List of logical fallacies

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List of logical fallacies

Postby perigrini on Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:04 pm

Very frequently I see arguments made for one point or another that are fallacious. Also frequently, when I point this out I get one of several common responses such as "that's just your opinion" or simple ignoring that the arguement is false.

It occurred to me that perhaps a refresher in falacious arguments might be helpful.

This is not an exhaustive list nor massively in depth, but I believe I've probably seen every single one of these fallacious arguments made on this board at one time or another.

Blessings...

Argumentum ad antiquitatem (the argument to antiquity or tradition). This is the familiar argument that some policy, behavior, or practice is right or acceptable because "it's always been done that way." This is an extremely popular fallacy in debate rounds; for example, "Every great civilization in history has provided state subsidies for art and culture!" But that fact does not justify continuing the policy.

Because an argumentum ad antiquitatem is easily refuted by simply pointing it out, in general it should be avoided. But if you must make such an argument -- perhaps because you can't come up with anything better -- you can at least make it marginally more acceptable by providing some reason why tradition should usually be respected. For instance, you might make an evolutionary argument to the effect that the prevalence of a particular practice in existing societies is evidence that societies that failed to adopt it were weeded out by natural selection. This argument is weak, but better than the fallacy alone.

Argumentum ad hominem (argument directed at the person). This is the error of attacking the character or motives of a person who has stated an idea, rather than the idea itself. The most obvious example of this fallacy is when one debater maligns the character of another debater (e.g, "The members of the opposition are a couple of fascists!"), but this is actually not that common. A more typical manifestation of argumentum ad hominem is attacking a source of information -- for example, responding to a quotation from Richard Nixon on the subject of free trade with China by saying, "We all know Nixon was a liar and a cheat, so why should we believe anything he says?" Argumentum ad hominem also occurs when someone's arguments are discounted merely because they stand to benefit from the policy they advocate -- such as Bill Gates arguing against antitrust, rich people arguing for lower taxes, white people arguing against affirmative action, minorities arguing for affirmative action, etc. In all of these cases, the relevant question is not who makes the argument, but whether the argument is valid.

It is always bad form to use the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem. But there are some cases when it is not really a fallacy, such as when one needs to evaluate the truth of factual statements (as opposed to lines of argument or statements of value) made by interested parties. If someone has an incentive to lie about something, then it would be naive to accept his statements about that subject without question. It is also possible to restate many ad hominem arguments so as to redirect them toward ideas rather than people, such as by replacing "My opponents are fascists" with "My opponents' arguments are fascist."

Argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument to ignorance). This is the fallacy of assuming something is true simply because it hasn't been proven false. For example, someone might argue that global warming is certainly occurring because nobody has demonstrated conclusively that it is not. But failing to prove the global warming theory false is not the same as proving it true.

Whether or not an argumentum ad ignorantiam is really fallacious depends crucially upon the burden of proof. In an American courtroom, where the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, it would be fallacious for the prosecution to argue, "The defendant has no alibi, therefore he must have committed the crime." But it would be perfectly valid for the defense to argue, "The prosecution has not proven the defendant committed the crime, therefore you should declare him not guilty." Both statements have the form of an argumentum ad ignorantiam; the difference is the burden of proof.

In debate, the proposing team in a debate round is usually (but not always) assumed to have the burden of proof, which means that if the team fails to prove the proposition to the satisfaction of the judge, the opposition wins. In a sense, the opposition team's case is assumed true until proven false. But the burden of proof can sometimes be shifted; for example, in some forms of debate, the proposing team can shift the burden of proof to the opposing team by presenting a prima facie case that would, in the absence of refutation, be sufficient to affirm the proposition. Still, the higher burden generally rests with the proposing team, which means that only the opposition is in a position to make an accusation of argumentum ad ignorantiam with respect to proving the proposition.

Argumentum ad logicam (argument to logic). This is the fallacy of assuming that something is false simply because a proof or argument that someone has offered for it is invalid; this reasoning is fallacious because there may be another proof or argument that successfully supports the proposition. This fallacy often appears in the context of a straw man argument.

This is another case in which the burden of proof determines whether it is actually a fallacy or not. If a proposing team fails to provide sufficient support for its case, the burden of proof dictates they should lose the debate, even if there exist other arguments (not presented by the proposing team) that could have supported the case successfully. Moreover, it is common practice in debate for judges to give no weight to a point supported by an argument that has been proven invalid by the other team, even if there might be a valid argument the team failed to make that would have supported the same point; this is because the implicit burden of proof rests with the team that brought up the argument. For further commentary on burdens of proof, see argumentum ad ignorantiam, above.

Argumentum ad misericordiam (argument or appeal to pity). The English translation pretty much says it all. Example: "Think of all the poor, starving Ethiopian children! How could we be so cruel as not to help them?" The problem with such an argument is that no amount of special pleading can make the impossible possible, the false true, the expensive costless, etc.

