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The Sophistry of Alan Kaufman

So a few days ago, I tweeted about this post.  In it, Alan Kaufman equates the popularity of Amazon’s Kindle to the Holocaust.

Please read that last sentence again.

Alan Kaufman – sophist, moral idiot, and fallacy factory extraordinaire – suggests that the fact that a large number of people prefer to read their books on electronic paper, is isomorphic with the facts of the murder of more than 6 million people.  This insipid, self-important ass spends hundred of words braying out the notion that the kindle amounts to a “Concentration Camp of Ideas”.  He does so in all apparent sincerity and self-belief.

I contend that any person who cannot tell the difference between an e-book reader and the murder of 6 million Jewish, Romani, Disabled and other minority individuals is at best a moral cripple and at worst a full-on sociopath.

Now I originally sat on this for a few days, because I thought it best if I were able to regard it with a calm, detached, intellectual air.  I thought that the best way to address this would be to reasonably and rigorously point out the massive holes in his reasoning.  But after thinking on it awhile, it occurred to me that what Kaufman is attempting here isn’t logic.  It isn’t reason.  It’s sophistry.  Kaufman’s not trying to put forth an argument of merit, rather he’s trying put forth most damning accusation possible, and then paint it over with a thin veneer of false respectability.  He draws a connection between something personally dislikes (e-books) and one of the most evil acts of the 20th century, not because such an argument is true, but rather because if it were true, it would be damning to the object of his ire.  After that, any sops to reason he throws into his essay are an after-thought.  Though calling them any kind of thought might be a bit overgenerous.

So I came to the realization that in the face of such sophistry, there can be no reasoned response.  Arguing with a Sophist isn’t just tilting at windmills, it’s tilting at the very wind itself.  The more you try to wield logic and evidence in an effort to defeat them, the more they’ll simply flit about to raise the banner of whatever argument seems expedient to them at the time.

I don’t think Kaufman truly believes that the Kindle and the Holocaust are morally equivalent.  To be honest, I don’t think that Kaufman believes much of anything of all.  Rather I think he feels that he dislikes the Kindle and, lacking even the most basic flickerings of intellectual honesty or moral sense, he jumped to the most hyperbolic argument he could come up with to express his disdain.  That he could defend this hyperbole by hiding behind the shield of iconoclasm (as he does in the comments) was simply bonus, I imagine.

So when it comes down to it, Kaufman’s essay isn’t an argument.  It’s a simpering cry.  A cry for attention, a cry for relevance, and a cry of fear over the fact that the world is moving forward.  And the fact that Kaufman, with his broken morals and his insipid, sophistic thinking, can do nothing to stop it.

Posted in Philosophy, Science/Tech.