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Chapter 6

PHI 1101 P - Chapter 6.docx

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Iva Apostolova

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Argument Viruses: Logical Fallacies (Ch. 6)  Here we will deal with informal fallacies.  The fallaciousness of relevance, adequacy, or acceptability of the premises, the language used, or the technique of persuasion, rather than their structure.  Informal fallacies, unlike formal ones, need to be read within a context. I. Acceptability of the premises.  1. Begging the question (petitio principii): suffers from circularity; the speaker assumes what she’s trying to prove.  Ex. The belief in God is universal because everybody believes in God.  Ex. It is in every case immoral to lie to someone, even if the lie could save a human life. Even in extreme circumstances a lie is still a lie.All lies are immoral because the very act of prevarication in all circumstances is contrary to ethical principles.  Ex. To allow man unbounded freedom of speech must always be, on the whole advantageous to the state; for it is highly conducive to the interests of the community that each individual should enjoy a liberty, perfectly unlimited, of expressing his sentiments.  2. Inconsistency. When the argument contains implicitly or explicitly a contradiction, usually between two premises.  Ex. Members of the jury, there are two compelling reasons why you should find my client not guilty.  First, the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was anywhere near the warehouse on the night the theft occurred.  And second, even if he was there, I have presented evidence to show that he was acting under threats from his companions. In either case, he should be found not guilty.  3. Equivocation. When the premise has two interpretations, one acceptable and one unacceptable and when the unacceptable is the one present in the conclusion.  Ex. The end of everything is its perfection. The end of life is death. Therefore, death is the perfection of life.  Ex. Only man is rational. No woman is a man. Therefore, no woman is rational.  Ex. Everyone agrees that a fetus is a human being.All human beings have a right to live. Therefore, a fetus has a right to live.  Ex.Ad for luxurious bedrooms: “Suite Dreams” (suite sounds and makes us think of ‘sweet’dreams).  4. False dichotomy (bifurcation, false dilemma). It presents us with an “either/or” situation when in fact there are more than two options to choose from.  The premises present us with alternatives as though they are exhaustive or exclusive when in fact they are not.  (An exhaustive alternative – covers all possibilities: whether someone is pregnant or not. Exclusive alternatives – the choice of one excludes the other: a.m. and p.m.)  This way we’re pressured to choose between these two options when in reality there’s a lot more to choose from, or maybe a choice is not even necessary.  Ex. New Hampshire state motto: Live free or die.  Ex. If you don’t know Bob Dylan, your knowledge of music is inadequate.  Ex.America: Love it or Leave it (written at the U.S. – Mexico border).  Ex. We must legalize drugs. We either legalize them or pay a heavy toll in lives and taxpayer’s money to continue the war on drugs. And we cannot afford to pay such a high price. II. Relevance of the premises.  1.Appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam). Using one’s own tough time or pointing to someone else’s difficult situation to win the argument.  Ex. Professor, I deserve anAin Critical Thinking. My boyfriend eloped with my cousin Alice, my parents divorced. My life is a mess. I deserve anAfor my pain.  Ex. Please officer, don’t cite, me for driving under the influence. I know it’s my second time this year but my parents will put me in a rehab program and my social life will be ruined.  Appeal to pity and compassion.  2.Appeal to force (argumentum and baculum).Any type of harassment falls within this argument.  Ex. I believe the death penalty to be savage and it has no place in a civilized society. Well, if you don’t vote in favor of it in the coming election, I’ll tell your parents that you keep whiskey in your locker.  Ex. Barbara, I would like you to come discuss your job promotion with me tonight. Meet me at the hotel and wear something sexy. Give a little and you’ll get something back.  Note: Keep in mind, though, that there might be cases when the appeal to force might be relevant; when the speaker is responding to a respective threat or harassment, for example.  3.Appeal to popularity (argumentum and populem).  Ex. Thousands of students protested the bombing ofAfghanistan. Perhaps you ought to rethink your support of the administration on this.  Ex. The vast majority of Canadians were against the war in Iraq. How could you support it?  4.Appeal to authority (argumentum ad vericundiam)  Ex. John Lennon was against the Vietnam War. So, it must have been a big mistake.  Ex. Michael Jordan thinks that Nike makes the best shoes. Buy some today.  Note: There cases when the appeal to authority is relevant. There are two conditions that allow the use of authority for our arguments: - 1) We lack the information and experience and we cannot obtain it directly by ourselves to make a reasonable decision. - 2) The authority in question is entitled to the status on the matter (e.g., doctors, lawyers).  5.Appeal to ignorance (argumentum ad ignorantiam)  It occurs when it is argued that something is or isn`t the case simply because you cannot prove otherwise.  It goes like that, “if you can`t prove it that I’m wrong than I must be right”.  Ex. Belief in reincarnation is unwarranted; since no one can definitely demonstrate that the soul can enter another body and come back on Earth.  Ex. It’s clear that God doesn’t exist because science hasn’t proved that he does.  Appeal to ignorance often occurs because we mix types of evidence (e.g., scientific with philosophical proofs of the existence of God).  6.Appeal to tradition: occurs when we base our arguments only on how things have been done in the past.  Ex. Of course I’m giving peanut butter to my 6-months old baby, she loves it!  Forget about the studies, my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother practically grew up on peanut butter and they’ve never had any signs of allergies.  7.Ad hominem (attack on the person). It occurs when instead of dealing with the issue at hand, there is a personal attack or an attempt to discredit someone. The personal attack aims at a personal characteristic such as age, weight, height, gender, race, etc.  Ex. The death penalty is savage and has no place in a civilized society. How would you know you only went to high school!  Ex. Pancho Villa is the best Mexican restaurant in town. Everything I’ve eaten there is delicious.And they have authentic Mexican sauces. How would you know? You’re Japanese!  Ex. You can’t take the Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Towes’Internet surveillance bill seriously; he’s an adulterer and a liar!  8. Straw man. It occurs when an opponent’s position is presented as so extreme that it’s indefensible. Then we’re steered towards a more moderate position which immediately looks a more attractive alternative.  Ex. MP Kennedy is opposed to the military spending bill saying that it’s too costly. Why does he always want to slash everything to the bane? He wants a pint-size military that couldn’t fight off a crazed band of terrorists, let alone a rogue nation.  Ex. Those animal rights people make me sick. If they get their way, medical advances in this country will come to a grinding halt.  Ex. Students these days object to being searched for drugs. If we don’t search them, they’ll be peddling drugs at school and drug abuse will be rampant.  Straw man and false dichotomy usually go hand-in-hand. III. Fallacies related to the adequacy of the premises.  1. Hasty generalization fallacy. It occurs when we draw a conclusion about a whole group based on an adequate sample of the group.  Ex. You should buy a Dell computer. They’re great. I bought one last year, and it has given me nothing but flawless performance.  Ex. The French
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