Grain of Salt

In K. Vaidya (ed.), Teach Philosophy with a Sense of Humor. pp. 202-210 (2021)
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Abstract

Imagine my surprise at discovering - tucked inside the cover of a first edition Alice in Wonderland – an unknown dialogue written by Lewis Carroll himself! It was scribbled on the back of a napkin, punctuated by Carroll’s tell-tale signature, and seems to have been written hastily. Carroll is known among laypersons as an absurdist, but he’s esteemed among formal thinkers as impressively logical. You can probably then imagine my further surprise at discovering various fallacies and confusions in the dialogue! I counted equivocations over use/mention, identity/predication, measurements, and lexical/material parthood, but I’m sure there are more hiding. If you share my interest in untangling these errors, I’ve copied Carroll’s dialogue below. I’ve found the task best pursued with help, whether students, interns, sisters, tarot readers, etc. As you’ll see, I’ve divided the dialogue into five sections, of varying difficulties. I recommend dividing helpers accordingly, assigning one section per group, then directing each to identify both good and bad reasoning in the section. After some time, groups should pass their discoveries to other groups for scrutiny. For example, if group 1 examined section 1, they’d pass their discoveries to group 2 who then checks group 1’s work against section 1. Proceed until each group has examined each section and – hopefully – you’ll find all the errors. Happy hunting!

Author's Profile

John Beverley
University at Buffalo

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