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Lecture 13

PHIL 105 Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: Fetus, Argumentum Ad Baculum, Animal Rights Movement

Course Code
PHIL 105

of 4
Sometimes, scientists cannot assign people randomly to each group.
This can be for ethical or for practical reasons.
-Being a heroin addict?
-Having three or more children?
-Eating tofu at least once a week for twenty years?
Then, the experimental group is chosen by “self-selection”.
Scientists don't decide who is a control and whom isn’t- the people
themselves do.
Consider the tofu case:
If you discovered a correlation in humans between eating tofu at least
once a week for twenty years and having a healthy heart, should you
conclude that eating tofu…causes having a healthy heart, in humans?
What could you do to make the study a better one?
-Think about what else that can e+ect the causation that matters
Common Errors in Causal Reasoning
1. If A causes B, everything that has A, gets B.
E.g. If A causes B, that all As are Bs [in P]
What’s wrong with invoking a ‘counterexample’ to object to a general
causal claim?
A. Ignores that the cause may be a partial one
B. Is a case of denying the antecedent
C. Assumes that the cause is not a cause
D. Get cause and e+ect backwards
Example: Falling from 6ve storeys up cause up causes dying even if
sometimes someone survives.
A similar error:
If all things with E have C, then C causes E [in P]
All things that have lung cancer are things that have kidneys.
It DOES NOT follow that having kidneys causes having lung cancers.
Both these errors arise from failing to note that general causal claims
are supported by correlations.
Another Error:
(If something (C) is done for the purpose of bringing about something
else (E), and E occurs, then C cause E) =(B occurred after A, that B
must be caused by A)
Seems connected in current particular order, does NOT mean there’s
necessary connection/ causal relationship.
I wore my lucky t-shirt to do well on the test, and I did well.
This is related to a common fallacy:
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc-
means (After this, therefore because
I went out in the rain without my anorak, and now I have a cold.
Not wearing my anorak caused me to catch a cold.
Generalizing from this…
Not wearing anoraks [in the rain] causes catching [in P]
Roosters crow just before dawn…
Some other (non-causal) fallacies and non-fallacious look-alikes
Fallacy 1:
Ad hominem- attacking the person
It is fallacious if the characteristics of the person are not relevant.
Primarily used to avoid providing substantial criticism.
E.g. Rush Limbaugh’s argument is a bad one, since he is a jerk.
Abusive ad hominem
There are
uses of
ad hominem (pointing the personal
Testimonial arguments
If the person is, saying, unreliable or stands to gain if she convinces
you, a testimonial argument from her is weakened.
Making some practical decisions
What deciding who to hire to baby-sit, if someone is a jerk, that’s
Fallacy 2: Argumentum ad baculum
-Argument from the stick, or appeal to force
If you don't accept my claim, I will hit you.
This isn’t really an argument at all----It’s just a threat.
It is a form of:
Appeal to consequences (reverse from the above case)
-If accepting a proposition will have certain bad e+ects, it should not be
-Whether believing a proposition would cause, say, unhappiness, is
irrelevant to its truth-value.
Related fallacy:
Fallacy 3: Appeal to Pity
: ~P because P would make me very sad.
That somebody will fell bad getting a particular mark is no reason to
think she/he deserves a better one (result).
It is NOT a fallacy to appeal to consequences when:
a) One is considering a plan of action where those consequences
are relevant
If, for example, we awarded marks on the basis of preference, not
merit, then…
b) The consequences are logical consequences, so the objection
amounts to denying the consequent.
If, for example, a proposition entails another that is not reasonable
to accept, that is relevant.
Fallacy 4: Straw Man
Misrepresenting your opponent’s argument to make it weaker
Rush Limbaugh on the animal rights movement: they don't like him
because he is “constantly challenging their fundamental premise that
animals are superior to human beings”.
It is not a case of straw man if the poor argument is genuinely held.
The Is-Ought Problem
Attempting to argue from merely descriptive premises to a
prescriptive/Normative conclusion
- regular true or false
- things that ought to be
From descriptions of how things are, nothing follows directly to how
things should or should not be.
E.g. Learning that a fetus is viable at x number weeks gestation does
not tell us when abortion is not permissible.
-We need the added premise that if a fetus is viable, it should not be
An interesting case:
1. P
2. P
Is this valid? Yes!
Should it be e+ective in getting you to believe P? No!
The argument “begs the question.
This is NOT the same as saying it “leads to a question”.
One begs the question when one, in e+ect, includes the conclusion as
a premise.
Abortion is wrong because it is murder.
Well, what is “murder”?
God exists because it says so in the Bible and God wrote the Bible.