It is, of course, perfectly legitimate to point out the severity of a problem as part of the justification for adopting a proposed solution. The fallacy comes in when other aspects of the proposed solution (such as whether it is possible, how much it costs, who else might be harmed by adopting the policy) are ignored or responded to only with more impassioned pleas. You should not call your opposition down for committing this fallacy unless they rely on appeals to pity to the exclusion of the other necessary arguments. It is perfectly acceptable to use appeal to pity in order to argue that the benefits of the proposed policy are greater than they might at first appear (and hence capable of justifying larger costs).

Argumentum ad nauseam (argument to the point of disgust; i.e., by repitition). This is the fallacy of trying to prove something by saying it again and again. But no matter how many times you repeat something, it will not become any more or less true than it was in the first place. Of course, it is not a fallacy to state the truth again and again; what is fallacious is to expect the repitition alone to substitute for real arguments.

Nonetheless, this is a very popular fallacy in debate, and with good reason: the more times you say something, the more likely it is that the judge will remember it. The first thing they'll teach you in any public speaking course is that you should "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em, then tell 'em, and then tell 'em what you told 'em." Unfortunately, some debaters think that's all there is to it, with no substantiation necessary! The appropriate time to mention argumentum ad nauseam in a debate round is when the other team has made some assertion, failed to justify it, and then stated it again and again. The Latin wording is particularly nice here, since it is evocative of what the opposition's assertions make you want to do: retch. "Sir, our opponents tell us drugs are wrong, drugs are wrong, drugs are wrong, again and again and again. But this argumentum ad nauseam can't and won't win this debate for them, because they've given us no justification for their bald assertions!"

Argumentum ad numerum (argument or appeal to numbers). This fallacy is the attempt to prove something by showing how many people think that it's true. But no matter how many people believe something, that doesn't necessarily make it true or right. Example: "At least 70% of all Americans support restrictions on access to abortions." Well, maybe 70% of Americans are wrong!

This fallacy is very similar to argumentum ad populum, the appeal to the people or to popularity. When a distinction is made between the two, ad populum is construed narrowly to designate an appeal to the opinions of people in the immediate vicinity, perhaps in hope of getting others (such as judges) to jump on the bandwagon, whereas ad numerum is used to designate appeals based purely on the number of people who hold a particular belief. The distinction is a fine one, and in general the terms can be used interchangeably in debate rounds. (I've found that ad populum has better rhetorical effect.)

Argumentum ad populum (argument or appeal to the public). This is the fallacy of trying to prove something by showing that the public agrees with you. For an example, see above. This fallacy is nearly identical to argumentum ad numerum, which you should see for more details.

Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority). This fallacy occurs when someone tries to demonstrate the truth of a proposition by citing some person who agrees, even though that person may have no expertise in the given area. For instance, some people like to quote Einstein's opinions about politics (he tended to have fairly left-wing views), as though Einstein were a political philosopher rather than a physicist. Of course, it is not a fallacy at all to rely on authorities whose expertise relates to the question at hand, especially with regard to questions of fact that could not easily be answered by a layman -- for instance, it makes perfect sense to quote Stephen Hawking on the subject of black holes.

At least in some forms of debate, quoting various sources to support one's position is not just acceptable but mandatory. In general, there is nothing wrong with doing so. Even if the person quoted has no particular expertise in the area, he may have had a particularly eloquent way of saying something that makes for a more persuasive speech. In general, debaters should be called down for committing argumentum ad verecundiam only when (a) they rely on an unqualified source for information about facts without other (qualified) sources of verification, or (b) they imply that some policy must be right simply because so-and-so thought so.

Circulus in demonstrando (circular argument). Circular argumentation occurs when someone uses what they are trying to prove as part of the proof of that thing. Here is one of my favorite examples (in pared down form): "Marijuana is illegal in every state in the nation. And we all know that you shouldn't violate the law. Since smoking pot is illegal, you shouldn't smoke pot. And since you shouldn't smoke pot, it is the duty of the government to stop people from smoking it, which is why marijuana is illegal!"

Circular arguments appear a lot in debate, but they are not always so easy to spot as the example above. They are always illegitimate, though, and pointing them out in a debate round looks really good if you can do it. The best strategy for pointing out a circular argument is to make sure you can state clearly the proposition being proven, and then pinpoint where that proposition appears in the proof. A good summing up statement is, "In other words, they are trying to tell us that X is true because X is true! But they have yet to tell us why it's true."

Complex question. A complex question is a question that implicitly assumes something to be true by its construction, such as "Have you stopped beating your wife?" A question like this is fallacious only if the thing presumed true (in this case, that you beat your wife) has not been established.

Complex questions are a well established and time-honored practice in debate, although they are rarely so bald-faced as the example just given. Complex questions usually appear in cross-examination or points of information when the questioner wants the questionee to inadvertently admit something that she might not admit if asked directly. For instance, one might say, "Inasmuch as the majority of black Americans live in poverty, do you really think that self-help within the black community is sufficient to address their problems?" Of course, the introductory clause about the majority of black Americans living in poverty may not be true (in fact, it is false), but an unwary debater might not think quickly enough to notice that the stowaway statement is questionable. This is a sneaky tactic, but debate is sometimes a sneaky business. You wouldn't want to put a question like that in your master's thesis, but it might work in a debate. But be careful -- if you try to pull a fast one on someone who is alert enough to catch you, you'll look stupid. "The assumption behind your question is simply false. The majority of blacks do not live in poverty. Get your facts straight before you interrupt me again!"

