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FALLACIES

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Dr. Michael C. LaBossiere

For Free

FortyTwoFallacies(ForFree)
ByDr.MichaelC.LaBossiere,ontologist@aol.com

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Thisbookiscopyright20022010byDr.MichaelC.LaBossiere.Itmaybefreely distributedforpersonaloreducationaluseprovidedthatitisnotmodifiedandnofee abovethenormalcostofdistributionischargedforit.

FallaciesandArguments
Inordertounderstandwhatafallacyis,onemustunderstandwhatanargumentis. Verybrieflyanargumentconsistsofoneormorepremisesandoneconclusion.A premiseisastatement(asentencethatiseithertrueorfalse)thatisofferedinsupport oftheclaimbeingmade,whichistheconclusion(whichisalsoasentencethatiseither trueorfalse). Therearetwomaintypesofarguments:deductiveandinductive.Adeductive argumentisanargumentsuchthatthepremisesprovide(orappeartoprovide) completesupportfortheconclusion.Aninductiveargumentisanargumentsuchthat thepremisesprovide(orappeartoprovide)somedegreeofsupport(butlessthan completesupport)fortheconclusion.Ifthepremisesactuallyprovidetherequired degreeofsupportfortheconclusion,thentheargumentisagoodone.Agood deductiveargumentisknownasavalidargumentandissuchthatifallitspremisesare true,thenitsconclusionmustbetrue.Ifalltheargumentisvalidandactuallyhasall truepremises,thenitisknownasasoundargument.Ifitisinvalidorhasoneormore falsepremises,itwillbeunsound.Agoodinductiveargumentisknownasastrong(or cogent)inductiveargument.Itissuchthatifthepremisesaretrue,theconclusionis likelytobetrue. Afallacyis,verygenerally,anerrorinreasoning.Thisdiffersfromafactualerror, whichissimplybeingwrongaboutthefacts.Tobemorespecific,afallacyisan argumentinwhichthepremisesgivenfortheconclusiondonotprovidetheneeded degreeofsupport.Adeductivefallacyisadeductiveargumentthatisinvalid(itissuch thatitcouldhavealltruepremisesandstillhaveafalseconclusion).Aninductivefallacy islessformalthanadeductivefallacy.Theyaresimplyargumentswhichappeartobe inductivearguments,butthepremisesdonotprovidedenoughsupportforthe conclusion.Insuchcases,evenifthepremisesweretrue,theconclusionwouldnotbe morelikelytobetrue. ExampleofaDeductiveArgument Premise1:IfBillisacat,thenBillisamammal. Premise2:Billisacat. Conclusion:Billisamammal.
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ExampleofanInductiveArgument Premise1:MostAmericancatsaredomestichousecats. Premise2:BillisanAmericancat. Conclusion:Billisdomestichousecat. ExampleofaFactualError ColumbusisthecapitaloftheUnitedStates. ExampleofaDeductiveFallacy Premise1:IfPortlandisthecapitalofMaine,thenitisinMaine. Premise2:PortlandisinMaine. Conclusion:PortlandisthecapitalofMaine. (PortlandisinMaine,butAugustaisthecapital.PortlandisthelargestcityinMaine, though.) ExampleofanInductiveFallacy Premise1:HavingjustarrivedinOhio,Isawawhitesquirrel. Conclusion:AllOhiosquirrelsarewhite. (Whiletherearemany,manysquirrelsinOhio,thewhiteonesareveryrare).

Fallacies
AdHominem
AlsoKnownas:AdHominemAbusive,PersonalAttack Description: TranslatedfromLatintoEnglish,adHominemmeansagainstthemanoragainst theperson. AnadHominemisageneralcategoryoffallaciesinwhichaclaimorargumentis rejectedonthebasisofsomeirrelevantfactabouttheauthorofortheperson presentingtheclaimorargument.Typically,thisfallacyinvolvestwosteps.First,an attackagainstthecharacterofpersonmakingtheclaim,hercircumstances,orher actionsismade(orthecharacter,circumstances,oractionsofthepersonreportingthe claim).Second,thisattackistakentobeevidenceagainsttheclaimorargumentthe personinquestionismaking(orpresenting).Thistypeofargumenthasthefollowing form: 1.PersonAmakesclaimX. 2.PersonBmakesanattackonpersonA. 3.ThereforeAsclaimisfalse. ThereasonwhyanadHominem(ofanykind)isafallacyisthatthecharacter, circumstances,oractionsofapersondonot(inmostcases)haveabearingonthetruth orfalsityoftheclaimbeingmade(orthequalityoftheargumentbeingmade).
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Example#1: Bill:Ibelievethatabortionismorallywrong. Dave:Ofcourseyouwouldsaythat,youreapriest. Bill:WhatabouttheargumentsIgavetosupportmyposition? Dave:Thosedontcount.LikeIsaid,youreapriest,soyouhavetosaythatabortionis wrong.Further,youarejustalackeytothePope,soIcantbelievewhatyousay. Example#2: John:Sallywassayingthatpeopleshouldnthuntanimalsorkillthemforfoodor clothing.Shealso Wanda:Well,Sallyisasissycrybabywholovesanimalswaytoomuch. John:So? Wanda:Thatmeanssheiswrongaboutthatanimalstuff.Also,ifwewerentsupposed toeatem,theywouldntbemadeofmeat.

AdHominemTuQuoque
AlsoKnownas:YouTooFallacy Description: Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenitisconcludedthatapersonsclaimisfalsebecause1) itisinconsistentwithsomethingelseapersonhassaidor2)whatapersonsaysis inconsistentwithheractions.Thistypeofargumenthasthefollowingform: 1.PersonAmakesclaimX. 2.PersonBassertsthatAsactionsorpastclaimsareinconsistentwiththetruthof claimX. 3.ThereforeXisfalse. Thefactthatapersonmakesinconsistentclaimsdoesnotmakeanyparticularclaim hemakesfalse(althoughofanypairofinconsistentclaimsonlyonecanbetruebut bothcanbefalse).Also,thefactthatapersonsclaimsarenotconsistentwithhis actionsmightindicatethatthepersonisahypocritebutthisdoesnotprovehisclaims arefalse. Example#1: Bill:Smokingisveryunhealthyandleadstoallsortsofproblems.Sotakemyadviceand neverstart. Jill:Well,Icertainlydontwanttogetcancer. Bill:Imgoingtogetasmoke.WanttojoinmeDave? Jill:Well,Iguesssmokingcantbethatbad.Afterall,Billsmokes. Example#2: Jill:Ithinktheguncontrolbillshouldntbesupportedbecauseitwontbeeffectiveand willwastemoney. Bill:Well,justlastmonthyousupportedthebill.SoIguessyourewrongnow.
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Example#3: Peter:BasedontheargumentsIhavepresented,itisevidentthatitismorallywrongto useanimalsforfoodorclothing. Bill:Butyouarewearingaleatherjacketandyouhavearoastbeefsandwichinyour hand!Howcanyousaythatusinganimalsforfoodandclothingiswrong!

