course not one bearing soundness (merely a personal desire). However it is clear and it does directly address a logical critical path – avoiding this four-fold shotgun condemnation dance of deception (earlier in the article) typically practiced by the anti-supplement activist. This latter argument, is one which can be dealt with at face value. It is a logical critical path, but in the context of science in the public trust, is an unsound argument. Let’s add to this sentiment then,

Supplement buyers are gullible

Supplement peddlers are frauds

Insane body builders use supplements

Here’s a list of the bad supplement people or a case where someone died from abusing a powerful stimulant while having a heart condition.

Adding in these couple well recognized free-pass-given one liners produces a conclusion set more akin to a putter, practicing putting on the putting green – a straightforward slam dunk in every case, right into the finish/hole. They might even throw in a couple names and epithets to boot (ad vertutem or ad hominem). This is the practice putting form of plural arguing. Lots of bravado and condemnation – but no real points of any gravitas at all. A fearsome insistence of conclusivity.

Therefore, between the driving range talking points and putting practice condemnations, we hold an ethical skepticism definition of plural arguing.

Plural Arguing

/philosophy : argument : sophistry/ : propose to me one justification for your argument and I might believe it. Propose to me two justifications for your argument and I won’t believe that even you believe it. An indicator that an arguer is simply grasping at every bad sounding report or seeming counterargument related to an issue, in a desperate attempt to condemn the subject. Seemingly unaware of the logical gravitas, salience or sequitur nature of any one single argument. One single argument, when crafted according to a critical logical calculus, is all that is required to refute a contention. The plurality deludes the arguer into thinking they have condemned the subject, and might even reveal an irrational bias attempting to be passed off as science. For instance, the case of supplements, anti-supplement activists will cite cases of impurity, and that supplements are often ineffective, and that people spend a lot of money on them. None of these arguments actually is an argument to eliminate supplements.

Driving Range – Tossing out a smattering of semi-related points to see if any of them stick or if the perception of talking point numbers produces an intimidation effect. (e.g. Gish Gallop, apologetics or casuistry)

Practice Putting – Sinking repeated unsound, unrelated and peripheral or trivial (non-critical path) assertions/epithets in order to bolster a perception of ominous conclusivity. (e.g. ad vertutem, ad hominem or eristic arguments)

Now we contrast that with real argument development and prosecution.

Sound, Constrained and Critical Path Syllogism – A Full Round

But none of the above conjectures serve to constitute sound, constrained and critical path syllogism. So I will endeavor here to fabricate an example of a sound, constrained and critical path syllogism. One which continues with our golf analogy and our case example of supplements. One which would contraindicate the use of supplements on the part of the broader American population. The holy grail of what the anti-supplement crowd wishes were out there, but secretly know they can never obtain (hence the need for talking points and guilt assuaging laundry lists). Here goes:

Use of supplements nationwide, has been shown by numerous studies to have prompted a decline in the overall consumption of food by Americans – food which used to be the source of these nutrients now taken in supplement form. This decline in food consumption has served to produce some unanticipated consequences in terms of peripheral nutrient starvation. As a result, a survey of 469,000 Americans, taken over a 10 year period, indicates that the average 30 year-old feels a lesser degree of well being today, than did their more food-consuming predecessors at age 30 ten years ago. Moreover, the average supplement consumer feels a decline in well being, steadily for 10 years after beginning consumption of supplements on a regular basis.

Now that is sound, constrained and critical path.  The problem with this assertion is two fold. First it is completely lacking in any evidential basis and is ultimately flat wrong, as a principle set (soundness/validity were only presumed per hoc aditum here, for case example purposes). Second, such studies would never be undertaken by the medical or pharmaceutical industries, because the exact opposite would appear in the data. Most people’s lives see a dramatic increase in well being, after beginning supplementation. Especially if any form of macrocytic anemia, intestinal-autoimmune, diabetes or other lack-of-nutrition condition was being suffered. This is the result they secretly fear exists (hence the need for the talking points parade) and would never allow to be seen printed inside a study they would fund.

Use of supplements nationwide, has been shown by numerous studies to have prompted more healthy eating habits among Americans – food no longer has to be consumed in excessive amount in order to derive sufficient quantities of these nutrients now taken in supplement form. This decline in unhealthy levels of caloric consumption has served to produce health benefits in many Americans in terms of eliminating over 20 common autoimmune and metabolic diseases. In confirmation of this, a survey of 469,000 Americans, taken over a 10 year period, indicates that the average 30 year-old feels a greater level of well being today, as compared to their more food-consuming predecessors at age 30 ten years ago. Moreover, the typical supplement consumer feels a sustained boost in well being, steadily for 10 years after beginning consumption of supplements on a regular basis.

Notice that there are several points contained in this assertion. But they all serve to critically underpin the next one in a universal proposition ⇒ constrained proposition ⇒ assertion context. This is critical path logic. This – we the scientists – the neighbors, parents and friends of all those who are undertaking this lifestyle change involving smart supplementation – we all know this to be true. Sadly, science as usual is 20 to 40 years behind what parents and the public already knew, long ago. The one reason for this? Social Skepticism and its cast of dark actors.

epoché vanguards gnosis


How to MLA cite this blog post =>

The Ethical Skeptic, “Plural Arguing – I am Not Convinced That Even You Believe You” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 6 May 2018, Web;

  1. The Focal Point, The Science of Persuasion: The Power of Two-Sided Refutational Messages; : Allen, M. (1991). Meta-analysis comparing the persuasiveness of one-sided and two-sided messages. Western Journal of Speech Communication, 55, 390–404.

May 6, 2018 - Posted by | Agenda Propaganda, Argument Fallacies | , ,

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