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Fallacies: Identifying Problems with Reasoning

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Rodrigo Gomez

on 19 July 2016

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Transcript of Fallacies: Identifying Problems with Reasoning

Fallacies: Identifying Problems with Reasoning
Good reasoning is the foundation of any good argument--or any "sound" rhetorical appeal.

Fallacies: A definition
Fallacies, then, are claims that are manipulative, unfair, or unsound.
A Short List of Common Fallacies
1. Begging the question
2. Either-or arguments
3. Ad Hominem
4. Faulty Causality
5. Bandwagon appeals
6. Slippery Slope arguments
7. Straw Man
8. Hasty Generalization
9. Faulty Analogies
10. Guilt by association
11. Appeals to authority, fear, ignorance, pity, tradition, etc.

Assessing Sound Logic
First, react to the text and decide whether or not you are moved, or persuaded by the text.
Looking for Fallacies
However, some kinds of appeals use "faulty" reasoning, or "unsound" logic. Essentially they demonstrate simple-minded thinking
Despite this, however, Fallacies can be very powerful and persuasive--sometimes even more so than "sound" logic.
Academic writing demands that you avoid fallacies and use "sound" logic, but Marketing takes full advantage of fallacies to act on you
pg. 369-381
Then, assess whether or not the text contains any "illogical" or "unsound" arguments--specifically, logical errors or manipulative content/information
Do any of the following arguments make such logical errors?
Circular logic that tries to support an argument by restating it's basic premise.
Begging the Question
"We need to reduce the national debt because the government owes too much money"
This circular statement begs the question of whether the debt is actually too large because the information before and after
is the same.
Either-Or / False Dilemmas
arguments that mislead the reader to assume there are only two alternatives to a situation where there are more
"I will not allow the U.S to become a defenseless, bankrupt nation--it must remain the military and economic supowerpower of the world."
However, there are many possibilites in between, not just these two perspectives
Ad Hominem
arguments that mislead by attacking "the human," instead of the point he/she is trying to make. Personal attacks
"Of course council member Acevedo doesn't want to build a new high school; she doesn't have any children herself."
However, having no children might not be the reason for Acevedo's opposition. Besides, even if it is, that personal attack still provides no basis or argument for building the new school
Post Hoc, Ergo Proper Hoc
incorrectly assuming that simply because one event followed another, the second event was caused by the first
"Ever since I started having police patrol neighborhoods more frequently, crime rate has dropped significantly"
This assumes the two things are connected. But there might be many other reasons for the crime rate/economy
an appeal to popularity as a reason to act. It establishes a "follow the crowd" mentality
"Join the millions who've found relief from agonizing pain through Weleda Migraine Remedy"
"Everyone knows this phone is better than that one. Where's yours?!"
A faulty argument that flatters audiences towards a decision
Slippery Slope
faulty logic that assumes that if one event happens, it will set in motion a chain of other events that will end in disaster
"I'm telling you, making euthanasia legal will lead to an increase in suicide rates becuase people will find it easier to kill themselves. Then it will even lead to an increase in murders disguised as suicide!"
Again, the initial event is not connected to the final outcome. At least not without more evidence to show that it is
Straw Man
a way of misrepresenting an opponents argument as more extreme to make it easier to attack
Legal Gay Marriage = "an assault on the civil liberties upheld by the constitution
The Affordable Care Act = "Government takeover of Health Care"
the artificial comparison makes the straw man argument easier to "knock down"
Hasty Generalization
jumping to drastic conclusions without much evidence or support
"Both political scince classes I took were deadly dull, so it must be a completely boring subject."
"You shouldn't drink too much coffee--that study that NPR reported today said it causes cancer"
these are fallacies because they make unqualified assumptions, stereotype, or jump to conclusions too quickly without proper evidence
Faulty Analogies
comparisons that do not "hold up" in some way--they are too disconnected
"Parent's who homeschool their children are guilty of 'educational malpractice.' Parent's who aren't doctors wouldn't be allowed to perform surgery on their children on the kitchen table; so parents who aren't trained to teach shouldn't be allowed to teach their children either"
This analogy is fallacious.Teaching and surgery are not alike enough to support that requirements for one should be equal to the other
Guilt by Association
attempting to discredit an idea or claim by affiliating it or associating it to a negative person or group
"Oh, you want us to relax anti-terrorism laws just like the terrorists want us to do. Are you saying you support terrorists?"
"Since the President's election more people are unemployed. So, the President damaged the economy"
Just because someone argues that anti-terrorism laws are too harsh or inhumane doesn't make them a terrorist or reveal their support for terrorism
Now, you will use 15 fallacies to attempt to sell a product--any object of your choice--without using "sound" logic or evidence.

Try to be as ridiculous, outlandish, and/or silly as you possibly can be.

Have fun with it. If you're stressing out about how to do it "right," then you're doing it wrong. Try to make outlandish connections and fallacies so that you know how they work and know how to identify them.
Recognizing & Using Fallacies Project
Full transcript