Summary Gambit, The

The use of summary to introduce distortion into an argument.

Example: The case for intervening in a country whose government is committing gross outrages on its population (Iraq in the 1990/2000s was the subject being discussed, but Germany in the 1930/40s is another instance) is summarised: “We can’t simply say, ‘Oh, we don’t like your regime, we think you’ll be happier without it, so let’s invade you.’”S134

The gambit is defended on the grounds that “the essentials” of the argument are there: it is evident, however, that they are not. The assumption that they are is a case of begging the question—using the conclusion for which the person is arguing as the assumption on which her argument is based: of course we can’t “simply say” that, but the whole point of the argument is about the actual reasons, not the parody which is passed off as summary.

The gambit is well defended because it can answer objections on its own terms: “So, you think we can simply decide to invade any regime that we don’t happen to like?” It is possible for the opponent to escape from the trap that has been set for him, but the other person gets the advantage of first-use.


Related entries:

Devil’s Voice, Hyperbole, Special Pleading, Straw Man.

David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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