Woo!

[MAJOR UPDATE: I have changed “Woo” to “Pitch” ev­ery­where on the web­site and on this post due to ex­ten­sive feed­back from ev­ery­one. Thanks!]

I’m adding rhetor­i­cal-de­vice/​com­mon-ar­gu­ment/​ar­gu­ment-fal­lacy tags to the ex­pert quotes on TakeOnIt and call­ing them “pitches”.

The list of pitches so far is here.

Ar­gu­ments have com­mon pat­terns. The most no­to­ri­ous of these are rhetor­i­cal de­vices and ar­gu­ment fal­la­cies. While these tech­niques are ob­vi­ously not new and are pub­lished on sev­eral sites on the in­ter­net, they are woe­fully un­der ap­pre­ci­ated by most peo­ple. I con­tend that this is partly be­cause:

  1. Ar­gu­ment fal­la­cies and rhetor­i­cal de­vices can be too gen­eral. Most of their real-world us­age oc­curs in a larger num­ber of spe­cial­ized forms. Th­ese spe­cial­ized forms are of­ten un­la­beled yet are in­tu­itively rec­og­nized and prey on our cog­ni­tive bi­ases. It takes a lot of cog­ni­tive en­ergy to con­sciously con­nect the gen­eral form(s) to the spe­cial­ized form.

  2. The sites about ar­gu­ment fal­la­cies and rhetor­i­cal de­vices are not in­te­grated with de­bate sites. A google for ar­gu­ment fal­la­cies will give you pages with stag­nant lists of fal­la­cies where each one has per­haps a cou­ple of his­tor­i­cal or hy­po­thet­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions of the fal­lacy. Why can’t I see ev­ery de­bate where some ex­pert or in­fluen­tial per­son used that fal­lacy, and why can’t I see ev­ery fal­lacy used in a de­bate?

To solve these prob­lems, I’m in­tro­duc­ing the con­cept of a “pitch”. Any quote from an ex­pert or in­fluen­tial per­son on TakeOnIt can now be tagged with a pitch. A pitch is a la­bel for a com­monly used ar­gu­ment or strat­egy to per­suade. You can think of pitches as the “tv tropes of ar­gu­men­ta­tion”. Here’s some ex­am­ples:

“The Con­sen­sus Pitch”
“The Pa­triot Pitch”
“The Con­vert Pitch”

Pitches en­com­pass both ar­gu­ment fal­la­cies and rhetor­i­cal de­vices. How­ever, they al­low for greater spe­cial­iza­tion. For ex­am­ple, there is the “The Evil Cor­po­ra­tion Pitch”. On a more minor note, I per­son­ally think the names should be sim­ple and ideally guess­able from the name alone (e.g. maybe it’s just me, but “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” feels like it has some Web 2.0 mar­ket­ing is­sues).

Eliezer’s “Con­ver­sa­tion Halters” and Robin Han­son’s “Con­trar­ian Ex­cuses” are good can­di­dates for pitches. (My im­pres­sion is the “halters” and “ex­cuses” listed are per­haps too spe­cial­ized for pitches, but in any case at min­i­mum provide fer­tile ma­te­rial for pitches.)

I only im­ple­mented this fea­ture over the last few days and be­fore de­vel­op­ing the con­cept fur­ther I’d like to get some feed­back.