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Saturday, October 08, 2016

Mailvox: category error

Do you discuss 'category error' somewhere in your past blogs?

No, but here is a brief explanation, although upon looking at it, it really could be considerably improved as the examples are rather pedantic.

A category mistake, or category error, is a semantic or ontological error in which things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category, or, alternatively, a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property. An example is the metaphor "time crawled", which if taken literally is not just false but a category mistake. To show that a category mistake has been committed one must typically show that once the phenomenon in question is properly understood, it becomes clear that the claim being made about it could not possibly be true.

Category errors are very common, particularly when engaged in discourse with intellectually sloppy or dishonest individuals. For example, after I pointed out that weakness combined with a request for help was not "true strength", or even strength at all, Mark Butterworth responded by quoting a Psalm about David's sacrifice to God.

He wasn't merely wrong, by which I mean a failure to successfully make a point, he committed an error of category, because offering up one's weaknesses to God in praise is fundamentally different in nature than determining if the characteristic one possesses is a weakness or a strength.

The abstract category under discussion was "the nature of human strength." To respond by pointing out that God does not despise weakness offered up to Him as sacrifice is to shift the discussion to a different and tangential category, "things that God values", which is a category that is simply not relevant to the matter being discussed.

So, to point out that someone has made a category error does not necessarily mean that one is saying their statement is intrinsically false or incorrect, only that it is irrelevant. People usually commit category errors out of carelessness or ignorance or a desire to virtue-signal; when they do so out of dishonesty it is often as part of a bait-and-switch technique to which they resort because they know they cannot defend their position within the bounds of the relevant category.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Daniel H October 08, 2016 8:30 AM  

Over my head. I think that "time crawled" is a perfectly good metaphor. As make perfect sense phrases such as, "When you come to the fork in the road take it", "It gets late early out here", "It's Deja Vu all over again", "It ain't over till it's over", "Nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded", and the most bountiful of all, "You better go to other people's funerals or they won't come to yours."

Blogger VD October 08, 2016 8:45 AM  

That's what I mean about the examples being pedantic. To utilize a common metaphor as an example of a category error is a rather spergy, academic thing to do and makes the concept needlessly hard to understand.

A better example, in my opinion, would be the statement that the angle of the corner of a circle is 90 degrees. That is a category error because a circle has no corners. Does that make more sense?

Blogger seeingsights October 08, 2016 9:53 AM  

A current example of a category error would be a person supporting immigration because they think the immigrants would be like the home population. It is a category error because that person is ascribing traits to the immigrants--concerning skills , education, crime rates, welfare dependency--which the immigrants do not have

Blogger JaimeInTexas October 08, 2016 9:56 AM  

On the fork taking. FWITW, the man who said it lived on a road that looped around back to the fork i the road. You could get there regardless of which turn you took.

Blogger Johnny October 08, 2016 9:56 AM  

It is awkward to us a metaphor as a categorical error, these things are not commonly confused. And there is the categorical issue as to whether it is deliberate deception or true logical mistake.

In everyday discourse there are many problems with logic. The primary one is that most people don't want to hear it. It is like you are taking down to them and it is tedious. And then there is the very common outcome based logic people, they know the outcome and accept whatever argument that will produce that outcome. Plus of course reject any argument that does not reach an agreeable conclusion. It is not really logical confusion, it is the deliberate absence of logic.

The best propagandists, most deceptive people, do not commonly commit obvious flaws in logic. Just getting into logic invites the other person to think about it and that weakens the ability to sell a conclusion. Best to stay vague or run on an unstated assumption or just be tedious to dull the mind or imbed an emotional appeal or whatever.

Something that irritates me is the word fact. We do not really have facts, we have assumed truths, and the language does not allow that to easily be expressed. You end up having to say things like, "Lets assume for the sake of argument that..." You can say if "A then B," but that is usually a conditional action, not the basis for a logical argument, as in, "If you go I will go with you."

And then what I really find irritating is the famous, "You can have your own opinion, but not your own facts." The issue is that people who say that typically have their "own facts" also. It can not easily be argued against because again, too much detail, too tedious for most situations.

Blogger S1AL October 08, 2016 10:05 AM  

More accessible example than Corbett of a circle:

"The tomato is a very useful vegetable".

Category error: Tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. This does not address whether the tomato is useful or not, but only whether it belongs in the vegetable category.

Blogger S1AL October 08, 2016 10:05 AM  

*corners of a circle

Blogger seeingsights October 08, 2016 10:08 AM  

There is no problem with logic. The first great logician, Aristotle, got his ideas concerning logic from observing argumentation in everyday life and set out to determine why some arguments were more persuasive than others.

Anonymous Vermithrax Pejorative October 08, 2016 10:23 AM  

Category errors:

The hopes of a rock.
The temperature of a prayer.
The net worth of an anthill.
The mass of a gesture.
The feelings of a corporation.
The biology of the sun.

Blogger Nate October 08, 2016 10:23 AM  

Category Error Example:

Statement: Bama has a ton of 4 and 5 star recruits.

Rebuttal: Meeks is from Lousianna.

See where the 4 or 5 star recruit is from doesn't matter. He's playing for Bama. Saying he's from Louisiana is entirely irrelevant.

Sometimes you'll find yourself in a discussion... and you will hear a statement that is, in everyway, completely irrelevant. Your mind will stop for a second. Like "what did I just hear?" That's a big red flag that a category error has been made.

It doesn't always mean there has been a category error. its just a good indicator.

Blogger residentMoron October 08, 2016 11:02 AM  

Category errors are also a common part of modern political public relations.

The globalists, for example, insist on talking about migrants (which I am, having filled out all the paperwork, received a legitimate permit from my host country, and begun working, becoming fluent in the language, and paying taxes), or immigrants (ditto), or refugees.

The people invading Europe from Syria, Libya, and other places, are none of these things (with a few possible exceptions).

They are, in fact, invaders.

Similarly, when caught doing things to suspected terrorists, that they had themselves prosecuted other nationals for doing on their own countries, the US government insisted (and still insists) that what it was doing was interrogation and not torture.

Not only that, but it has so gelded and frightened our wonderful Free Press (TM) that they have rigorously refused to call it what is is: torture.

So when you come across a category error, there is not only the matter of the speaker/writer having made a mistake, but you have to think about their motives as well. The error may be inadvertent or it may be deliberate and malign.

Blogger seeingsights October 08, 2016 12:09 PM  

Yeah, logical fallacies abound in political discussion

Blogger JaimeInTexas October 08, 2016 1:04 PM  

The slow boiling of a frog. A metaphor but not a true statement.

Anonymous Godfrey October 08, 2016 1:07 PM  

The Cucks don't get it. We're never going back to the naive days of D's, R's, GM, Apple Pie, and Israel.

Anonymous SciVo October 08, 2016 4:05 PM  

Hey, I'm glad you brought this up.

Something that I've mentioned before as possibly being a category error is the EU threatening fines against the Central European states that are refusing to accept rapefugees. Wealth is subordinate to existence; the fines cannot be expected to actually have an effect as an incentive.

However, since the transnational managerial class holds the gnostic Equals cult as a religion, it is entirely possible that they merely intend it as a sadistic punishment on disbelievers for violating their creed. I don't know which it is. I'm not Miss Cleo, and they're sufficiently dishonest that I have insufficient clues.

Not that they're mutually exclusive anyway.

Which brings me to the question I've been pondering: given that the transnational managerial class is fairly homogenous in mode of thought, being almost entirely midwitted and having a strictly-enforced cultic faith, do these two possible explanations also pertain to our economic sanctions against Russia and/or our proxy war against Syria, or are there objective factors that take one or both of those cases out of the bounds of possible category errors or religious punishments?

