Poe’s Law: a poor substitute for a rational argument.

Yes it can be fun to create a strawman and mock one’s opponents but the “Poe’s Law” tactic is a diversion from the actual discussion at hand and attempts to dismiss all arguments without serious consideration.

“Lampooning one’s dialectical opponents with grotesque portrayals of their alleged unrepentant intellectual and moral vice may be deeply satisfying, but in doing so, one runs the risk of distorting one’s view of what one’s opponents actually believe. One comes to see oneself locked in battle with opponents who are beyond reason and unredeemable. This destroys the chances of rationally resolving real disagreements; in fact, it encourages the view that attempts at resolution by means of cooperative communication are futile.

Hence there is a term in popular parlance for the action of dismissing a purported interlocutor as a mere parody. When one “calls Poe” in a discussion, one claims that one or more disputants in an argument are simply playing at espousing the views they assert. Calling Poe is a way of bringing argument to a halt by asserting that there wasn’t an argument in the first place. Further, it is a way of canceling whatever points one’s interlocutor may have scored in the discussion; when an interlocutor is Poed, his or her views can no longer be taken seriously. Hence Poe’s Law often functions as a strategic maneuver in argument; it is a tool which enables one to simply dismiss one’s opponents.”

Poe’s Law encourages us to draw firm conclusions about who is and is not a fool based on the content of the beliefs they espouse. This is, in the end, a dangerous cognitive policy. Moreover, given the group polarization phenomenon, it is a policy whose danger only increases. “
Source: 3quarksdaily


2 thoughts on “Poe’s Law: a poor substitute for a rational argument.

  1. I’m guessing that just like Godwin’s law people have been misusing Poe’s law to halt a discussion to make them look good?

    I’m not at all sure how anyone can intellectually ground it, but being that calling Godwin became a craze I can guess the same ignorance is at work here … if someone confuses your well meaning assertion with that of a parody then you are probably conversing with the wrong people.

    Your first retort should be on the intellectual dishonesty of the caller. That it is possible to confuse a parody with the real thing is quite beside the point. Truth and falsehood are mistaken all the time, the skill is in distinguishing, not giving up and claiming similarity. I’m pretty sure that early adopters of Darwin’s theory of evolution would have suffered the same.

    So what you’ve got to ask yourself, are you really that far ahead of the curve. Or is your point really that indefensible.

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