The Fallacies of Hermeticism



Matthew Arnold, who thought criticism, literary and other, might do something worthwhile for the world, wondered whether the time would come when a member of parliament would be disturbed by social anomalies. Although I am an admirer of Arnold, his naiveté shows strongly here: it is not just that elected government officials are primarily concerned only about positioning themselves for the next election, but, more striking from my point of view as a denizen of an English department, is his touching faith that well-read critics would be disturbed by intellectual anomalies. We now find that not only anomalies but obvious fallacies of kinds against which thinkers have been warned at least since Aristotle are not only tolerated but celebrated. Has the penchant for fallacies and strategies whose purpose appears to be to obscure rather than clarify been with us since the beginning of the poststructuralist ethos? And is it simply old-fashioned to object to modes of thought long regarded as sources of error — have such fallacies as equivocation,absolutism, and hypostatization been enfranchised, even ennobled, by a new access of wisdom, or have they simply been allowed to creep in? Is it an antique notion that error breeds error, or in an age that seems happily to accept the formula that all reading is misreading, is it absurd to speak of error at all?


Literary Criticism Semantic Domain Logical Fallacy Fallacious Argument Word Play 
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Copyright information

© Wendell V. Harris 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA

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