I’ve often commented on how odd it is that argument mapping took so long to appear, only starting to take off in the past decade. After all, argument mapping is really just drawing diagrams showing the relationships among propositions in some piece of reasoning or argumentation on some topic we care about. It is a very simple and (at least in hindsight) obvious idea. Yet the consensus among those few of us who take an interest in such things is that the first diagram recognizable as an argument map didn’t appear until the early nineteenth century, tucked away at the back of a book on logic by the Reverend Richard Whately. Which strikes me as completely implausible – surely there are earlier examples?

Seems like Whately was quite an interesting fellow. Steve Simmons, in a recent post on this blog, credited Whately with saying something like the following: “there is no argument so bad that it cannot be rendered more acceptable by embedding it in a sufficiently prolonged text”. Indeed.

I tried but failed to find the original quote. Anyone?

Update: Steve has provided the original: “A very long discussion is one of the most effective veils of Fallacy;….a Fallacy which when stated barely would not deceive a child, may deceive half the world if diluted in a quarto volume”. Whately, Richard. Elements of Logic, New York, Jackson, 1836, p162, found in: ‘Informal Logic’, Douglas N Walton, Cambridge University Press, 1994, p 278.