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc (with this, therefore because of this). This is the familiar fallacy of mistaking correlation for causation -- i.e., thinking that because two things occur simultaneously, one must be a cause of the other. A popular example of this fallacy is the argument that "President Clinton has great economic policies; just look at how well the economy is doing while he's in office!" The problem here is that two things may happen at the same time merely by coincidence (e.g., the President may have a negligible effect on the economy, and the real driving force is technological growth), or the causative link between one thing and another may be lagged in time (e.g., the current economy's health is determined by the actions of previous presidents), or the two things may be unconnected to each other but related to a common cause (e.g., downsizing upset a lot of voters, causing them to elect a new president just before the economy began to benefit from the downsizing).

It is always fallacious to suppose that there is a causative link between two things simply because they coexist. But a correlation is usually considered acceptable supporting evidence for theories that argue for a causative link between two things. For instance, some economic theories suggest that substantially reducing the federal budget deficit should cause the economy to do better (loosely speaking), so the coincidence of deficit reductions under Clinton and the economy's relative health might be taken as evidence in favor of those economic theories. In debate rounds, what this means is that it is acceptable to demonstrate a correlation between two phenomenon and to say one caused the other if you can also come up with convincing reasons why the correlation is no accident.

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc is very similar to post hoc ergo propter hoc, below. The two terms can be used almost interchangeably, post hoc (as it is affectionately called) being the preferred term.

Dicto simpliciter (spoken simply, i.e., sweeping generalization). This is the fallacy of making a sweeping statement and expecting it to be true of every specific case -- in other words, stereotyping. Example: "Women are on average not as strong as men and less able to carry a gun. Therefore women can't pull their weight in a military unit." The problem is that the sweeping statement may be true (on average, women are indeed weaker than men), but it is not necessarily true for every member of the group in question (there are some women who are much stronger than the average).

As the example indicates, dicto simpliciter is fairly common in debate rounds. Most of the time, it is not necessary to call an opposing debater down for making this fallacy -- it is enough to point out why the sweeping generalization they have made fails to prove their point. Since everybody knows what a sweeping generalization is, using the Latin in this case will usually sound condescending. It is also important to note that some generalizations are perfectly valid and apply directly to all individual cases, and therefore do not commit the fallacy of dicto simpliciter (for example, "All human males have a Y chromosome" is, to my knowledge, absolutely correct).

Nature, appeal to. This is the fallacy of assuming that whatever is "natural" or consistent with "nature" (somehow defined) is good, or that whatever conflicts with nature is bad. For example, "Sodomy is unnatural; anal sex is not the evolutionary function of a ***** or an anus. Therefore sodomy is wrong." But aside from the difficulty of defining what "natural" even means, there is no particular reason to suppose that unnatural and wrong are the same thing. After all, wearing clothes, tilling the soil, and using fire might be considered unnatural since no other animals do so, but humans do these things all the time and to great benefit.

The appeal to nature appears occasionally in debate, often in the form of naive environmentalist arguments for preserving pristine wilderness or resources. The argument is very weak and should always be shot down. It can, however, be made stronger by showing why at least in specific cases, there may be a (possibly unspecifiable) benefit to preserving nature as it is. A typical ecological argument along these lines is that human beings are part of a complex biological system that is highly sensitive to shocks, and therefore it is dangerous for humans to engage in activities that might damage the system in ways we cannot predict. Note, however, that this approach no longer appeals to nature itself, but to the value of human survival.

For further comment on this subject, see the naturalistic fallacy.

Naturalistic fallacy. This is the fallacy of trying to derive conclusions about what is right or good (that is, about values) from statements of fact alone. This is invalid because no matter how many statements of fact you assemble, any logical inference from them will be another statement of fact, not a statement of value. If you wish to reach conclusions about values, then you must include amongst your assumptions (or axioms, or premises) a statement of value. Once you have an axiomatic statement of value, then you may use it in conjunction with statements of fact to reach value-laden conclusions.

For example, someone might argue that the premise, "This medicine will prevent you from dying" immediately leads to the conclusion, "You should take this medicine." But this reasoning is invalid, because the former statement is a statement of fact, while the latter is a statement of value. To reach the conclusion that you ought to take the medicine, you would need at least one more premise: "You ought to try to preserve your life whenever possible."

The naturalistic fallacy appears in many forms. Two examples are argumentum ad antiquitatem (saying something's right because it's always been done that way) and the appeal to nature (saying something's right because it's natural). In both of these fallacies, the speaker is trying to reach a conclusion about what we ought to do or ought to value based solely on what is the case. David Hume called this trying to bridge the "is-ought gap," which is a nice phrase to use in debate rounds where your opponent is committing the naturalistic fallacy.