AppealtotheConsequencesofaBelief
Description: TheAppealtotheConsequencesofaBeliefisafallacythatcomesinthefollowing patterns: #1:XistruebecauseifpeopledidnotacceptXasbeingtrue,thentherewouldbe negativeconsequences. #2:XisfalsebecauseifpeopledidnotacceptXasbeingfalse,thentherewouldbe negativeconsequences. #3:XistruebecauseacceptingthatXistruehaspositiveconsequences. #4:XisfalsebecauseacceptingthatXisfalsehaspositiveconsequences. #5:IwishthatXweretrue,thereforeXistrue.ThisisknownasWishfulThinking. #6:IwishthatXwerefalse,thereforeXisfalse.ThisisknownasWishfulThinking. Thislineofreasoningisfallaciousbecausetheconsequencesofabeliefhaveno bearingonwhetherthebeliefistrueorfalse.Forexample,ifsomeoneweretosayIf sixteenheadedpurpleunicornsdontexist,thenIwouldbemiserable,sotheymust exist,itwouldbeclearthatthiswouldnotbeagoodlineofreasoning.Itisimportant tonotethattheconsequencesinquestionaretheconsequencesthatstemfromthe belief.Itisimportanttodistinguishbetweenarationalreasontobelieve(RRB) (evidence)andaprudentialreasontobelieve(PRB)(motivation).ARRBisevidencethat objectivelyandlogicallysupportstheclaim.APRBisareasontoacceptthebelief becauseofsomeexternalfactor(suchasfear,athreat,orabenefitorharmthatmay stemfromthebelief)thatisrelevanttowhatapersonvaluesbutisnotrelevanttothe truthorfalsityoftheclaim. ThenatureofthefallacyisespeciallyclearinthecaseofWishfulthinking.Obviously, merelywishingthatsomethingistruedoesnotmakeittrue.Thisfallacydiffersfromthe AppealtoBelieffallacyinthattheAppealtoBeliefinvolvestakingaclaimthatmost peoplebelievethatXistruetobeevidenceforXbeingtrue.
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Example#1: Godmustexist!IfGoddidnotexist,thenallbasisformoralitywouldbelostandthe worldwouldbeahorribleplace! Example#2: Itcanneverhappentome.IfIbelieveditcould,Icouldneversleepsoundlyatnight. Example#3: Idontthinkthattherewillbeanuclearwar.IfIbelievedthat,Iwouldntbeabletoget upinthemorning.Imean,howdepressing. Example#4: IacknowledgethatIhavenoargumentfortheexistenceofGod.However,Ihaveagreat desireforGodtoexistandfortheretobeanafterlife.ThereforeIacceptthatGod exists.

AppealtoAuthority
AlsoKnownas:FallaciousAppealtoAuthority,MisuseofAuthority,Irrelevant Authority,QuestionableAuthority,InappropriateAuthority,AdVerecundiam Description: AnAppealtoAuthorityisafallacywiththefollowingform: 1)PersonAis(claimedtobe)anauthorityonsubjectS. 2)PersonAmakesclaimCaboutsubjectS. 3)Therefore,Cistrue. Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenthepersoninquestionisnotalegitimateauthorityon thesubject.Moreformally,ifpersonAisnotqualifiedtomakereliableclaimsinsubject S,thentheargumentwillbefallacious. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciouswhenthepersoninquestionisnotanexpert.In suchcasesthereasoningisflawedbecausethefactthatanunqualifiedpersonmakesa claimdoesnotprovideanyjustificationfortheclaim.Theclaimcouldbetrue,butthe factthatanunqualifiedpersonmadetheclaimdoesnotprovideanyrationalreasonto accepttheclaimastrue. Whenapersonfallspreytothisfallacy,theyareacceptingaclaimastruewithout therebeingadequateevidencetodoso.Morespecifically,thepersonisacceptingthe claimbecausetheyerroneouslybelievethatthepersonmakingtheclaimisalegitimate expertandhencethattheclaimisreasonabletoaccept.Sincepeoplehaveatendency tobelieveauthorities(andthereare,infact,goodreasonstoacceptsomeclaimsmade byauthorities)thisfallacyisafairlycommonone. Sincethissortofreasoningisfallaciousonlywhenthepersonisnotalegitimate authorityinaparticularcontext,itisnecessarytoprovidesomeacceptablestandardsof assessment.Thefollowingstandardsarewidelyaccepted:
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1.Thepersonhassufficientexpertiseinthesubjectmatterinquestion. Claimsmadebyapersonwholackstheneededdegreeofexpertisetomakeareliable claimwill,obviously,notbewellsupported.Incontrast,claimsmadebyapersonwith theneededdegreeofexpertisewillbesupportedbythepersonsreliabilityinthearea. Determiningwhetherornotapersonhastheneededdegreeofexpertisecanoftenbe verydifficult.Inacademicfields(suchasphilosophy,engineering,history,etc.),the personsformaleducation,academicperformance,publications,membershipin professionalsocieties,paperspresented,awardswonandsoforthcanallbereliable indicatorsofexpertise.Outsideofacademicfields,otherstandardswillapply.For example,havingsufficientexpertisetomakeareliableclaimabouthowtotieashoe laceonlyrequirestheabilitytotietheshoelaceandimpartthatinformationtoothers. Itshouldbenotedthatbeinganexpertdoesnotalwaysrequirehavingauniversity degree.Manypeoplehavehighdegreesofexpertiseinsophisticatedsubjectswithout havingeverattendedauniversity.Further,itshouldnotbesimplyassumedthata personwithadegreeisanexpert. Ofcourse,whatisrequiredtobeanexpertisoftenamatterofgreatdebate.For example,somepeoplehave(anddo)claimexpertiseincertain(evenall)areasbecause ofadivineinspirationoraspecialgift.Thefollowersofsuchpeopleacceptsuch credentialsasestablishingthepersonsexpertisewhileothersoftenseetheseself proclaimedexpertsasdeludedorevenascharlatans.Inothersituations,peopledebate overwhatsortofeducationandexperienceisneededtobeanexpert.Thus,whatone personmaytaketobeafallaciousappealanotherpersonmighttaketobeawell supportedlineofreasoning.Fortunately,manycasesdonotinvolvesuchdebate. 2.Theclaimbeingmadebythepersoniswithinherarea(s)ofexpertise. Ifapersonmakesaclaimaboutsomesubjectoutsideofhisarea(s)ofexpertise,then thepersonisnotanexpertinthatcontext.Hence,theclaiminquestionisnotbackedby therequireddegreeofexpertiseandisnotreliable. Itisveryimportanttorememberthatbecauseofthevastscopeofhumanknowledge andskillitissimplynotpossibleforonepersontobeanexpertoneverything.Hence, expertswillonlybetrueexpertsinrespecttocertainsubjectareas.Inmostotherareas theywillhavelittleornoexpertise.Thus,itisimportanttodeterminewhatsubjectarea aclaimfallsunder. Itisalsoveryimportanttonotethatexpertiseinoneareadoesnotautomatically conferexpertiseinanother.Forexample,beinganexpertphysicistdoesnot automaticallymakeapersonanexpertonmoralityorpolitics.Unfortunately,thisis oftenoverlookedorintentionallyignored.Infact,agreatdealofadvertisingrestsona violationofthiscondition.Asanyonewhowatchestelevisionknows,itisextremely commontogetfamousactorsandsportsheroestoendorseproductsthattheyarenot qualifiedtoassess.Forexample,apersonmaybeagreatactor,butthatdoesnot automaticallymakehimanexpertoncarsorshavingorunderwearordietsorpolitics.

