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Arguments, Reasoning & Fallacies. R obo Móro. 13th PeWe Ontoparty , Gabčíkovo, 5 . 4 .201 3. moro @ fiit . What is an argument?. Let the Monty Pythons explain…. What an argument is not. Abuse Complaining Denying.

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Arguments reasoning fallacies

Arguments, Reasoning & Fallacies

Robo Móro

13th PeWeOntoparty, Gabčíkovo, 5.4.2013

What is an argument
What is an argument?

  • Let the Monty Pythons explain…

What an argument is not
What an argument is not

  • Abuse

  • Complaining

  • Denying

An argument is
An argument is establish a definite proposition.

  • A series of sentences, statements, or propositions

  • Where some are the premises

  • And one is the conclusion

  • Where the premises are intended to give a reason for the conclusion

What are arguments used for
What are arguments used for establish a definite proposition.

  • Persuading

    • Change somebody’s mind

  • Justification

    • Give good reason for the conclusions

  • Explaining

    • Increase understanding of something

Tricks for defending arguments
“Tricks” for defending arguments establish a definite proposition.

  • Assuring

  • Guarding

  • Discounting

  • Evaluation

Assuring establish a definite proposition.

  • Assuring that something is true without giving the actual reason

    • If there is no reason given, it cannot be questioned

  • Authoritative

    • [Some authority] has said/shown/claims…

  • Reflexive

    • I am sure/believe/am certain…

  • Abusive

    • Everybody knows that.

    • It is stupid to think that… / It is common sense that…

Guarding establish a definite proposition.

  • Involves making the premises weaker so that it is harder to object to them

  • Extent

    • All -> Most -> Many -> Some

  • Probability

    • It’s certain -> It’s probable -> There’s a chance -> He might have

  • Mental

    • Know -> Believe -> Tend to believe -> Inclined to believe

Discounting establish a definite proposition.

  • Citing a possible criticism in order to reject it or counter it

    • The ring is expensive, but it is beautiful.

  • Discounting the straw people

    • The arguer discounts the easy objections to make people overlook the more difficult objections.

    • Pravica obhajuje rovnú daň, ale rovná daň nevyrieši všetky ekonomické problémy našej krajiny.

Evaluation establish a definite proposition.

  • Appeals to standards of some sorts

    • It is good / We ought to / We should

    • It is bad / We ought not to / We should not

  • However, standards are not presented

    • Cannot be questioned

    • Our claims are more defensible

Fallacies establish a definite proposition.

  • Errors in reasoning

    • Some typical errors are named and categorized

  • Arguments can be formally valid, but still fallacious

Fallacies of vagueness
Fallacies of Vagueness establish a definite proposition.

  • Arise from vagueness of the used terms

    • Bald, tall, fair, loud

  • Slippery-slope arguments

    • Causal slippery-slope:

      • If this happens, then some further thing of an even more radical nature will happen.

Fallacies of ambiguity
Fallacies of Ambiguity establish a definite proposition.

  • Semantic

    • Ours is a nation of laws. All of us must obey the laws. But God’s law forbids work on the Sabbath day. And therefore we must not work on the Sabbath Day.

  • Syntactic

    • The police cannot stop gambling. If you cannot stop gambling, you should seek therapy. Therefore, police should seek therapy.

Fallacies of relevance ad hominem
Fallacies of Relevance: Ad Hominem establish a definite proposition.

  • an argument directed against a person who is making a claim rather than against that person’s claim or argument for it

  • Deniers

    • Deny the truth of what is said or the strength or soundness of an argument

  • Silencers

    • Revoke the right to speak without necessarily denying the truth of what issaid

  • Dismissers

    • Dismiss the speaker as untrustworthy and unreliable

Fallacies of relevance appeals to authority
Fallacies of Relevance: Appeals to Authority establish a definite proposition.

  • Backs up the argument by citing some authority

  • Affirmers, Amplifiers, Supporters

    • Analogous to the Ad hominem argument types

  • What to watch out for:

    • Is the cited authority really an authority in the field/topic?

    • Can it be trusted?

    • Is it cited correctly?

    • Why is an appeal to authority made at all?

Fallacies of relevance
Fallacies of Relevance establish a definite proposition.

  • Appeal to popular opinion

  • Appeal to tradition

  • Appeal to pity

  • Appeal to fear

Fallacies of vacuity
Fallacies of Vacuity establish a definite proposition.

  • Begging the question

    • Argument raisesthe question of why anyone who denies its conclusion should accept its premises and that question has no adequate answer

    • It’s always wrong to murder human beings. Capital punishment involves murdering human beings. Therefore, capital punishment is wrong.

  • Circularity

    • Conclusion appears as one of the premises

  • Self-sealers

    • Arguments that cannot be refuted by counter-evidence

    • Everything happens for a reason…

Refutation establish a definite proposition.

  • Straw man

    • Trying to refute the argument, but misinterpreting it by attacking the position no one actually propounds

  • False dichotomy

    • Listing only two possibilities: isn’t there a third option?

    • Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

A little example
A little example establish a definite proposition.:-)

  • Mandatory vaccination or not?

Conclusions establish a definite proposition.

  • Learn to make good arguments to achieve your purpose

  • Learn to spot the invalid or fallacious arguments made by others

    • Research papers

    • Politicians

    • Salesmen

Sources establish a definite proposition.


  • Sinnott-Armstrong, W. & Fogelin, R. (2010). Understanding Arguments.