How Not to Do History of Philosophy

Start with political philosopher A. Then find two more contemporary figures B and C. Show that both B and C say things that are similar to (parts of) things that A says. Then conclude that B and C are really the same and that anyone committed to B-like things must, by implication, also be committed to C-like things. Example:

    John Stuart Mill claims that all people have the right to do as they please provided that they don't harm anyone else. Anti-colonialists thus take the harm principle to justify their position. But Mill also says that uncivilized barbarians need competent Europeans to civilize them. Colonialists thus take Mill to justify their position. Therefore colonialists and anti-colonialists are really intellectual siblings.

Want another? Okay, try this one:

    Al Gore takes seriously the passage in Genesis that commands humans to be good stewards of the earth. Creationists take seriously the passage in Genesis that says that God created the entire universe in six days. Thus Al Gore and creationists are really intellectual siblings.

Still want one more example? Okay, try here.

Now obviously these are all absurd arguments. Indeed, they are bad enough that I'm having trouble figuring out just what fallacy is being committed. There are elements of the genetic fallacy along with a bit of post hoc and tu quoque, with a trace of red herring thrown in just for fun. Catallarchy readers are invited to submit their own attempts to categorize the logical mistake(s) being made.

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