3.Thereisanadequatedegreeofagreementamongtheotherexpertsinthesubjectin question. Ifthereisasignificantamountoflegitimatedisputeamongtheexpertswithina subject,thenitwillfallacioustomakeanAppealtoAuthorityusingthedisputing experts.Thisisbecauseforalmostanyclaimbeingmadeandsupportedbyoneexpert therewillbeacounterclaimthatismadeandsupportedbyanotherexpert.Insuch casesanAppealtoAuthoritywouldtendtobefutile.Insuchcases,thedisputehastobe settledbyconsiderationoftheactualissuesunderdispute.Sinceeithersideinsucha disputecaninvokeexperts,thedisputecannotberationallysettledbyAppealsto Authority. Therearemanyfieldsinwhichthereisasignificantamountoflegitimatedispute. Economicsisagoodexampleofsuchadisputedfield.Anyonewhoisfamiliarwith economicsknowsthattherearemanyplausibletheoriesthatareincompatiblewithone another.Becauseofthis,oneexperteconomistcouldsincerelyclaimthatthedeficitis thekeyfactorwhileanotherequallyqualifiedindividualcouldasserttheexactopposite. Anotherareawheredisputeisverycommon(andwellknown)isintheareaof psychologyandpsychiatry.Ashasbeendemonstratedinvarioustrials,itispossibleto findoneexpertthatwillassertthatanindividualisinsaneandnotcompetenttostand trialandtofindanotherequallyqualifiedexpertwhowilltestify,underoath,thatthe sameindividualisbothsaneandcompetenttostandtrial.Obviously,onecannotrelyon anAppealtoAuthorityinsuchasituationwithoutmakingafallaciousargument.Such anargumentwouldbefallacioussincetheevidencewouldnotwarrantacceptingthe conclusion. Itisimportanttokeepinmindthatnofieldhascompleteagreement,sosomedegree ofdisputeisacceptable.Howmuchisacceptableis,ofcourse,amatterofserious debate.Itisalsoimportanttokeepinmindthatevenafieldwithagreatdealofinternal disputemightcontainareasofsignificantagreement.Insuchcases,anAppealto Authoritycouldbelegitimate. 4.Thepersoninquestionisnotsignificantlybiased. Ifanexpertissignificantlybiasedthentheclaimshemakeswithinhisareofbiaswill belessreliable.Sinceabiasedexpertwillnotbereliable,anArgumentfromAuthority basedonabiasedexpertwillbefallacious.Thisisbecausetheevidencewillnotjustify acceptingtheclaim. Experts,beingpeople,arevulnerabletobiasesandprejudices.Ifthereisevidencethat apersonisbiasedinsomemannerthatwouldaffectthereliabilityofherclaims,thenan ArgumentfromAuthoritybasedonthatpersonislikelytobefallacious.Eveniftheclaim isactuallytrue,thefactthattheexpertisbiasedweakenstheargument.Thisisbecause therewouldbereasontobelievethattheexpertmightnotbemakingtheclaimbecause hehascarefullyconsidereditusinghisexpertise.Rather,therewouldbereasonto believethattheclaimisbeingmadebecauseoftheexpertsbiasorprejudice. Itisimportanttorememberthatnopersoniscompletelyobjective.Attheveryleast,a personwillbefavorabletowardsherownviews(otherwiseshewouldprobablynothold them).Becauseofthis,somedegreeofbiasmustbeaccepted,providedthatthebiasis
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notsignificant.Whatcountsasasignificantdegreeofbiasisopentodisputeandcan varyagreatdealfromcasetocase.Forexample,manypeoplewouldprobablysuspect thatdoctorswhowerepaidbytobaccocompaniestoresearchtheeffectsofsmoking wouldbebiasedwhileotherpeoplemightbelieve(orclaim)thattheywouldbeableto remainobjective. 5.Theareaofexpertiseisalegitimateareaordiscipline. Certainareasinwhichapersonmayclaimexpertisemayhavenolegitimacyorvalidity asareasofknowledgeorstudy.Obviously,claimsmadeinsuchareaswillnotbevery reliable. Whatcountsasalegitimateareaofexpertiseissometimesdifficulttodetermine. However,therearecaseswhicharefairlyclearcut.Forexample,ifapersonclaimedto beanexpertatsomethinghecalledchromabullettherapyandassertedthatfiring paintedriflebulletsatapersonwouldcurecanceritwouldnotbeveryreasonableto accepthisclaimbasedonhisexpertise.Afterall,hisexpertiseisinanareawhichis devoidoflegitimatecontent.Thegeneralideaisthattobealegitimateexpertaperson musthavemasteryoverarealfieldorareaofknowledge. Asnotedabove,determiningthelegitimacyofafieldcanoftenbedifficult.In Europeanhistory,variousscientistshadtostrugglewiththeChurchandestablished traditionstoestablishthevalidityoftheirdisciplines.Forexample,expertsonevolution facedanuphillbattleingettingthelegitimacyoftheirareaaccepted. Amodernexampleinvolvespsychicphenomenon.Somepeopleclaimthattheyare certifiedmasterpsychicsandthattheyareactuallyexpertsinthefield.Otherpeople contendthattheirclaimsofbeingcertifiedmasterpsychicsaresimplyabsurdsince thereisnorealcontenttosuchanareaofexpertise.Ifthesepeopleareright,then anyonewhoacceptstheclaimsofthesemasterpsychicsastruearevictimsofa fallaciousappealtoauthority. 6.Theauthorityinquestionmustbeidentified. AcommonvariationofthetypicalAppealtoAuthorityfallacyisanAppealtoan UnnamedAuthority.ThisfallacyisAlsoKnownasanAppealtoanUnidentified Authority. Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenapersonassertsthataclaimistruebecauseanexpert orauthoritymakestheclaimandthepersondoesnotactuallyidentifytheexpert.Since theexpertisnotnamedoridentified,thereisnowaytotellifthepersonisactuallyan expert.Unlessthepersonisidentifiedandhashisexpertiseestablished,thereisno reasontoaccepttheclaim. Thissortofreasoningisnotunusual.Typically,thepersonmakingtheargumentwill saythingslikeIhaveabookthatsays,ortheysay,ortheexpertssay,or scientistsbelievethat,orIreadinthepaper..orIsawonTVorsomesimilar statement.insuchcasesthepersonisoftenhopingthatthelistener(s)willsimplyaccept theunidentifiedsourceasalegitimateauthorityandbelievetheclaimbeingmade.Ifa personacceptstheclaimsimplybecausetheyaccepttheunidentifiedsourceasan expert(withoutgoodreasontodoso),hehasfallenpreytothisfallacy.
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NonFallaciousAppealstoAuthority Assuggestedabove,notallAppealstoAuthorityarefallacious.Thisisfortunatesince peoplehavetorelyonexperts.Thisisbecausenoonepersoncanbeanexperton everythingandpeopledonothavethetimeorabilitytoinvestigateeverysingleclaim themselves. Inmanycases,ArgumentsfromAuthoritywillbegoodarguments.Forexample,when apersongoestoaskilleddoctorandthedoctortellshimthathehasacold,thenthe patienthasgoodreasontoacceptthedoctorsconclusion.Asanotherexample,ifa personscomputerisactingoddandhisfriend,whoisacomputerexpert,tellshimitis probablyhisharddrivethenhehasgoodreasontobelieveher. WhatdistinguishesafallaciousAppealtoAuthorityfromagoodAppealtoAuthorityis thattheargumentmeetsthesixconditionsdiscussedabove. InagoodAppealtoAuthority,thereisreasontobelievetheclaimbecausetheexpert saystheclaimistrue.Thisisbecauseapersonwhoisalegitimateexpertismorelikely toberightthanwrongwhenmakingconsideredclaimswithinherareaofexpertise.Ina sense,theclaimisbeingacceptedbecauseitisreasonabletobelievethattheexperthas testedtheclaimandfoundittobereliable.So,iftheexperthasfoundittobereliable, thenitisreasonabletoacceptitasbeingtrue.Thus,thelistenerisacceptingaclaim basedonthetestimonyoftheexpert. ItshouldbenotedthatevenagoodAppealtoAuthorityisnotanexceptionallystrong argument.Afterall,insuchcasesaclaimisbeingacceptedastruesimplybecausea personisassertingthatitistrue.Thepersonmaybeanexpert,butherexpertisedoes notreallybearonthetruthoftheclaim.Thisisbecausetheexpertiseofapersondoes notactuallydeterminewhethertheclaimistrueorfalse.Hence,argumentsthatdeal directlywithevidencerelatingtotheclaimitselfwilltendtobestronger. Example#1: BillandJanearearguingaboutthemoralityofabortion: Bill:Ibelievethatabortionismorallyacceptable.Afterall,awomanshouldhavearight toherownbody. Jane:Idisagreecompletely.Dr.JohanSkarnsaysthatabortionisalwaysmorallywrong, regardlessofthesituation.Hehastoberight,afterall,heisarespectedexpertinhis field. Bill:IveneverheardofDr.Skarn.Whoishe? Jane:HestheguythatwontheNobelPrizeinphysicsforhisworkoncoldfusion. Bill:Isee.Doeshehaveanyexpertiseinmoralityorethics? Jane:Idontknow.Buthesaworldfamousexpert,soIbelievehim. Example#2: DaveandKintaroarearguingaboutStalinsreignintheSovietUnion.Davehasbeen arguingthatStalinwasagreatleaderwhileKintarodisagreeswithhim.
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Kintaro:IdontseehowyoucanconsiderStalintobeagreatleader.Hekilledmillions ofhisownpeople,hecrippledtheSovieteconomy,keptmostofthepeopleinfearand laidthefoundationsfortheviolencethatisoccurringinmuchofEasternEurope. Dave:Yeah,wellyousaythat.However,IhaveabookathomethatsaysthatStalinwas actinginthebestinterestofthepeople.Themillionsthatwerekilledwerevicious enemiesofthestateandtheyhadtobekilledtoprotecttherestofthepeaceful citizens.Thisbooklaysitallout,soithastobetrue. Example#3: Imnotadoctor,butIplayoneonthehitseriesBimbosandStudmuffinsintheOR. Youcantakeitfrommethatwhenyouneedafastacting,effectiveandsafepainkiller thereisnothingbetterthanMorphiDope2000.Thatismyconsideredmedicalopinion. Example#4: SiphweandSashaarehavingaconversation: Sasha:IplayedthelotterytodayandIknowIamgoingtowinsomething. Siphwe:Whatdidyoudo,rigtheoutcome? Sasha:No,silly.IcalledmySuperPsychicBuddyatthe1900MindPowernumber. AfterconsultinghismagicCalifornianTarotdeck,hetoldmemyluckynumbers. Siphwe:Andyoubelievedhim? Sasha:Certainly,heisacertifiedCalifornianMasterMindPsychic.ThatiswhyIbelieve whathehastosay.Imean,like,whoelsewouldknowwhatmyluckynumbersare?

