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Fallacies of Argument (from Everything's an Argument)

Lecture notes; Lunsford, Ruszkiewicz, Walters

Tracy Catlin

on 19 September 2018

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Transcript of Fallacies of Argument (from Everything's an Argument)

Fallacies of Argument
Fallacy/Logical Argument
Fallacies/Emotional Argument
Fallacy/Ethical Argument
from Everything's an Argument
Scare Tactics
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.
Chapter 19
Fallacies are flawed arguments
Exaggeration of possible dangers well beyond their statistical likelihood.
Either-Or Choices
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."

Slippery Slope
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, objectors of free speech will show in small steps that if they disagree with certain speech, then it is automatically considered "hate speech."

Sentimental Appeals
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.
Ad Populem
"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.
Fallacy/Ethical Argument
Appeals to False Authority
Writers argue through either direct quotations, citations or alluding to themselves or another authority without relevant expertise or knowledge.
Moral Equivalence
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
Ad Hominem
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.
Arguer A: makes a claim.
Arguer B: attacks Arguer A and not the claim.
Therefore, B is trying to discredit A's claim by attacking A and not A's argument/claim. This is BAD!
Hasty Generalization
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: More people who worked at night contracted malaria; therefore, the night air is the cause of malaria.
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.
Faulty Analogy
An inaccurate, inappropriate, or misleading comparison between two things.
Example: Letting prisoners out on early release is like absolving them of their crimes.
Red Herring
A purposeful change in topic to distract from the original topic.
The Straw Man Fallacy
A fallacy that is a red herring, because it distracts. 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."
Scenario: You text in class, and you *know* you aren't supposed to text in class. You tell Ms. Catlin that she can't take away your phone, because "Ms. Saar lets us text in class!" Does Ms. Saar teach this class? NO. Catlin teaches this class. You have appealed to a false authority, because Ms. Catlin 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.
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
Quit Smoking
Tissue needed!
from Friends
from The Office
Other Examples:
Student tells his professor that he thinks some of Donald Trump's positions have merit. Professor says he can't believe that the student believes in and supports racism.
Student tells his professor that he thinks some of Hillary Clinton's positions have merit. Professor says he can't believe that the student supports giving access to classified documents to foreign countries.
The Gambler's Fallacy
If this coin has landed on heads three times now, it is likely to now land on tails.
It is illogical to think that coins (or anything else inanimate) has a memory and the numbers will "right themselves."
People who take multiple-choice exams sometimes fall into this fallacy: the answer has been C for the last three questions, so the answer to the next question cannot possibly be C.
from The West Wing (Old, Old Show):
"And I genuinely believe there are Republicans out there who would like to work with us but they're fearful of their base and they're concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them" (President Obama).
“Look at that face!” Trump said about rival candidate Carly Fiorina in an interview with Rolling Stone in September 2015. "Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!
"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables" (Hillary Clinton).
Ad Hominem can be as simple as turning a logical argument into a character assessment: "If you don't agree with ____________, you must not care about people."

"If you took a picture with ___________________, then you must be a __________________________."
And it's usually not very nice!
This wording and phrasing can be other fallacies, as well.
Diet Pepsi
There is an anecdotal fallacy in this video, as well!
Is something good just because it came from nature? No.

That which is natural is good.
Poison Ivy is natural.
Therefore, poison ivy is good.

That which is unnatural is bad or wrong.
I have hydrocortisone cream for my poison ivy rash.
Because it is man-made, my cream is bad or wrong.

A teenager ran a red light. "Dang! Teenagers are the WORST!"

White men or women are _______________________
Black men or women are _______________________
Asians men or women are _____________________
Hispanic men or women are _____________________
Christians are _______________________________
Muslims are _________________________________
Buddhists are _____________________________________
Old people are _________________________________
Republicans are ________________________________
Democrats are _________________________________
Liberals are ________________________________
"The right" is ______________________________________
"The left" is _______________________________________

The list goes on and on ...

Anecdotal Fallacy
"I know a person who ... "
or "I know a case about ... "
Using personal experience, personal testimony, or an isolated example instead of a valid argument, especially to dismiss statistics.
You commit this fallacy when you use someone's recent memory, an anecdote, or news of an unusual event that leads you to overestimate the probability of that type of event.
Just last week, I read about a 98-year old doctor who died and he was a smoker all of his life; therefore, smoking doesn't really kill people.
Nana and everyone in her book club does not have health insurance; therefore, healthcare will not work for America.
Another type of
Anecdotal Fallacy
: The Eyewitness Report
BBC Part 1: How to Spot a Murderer. Some language. PG13
What do they remember about the crime?
How do you think the eyewitnesses will do?
Identifying the murderer
Full transcript