One unsettling implication of taking the naturalistic fallacy seriously is that, in order to reach any conclusions of value, one must be willing to posit some initial statement or statements of value that will be treated as axioms, and which cannot themselves be justified on purely logical grounds. Fortunately, debate does not restrict itself to purely logical grounds of argumentation. For example, suppose your opponent has stated axiomatically that "whatever is natural is good." Inasmuch as this statement is an axiom rather than the conclusion of a logical proof, there can be no purely logical argument against it. But some nonetheless appropriate responses to such an absolute statement of value include: (a) questioning whether anyone -- you, your judge, or even your opponent himself -- really believes that "whatever is natural is good"; (b) stating a competing axiomatic value statement, like "whatever enhances human life is good," and forcing the judge to choose between them; and (c) pointing out logical implications of the statement "whatever is natural is good" that conflict with our most basic intuitions about right and wrong.


Non Sequitur ("It does not follow"). This is the simple fallacy of stating, as a conclusion, something that does not strictly follow from the premises. For example, "Racism is wrong. Therefore, we need affirmative action." Obviously, there is at least one missing step in this argument, because the wrongness of racism does not imply a need for affirmative action without some additional support (such as, "Racism is common," "Affirmative action would reduce racism," "There are no superior alternatives to affirmative action," etc.).

Not surprisingly, debate rounds are rife with non sequitur. But that is partly just a result of having to work within the time constraints of a debate round, and partly a result of using good strategy. A debate team arguing for affirmative action would be foolish to say in their first speech, "We also believe that affirmative action does not lead to a racist backlash," because doing so might give the other side a hint about a good argument to make. A better strategy (usually) is to wait for the other team to bring up an argument, and then refute it; that way, you don't end up wasting your time by refuting arguments that the opposition has never made in the first place. (This strategy is not always preferable, though, because some counterarguments are so obvious and important that it makes sense to address them early and nip them in the bud.)

For these reasons, it is generally bad form to scream "non sequitur" just because your opposition has failed to anticipate every counterargument you might make. The best time to point out a non sequitur is when your opposition is trying to construct a chain of causation (A leads to B leads to C, etc.) without justifying each step in the chain. For each step in the chain they fail to justify, point out the non sequitur, so that it is obvious by the end that the alleged chain of causation is tenuous and implausible.

Petitio principii (begging the question). This is the fallacy of assuming, when trying to prove something, what it is that you are trying prove. For all practical purposes, this fallacy is indistinguishable from circular argumentation.

The main thing to remember about this fallacy is that the term "begging the question" has a very specific meaning. It is common to hear debaters saying things like, "They say pornography should be legal because it is a form of free expression. But this begs the question of what free expression means." This is a misuse of terminology. Something may inspire or motivate us to ask a particular question without begging the question. A question has been begged only if the question has been asked before in the same discussion, and then a conclusion is reached on a related matter without the question having been answered. If somebody said, "The fact that we believe pornography should be legal means that it is a valid form of free expression. And since it's free expression, it shouldn't be banned," that would be begging the question.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). This is the fallacy of assuming that A caused B simply because A happened prior to B. A favorite example: "Most rapists read pornography when they were teenagers; obviously, pornography causes violence toward women." The conclusion is invalid, because there can be a correlation between two phenomena without one causing the other. Often, this is because both phenomena may be linked to the same cause. In the example given, it is possible that some psychological factor -- say, a frustrated sex drive -- might cause both a tendency toward sexual violence and a desire for pornographic material, in which case the pornography would not be the true cause of the violence.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc is nearly identical to cum hoc ergo propter hoc, which you should see for further details.

Red herring. This means exactly what you think it means: introducing irrelevant facts or arguments to distract from the question at hand. For example, "The opposition claims that welfare dependency leads to higher crime rates -- but how are poor people supposed to keep a roof over their heads without our help?" It is perfectly valid to ask this question as part of the broader debate, but to pose it as a response to the argument about welfare leading to crime is fallacious. (There is also an element of ad misericordiam in this example.)

It is not fallacious, however, to argue that benefits of one kind may justify incurring costs of another kind. In the example given, concern about providing shelter for the poor would not refute concerns about crime, but one could plausibly argue that a somewhat higher level of crime is a justifiable price given the need to alleviate poverty. This is a debatable point of view, but it is no longer a fallacious one.

The term red herring is sometimes used loosely to refer to any kind of diversionary tactic, such as presenting relatively unimportant arguments that will use up the other debaters' speaking time and distract them from more important issues. This kind of a red herring is a wonderful strategic maneuver with which every debater should be familiar.

Slippery slope. A slippery slope argument is not always a fallacy. A slippery slope fallacy is an argument that says adopting one policy or taking one action will lead to a series of other policies or actions also being taken, without showing a causal connection between the advocated policy and the consequent policies. A popular example of the slippery slope fallacy is, "If we legalize marijuana, the next thing you know we'll legalize heroin, LSD, and crack cocaine." This slippery slope is a form of non sequitur, because no reason has been provided for why legalization of one thing leads to legalization of another. Tobacco and alcohol are currently legal, and yet other drugs have somehow remained illegal.

There are a variety of ways to turn a slippery slope fallacy into a valid (or at least plausible) argument. All you need to do is provide some reason why the adoption of one policy will lead to the adoption of another. For example, you could argue that legalizing marijuana would cause more people to consider the use of mind-altering drugs acceptable, and those people will support more permissive drug policies across the board. An alternative to the slippery slope argument is simply to point out that the principles espoused by your opposition imply the acceptability of certain other policies, so if we don't like those other policies, we should question whether we really buy those principles. For instance, if the proposing team argued for legalizing marijuana by saying, "individuals should be able to do whatever they want with their own bodies," the opposition could point out that that principle would also justify legalizing a variety of other drugs -- so if we don't support legalizing other drugs, then maybe we don't really believe in that principle.