AppealtoBelief
Description:AppealtoBeliefisafallacythathasthisgeneralpattern: 1)Mostpeoplebelievethataclaim,X,istrue. 2)ThereforeXistrue. Thislineofreasoningisfallaciousbecausethefactthatmanypeoplebelieveaclaim doesnot,ingeneral,serveasevidencethattheclaimistrue. Thereare,however,somecaseswhenthefactthatmanypeopleacceptaclaimas trueisanindicationthatitistrue.Forexample,whileyouarevisitingMaine,youare toldbyseveralpeoplethattheybelievethatpeopleolderthan16needtobuyafishing licenseinordertofish.Barringreasonstodoubtthesepeople,theirstatementsgiveyou reasontobelievethatanyoneover16willneedtobuyafishinglicense. Therearealsocasesinwhichwhatpeoplebelieveactuallydeterminesthetruthofa claim.Forexample,thetruthofclaimsaboutmannersandproperbehaviormight simplydependonwhatpeoplebelievetobegoodmannersandproperbehavior. Anotherexampleisthecaseofcommunitystandards,whichareoftentakentobethe standardsthatmostpeopleaccept.Insomecases,whatviolatescertaincommunity standardsistakentobeobscene.Insuchcases,fortheclaimxisobscenetobetrueis formostpeopleinthatcommunitytobelievethatxisobscene.Insuchcasesitisstill prudenttoquestionthejustificationoftheindividualbeliefs.
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Example#1: Atonetime,mostpeopleinEuropebelievedthattheearthwasthecenterofthesolar system(atleastmostofthosewhohadbeliefsaboutsuchthings).However,thisbelief turnedouttobefalse. Example#2: Godmustexist.Afterall,Ijustsawapollthatsays85%ofallAmericansbelieveinGod. Example#3: Ofcoursethereisnothingwrongwithdrinking.Askanyone,helltellyouthathethinks drinkingisjustfine.

