Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A Fine Kettle of Fish

There is no new thing under the Sun, and not even the students at my school can come up with a truly novel argumentative fallacy.

Last month I introduced my patient readers to this earnest attempt, from a pupil whom I have anonymised under the alias 'Young Socrates':

No she wasn't! I was too!

In fact this turns out to have been previously pinned down by Sigmund Freud, under the name 'Kettle Logic'. He applies it to his own loopy reasoning in a self-justificatory dream, which he compares to:

the defence offered by a man who was accused by his neighbour of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition. In the first place, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second place it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and in the third place, he had never borrowed it at all.

Of course, I never claimed this fallacy was really novel, and I couldn't find any reference to it however hard I Googled, and anyway that post was forged by my evil twin brother Bray. But kettle logic, or kettle defence, is what this particular pot of iffy fish is called. Any pre-Freud denominations welcomed!

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