The Types of Fallacies Essay


The Types of Fallacies

* “Argument” from pity: when feeling sorry for someone drives us to a position on an unrelated matter * We have a job that needs doing; Helen can barely support her starving children and needs work desperately. But does Helen have the skills we need? We not care if she does; and if we don’t, nobody can fault us for hiring her out of compassion.

But feeling sorry for Helen lead us to misjudge her skills or overestimate her abilities, and that is a mistake in reasoning. * “Argument” from envy: When we find fault with a person because of envy * “Well, he have a lot of money but he certainly has bad manners” would be an example of this if it is envy that prompts us to criticize him. Apple Polishing: Pride can lead us to exaggerate our own accomplishments and abilities and lead to our making other irrelevant judgments

* Moore recently sat on a jury in a criminal case involving alleged prostitution and pandering at a strip club; the defendant’s attorney told the members of the jury it would take “an unusually discerning jury” to see that the law, despite its wording, wasn’t really intended to apply to someone like his client. Ultimately the jury members did find with the defense, but let us hope it wasn’t because the attorney flattered their ability to discern things. Guilt trip: Eliciting feelings of guilt to get others to do or not do something, or to accept the view that they should or should not do it * “How could you not invite Trixie to your wedding? She would never do that to you and you know she must be very hurt. ” The remark is intended to make someone feel sorry for Trixie, but even more fundamentally it is supposed to induce a sense of guilt.

* Wishful thinking: when we accept or urge acceptance (or rejection) of a claim simply because it would be pleasant (or unpleasant) if it were true. Some people, for example, believe in God simply on the basis of wishful thinking or desire for an afterlife. A smoker refuse to acknowledge the health hazards of smoking. We’ve had students who are in denial about the consequences of cutting classes.

* Peer pressure “argument”: A desire for acceptance can motivate us to accept a claim not because of its merits, but because we will gain someone’s approval (or will avoid having approval withdrawn). Group think: when one substitutes pride of membership in a group for reason and deliberation in arriving at a position on an issue; and let’s include the fallacy in our list of the top ten fallacies of all time, because it is exceedingly common. * involves one’s sense of group identification, which people experience when they are part of a group—a team, a club, a school, a gang, a state, a nation, the Elks, Wal-Mart, the U. S. A. Mauritius, you name it.

* Nationalism (a form of “GROUP THINK”): a powerful and fierce emotion that can lead to blind endorsement of a country’s policies and practices. (“My country right or wrong” explicitly discourages critical thinking and encourages blind patriotism. ) Nationalism is also invoked to reject, condemn, or silence criticism of one’s country as unpatriotic or treasonable (and or not involve an element of peer pressure). If a letter writer expresses a criticism of America on the opinion page of your local newspaper on Monday, you can bet that by the end of the week there will be a response dismissing the criticism with the “argument” that if so-and-so doesn’t like it here, he or she ought to move to Russia (or Cuba or Afghanistan or Iraq).

* Rationalizing: when we use a false pretext to satisfy our own desires or interests * Let’s say Mr. Smith decides to do something really nice for his wife on her birthday and buys her a new table saw. “This saw wasn’t cheap,” he tells her. But you’re going to be glad we have it, because it will keep me out in the garage and out of your way when you’re working here in the house. ”

* “Argument” from popularity: when we urge someone to accept a claim (or fall prey to someone’s doing it to us) simply on the grounds that all or most or some substantial number of people (other than authorities or experts, of course) believe it * “Argument” from common practice: trying to justify or defend an action or practice (as distinguished from an assertion or claim) on the grounds that it is common. “I shouldn’t get a speeding ticket because everyone drives over the limit” would be an example. “Everyone cheats on their taxes, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t” would be another.

* “Argument” from tradition: People do things because that’s the way things have always been done, and they believe things because that’s what people have always believed * The fact that it’s a tradition among most American children to believe in Santa Claus, for instance, doesn’t prove Santa Claus exists; and the fact it’s also a tradition for most American parents to deceive their kids about Santa Claus doesn’t necessarily mean it is okay for them to do so.

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