AppealtoCommonPractice
Description: TheAppealtoCommonPracticeisafallacywiththefollowingstructure: 1)Xisacommonaction. 2)ThereforeXiscorrect/moral/justified/reasonable,etc. ThebasicideabehindthefallacyisthatthefactthatmostpeopledoXisusedas evidencetosupporttheactionorpractice.Itisafallacybecausethemerefactthat mostpeopledosomethingdoesnotmakeitcorrect,moral,justified,orreasonable. Anappealtofairplay,whichmightseemtobeanappealtocommonpractice,need notbeafallacy.Forexample,awomanworkinginanofficemightsaythemenwhodo thesamejobasmegetpaidmorethanIdo,soitwouldberightformetogetpaidthe sameasthem.Thiswouldnotbeafallacyaslongastherewasnorelevantdifference betweenherandthemen(intermsofability,experience,hoursworked,etc.).More formally: 1)ItiscommonpracticetotreatpeopleoftypeYinmannerXandtotreatpeopleof typeZinadifferentmanner. 2)ThereisnorelevantdifferencebetweenpeopleoftypeYandtypeZ. 3)ThereforepeopleoftypeZshouldbetreatedinmannerX,too. Thisargumentrestsheavilyontheprincipleofrelevantdifference.Onthisprinciple twopeople,AandB,canonlybetreateddifferentlyifandonlyifthereisarelevant differencebetweenthem.Forexample,itwouldbefineformetogiveabettergradeto AthanBifAdidbetterworkthanB.However,itwouldbewrongofmetogiveAa bettergradethanBsimplybecauseAhasredhairandBhasblondehair. TheremightbesomecasesinwhichthefactthatmostpeopleacceptXasmoral entailsthatXismoral.Forexample,oneviewofmoralityisthatmoralityisrelativeto

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thepracticesofaculture,time,person,etc.Ifwhatismoralisdeterminedbywhatis commonlypracticed,thenthisargument: 1)MostpeopledoX. 2)ThereforeXismorallycorrect. wouldnotbeafallacy.Thiswouldhoweverentailsomeoddresults.Forexample, imaginethatthereareonly100peopleonearth.60ofthemdonotstealorcheatand 40do.Atthistime,stealingandcheatingwouldbewrong.Thenextday,anatural disasterkills30ofthe60peoplewhodonotcheatorsteal.Nowitismorallycorrectto cheatandsteal.Thus,itwouldbepossibletochangethemoralorderoftheworldto onesviewsimplybyeliminatingthosewhodisagree. Example#1: DirectorJonesisinchargeofrunningastatewastemanagementprogram.Whenitis foundthattheprogramisrifewithcorruption,JonessaysThisprogramhasits problems,butnothinggoesoninthisprogramthatdoesntgooninallstateprograms. Example#2: Yeah,Iknowsomepeoplesaythatcheatingontestsiswrong.Butweallknowthat everyonedoesit,soitsokay. Example#3: Sure,somepeoplebuyintothatequalitycrap.However,weknowthateveryonepays womenlessthenmen.Itsokay,too.Sinceeveryonedoesit,itcantreallybewrong. Example#4: Thereisnothingwrongwithrequiringmulticulturalclasses,evenattheexpenseofcore subjects.Afterall,alloftheuniversitiesandcollegesarepushingmulticulturalism.

