How To Be A Bad Arguer: The Sorites Paradox


Republicans are calling Barack Obama a Socialist, based on his proposal to raise the highest income bracket from 35% to 39%.

This is a Logical Fallacy known as the Sorites Paradox, or the Paradox of the Heap. It is explained thusly: if you have a heap of sand and gradually remove grains of sand, at which point will it no longer be a heap? It is also called The Paradox of the Beard: how many whiskers must one have on his face for it to officially be considered a Beard?

Similarly, at which point DOES a particular tax bracket become Socialism? 36%? 37%? You have four percentage points to choose from. Which one is it?

The intention of “Redistribution of Wealth” is for everyone to pitch in and pay to use common public services. One way this is done is through Income Tax. The rich pay a larger percentage and amount, because it is understood that they can afford to. Another 4% will PROBABLY not greatly inconvenience those on the Forbes List of Humans Who Have More Money Than You Can Imagine.

As Colin Powell recently stated in a YouTube video, “Taxes are ALWAYS a Redistribution of [Wealth].”

The Republicans are using the word Socialist as an Ad Hominem Argument, which is attacking an opponent without addressing the substance of the argument. In other words, it is intended as an insult (or an Appeal To Emotion). If we accept the premise that Socialism is bad, does that mean that all forms of Socialism are bad? Or only the forms that Obama advocates simply because he is the opponent?

If all forms of Socialism are bad, and if they are elected, will McCain and Palin pledge to eliminate all forms of Socialism?
Or will they still adopt some Socialist policies while doing away with others?

The word Socialism can mean many different things, and The Republicans have failed to define the term. Dr. Zoltan has no choice but to take a guess at what they are referring to. (The following is not a Straw Man or Red Herring — it is merely “fun” conjecture.)

In the current political context, Socialism might mean Central Planning.

Will McCain and Palin do away with ALL Central Planning, which includes the Interstate Highway System, The U.S. Postal Service, Public Schools, NASA, Parks, Beaches, City Buses, and The Armed Forces?

But to be more specific, The Republicans are most likely referring to Socialism as meaning Central Planning of the Economy At Large. And if that is true, why are they the ones who pushed for the $700 Billion Bail-Out and Centralization of Power within the Treasury Department?

Dr. Zoltan digresses. In summary, if you want to be a Bad Arguer, do the following:

1.) Use an important and powerful term such as Socialism without defining what it is you are referring to,
2.) Ignore the specifics of your opponent’s proposal, and
3.) Join the Republican Party and embrace a morality built on Logical Fallacies.

Dr. Zoltan is now obsessed with Logical Fallacies. Visit to find out more.

4 thoughts on “How To Be A Bad Arguer: The Sorites Paradox

  1. bravo. I’ve been arguing this point with many a pinhead, but felt that I lacked a streamlined delivery that I think you outlined quite well.

    Long live Dr. Zoltan’s obsession with logical fallacies.

  2. please make a list of acceptable socialist programs. then state why they are acceptable to you. then state why they SHOULD be acceptable to others. then base the SHOULD reasoning on a moral standard that ALL should abide by. Then state why ALL should abide by YOUR particular standard.

    maybe then we can discuss which (if any) parts of socialism are “acceptable” to legislate.

    i still believe the vast majority of us are motivated by envy which can and often does lead to “class” envy. either me miserable with what “little” you have or be happy for what you DO have and happy for others who have EARNED more than you and me.

    you’ll show real growth when you can recognize that people from other than YOUR PARTICULAR POLITICAL CIRCLE may have good if not better ideas. it’s called humility which is only possible with maturity.

    promote all of the country not just your particular subset.

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