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Logic and rhetoric

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The bait-and-switch is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone presents a partial, appealing truth while hiding an unappealing falsehood.

The fallacy is a fallacious argument style.


[edit] Usage by cults

Bait-and-switch tactics are used in cults and other authoritarian settings to conceal doctrine from outsiders and new inductees. Since many such groups base themselves on principles that outsiders often find outlandish, such groups often choose to spoon-feed doctrine to inductees rather than letting them study it independently, in hopes that the extreme points of doctrine will be much more acceptable to the new believer after a period of conditioning brainwashing.

The difference between this and telling people the introductory-level concepts of a religion before teaching the more complex concepts of a religion is that in a bait-and-switch [a] the more complex parts of the religion are deliberately hidden (as opposed to hidden for practical reasons) and [b] the more complex parts of the religion are also the parts which are most objectionable, as opposed to merely being more nuanced versions of more basic beliefs.

[edit] Milk before meat

Milk before meat is the Mormon term.

[edit] Gradient

Gradient is the Scientology term (and in Scientology's case some good ol' money spendin' is involved so the investment is not just emotional). As a controversial example, new converts to Scientology[1] are told it is compatible with all other religious beliefs, but at higher levels are told other religions are the result of implants, most famously the R6 implant, and are expected to follow Scientology to the exclusion of other faiths.

[edit] Anti-Freemasonism

In a similar fashion, anti-Masonic conspiracy theorists are notorious for claiming that only the "higher, 33rd degree Masons" know the true, evil practices of the fraternity. However, in Freemasonry, no degree is higher than the third degree; all other degrees are supplementary. The numbers are only a substitute for the ornate titles of the degrees (e.g. Master of the Royal Secret).

[edit] Motte and bailey

Motte and Bailey is a rhetorical practice wherein one protects a desirable, profound but indefensible belief or proposal by swapping it with a more defensible, perhaps trivially true interpretation when the former comes under scrutiny. This is helped by being vague or ambiguous. This is closely related to equivocation, which is about wordplay and changing the definition of a single term. The difference to the bait-and-switch is that the trivial version is only temporarily proposed to ward off critics and not actually held. The "difficult" (bailey) version always remains the desired belief, but is never actually defended. This gives the belief an air of being counter-intuitive yet somehow true. In that way it resembles the deepity.

The phrase has little currency outside Scott Alexander's blog Slate Star Codex.

[edit] Naming

The term was created by Nicholas Shackel, a British professor of Philosophy, who named it after a medieval fortress system and explains:[2]

A motte and bailey castle
A Motte and Bailey castle is a medieval system of defence in which a stone tower on a mound (the Motte) is surrounded by an area of pleasantly habitable land (the Bailey), which in turn is encompassed by some sort of a barrier, such as a ditch. Being dark and dank, the Motte is not a habitation of choice. The only reason for its existence is the desirability of the Bailey, which the combination of the Motte and ditch makes relatively easy to retain despite attack by marauders. When only lightly pressed, the ditch makes small numbers of attackers easy to defeat as they struggle across it: when heavily pressed the ditch is not defensible, and so neither is the Bailey. Rather, one retreats to the insalubrious but defensible, perhaps impregnable, Motte. Eventually the marauders give up, when one is well placed to reoccupy desirable land.

For my original purposes the desirable but only lightly defensible territory of the Motte and Bailey castle, that is to say, the Bailey, represents philosophical propositions with similar properties: desirable to their proponents but only lightly defensible. The Motte represents the defensible but undesired propositions to which one retreats when hard pressed.

[edit] Examples

  • Under scrutiny, a theist might exclaim "God is love" or "just the Ground of Being", or that all believers find God eventually (motte), but then they turn around and demand prayer or that those who don't believe properly be damned to hell (bailey).
  • Most proponents of Intelligent Design maintain one clearly Christian version, which they will advance at all times (bailey), but when pressed, it's just some unknown designer who created it all (motte).
  • Christian apologists like William Lane Craig believe in one specific, Christian God who is capable of all kinds of supernatural feats (bailey), but in debates he's defending a Prime Mover and Universe Starter (motte).
  • Proponents of quackery like homeopathy might maintain that their "cure" can do wonders (bailey), but when pressed, they are okay with it being indistinguishable from placebo (motte).
  • A minority of feminists, while claiming a broad definition, such as "feminism is the radical notion that women are people" (motte), personally hold a far more specific definition (bailey) in order to exclude some group. For example, TERFs exclude trans persons, SWERFs exclude sex workers, some sex-positive feminists have excluded anti-pornography feminists[3], and so on. Other feminists, in turn, have criticized this infighting.[4]
  • On the other side, many MRAs espouse "egalitarianism", the belief that both genders should be equal, while painting feminism as outright female supremacy (despite the concept of "egalitarianism" being exactly the same as feminism) and is thus appealing (motte), but then argue that men should leave society altogether, or that women should be viewed primarily as targets for sexual "hookups", or that men are entitled to sex from women, or just generally hate them (bailey).

[edit] Delineation

The motte and bailey fallacy has been criticized for improper use when applied to group dynamics[5]. It might be that different versions of beliefs exist in different members of a group. One person might believe in a "Ground of Being" version, and the other believes in a "Personal God" version. To avoid committing this fallacy, one must make sure that either the same person is advancing several versions, or that when several people in the group hold conflicting views, that they can do so without looking hypocritical or inconsistent (which would be the case for most religious views in a single denomination).

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. L. Ron Hubbard famously referred to outsiders and newbies as "raw meat".
  2. Motte and Bailey Doctrines by Nicholas Shackel
  3. Sex-positive_feminism[wp]: "[Rubin criticizes] anti-pornography feminists who she claims 'have condemned virtually every variant of sexual expression as anti-feminist'."
  4. EverydayFeminism: Why Everyday Feminism Is For Everyone

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