When'd you stop beating your wife?

Hello

I’m looking for a little clarification of Mr Fitzergerald’s quote. What he is saying is “you are damned if you do, you are damned if you don’t”, right?

He’s using hyperbole, isn’t he?

The Forest of Rhetoric is a wonderful resource for such questions.

It’s not hyperbole (rhetorical exaggeration).
It’s certainly aporia (deliberating with oneself as though in doubt over some matter; asking oneself (or rhetorically asking one’s hearers) what is the best or appropriate way to approach something).
I suppose an argument might also be made for diasyrmus (rejecting an argument through ridiculous comparison). There’s probably a better term for the statement you’re interested in, but I don’t know what it is.

More common and perhaps less Greek, but better? Me thinks not. (Which, of course needs to be distinguished from the more currently colloquial - I don’t think (at all) - which may also be true generally, but is not particularly apropo in this instance as a goodly few moments were spent reaching a conclusion in the matter).

I don’t know if this helps but the “When’d you stop beating your wife?” question is an example of a complex or loaded question. There are two questions in it. The first one is “Did you beat your wife?” and the second one is “Did you stop?”. No matter how you respond to the complex question the first question would be true. So no matter how you answer the original question, you are implicitly affirming that you beat your wife.

[quote]QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, your critics are charging that you are a partisan who was conducting what, in essence, was a…

(UNKNOWN): In which government (ph)?

(LAUGHTER)

FITZGERALD: You tell me.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) witch hunt. I mean, how do you respond to (inaudible) since you are in Washington…

FITZGERALD: I don’t know – you know, it’s sort of, When’d you stop beating your wife?

One day I read that I was a Republican hack, another day I read that I was a Democratic hack, and the only thing I did between those two nights was sleep.

I’m not partisan. I’m not registered as part of a party. And I’ll leave it there.[/quote]
Complete transcript here

So he was responding to the complex question: “[Y]our critics are charging that you are a partisan who was conducting a witch hunt.” The first part is: Are you a partisan? The second is: Are you conducting a witch hunt? Mr. Fitzgerald correctly avoided answering the second part and thus implying he was partisan, and simply answered the first question.

Ed, what’s interesting about that NYT article you referenced is that, in it, it appears that he doesn’t simply answer the question about his partisanship which in fact he did.

Nope. It is a simple question (based upon a perhaps erroneous assumption) enquiring as to the time at which the beating ceased. The correct mode of response (assuming that no beating took place) would be to point out that said beating did not take place, and so, the question is meaningless (or at least based upon an erroneous asumption).

This, it appears, is the approach taken by Mister Fitzgerald, a true gentleman by all appearances.

Bob, what you are describing is what is called a complex question. Mr. Fitzgerald’s response “When’d you stop beating your wife?” is a textbook example of a complex question. So I don’t see why you are saying it is not.

[quote][url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_many_questions]Fallacy of many questions…Many questions, also known as complex question, presupposition, loaded question, or plurium interrogationum (Latin, “of many questions”), is a logical fallacy. It is committed when someone asks a question that presupposes something that has not been proven or accepted upon by the people involved

This was the bit I found, if not particularly objectionable, at least lacking in a certain logic or common sense. What have you, come as it may, a sring day in…april? :s

“Loaded” resonantes well with the higher aspects of consciousness, “complex” less well, “plurium interrogationum” not at all as, being something of a grammarian my own self I know one question from two!

“Loaded question” sounds like an accurate description to me, but I disagree with the last point, above. One can answer it without affirming the beating. One can say “I’ve never beaten my wife.”

What’s that you say? :grandpa: Beating my fewi?

I never stop! :slight_smile:

What’s the difference between meat and chicken?

If you beat your chicken it dies. :unamused:

I wish my wife would stop beating me. It was harmless (or so I thought) at first. Kind of cute. She’d slap me on the shoulder and it was like playing. She has since graduated to rakes and shovels. Even in my sleep. “Wake up!” Boom. Ow!

She burns me too.

This was the bit I found, if not particularly objectionable, at least lacking in a certain logic or common sense. What have you, come as it may, a sring day in…April? :s

“Loaded” resonantes well with the higher aspects of consciousness, “complex” less well, “plurium interrogationum” not at all as, being something of a grammarian my own self I know one question from two![/quote]

Sorry, I didn’t make the definitions. I just use them. :slight_smile:

“Loaded question” sounds like an accurate description to me, but I disagree with the last point, above. One can answer it without affirming the beating. One can say “I’ve never beaten my wife.”[/quote]
Yeah, it is a loaded question. MT is right as well, but his reply hops over the basic situation which causes this type of question to be a topic of conversation in the first place. Loaded questions are based on the expectation of a simple reply. A simple “yes” or “no” answer will always funnel the answerer into an unfavorable, even if inaccurate admission.

I tried to make the point that if you’re not careful with a complex question you will end up implicity affirming something which may not be true. But I guess I wasn’t careful enough to make that clear. :blush:

I thought your explanation was plenty clear and in fact basically settled the issue. I only posted about it because I was busy typing and accidentally wandered into this thread. :wink: