Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 10

We get three lessons today, boys and girls, as we head into the home stretch for this series (sort of)!

Straw Man

StrawmanEveryone has heard of this one. You don’t have to be involved in debates and discussions on controversial topics for long before someone accuses someone else of the “straw man fallacy”. It refers to the rhetorical act of intentionally misrepresenting the position of one’s opponent or interlocutor (or, at least, particular aspects of their argument), whether with a caricature or by oversimplifying it, so that it is easier to defeat. Like setting up a man made of straw, it is easier to knock down than the real thing. Of course, this is not fair, and any points scored against an inaccurate representation is irrelevant to the soundness & validity of the actual view. Many times, the straw man is accompanied by other fallacies (e.g., ad hominem, hasty generalization, suppressed evidence).

One example of this is…

Read the rest: Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 10

Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 9

“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”  — Socrates

Only two fallacies on the docket today, but they are biggies!

apple and orange - cartoonCategory mistake/error

I’m sure you have heard the term, “It’s apples and oranges.” Maybe you have used it, yourself. When Person A says this to Person B, it might be the case that Person B has made an explicit comparison between two things, in which case Person A believes that the things in question are not sufficiently alike to warrant Person B’s comparison in support of his case. A timely example of this might go as follows:

“Person A: How can you be against same-sex marriage? It’s like being against mixed-race marriages, which everyone knows was bigoted and unconstitutional. Miscegenation laws were repealed and so should bans on same-sex marriage.

Person B: That reasoning doesn’t fly. It’s apples and oranges.

Person A: Why do you say that?

Read the rest: Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 9

Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 8

“Most of the arguments to which I am party fall somewhat short of being impressive, owing to the fact that neither I nor my opponent knows what we are talking about.”  — Robert Benchley, American columnist & actor

Hey, folks! Ready for another lesson in logic? Of course, you are!!

In A World of Difference, Prof. Kenneth Samples warns that these first three fallacies are often resorted to when people are arguing for a particular worldview (i.e., a belief system). Unfortunately, they betray weaknesses in their argument. You’ll see what he’s talking about in a moment. Let’s get the Latin stuff out of the way first, shall we?

Vader: lack of logic disturbingArgumentum ad vericundiam (“an appeal to an untrustworthy authority”)

Appealing to an authority is a great way to lend support to one’s case, though it probably doesn’t “prove” it by itself. When a true authority speaks on something within their area of expertise, we should give what they say due consideration. However, not everyone cited as an authority on something is an actual authority on that subject. It is also possible that, while having relevant credentials, the person or group appealed to is not always to be trusted.

Regarding the first instance, Richard Dawkins comes to mind….

Read the rest: Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 8

Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 7

“Correlation does not equal causation.”  — many people, including me (‘cuz it makes me sound smart)

We’re baaaaaaack, and we have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

Cause-and-EffectClear thinking & reasoning require at least a basic understanding of causal relationships. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to make logical mistakes in this area. As you may have gathered from the header, our current group of fallacies primarily deals with causes (and effects), while the last one is about making comparisons to give rhetorical (if not logical) force to an argument. And, yes, we have a healthy dose of Latin to make it all sound properly intellectual. We will start with the three main types of “false cause” fallacy, the first being…

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

This phrase translates to “after this, therefore because of this”. It refers to when one too quickly assumes that ‘A’ is the cause of ‘B’ just because ‘A’ occurred before ‘B’. Or, as Anthony Weston puts it in A Rulebook for Arguments, “assuming causation too readily on the basis of mere succession in time.” Yeah, that’s what I said.

Obviously, succession in time is, on its own, insufficient proof of cause & effect….

Read the rest: Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 7