AppealtoEmotion
Description: AnAppealtoEmotionisafallacywiththefollowingstructure: 1)FavorableemotionsareassociatedwithX. 2)Therefore,Xistrue. Thisfallacyiscommittedwhensomeonemanipulatespeoplesemotionsinorderto getthemtoacceptaclaimasbeingtrue.Moreformally,thissortofreasoning involvesthesubstitutionofvariousmeansofproducingstrongemotionsinplaceof evidenceforaclaim.IfthefavorableemotionsassociatedwithXinfluencethepersonto acceptXastruebecausetheyfeelgoodaboutX,thenhehasfallenpreytothefallacy.
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Thissortofreasoningisverycommoninpoliticsanditservesasthebasisforalarge portionofmodernadvertising.Mostpoliticalspeechesareaimedatgeneratingfeelings inpeoplesothatthesefeelingswillgetthemtovoteoractacertainway.Inthecaseof advertising,thecommercialsareaimedatevokingemotionsthatwillinfluencepeople tobuycertainproducts.Inmostcases,suchspeechesandcommercialsarenotoriously freeofrealevidence. Thissortofreasoningisquiteevidentlyfallacious.Itisfallaciousbecauseusing varioustacticstoinciteemotionsinpeopledoesnotserveasevidenceforaclaim.For example,ifapersonwereabletoinspireinapersonanincrediblehatredoftheclaim that1+1=2andtheninspiredthepersontolovetheclaimthat1+1=3,itwouldhardly followthattheclaimthat1+1=3wouldbeadequatelysupported. Itshouldbenotedthatinmanycasesitisnotparticularlyobviousthattheperson committingthefallacyisattemptingtosupportaclaim.Inmanycases,theuserofthe fallacywillappeartobeattemptingtomovepeopletotakeanaction,suchasbuyinga productorfightinginawar.However,itispossibletodeterminewhatsortofclaimthe personisactuallyattemptingtosupport.Insuchcasesoneneedstoaskwhatsortof claimisthispersonattemptingtogetpeopletoacceptandacton?Determiningthis claim(orclaims)mighttakesomework.However,inmanycasesitwillbequiteevident. Forexample,ifapoliticalleaderisattemptingtoconvinceherfollowerstoparticipatein certainactsofviolencebytheuseofahatespeech,thenherclaimwouldbeyou shouldparticipateintheseactsofviolence.Inthiscase,theevidencewouldbethe hatredevokedinthefollowers.Thishatredwouldservetomakethemfavorable inclinedtowardstheclaimthattheyshouldengageintheactsofviolence.Asanother example,abeercommercialmightshowhappy,scantilycladmenandwomenprancing aboutabeach,guzzlingbeer.Inthiscasetheclaimwouldbeyoushouldbuythisbeer. Theevidencewouldbetheexcitementevokedbyseeingthebeautifulpeopleguzzling thebeer. Thisfallacyisactuallyanextremelyeffectivepersuasivedevice.Asmanypeoplehave argued,peoplesemotionsoftencarrymuchmoreforcethantheirreason.Logical argumentationisoftendifficultandtimeconsuminganditrarelyhasthepowertospurn peopletoaction.Itisthepowerofthisfallacythatexplainsitsgreatpopularityandwide usage.However,itisstillafallacy. Inallfairnessitmustbenotedthattheuseoftacticstoinspireemotionsisan importantskill.Withoutanappealtopeoplesemotions,itisoftendifficulttogetthem totakeactionortoperformattheirbest.Forexample,nogoodcoachpresentsher teamwithsyllogismsbeforethebiggame.Insteadsheinspiresthemwithemotional termsandattemptstofirethemup.Thereisnothinginherentlywrongwiththis. However,itisnotanyacceptableformofargumentation.Aslongasoneisableto clearlydistinguishbetweenwhatinspiresemotionsandwhatjustifiesaclaim,oneis unlikelytofallpreytothisfallacy. Asafinalpoint,inmanycasesitwillbedifficulttodistinguishanAppealtoEmotion fromsomeotherfallaciesandinmanycasesmultiplefallaciesmaybecommitted.For example,manyAdHominemswillbeverysimilartoAppealstoEmotionand,insome cases,bothfallacieswillbecommitted.Asanexample,aleadermightattempttoinvoke
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hatredofapersontoinspirehisfollowerstoacceptthattheyshouldrejectherclaims. ThesameattackcouldfunctionasanAppealtoEmotionandaPersonalAttack.Inthe firstcase,theattackwouldbeaimedatmakingthefollowersfeelveryfavorableabout rejectingherclaims.Inthesecondcase,theattackwouldbeaimedatmakingthe followersrejectthepersonsclaimsbecauseofsomeperceived(orimagined)defectin hercharacter. ThisfallacyisrelatedtotheAppealtoPopularityfallacy.Despitethedifferences betweenthesetwofallacies,theyarebothunitedbythefactthattheyinvolveappeals toemotions.Inbothcasesthefallaciesaimatgettingpeopletoacceptclaimsbasedon howtheyorothersfeelabouttheclaimsandnotbasedonevidencefortheclaims. Anotherwaytolookatthesetwofallaciesisasfollows AppealtoPopularity 1)MostpeopleapproveofX. 2)So,IshouldapproveofX,too. 3)SinceIapproveofX,Xmustbetrue. AppealtoEmotion 1)IapproveofX. 2)Therefore,Xistrue. Onthisview,inanAppealtoPopularitytheclaimisacceptedbecausemostpeople approveoftheclaim.InthecaseofanAppealtoEmotiontheclaimisacceptedbecause theindividualapprovesoftheclaimbecauseoftheemotionofapprovalhefeelsin regardstotheclaim. Example#1: ThenewPowerTangerinecomputergivesyouthepoweryouneed.Ifyoubuyone, peoplewillenvyyourpower.Theywilllookuptoyouandwishtheywerejustlikeyou. Youwillknowthetruejoyofpower.TangerinePower. Example#2: ThenewUltraSkinnydietwillmakeyoufeelgreat.Nolongerbetroubledbyyour weight.Enjoytheadmiringstaresoftheoppositesex.Revelinyournewfreedomfrom fat.Youwillknowtruehappinessifyoutryourdiet! Example#3: Billgoestohearapoliticianspeak.Thepoliticiantellsthecrowdabouttheevilsofthe governmentandtheneedtothrowoutthepeoplewhoarecurrentlyinoffice.After hearingthespeech,Billisfullofhatredforthecurrentpoliticians.Becauseofthis,he feelsgoodaboutgettingridoftheoldpoliticiansandacceptsthatitistherightthingto dobecauseofhowhefeels.
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AppealtoFear
AlsoKnownas:ScareTactics,AppealtoForce,AdBaculum Description: TheAppealtoFearisafallacywiththefollowingpattern: 1)Yispresented(aclaimthatisintendedtoproducefear). 2)ThereforeclaimXistrue(aclaimthatisgenerally,butneednotbe,relatedtoYin somemanner). Thislineofreasoningisfallaciousbecausecreatingfearinpeopledoesnot constituteevidenceforaclaim. Itisimportanttodistinguishbetweenarationalreasontobelieve(RRB)(evidence) andaprudentialreasontobelieve(PRB)(motivation).ARRBisevidencethatobjectively andlogicallysupportstheclaim.APRBisareasontoacceptthebeliefbecauseofsome externalfactor(suchasfear,athreat,orabenefitorharmthatmaystemfromthe belief)thatisrelevanttowhatapersonvaluesbutisnotrelevanttothetruthorfalsity oftheclaim.Forexample,itmightbeprudenttonotfailthesonofyourdepartment chairpersonbecauseyoufearhewillmakelifetoughforyou.However,thisdoesnot provideevidencefortheclaimthatthesondeservestopasstheclass. Example#1: Youknow,ProfessorSmith,IreallyneedtogetanAinthisclass.Idliketostopby duringyourofficehourslatertodiscussmygrade.Illbeinyourbuildinganyways, vistingmyfather.Hesyourdean,bytheway.Illseeyoulater. Example#2: IdontthinkaRedRyderBBriflewouldmakeagoodpresentforyou.Theyarevery dangerousandyoullputyoureyeout.Now,dontyouagreethatyoushouldthinkof anothergiftidea? Example#3: YoumustbelievethatGodexists.Afterall,ifyoudonotaccepttheexistenceofGod, thenyouwillfacethehorrorsofhell. Example#4: Youshouldntsaysuchthingsagainstmulticulturalism!Ifthechairheardwhatyouwere saying,youwouldneverreceivetenure.So,youhadjustbetterlearntoacceptthatitis simplywrongtospeakoutagainstit.