Straw man. This is the fallacy of refuting a caricatured or extreme version of somebody's argument, rather than the actual argument they've made. Often this fallacy involves putting words into somebody's mouth by saying they've made arguments they haven't actually made, in which case the straw man argument is a veiled version of argumentum ad logicam. One example of a straw man argument would be to say, "Mr. Jones thinks that capitalism is good because everybody earns whatever wealth they have, but this is clearly false because many people just inherit their fortunes," when in fact Mr. Jones had not made the "earnings" argument and had instead argued, say, that capitalism gives most people an incentive to work and save. The fact that some arguments made for a policy are wrong does not imply that the policy itself is wrong.

In debate, strategic use of a straw man can be very effective. A carefully constructed straw man can sometimes entice an unsuspecting opponent into defending a silly argument that he would not have tried to defend otherwise. But this strategy only works if the straw man is not too different from the arguments your opponent has actually made, because a really outrageous straw man will be recognized as just that. The best straw man is not, in fact, a fallacy at all, but simply a logical extension or amplification of an argument your opponent has made.

Tu quoque ("you too"). This is the fallacy of defending an error in one's reasoning by pointing out that one's opponent has made the same error. An error is still an error, regardless of how many people make it. For example, "They accuse us of making unjustified assertions. But they asserted a lot of things, too!"

Although clearly fallacious, tu quoque arguments play an important role in debate because they may help establish who has done a better job of debating (setting aside the issue of whether the proposition is true or not). If both teams have engaged in ad hominem attacks, or both teams have made a few appeals to pity, then it would hardly be fair to penalize one team for it but not the other. In addition, it is not fallacious at all to point out that certain advantages or disadvantages may apply equally to both positions presented in a debate, and therefore they cannot provide a reason for favoring one position over the other (such disadvantages are referred to as "non-unique"). In general, using tu quoque statements is a good way to assure that judges make decisions based only on factors that distinguish between the two sides.


source: http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/fallacies.html
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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby Abiding in His Word on Sat Jan 26, 2008 7:29 pm

perigrini wrote:This is not an exhaustive list nor massively in depth, but I believe I've probably seen every single one of these fallacious arguments made on this board at one time or another.


Very interesting info, peri! My question to you is do you think people who are "guilty" of presenting a fallacious argument are aware that they are doing so? The answer is most likely no. Then the question follows; why would they not stand behind their argument if they see it as non-fallacious and oppose any insinuation that it is?

Just curious....as I wonder if this list doesn't assume near "professional" debaters who agree to and understand those back & forth "vollyings" as opposed to our simplistic rules for debating here: Do it in love and no personal attacks.

:mrgreen:
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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby Lazarus43 on Sat Jan 26, 2008 9:46 pm

perigrini wrote:Very frequently I see arguments made for one point or another that are fallacious. Also frequently, when I point this out I get one of several common responses such as "that's just your opinion" or simple ignoring that the arguement is false.

It occurred to me that perhaps a refresher in falacious arguments might be helpful.

This is not an exhaustive list nor massively in depth, but I believe I've probably seen every single one of these fallacious arguments made on this board at one time or another.

Blessings...


And

Abiding in His Word wrote:Very interesting info, peri! My question to you is do you think people who are "guilty" of presenting a fallacious argument are aware that they are doing so? The answer is most likely no. Then the question follows; why would they not stand behind their argument if they see it as non-fallacious and oppose any insinuation that it is?

Just curious....as I wonder if this list doesn't assume near "professional" debaters who agree to and understand those back & forth "vollyings" as opposed to our simplistic rules for debating here: Do it in love and no personal attacks.


I agree with peri.

I also believe that even though this is not a formal debate platform, truth will not be allowed to rise out of the muddy mix of fallacious illogical arguments if they are allowed to go unchallenged.

In addition to peri's list, I just thought I might quote another resource that I believe is helpful:

Logical Fallacies

So, what is a logical fallacy? And what the heck does it have to do with Bible study? Well, in short, a logical fallacy is an error in reasoning. In formal argumentation, (such as debate or persuasive writing) arguments take a standard format of premise (what we know) and conclusions (what we can deduce from what we know.) In more practical terms, logical fallacies are argument forms that we should not be persuaded by.

Why shouldn't we be persuaded by them? Well, each logical fallacy is different, but in general, because the premises do not actually lead to the conclusions. These methods may be employed by authors, teachers, and ministers in all fields whether they are deliberately aware of it or not.

Some of these are silly and others are somewhat hard to understand (and even harder to identify in action.) There are many forms of logical fallacies. The list below is only a partial list of some of the more common forms.

In our opinion, the logical fallacies most commonly practiced by members of the Church community are appeals to emotion, untestability, ad hominem, and (among the scholarly) a fallacy we like to call "Quantity of Quotes." It is also our opinion that if these were pointed out whenever they occurred at weekly Church sermons or Bible Study groups, you would almost entirely empty these events from any verbal content. This in turn demonstrates the need for the modern Church to return to a logical approach to truth evaluation.

