One of my favorite elements of teaching Logic is finding good and bad reasoning out “in the wild” as I like to say. Looking at argument forms or fallacies in the classroom is not unlike looking at pathogens or organisms in a lab. Finding them in their native environment is, for academics like me, something of a thrill. I just finished teaching a module on common logical fallacies (argumentation that contains characteristic errors) and, as usual, found myself staring at the real thing. The fallacy is Argumentum ad Misericordiam – the appeal to pity.
When I first saw the extended, five minute cinematic trailer for Cloud Atlas, I knew that I would go watch this film. Any movie that merely attempted to do what I saw in those five minutes deserved to be watched, even if, ultimately, it failed to accomplish its goals. I watched it without knowing the plot or even genre. I avoided reading reviews, and knew only that it received a polarized reaction. I wanted to watch it first and make up my own mind. However, I enjoyed the movie so much I wanted to write my own review before I delve too deeply into what others have to say. Now that I’ve seen it, here is my take:
Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, is valuable reading for anyone trying to understand the meaning of life and our place in it. Whether you agree with him or not, his writing is clear and elegant, and his ideas are challenging and insightful. I had the great honor of being able to teach his book this semester and when I read through it this time, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. Tucked away at the end of his Enchiridion, his own summary of his philosophy, is this gem: