A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Summa of All Internet Debate

From Deogowulf's now sadly silent The Joy of Curmudgeonry, a scenario familiar to many at various blogs:

Thermippos — The Complete Dialogue
The scene is the agora, outside the office of the magistrate. Socrates is on his way to answer charges of impiety. There he meets Thermippos holding forth confidently amidst a gathering of young men. Naturally, since death is on his mind, Socrates seizes the opportunity to discuss the subject with a man who seems certain of everything.
Socrates. You agree, Thermippos, that all men are mortal.
Thermippos. I do.
Socrates. And you agree furthermore that I am a man.
Thermippos. I have no reason to doubt it, Socrates.
Socrates. Surely then you agree that I am mortal.
Thermippos. I didn’t say that. You did. Don’t put words in my mouth.
Socrates. I beg your pardon, Thermippos, but I have simply drawn what follows.
Thermippos. Strawman.
Socrates. But no true reasoner could fail —
Thermippos. Ah, the no-true-Macedonian fallacy.
Socrates. But, Thermippos, given the logical form . . .
Thermippos. Define “logical form”.
Socrates. . . . you must either accept the conclusion or reject at least one of the premises.
Thermippos. False dichotomy.
Socrates. I see, Thermippos. You’re an idiot.
Thermippos. And that’s an ad hominem.
Socrates ad-hominems Thermippos with a brick. The charges of impiety are dropped.


  1. Beautifully well put. It is of course an ad hominem to point out what's obvious about one's interlocutor right now right in front of you. Now it all makes sense.

  2. How true.

    The number of people who get deeply indignant when you point out that while they did not say something, what they did say makes no sense except on the assumption of that thing.

  3. *shrug* A lot of stuff that looks like this is Socrates either phrasing something in a way that he knows Thermippos will find unobjectionable enough to say "close enough," and then treating it in one or more ways that he knows aren't what Thermippos actually meant, and then taking on the Thermippos-in-the-second-half roles.

    Not trying to be contrary, just been beating my head against "it looks similar to that, so you're wrong, logic be damned!" stuff lately.