Logical Fallacies in Nicholas Carr’s is Google Making Us Stupid

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As the internet has grown, many Americans agree that it has greatly impacted them . Though the internet has many benefits, Nicholas Carr, author of “Is Google Making us Stupid?”, believes that the internet is essentially making everyone’s cognitive abilities deteriorate over time. Carr uses his article to try and convince his audience this belief. Although the author adequate uses rhetorical devices to appeal to the audience, Carr’s argument that the internet has a negative effect on our cognition is ineffective due to the poor quality of rhetorical devices, substandard essay structure, and logical fallacies present.

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Although the argument is ineffective overall, the author did find ways to appeal to his audience by using aristotelian appeals. Carr uses ethos throughout his writing by referencing multiple credible people. Carr quotes Scott Knarp, a blog writer of online media and literature major, to back up his argument by saying he’s not the only one (Carr). Other notable writers such as Marshall Mcluhan, a media theorist and Maryanne Wolf, an author and developmental psychologist at Tufts University, are referenced throughout the article for their agreeing arguments (Carr). Carr uses ethos and pathos by referencing Fredirich Nietzsche’s story about going blind but still learning to write and adjusting his writing styles not only to establish credibility but to appeal to emotions while giving him another claim to support his argument (Carr). Another example of pathos and logos is in the opening paragraph when Carr references Stanley Kuberik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey by using the line ““Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”” (Carr). The author uses this emotional line from the popular movie to appeal to emotion while using a well known movie to do so. Lastly, Carr uses kairos in his argument by taking into account the time frame of the situation by relating his arguments to the generation at the time. “Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety…”. This is an agreeable statement aimed at toward the current generation at the time written.

Despite the effective engagement with the audience by using ethos, pathos, and kairos the arguments he makes are invalid due to the low quality sources. Carr tends to rely heavily on his own authority and the authority of other bloggers and writers who aren’t known to the general audience or even have much authority at all. One of the many examples of this is Carr’s reference to Bruce Friedman, a friend of his who is unknown, therefore it’s untold whether or not he is a credible source. Some of the examples of logos are even out of date such as the Marshall McLuhan reference, which is from the 1960s. Though the Friedrich Nietzsche story is heart warming and engages emotion it’s from 1882. The example of kairos that Carr used was clever, but it only relates to part of the audience which is the current generation. The rest of the audience whom is much older will have a hard time relating to the example used. Using examples that only make sense to part of the audience is a recurring theme in Carr’s article. Carr uses examples that would only make sense to someone who has lived through an era without computers therefore the younger generations aren’t going to understand how homework and research was done before the internet.

The structure of this essay is also damaging to the argument, as the author is unorganized. Connections between claims and arguments are not clear. For example Carr made an effort to connect pop culture to his main argument by claiming that reading a text messaging is a different kind of thinking which is essentially affecting one’s cognition. Though it could’ve been possible, Carr was unable to draw a clear connection between the two to make it worth including in the article. The author uses such a tone that would try to make his audience think rather than actually convince them of his argument, which is not his goal. Carr uses more of a friendly tone, which could be beneficial in some ways, butfor the purpose of an argumentative essay, it's not because he’s not convincing the audience enough. Lastly, the author bounces around by using many different references, from both known and unknown people, its overwhelming and confusing making the claims hard to follow especially when most of them don’t have a clear connection.

The presence of multiple logical fallacies weakens the logical development and credibility of the argument. Carr commits hasty generalization a few times throughout the article when he jumps to conclusions. An example of this is the claim that Nietzsche’s change in writing style was caused by the typewriter itself. This conclusion was never drawn by the original story Carr is referencing, he jumped to that conclusion himself without enough data to support it. Hasty generalization is used multiple times with the lack of proof in some claims made by the author. Carr commits false dichotomy when making a comparison from Maryanne Wolf’s referenced quote. Carr makes the claim that reading has become more of a treasure hunt for information rather than a method of enjoyment, an example of a comparison that is also a false dichotomy. Lastly, Carr commits the anecdotal fallacy the many times he references himself as a primary source or example that google is making us stupid. “ Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think” (Carr). This is just one of the many examples throughout the entire article where Carr not only uses himself as a reference and commits the anecdotal fallacy but also lacks the credibility for his claim.

The internet has both good and bad aspects to it making it possible to argue for either side. Although Carr’s use of rhetorical devices has the potential to be convincing, he relies to heavily on his own authority and the authority of other non credible sources. Additionally his reliance on weak sources and lack of evidence leads him to commit multiple logical fallacies. Eventually, his argument, which could have worked if structured better, loses its credibility making it hard to pass as believable.   

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