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5 Logical Fallacies

By Edited Aug 8, 2016 1 0

Fallacy

For those who may be new to logic, formulating arguments, and philosophy in general; understanding basic fallicious arguments will help you to avoid using these arguments in your own life, and further will allow you to seek new evidence and new logical argument strains for whatever it is you are debating. Simply put, a fallacy is a flaw in reasoning. Arguments are comprised of multiple parts (one or more premises and a conclusion, minimally). A basic argument would unfold as so: "I believe it is rainining outside because I see rain outside." This is a proper argument. However, debating becomes increasingly difficult to do whilest also avoiding fallicious arguments when discussions rise into more "extreme" areas of controversial debate. Take for example a debate on the existence of god. While not all arguments are fallicious, many of them are seemingly so. The more complex an issue is to debate and provide proof for, the more likely an individual will turn to fallacies and flawed logic.

Here is a list of 5 Fallicious Arguments:

1). Ad Hominem Fallacy

An ad hominem fallacy is one in which discussion of a particular topic is dropped in favor of pure argument which leads to personal attacks on the individual you are debating. For example, consider you are discussing the existence or non-existence of extraterrestrial life. A question is proposed to you, "Do you believe in UFOs?" To that you so casually respond, "Anyone who believes in UFOs is a dumb, hill-billy, redneck!" To any mildly educated individual, this is childish and merely an attack on the individual (who may or may not have these qualities themself). This proves nothing, though it can be categorized as a fallacy because so many people seem to believe this sort of response; especially if they already do not believe in UFOs. For the record, when making arguments and debating others, we should be respectful of their views and open-minded to being enlightened with new evidence. No matter who you are debating, there is no reason to stoop to a level of childishness.

2). Ad Populum Fallacy

Put this down as one of my favorite fallacies, as I frequently will refer to it in articles and college-level papers. I honestly find it to be one of the worst arguments, simply because on the surface is appears to hold some weight (and that is the nature of fallacious thinking in general); however when actually critically considered, it holds none.

The Ad Populum fallacy is known in English as the "appeal to the masses." Often this fallacy follows someone quoting a statistic and claiming that since a belief is held by a majority of individuals, it is correct. This is frequently encountered during discussions with individuals from one of the "top 3" religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). A majority of the United States believes in these religious ideologies, which is a fair and accurate statistic; however that is not evidence of truth. There are no specific qualities of these religions being held under a microscope during this argument. It is merely an argument of quantity, not quality.

3). Ad Ignorantiam Fallacy

The argument from ignorance is a very naive position which assumes something is true because we do not understand it. This is undeniably very common. According to some statistics I had heard in the past, human beings really only understand about 4% of our own physical universe. I say that because there is so much that we do not yet know, so having individuals make assumptions about the physical and metaphysical universe is inevitable. However, this does not make the argument valid by any means. Just because we do not know something right now does not mean we will be able to understand things in the future. Consider modern science and the advances in technology which have allowed us to see into the microscopic world, a world we could have hardly even imagined prior to relatively recent inventions of the microscope and similar products.

Oftentimes, this argument "fills in the blanks" with metaphysical concepts; such as god, an intelligent designer, and even on occasion other mystical concepts such as horoscopes and so forth. If you are interested in seeing this argument deconstructed, I would advise that you examine this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson (esteemed astrophysicist) discuss the "God of the Gaps" argument; which is inherently the ad ignorantiam fallacy.

4). Argument From Authority

The argument from authority is a much more difficult fallacy to address, as it seemingly overlaps with "prime real estate" for knowledge. Let me explain. The argument is typically laid out in a fashion similar to the following logical example: Professor 1 believes in A. Professor 1 speaks from a position of authority. Therefore, A is true.

When you examine this logical argument, it should become evident as to why this is innaccurate reasoning. The assumption being made is that simply because Professor 1 is in a place of authority, he is all-knowing. I would imagine many newcomers to college may fall into this trap. What is important to consider is the valid qualities that this argument holds. A professor is generally deemed as being an individual who is knowledgeable on a particular subject, and I have no evidence that would conclude otherwise. The concern then becomes the difference between general knowledge and being "all-knowing" and completely accurate. The latter is the reason why this argument is fallicious, because it seemingly assumes that a professor IS all-knowing and completely accurate. If you agree with this argument, I would advise you sit in a college-level philosophy course and not disagree with what the professor says at all. I am currently studying for a BA in philosophy, and a majority of the time I find myself disagreeing with the professor. This makes for interesting conversation to say the least! However, it is evident to me that no man is "all-knowing" even if we idolize certain individuals in this world.

5). Correlation Does Not Always Equal Causation

I learned of this fallicious way of thinking after taking a psychology course in which I had to conduct a few experiments. Due to the nature of statistical data, one may draw many conclusions if particular bits of information are heavily correlated. For example, one may consider the rise of beer sales in a particular city. Juxaposed to the sale of beer is an increase in temperature, and an increase in newly ordained priests in this particular region. If you were to chart this on a graph, one could see both the lines for temperature and newly ordained priests steadily rising with the increase of beer in the area. These are merely correlations, as it takes much more evidence to induce that one thing causes another. If correlation did equal causation, then we could conclude that a rise in temperature leads to more beer sales (which may or may not be a causal factors). In addition, we call also conclude that an increase in priests leads to an increase in beer sales. If this was a causal issue, then we would have to assume that working for the church causes an individual to want to go out and drink. I will give these preists the benefit of a doubt and assume that their rising statistic is only correlated with beer sales, and that they are not the cause of the steady fluctuation.

Since this article is rather long as it is, I will let you soak it in for a while, then you are welcome to return and examine my next batch of logical fallacies.

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