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AppealtoFlattery
AlsoKnownas:ApplePolishing,variouscolorfulexpressions Description: AnAppealtoFlatteryisafallacyofthefollowingform: 1)PersonAisflatteredbypersonB. 2)PersonBmakesclaimX. 3)ThereforeXistrue. Thebasicideabehindthisfallacyisthatflatteryispresentedintheplaceofevidence foracceptingaclaim.Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecauseflatteryisnot,infact, evidenceforaclaim.Thisisespeciallyclearinacaselikethis:MyBill,thatisareally nicetie.Bytheway,itisquiteclearthatoneplusoneisequaltofortythree. Example#1: MightIsaythatthisisthebestphilosophyclassIveevertaken.Bytheway,aboutthose twopointsIneedtogetanA. Example#2: ThatwasawonderfuljokeaboutAIDSboss,andIagreewithyouthatthedamnliberals arewreckingthecountry.Nowaboutmyraise Example#3: Thatwasasingularlybrilliantidea.Ihaveneverseensuchaclearandeloquentdefense ofPlatosposition.Ifyoudonotmind,Illbasemypaperonit.Providedthatyouallow mealittleextratimepastthedeadlinetoworkonit.

AppealtoNovelty
AlsoKnownas:AppealtotheNew,NewerisBetter,Novelty Description: AppealtoNoveltyisafallacythatoccurswhenitisassumedthatsomethingisbetteror correctsimplybecauseitisnew.Thissortofreasoninghasthefollowingform: 1.Xisnew. 2.ThereforeXiscorrectorbetter. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecausethenoveltyornewnessofsomething doesnotautomaticallymakeitcorrectorbetterthansomethingolder.Thisismade quiteobviousbythefollowingexample:Joehasproposedthat1+1shouldnowbeequal to3.Whenaskedwhypeopleshouldacceptthis,hesaysthathejustcameupwiththe idea.Sinceitisnewerthantheideathat1+1=2,itmustbebetter. Thissortofreasoningisappealingformanyreasons.First,westernculture includesaverypowerfulcommitmenttothenotionthatnewthingsmustbebetterthan
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oldthings.Second,thenotionofprogress(whichseemstohavecome,inpart,fromthe notionofevolution)impliesthatnewerthingswillbesuperiortoolderthings.Third, mediaadvertisingoftensendsthemessagethatnewermustbebetter.Becauseofthese threefactors(andothers)peopleoftenacceptthatanewthing(idea,product,concept, etc.)mustbebetterbecauseitisnew.Hence,Noveltyisasomewhatcommonfallacy, especiallyinadvertising. Itshouldnotbeassumedthatoldthingsmustbebetterthannewthings(seethe fallacyAppealtoTradition)anymorethanitshouldbeassumedthatnewthingsare betterthanoldthings.Theageofathingdoesnot,ingeneral,haveanybearingonits qualityorcorrectness(inthiscontext). Obviously,agedoeshaveabearinginsomecontexts.Forexample,ifaperson concludedthathisdayoldmilkwasbetterthanhistwomontholdmilk,hewouldnot becommittinganAppealtoNovelty.Thisisbecauseinsuchcasesthenewnessofthe thingisrelevanttoitsquality.Thus,thefallacyiscommittedonlywhenthenewnessis not,inandofitself,relevanttotheclaim. Example#1: TheSadisike900pumpupglowshoe.Itsbetterbecauseitsnew. Example#2: James:So,whatisthisnewplan? Biff:Well,thelatestthinginmarketingtechniquesistheGKmethod.Itisthelatest thingoutofthethinktank.Itissonewthattheinkonthereportsisstilldrying. James:Well,ouroldmarketingmethodhasbeenquiteeffective.Idontliketheideaof jumpingtoanewmethodwithoutagoodreason. Biff:Well,weknowthatwehavetostayonthecuttingedge.Thatmeansnewideas andnewtechniqueshavetobeused.TheGKmethodisnew,soitwilldobetterthan thatold,dustymethod. Example#3: Prof:Soyoucanseethatanewandbettermoralityissweepingthenation.Nolonger arepeoplewithalternativelifestylesashamed.Nolongerarepeoplecaughtupinthe outmodedmoralitiesofthepast. Student:Well,whatabouttheideasofthegreatthinkersofthepast?Donttheyhave somevalidpoints? Prof:Agoodquestion.Theansweristhattheyhadsomevalidpointsintheirown, barbarictimes.Butthoseareold,moldymoralitiesfromatimelonggone.Nowisatime fornewmoralities.Progressandallthat,youknow. Student:Sowouldyousaythatthenewmoralitiesarebetterbecausetheyare newer? Prof:Exactly.Justasthedinosaursdiedofftomakewayfornewanimals,theoldideas havetogivewayforthenewones.Andjustashumansarebetterthandinosaurs,the newideasarebetterthantheold.Sonewerisliterallybetter. Student:Isee.
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AppealtoPity
AlsoKnownas:AdMisericordiam Description: AnAppealtoPityisafallacyinwhichapersonsubstitutesaclaimintendedtocreate pityforevidenceinanargument.Theformoftheargumentisasfollows: 1.Pispresented,withtheintenttocreatepity. 2.ThereforeclaimCistrue. Thislineofreasoningisfallaciousbecausepitydoesnotserveasevidencefora claim.Thisisextremelyclearinthefollowingcase:Youmustacceptthat1+1=46,after allImdyingWhileyoumaypitymebecauseIamdying,itwouldhardlymakemy claimtrue. ThisfallacydiffersfromtheAppealtotheConsequencesofaBelief(ACB).IntheACB fallacy,apersonisusingtheeffectsofabeliefasasubstituteforevidence.IntheAppeal toPity,itisthefeelingsofpityorsympathythataresubstitutedforevidence. Itmustbenotedthattherearecasesinwhichclaimsthatactuallyserveasevidence alsoevokeafeelingofpity.Insuchcases,thefeelingofpityisstillnotevidence.The followingisanexampleofacaseinwhichaclaimevokespityandalsoservesas legitimateevidence: Professor:Youmissedthemidterm,Bill. Bill:Iknow.Ithinkyoushouldletmetakethemakeup. Professor:Why? Bill:Iwashitbyatruckonthewaytothemidterm.SinceIhadtogototheemergency roomwithabrokenleg,IthinkIamentitledtoamakeup. Professor:Imsorryabouttheleg,Bill.Ofcourseyoucanmakeitup. Theaboveexampledoesnotinvolveafallacy.Whiletheprofessordoesfeelsorryfor Bill,sheisjustifiedinacceptingBillsclaimthathedeservesamakeup.Afterallgetting runoverbyatruckwouldbealegitimateexcuseformissingatest. Example#1: Jill:Hedbeaterriblecoachfortheteam. Bill:Hehadhisheartsetonthejob,anditwouldbreakifhedidntgetit. Jill:Iguesshelldoanadequatejob. Example#2: Impositivethatmyworkwillmeetyourrequirements.Ireallyneedthejobsincemy grandmotherissick
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Example#3: IshouldreceiveanAinthisclass.Afterall,ifIdontgetanAIwontgetthe fellowshipthatIwant.

