Fallacies
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Fallacies. Fifteen common types. Amphiboly. Yes, it’s related to “amphibian” Involves a phrase or sentence that may have more than one meaning Example: I just can’t say enough good about this person What does this mean? There’s just nothing good to say about this person, or

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Fallacies

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Fallacies

Fallacies

Fifteen common types


Amphiboly

Amphiboly

  • Yes, it’s related to “amphibian”

  • Involves a phrase or sentence that may have more than one meaning

  • Example:

    I just can’t say enough good about this person

  • What does this mean?

    • There’s just nothing good to say about this person, or

    • The person’s merits are so high they defy expression


Baculum argumentum ad

Baculum, argumentum ad

  • AKA, threat

  • Involves issuing threats of force or violence to win agreement instead of by the weight of the argument

  • Example:

    If you don’t join my church, you’re going to go to hell

  • Refutation: Perhaps so, but this doesn’t really help me in my deliberations


Bifurcation

Bifurcation

  • AKA, false dichotomy

  • Involves limiting choices to only two when there are more options available

  • Example:

    You’re either with America, or you’re with the terrorists

  • Refutation: One may not necessarily agree with either party or its actions


Composition

Composition

  • Involves reasoning that what is true of the parts must be true of the whole

  • Complements the fallacy of division

  • Example:

    This basketball team has five all-stars in its starting line up. They’ll be sure to win

  • Refutation: Not so fast. Each player may be a prima donna who doesn’t “play well with others”


Damning the alternative

Damning the alternative

  • Involves claiming one argument to be right because an opposing argument is wrong

  • Example:

    All other reasons have been shown wrong; this one must be correct

  • Refutation: This one could be incorrect, too

  • Caution: That other reasons have been wrong may be reason to consider this one, but not to accept it as correct without deliberation


Division

Division

  • Involves assuming that what is true of the whole is true of the parts

  • Complements fallacy of composition

  • Example:

    She went to Oxford. She must be exceptionally brilliant

  • Refutation: Not necessarily. While Oxford may have many smart people in its halls and on the whole be a smart place, it doesn’t mean this person is


Equivocation

Equivocation

  • Involves using the same words in more than one sense within the same argument

  • Example:

    A candy bar is better than nothing. Nothing is better than love. So, a candy bar is better than love

  • Refutation: “Nothing” is being used in two different senses, so the conclusion cannot follow from the premises


Extensional pruning

Extensional pruning

  • Involves “pruning” meaning from a word’s generally accepted usage in order to save face

  • Example:

    I know I told you I’d buy you a drink. I just got you a soda

  • Refutation: the commonly understood sense of the term would mean an alcoholic drink; the arguer is relying on the word’s multiple meanings to weasel his way out of a promise


Genetic fallacy

Genetic Fallacy

  • In negative form, called “damning the origin”; in positive form, could be called “blessing the origin,” a kind of appeal to authority

  • Example:

    Your argument to abstain from recreational drugs makes you sound like Nancy Reagan

  • Refutation: So? Whatever you think of the former First Lady, an argument is neither right nor wrong for her—or for anyone’s—espousing it


Ignoratio elenchi

Ignoratio elenchi

  • Involves attempting to demonstrate one thesis while in fact demonstrating a different, irrelevant thesis

  • Example:

    I shall prove Religion X to be true by showing that human beings are immoral without belief in a God

  • Refutation: While belief in a God may have moral effects, it does nothing to show whether Religion X is true


Loaded language

Loaded language

  • AKA, loaded terms

  • Involves an attempt to bias the audience by the use of words chosen for their strong connotative value

  • Example:

    “Terrorists” or “freedom-fighters”?

    “Regime” or “government”?


Non anticipation

Non-anticipation

  • Involves arguing that because it hasn’t been done or thought of before that it must be wrong

  • Related to argumentum ad antiquitatem (appeal to tradition)

  • Example:

    Look, none of our scientists has ever even considered this theory before; if it were right, they would have thought of it!

  • Refutation: Isaac Newton never imagined the Internet, either


Oversimplification

Oversimplification

  • Involves making an issue more simple than it is

  • Example:

    Look, the only way to solve child-behavior problems is to spank your children

  • Refutation: Even supposing spanking does work, what about talking to your children? Spending quality time with them? Seeing to it that they are involved in significant ways with their peers, etc.?


Poisoning the well

Poisoning the well

  • A type of the ad hominem

  • Involves casting doubt, aspersions or some other pall over an argument by creating negative associations

  • Example:

    The bourgeois argument that people should be free to pursue private interest …

  • Refutation: “Bourgeois” is used in an abusive way to make what comes next sound bad; it has nothing to do with the argument


Secundum quid

Secundum quid

  • AKA, hasty generalization

  • Involves coming to a conclusion based on scanty evidence

  • Example:

    I went out with three women, and they all dumped me. I must not be attractive to women

  • Refutation: Keep up that kind of thinking, and you’re bound to be unlucky in love


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