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Argument Tactics

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- Correctly and incorrectly applied

Arguments are made up of premises and conclusions.

Premise: If A is true, then B is true.

Premise: A is true.

Conclusion: Therefore, B is true.

An argument can be valid, but not sound.

Valid: If boa constrictors bite their prey, it dies.

A boa constrictor bit my dog; therefore, my dog is dead.

Sound: If boa constrictors get ahold of their prey, they squeeze it to death.

A boa constrictor got ahold of my dog; therefore, my dog is dead.

Ad Absurdum

“Some argue that marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin and cocaine. Will popping Reeses Pieces lead to popping ecstasy?”

-Caitlin Niman

Modus Ponens

If A is true, then B is true.

A is true; therefore, B is true.

“If the dam broke, the valley would flood.

The dam broke; therefore, the valley flooded.”

Obviously, this can be switched around and elaborated.

If and only if A is true, then B is true.

B is true; therefore, A is true.

“If and only if the dam broke, the valley would flood.

The valley has flooded; therefore, the dam broke.”

Argument by Analogy

“Parents look out for their children;

so, teachers should look out for their students.”

“An argument, just like a house, needs

a solid structure.”

Mentioning things by not mentioning them

(This isn’t so much an argument as a tactic.)

“I won’t even mention her clothes.”

“There’s no need to recount the Senator’s past indiscretions.”

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: “After it, therefore because of it.

“I only caught a cold after I shook hands with you.”

“Kennedy was assassinated because the CIA failed to kill Castro.”

Ad hominem: “At the person”

“I don’t think Sarah Palin’s qualified to be president.”

“That’s because you’re sexist.”

“It was just one dance!”

“Only a man would say that.”

Begging the question

Misused: “This new evidence begs the question of whether he can be trusted.”

It actually looks like this: “O.J. Simpson did not kill his wife, because he is a world-class football player, not a murderer.”

The slippery slope

“If we legalize gay marriage, the institution of marriage is going to deteriorate everywhere.”

“If I let you do that, I have to let everyone do it.”

But, don’t be fooled: “fallacies” aren’t always fallacious.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: “After it, therefore because of it”

“I only caught a cold after I shook hands with you.”

“My computer only crashed after I dropped it.”

“He only stole my bike after I broke his Xbox.”

Ad hominem: “At the person”

“I don’t think Sarah Palin’s qualified to be president.”

“That’s because you’re sexist.”

“The senator broke all of his campaign promises.”

“Politicians always lie during campaigns.”

The slippery slope

“If we legalize gay marriage, the institution of marriage is going to deteriorate everywhere.”

“If we set a precedent with this case, more extreme rulings will follow.”