Blogger Snidely Whiplash October 08, 2016 4:23 PM  

Category errors:
"Why are you racist against Muslims?"
"transgender woman"
"Regret is rape."
"Low-carb beer"

Anonymous Daniel H October 08, 2016 5:26 PM  

@2. Oh I get it now. Had to sleep off a drunk. Time, t, can be construed as an axis, just like the x,y,z coordinates of physical space. We can perceive the movement of time to crawl along the axis, but time itself is simply the axis that we lay our measurement on. Time itself doesn't move. Anyway, I think I got it.

Blogger Mark Butterworth October 08, 2016 9:14 PM  

Go away, Mark. You're exactly the obnoxious, dishonest, ostentatiously-religious sort of irrelevant-Scripture-spewing individual I don't want around here.

Your kind makes Christianity stink in the nostrils of everyone who seeks truth.


I don’t mind going away, but go away so I can’t respond to your misrepresenting what I wrote as a category error since the category under discussion is ill-defined and open to reasonable give and take? There’s a thing called conversation which includes some range and good will, and there’s formal debate where you can precisely define everything inclusive of “strength”, and then go even further, to declare your Olympian pronouncements on “true strength.”

As to your overwrought and patently ridiculous characterization of me, you would call it projection if an SJW said it of you. I won’t do that, but simply point out it is absurd, and comes in light of the fact that I panned your atrocious new publication, The Nine Laws. You’re simply miffed and petulant, striking out with a silly, schoolboy rant, “doodyhead!” You’re unaware of how often you doth protest too much.

The point of quoting Scripture two times was to point out that your idea of strength, and The Bible’s is considerably different. If you are a Christian, claiming to be or wanting to be indomitable is an obstacle to the holiness you are, no doubt, seeking. If you had ever met Jesus as he is now, you would have a different perspective on the matter of strength and weakness. And Scripture makes a pretty good witness of some of these differences, but if you haven’t experienced it first hand, they’re just words about an foreign country.

A number of things some men consider personal strengths are simply defense mechanisms intended to thwart reflection and self-awareness. Your statement about “true strength” was simply an assertion, not a definitive categorization.

Your kind makes Christianity stink in the nostrils of everyone who seeks truth.

You’ve taken a poll, have you? Everyone? For someone who prides himself on intellect and rationality, the schoolgirl emotionalism of “and everyone hates you! They all think you stink!” is a bit much, don’t you think?

And then the matter of trying to shift the ground to a “category error” is like Capt. Queeg rolling his steel balls and testifying, “But, ah, you see, that’s where I had him! He made a category error. A category error, I tell you.” uh, huh.

But yeah, you got me, Vox, I’m simply demolished. So long.

Blogger S1AL October 08, 2016 10:16 PM  

I'm beginning to wonder if replying at massive length to a short comment is a sperg tell or a gamma tell.

Anonymous SciVo October 08, 2016 11:36 PM  

S1AL wrote:I'm beginning to wonder if replying at massive length to a short comment is a sperg tell or a gamma tell.

Yes. I think the way to tell the difference is tone: "Let me tell you all about this really amazing thing!" vs. "Snark. Snark snark snark. Snark snark."

Blogger Marsh 01701 October 09, 2016 7:52 AM  

I like what Nate said, it's a 'huh?' moment in a conversation. Until I found sites like these, I always blamed myself for not paying close enough attention, misunderstanding, or mishearing.

I think what's happened though is they slipped in a category change and are so confident there's no reply, or they just keep talking till I go away, confused. I understood cat error but not the subtlety. I think the VP debate had a lot. Merci to all.

Anonymous Eric the Red October 09, 2016 11:50 PM  

@18 Mark etc...

You're now confused about a number of things, including logic, category errors, and the Bible. Wallowing in your weakness is not a rationalization for God to automagically grant you victory over your enemies. Go back and read it again, because the Bible makes clear that's not going to happen.

Anonymous Eric the Red October 09, 2016 11:51 PM  

@18 Mark etc...

You're now confused about a number of things, including logic, category errors, and the Bible. Wallowing in your weakness is not a rationalization for God to automagically grant you victory over your enemies. Go back and read it again, because the Bible makes clear that's not going to happen.

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