There is one other important item to note. People, in general, whether trying to persuade others or just express themselves, tend to phrase things in such a way as to make it sound acceptable to those who hear them. As such they may often use words that have ambiguous or vague meanings.

When this phenomenon is done deliberately, whether malevalently (to manipulate or decieve) or benevelently (in order to "preserve unity" or to avoid conflict or offending someone), it inevitably results in deceptive communication. A large part of critical thinking involves clearly defining terms, using clearly defined terms, and identifying when others are not using clearly defined terms, especially when they are doing so deliberately. A great deal of arguments and positions are sustained by the use of confusing or ambiguous terminology.

If you should happen to find any of these faulty argument forms in our writings, please let us know.

Here are some of the most common logical fallacies. (This list was created by compiling information from varying sources.)

Appeals to Emotions Instead of Support
• Appeal to Force: the reader is persuaded to agree by force
• Appeal to Pity: the reader is persuaded to agree by sympathy
• Consequences: the reader is warned of unacceptable consequences
• Prejudicial Language: value or moral goodness is attached to believing the author
• Popularity: a proposition is argued to be true because it is widely held to be true

Style Over Substance: the manner in which an argument (or arguer) is presented is felt to affect the truth of the conclusion

Ad hominem: You attack the person instead of the person's argument or point of view on a subject.
• the person's character is attacked
• the person's circumstances are noted
• the person does not practice what is preached

Fallacies of Ambiguity
• Equivocation: the same term is used with two different meanings
• Amphiboly: the structure of a sentence allows two different interpretations. Example: Last night I shot a burglar in my pyjamas.
• Accent: the emphasis on a word or phrase suggests a meaning contrary to what the sentence actually says. (Example - the captain was sober this morning, or, "It would be illegal to give away Free Beer!"

Faulty Appeal to Authority: citing an authority who may not have expertise on the subject or using phrases like "Sources close to" or "Experts claim."
• the authority is not an expert in the field
• experts in the field disagree
• the authority was joking, drunk, or in some other way not being
• Quantity of Quotes: Assuming that the number of citations and quotes from other authors attests to the validity of the presented conclusions. Conversely, the less quotes and citations, the less valid the conclusions.

We have coined this fourth form of a false appeal to authority to reflect what we believe is a common trend in scholarly writing on any academic issue, unfortunately including theology. Although this is true for any subject, the more controversial the subject the worse the fallacy. This is actually a scholarly form of the Popularity fallacy. This may be particularly coupled with a failure to address the oppositions strongest arguments (Straw Man) while at the same time stacking your book or message with quotes from other people who support your conclusions (Card Stacking).

Missing the Point
• Begging the Question: the truth of the conclusion is assumed by the premises
• Irrelevant Conclusion: an argument in defense of one conclusion instead proves a different conclusion
• Straw Man: the author attacks an argument different from (and weaker than) the opposition's best argument

Begging the question: Asking the reader to assume that something is true without proving it first - especially flawed if that "something" is controversial. This often involves the inclusion of a hidden, or unstated premise. This may take the particular form of a controversial and unproven premise which is essential to proving a conclusion.

Red herring argument: You intentionally digress from the real issue being discussed, introducing a side issue that has nothing to do with the real issue under discussion--in an attempt to remove attention from the real issue. This is often very subtle and the new issue can often seem closely related to the real issue.

Fallacies of Explanation
• Untestability (The theory which explains cannot be tested)
• Limited Scope (The theory which explains can only explain one thing)
• Limited Depth (The theory which explains does not appeal to underlying causes)

Fallacies of Distraction
• Slippery Slope: a series of increasingly unacceptable consequences is drawn
• Complex Question: two unrelated points are conjoined as a single proposition
• False Dilemma: two choices are given when in fact there are other possible options

False Dilemma a.k.a. the Either/Or Fallacy: A limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. A false dilemma is an illegitimate use of the "or" operator. You assume that taking a certain viewpoint or course of action will result in one of two diametrically opposed outcomes (no other outcomes possible).

Fallacies of Definition
• Too Broad (The definition includes items which should not be included)
• Too Narrow (The definition does not include all the items which shouls be included)
• Failure to Elucidate (The definition is more difficult to understand than the word or concept being defined)
• Circular Definition (The definition includes the term being defined as a part of the definition)
• Conflicting Conditions (The definition is self-contradictory)

Causal Fallacies
• Post Hoc: because one thing follows another, the second s held to be caused by the first
• Joint effect: one thing is held to cause another when in fact they are both the joint effects of an underlying cause
• Insignificant: one thing is held to cause another, and it does, but it is insignificant compared to other causes of the effect
• Wrong Direction: the direction between cause and effect is reversed
• Complex Cause: the cause identified is only a part of the entire cause of the effect

Non sequitur fallacy: Literally translate, "It does not follow." This is an even more illogical connection of cause/effect, in which Event A clearly has nothing to do with Event B. The evidence offered does not support the conclusion that is reached.
• Affirming the Consequent: any argument of the form: If A then B, B, therefore A
• Denying the Antecedent: any argument of the form: If A then B, Not A, thus Not B
• Inconsistency: asserting that contrary or contradictory statements are both true

