Category Archives: strange terms

More on Alternative Facts

Talisse and I have a short piece over at 3QuarksDaily on the heat/light ratio in the ‘Alternative Facts’ reaction.   In many ways, it’s a follow-up to John’s earlier observation that Conway, on a more charitable interpretation, should have used a term like ‘rebutting’ or ‘complicating’ facts, since she’s talking about the evidence for the attendance claims.

The point: a little training in the argumentative culture of the humanities helps with these distinctions. The sad irony is that a representative of the Trump administration is hamstrung by the use of language in an area the administration is actively trying to undermine.


I strongly assert

I was recently at a conference.  I attended one paper where the presenter kept using the expression, "I strongly assert…" as a means of premise-introduction.  Once, it was used in the context of disagreement.  And so:  "Some say not-p, but I strongly assert p."  I found this locution and its use jarring.  It seems exceedingly dogmatic, and moreover, what exactly does 'strongly' mean, anyhow?  Confidently, loudly, as though in ALLCAPS? 

A question for the NS readership: What is the most charitable reading of this locution?

Here's my shot.  In the event of a conference paper, you can't give an argument for every premise or every case where there's a disagreement.  Conference papers require tight focus, and so the point is to argue where it is most important, and everything else is left to either bald assertion or apologetic bracketing.  That's the art of academic essays.  And so 'I strongly assert' stands as a proof-surrogate in these contexts.  Now, I think it's a pretty awkward proof surrogate (as one can just as well, and less contentiously, say 'let's assume p, here'), but it at least isn't a major breach of argumentative practice.

That reading is my most charitable, but it still doesn't sit well with me.  Any help from those more familiar with this phrase?


Something I don't understand:

The country long ago stopped wondering whether a president demeans his office by appearing on a late night comedy show. The more immediate question posed by President Obama’s appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on Wednesday is whether a political satirist loses credibility when hobnobbing with a sitting president.

Interviewing (fairly well I'd say) isn't "hobnobbing."