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Fallacies of Argument (from Everything's an Argument)
Transcript of Fallacies of Argument (from Everything's an Argument)
from Everything's an Argument
Readers give close attention to authors whom they respect the most. Not all the devices writers use to gain the attention and confidence of readers are admirable, however.
Claims, warrants, and/or evidence are invalid, insufficient or disconnected. They may seem reasonable and natural but are illogical.
Fallacies are flawed arguments
Exaggeration of possible dangers well beyond their statistical likelihood.
A way to simplify arguments and give them power is to reduce the options for action to only two choices. One option is drawn in the warmest light, while the alternative is not. Also called "The Black and White Fallacy," "False Dichotomy," or "False Dilemma."
An argument that casts a tiny misstep and makes it tomorrow's avalanche.
The writer exaggerates the future consequences of an action to frighten readers, which would become a scare tactic.
For example, defenders of free speech will show in small steps that ultimately even mild attempts to regulate free-speech behavior (no bully-ish comments!) is a constitutional matter and that the Constitution will be destroyed due to that regulation.
Employing emotions excessively to distract readers from facts. Appeals are highly personal and individual. Generally, the conclusions the speaker wants you to reach is supported by powerful images. Unfortunately, those pictures rarely give you an idea of the complete and complex social issue.
"Argument" from popularity. A variety of appeals that play on the association of a person or subject with values that are held by members of a target troup or the suggestion that "everyone knows" (similar to bandwagoning). This fallacy can be emotional and/or logical.
Appeals to False Authority
Writers argue through either direct quotations, citations or alluding to themselves or another authority without relevant expertise or knowledge.
Generally the subject is of a religious nature, but can be political and scientific.
Suggesting that serious wrongdoings do not differ in kind from minor offenses.
Relatively innocuous (not harmful) activities are raised to the level of major crimes; such as, bringing a water gun to school equates to a punishment of an 186-day suspension.
Fallacy/ Ethical Argument
Attacks directed at the character of a person rather than at the claims he or she makes. This fallacy destroys the credibility of the opponent. This may do one of two things: destroys their ability to present reasonable appeals or you distract from the successful arguments they may be offering.
Person A makes a claim.
Person B attacks Person A--not the claim.
Therefore, Person A's claim is pronounced as false (even though the claim was never truly argued). This is BAD argument!
An inference drawn from insufficient evidence. This also forms the basis for most stereotypes about people or institutions: because a few people in a large group are observed to act in a certain way, one infers that all members of that group will behave similarly.
You must always have sufficient evidence. People DO need generalizations to help make decisions, and claims can be legitimate if placed in context and tagged with appropriate words. These words are called "qualifiers":
some, a few, many, occasionally, rarely, under certain circumstances, in my experience ...
Faulty Causality (or Post hoc ergo propter hoc)
Meaning: "Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one." Arguments confuse chronology with causation: one event can occur after another without being caused by it.
Example: A year after the release of the violent shoot-’em-up video game Annihilator, incidents of school violence tripled.
Begging the Question
Note: Many people say this statement, they generally do not mean this fallacy. However, OFFICIALLY, "begging the question" is when a writer simply restates the claim in a different way; it is a circular argument.
Example: His lies are evident from the untruthful nature of his statements.
An inaccurate, inappropriate, or misleading comparison between two things.
Example: Letting prisoners out on early release is like absolving them of their crimes.
A purposeful change in topic to distract from the original topic.
Dogmatic philosophy: usually taken by faith and someone says, but I KNOW this is true. It is an established opinion put forth as truth.
The Straw Man Fallacy
A fallacy that is a red herring. Creates a distorted, exaggerated, or a misrepresented VERSION of the argument. The argument distracts from the original. Often involves willful deception, or an unwillingness to "play by the rules."
Tracy Catlin grew up in poverty; therefore, she will make a great president of the United States.
Scenario: You text in class, and you *know* you aren't supposed to text in class. You tell Ms. Teacher that she can't take away your phone, because "Ms. Saar lets us text in class!" Does Ms. Saar teach this class? NO. Ms. Teacher teaches this class. You have appealed to a false authority, because Ms. Teacher is the authority and not Ms. Saar. (APologies to Ms. Saar. )
Let's discuss this one ...
Season 1, Episode 6 of The West Wing
"[sic]" is latin for "thus," meaning that you as the writer of the quote know that the original source misspelled a word.
Why "straw man"?
Dummies made out of straw were used for target practice in the military. Of course, those men of straw were easier and less dangerous targets than the real threat.
Aristotle said, "Any one can get angry — that is easy — or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy." This emotion is the backbone of political rhetoric ... and some talk radio.
"Because I'm the mom, that's why you are wrong."
(Do NOT tell your mom that she is being dogmatic!)
Many emotional fallacies can fit under "scare tactics," but you should be specific if you know the exact fallacy.
Non Sequitur: "It does not follow"
The argument does not follow logic. There is a disconnection between the premise and the conclusion. The conclusion is not clearly related to anything said before. It can be abrupt, absurd, intentional, or unintentional.
Life is life and fun is fun, but it's all so quiet when the goldfish die.
— West with the Night, Beryl Markham
from Monty Python's The Holy Grail