Inductive Fallacies
• Sweeping or hasty generalization: the sample is too small to support an inductive generalization about a population. You've reached a conclusion based on only a little evidence that might be relevant but is not typical.
• Unrepresentative Sample: the sample is unrepresentative of the sample as a whole
• False Analogy: the two objects or events being compared are relevantly dissimilar; You assume that because two things share some characteristics, they are alike in all respects.
• Fallacy of Exclusion: evidence which would change the outcome of an inductive argument is excluded from consideration

Fallacies Involving Statistical Syllogisms
• Accident: a generalization is applied when circumstances suggest that there should be an exception
• Converse Accident : an exception is applied in circumstances where a generalization should apply

Category Errors
• Composition: because the attributes of the parts of a whole have a certain property, it is argued that the whole has that property
• Division: because the whole has a certain property, it is argued that the parts have that property

Card stacking: If someone says, "The cards were stacked against me," the speaker is saying he/she was never given a fair chance. This is a complicated one--one side may distort evidence or facts presented, suppress evidence, oversimplify or even suppress facts, etc.

Syllogistic Errors
• Fallacy of Four Terms: a syllogism has four terms
• Undistributed Middle: two separate categories are said to be connected because they share a common property
• Illicit Major: the predicate of the conclusion talks about all of something, but the premises only mention some cases of the term in the predicate
• Illicit Minor: the subject of the conclusion talks about all of something, but the premises only mention some cases of the term in the subject
• Fallacy of Exclusive Premises: a syllogism has two negative premises
• Fallacy of Drawing an Affirmative Conclusion From a Negative Premise: as the name implies
• Existential Fallacy: a particular conclusion is drawn from universal premises
*Quoted from http://www.biblestudying.net/logical.html

Blessings,
Lazarus43
“A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” - Mark Twain
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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby perigrini on Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:29 am

Abiding in His Word wrote:Very interesting info, peri! My question to you is do you think people who are "guilty" of presenting a fallacious argument are aware that they are doing so? The answer is most likely no.

You are correct, I don't believe most who utilize fallacious arguements are aware they are doing so.

I believe most are unaware of what constitutes a fallacious argument because schools are now more interested in shaping students rather than educating them. If they're taught logic and debate then they'd see through much of what is being taught in schools.

Abiding in His Word wrote:Then the question follows; why would they not stand behind their argument if they see it as non-fallacious and oppose any insinuation that it is?

My experience is that they almost always do stand behind their arguments. I believe this is why we seem to continually go over many of the same "debates". It isn't easy to accept that one has been arguing a faulty point...especially when ego and pet doctrines are tied into it.

Abiding in His Word wrote:Just curious....as I wonder if this list doesn't assume near "professional" debaters who agree to and understand those back & forth "vollyings" as opposed to our simplistic rules for debating here: Do it in love and no personal attacks.

That's an interesting question...I don't think the list assumes anything.

Are you asking if I think it's over the heads of the majority of people? I sure hope not...we should all be able to see flawed arguments.

I am homeschooling my 14 year old daughter and it just so happens that the last topic I covered with her was debate and logic. I utlized a list very much like the one I just posted and the one Laz posted. She is very intelligent, but if a 14 year old can grasp this I do expect that a large percentage of those here could as well...assuming they are motived to learn a few new tools in discerning truth.

By way of clarification...I'm not intending to add this as some sort of groundrules for discussion/debate here...but on the other hand, there is such a thing as a fallacious argument...and it really doesn't seem so unreasonable in my mind to hope that people would use honest arguments and not false ones.

And Laz and I have now posted some tools to aid poster in formulating valid arguments as well as to discern faulty ones.

I intentionally left out any examples of fallacious arguments I've seen posted because I do not wish to turn this thread into a debate over one doctrine or another. I would rather this remain independant of specific arguments.

Laz said it very well...

I also believe that even though this is not a formal debate platform, truth will not be allowed to rise out of the muddy mix of fallacious illogical arguments if they are allowed to go unchallenged.


Logic is not anti-Christian, or anti-Bible.


Blessings,

perigrini
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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby Abiding in His Word on Sun Jan 27, 2008 6:52 am

perigrini wrote:Are you asking if I think it's over the heads of the majority of people? I sure hope not...we should all be able to see flawed arguments.


Definitely not asking or saying that. Simply saying that many may not be aware of the "types" of fallacious arguments in the lists posted by you and Laz. We have some of the most knowlegeable, astute debaters on this board that I've seen on any other. But unless one is aware of the types of arguments in the list, they would not, naturally, desist from using them.

So, bottom line is.....thanks for posting them!
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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby perigrini on Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:36 am

Abiding in His Word wrote:
perigrini wrote:Are you asking if I think it's over the heads of the majority of people? I sure hope not...we should all be able to see flawed arguments.


Definitely not asking or saying that. Simply saying that many may not be aware of the "types" of fallacious arguments in the lists posted by you and Laz. We have some of the most knowlegeable, astute debaters on this board that I've seen on any other. But unless one is aware of the types of arguments in the list, they would not, naturally, desist from using them.

So, bottom line is.....thanks for posting them!

Thanks for the clarification. I didn't think that was what you were saying, which is why I asked for clarification.

Yup, I posted the list because I thought it could be beneficial...for some an introduction to fallacious arguments...for others a refresher.

Do you think this might be a valid topic for sticky'ing?


Blessings,

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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby Abiding in His Word on Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:49 am

perigrini wrote:Do you think this might be a valid topic for sticky'ing?


Sure, I'll make it a sticky for awhile providing it isn't used as a weapon (not meaning you personally ) if someone isn't adhering to the specific methods. They certainly can be beneficial, but there's no guarantee everyone will use them. :wink:
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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby perigrini on Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:31 pm

Abiding in His Word wrote:
perigrini wrote:Do you think this might be a valid topic for sticky'ing?


Sure, I'll make it a sticky for awhile providing it isn't used as a weapon (not meaning you personally ) if someone isn't adhering to the specific methods. They certainly can be beneficial, but there's no guarantee everyone will use them. :wink:

LOL...do you mean not everyone will use the list, or not everyone will use logical, valid arguments? Actually, I'm sure both are true.

I do have to admit I'm a bit puzzled by the hint of reluctance to provide an aid to valid, truthful arguments. I know you are intersted in truth, and I'm certain you would rather see valid arguments over false ones.


Oh, one thought occurs that I don't think is covered in either list...

Just because an argument is invalid it doesn't mean the conclusion is false...it just means that the arguement is not a valid manner in which to arrive at that conclusion. I almost say that with reluctance because I fear some will hide behind that without ever providing ANY valid arguments in favor of a conclusion and then argue that a fallacious argument doesn't invalidate the conclusion...it just invalidates the argument.

So, allow me to encourage everyone (myself included) to set truth, even when it's uncomfortable, above a false, comfortable conclusion.

Let this board be a place of truth and honesty, watched over by our Lord and done in love.

God bless,

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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby Abiding in His Word on Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:43 pm

perigrini wrote:Oh, one thought occurs that I don't think is covered in either list...

Just because an argument is invalid it doesn't mean the conclusion is false...it just means that the arguement is not a valid manner in which to arrive at that conclusion. I almost say that with reluctance because I fear some will hide behind that without ever providing ANY valid arguments in favor of a conclusion and then argue that a fallacious argument doesn't invalidate the conclusion...it just invalidates the argument.

:dizzy: Are you an attorney, peri? :lol:

So, allow me to encourage everyone (myself included) to set truth, even when it's uncomfortable, above a false, comfortable conclusion.

Let this board be a place of truth and honesty, watched over by our Lord and done in love.


:a3:
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Re: List of logical fallacies

Postby perigrini on Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:50 pm

Abiding in His Word wrote:
perigrini wrote:Oh, one thought occurs that I don't think is covered in either list...

Just because an argument is invalid it doesn't mean the conclusion is false...it just means that the arguement is not a valid manner in which to arrive at that conclusion. I almost say that with reluctance because I fear some will hide behind that without ever providing ANY valid arguments in favor of a conclusion and then argue that a fallacious argument doesn't invalidate the conclusion...it just invalidates the argument.

:dizzy: Are you an attorney, peri? :lol:

No, but I've been accused of thinking like one...but that's just an ad hominem!

Little "logic" humor there...very little, I know. :alrighty:



God bless,

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Postby mark s on Mon Jan 28, 2008 9:55 am

Peri, Laz, great posts!

I think its of utmost importance to not only be correct in what we believe, but to also understand why we are correct.

We can arrive at a correct conclusion, but if we've got the wrong foundation, then we have no true assurance that it is the correct conclusion.

I think anyone who is truly dedicated to knowing for a certainty what the Bible does and does not say does well to understand what a logical fallacy is, what the different types are, can recognize them when they are being employed (by one's self, or others), and can backtrack and re-work a conclusion to remove the fallacy.

Correct logical reasoning is a huge part of Critical Thinking Skills. And we serve neither ourselves, or others, if we are unable to recognize and refrain from fallacious arguments.

My two cents, anyway! :grin:
ειπεν αυτη ο ιησους εγω ειμι η αναστασις και η ζωη ο πιστευων εις εμε καν αποθανη ζησεται
. . . saying to her Jesus, I AM the resurrection and the life, the one believing into Me even dying shall live . . .
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Postby Godsword on Mon Jun 16, 2008 2:44 pm

And don't forget "Cogito, ergo tu absurdium" ("I think - therefore you're wrong").
Revelation 22:21
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Postby qb0987 on Tue Jun 17, 2008 7:27 pm

Peri,

glad that you pointed it out with the list. I've taught formal logic before and I am not an attorney. 8-). And I've come across many ill-formed arguments (an argument in a mathematical sense is a series of reasonings defined by rules of formal logic to arrive at a conclusion), and at times I cringed at the ill logic behind it. Many people make these mistakes, and I'm sure I made the same mistakes too when I am not careful... I've even taught an adult Sunday School class where I asked students to find out what was wrong with articles taken from famous Christians. Oh yeah, they do make them.
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