AppealtoPopularity
Description: TheAppealtoPopularityhasthefollowingform: 1)MostpeopleapproveofX(havefavorableemotionstowardsX). 2)ThereforeXistrue. Thebasicideaisthataclaimisacceptedasbeingtruesimplybecausemostpeopleare favorablyinclinedtowardstheclaim.Moreformally,thefactthatmostpeoplehave favorableemotionsassociatedwiththeclaimissubstitutedinplaceofactualevidence fortheclaim.Apersonfallspreytothisfallacyifheacceptsaclaimasbeingtruesimply becausemostotherpeopleapproveoftheclaim. Itisclearlyfallacioustoaccepttheapprovalofthemajorityasevidenceforaclaim. Forexample,supposethataskilledspeakermanagedtogetmostpeopletoabsolutely lovetheclaimthat1+1=3.Itwouldstillnotberationaltoacceptthisclaimsimply becausemostpeopleapprovedofit.Afterall,mereapprovalisnosubstitutefora mathematicalproof.Atonetimepeopleapprovedofclaimssuchastheworldisflat, humanscannotsurviveatspeedsgreaterthan25milesperhour,thesunrevolves aroundtheearthbutalltheseclaimsturnedouttobefalse. Thissortofreasoningisquitecommonandcanbequiteaneffectivepersuasive device.Sincemosthumanstendtoconformwiththeviewsofthemajority,convincinga personthatthemajorityapprovesofaclaimisoftenaneffectivewaytogethimto acceptit.Advertisersoftenusethistacticwhentheyattempttosellproductsby claimingthateveryoneusesandlovestheirproducts.Insuchcasestheyhopethat peoplewillacceptthe(purported)approvalofothersasagoodreasontobuythe product. ThisfallacyisvaguelysimilartosuchfallaciesasAppealtoBeliefandAppealto CommonPractice.However,inthecaseofanAdPopulumtheappealistothefactthat mostpeopleapproveofaclaim.InthecaseofanAppealtoBelief,theappealistothe factthatmostpeoplebelieveaclaim.InthecaseofanAppealtoCommonPractice,the appealistothefactthatmanypeopletaketheactioninquestion. ThisfallacyiscloselyrelatedtotheAppealtoEmotionfallacy,asdiscussedintheentry forthatfallacy. Example#1: MyfellowAmericanstherehasbeensometalkthatthegovernmentisoversteppingits boundsbyallowingpolicetoenterpeopleshomeswithoutthewarrantstraditionally requiredbytheConstitution.However,thesearedangeroustimesanddangeroustimes requireappropriateactions.Ihaveinmyofficethousandsoflettersfrompeoplewholet meknow,innouncertainterms,thattheyheartilyendorsethewaragainstterrorismin
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theseUnitedStates.Becauseofthisoverwhelmingapproval,itisevidentthatthepolice aredoingtherightthing. Example#2: Ireadtheotherdaythatmostpeoplereallylikethenewguncontrollaws.Iwassortof suspiciousofthem,butIguessifmostpeoplelikethem,thentheymustbeokay. Example#3: JillandJanehavesomeconcernsthattherulestheirsororityhassetareracistin character.SinceJillisadecentperson,shebringsherconcernsupinthenextmeeting. Thepresidentofthesororityassuresherthatthereisnothingwrongwiththerules, sincethemajorityofthesisterslikethem.JaneacceptsthisrulingbutJilldecidesto leavethesorority.

AppealtoRidicule
AlsoKnownas:AppealtoMockery,TheHorseLaugh. Description: TheAppealtoRidiculeisafallacyinwhichridiculeormockeryissubstitutedfor evidenceinanargument.Thislineofreasoninghasthefollowingform: 1.X,whichissomeformofridiculeispresented(typicallydirectedattheclaim). 2.ThereforeclaimCisfalse. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecausemockingaclaimdoesnotshowthatitis false.Thisisespeciallyclearinthefollowingexample:1+1=2!Thatsthemostridiculous thingIhaveeverheard! Itshouldbenotedthatshowingthataclaimisridiculousthroughtheuseoflegitimate methods(suchasanonfallaciousargument)canmakeitreasonabletorejecttheclaim. Oneformofthislineofreasoningisknownasareductioadabsurdum(reducingto absurdity).Inthissortofargument,theideaistoshowthatacontradiction(a statementthatmustbefalse)oranabsurdresultfollowsfromaclaim.Forexample: Billclaimsthatamemberofaminoritygroupcannotbearacist.However,thisis absurd.Thinkaboutthis:whitemalesareaminorityintheworld.GivenBillsclaim,it wouldfollowthatnowhitemalescouldberacists.Hence,theKlan,Nazis,andwhite supremacistsarenotracistorganizations. SincetheclaimthattheKlan,Nazis,andwhitesupremacistsarenotracist organizationsisclearlyabsurd,itcanbeconcludedthattheclaimthatamemberofa minoritycannotbearacistisfalse. Example#1: Suremyworthyopponentclaimsthatweshouldlowertuition,butthatisjust laughable.
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Example#2: Equalrightsforwomen?Yeah,Illsupportthatwhentheystartpayingfordinnerand takingoutthetrash!Hahhah!Fetchmeanotherbrewski,Mildred. Example#3: Thosecrazyconservatives!Theythinkastrongmilitaryisthekeytopeace!Suchfools!

AppealtoSpite
Description: TheAppealtoSpiteFallacyisafallacyinwhichspiteissubstitutedforevidencewhen anargumentismadeagainstaclaim.Thislineofreasoninghasthefollowingform: 1.ClaimXispresentedwiththeintentofgeneratingspite. 2.ThereforeclaimCisfalse(ortrue) Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecauseafeelingofspitedoesnotcountas evidencefororagainstaclaim.Thisisquiteclearinthefollowingcase:Billclaimsthat theearthrevolvesaroundthesun.Butrememberthatdirtytrickhepulledonyoulast week.Now,doesntmyclaimthatthesunrevolvesaroundtheearthmakesenseto you? Ofcourse,therearecasesinwhichaclaimthatevokesafeelingofspiteormalicecan serveaslegitimateevidence.However,itshouldbenotedthattheactualfeelingsof maliceorspitearenotevidence.Thefollowingisanexampleofsuchasituation: Jill:IthinkIllvoteforJanetobetreasurerofNOW. Vicki:Rememberthetimethatyourpursevanishedatameetinglastyear? Jill:Yes. Vicki:Well,Ijustfoundoutthatshestoleyourpurseandstolesomeotherstufffrom people. Jill:Imnotvotingforher! Inthiscase,JillhasagoodreasonnottovoteforJane.Sinceatreasurershouldbe honest,aknownthiefwouldbeabadchoice.AslongasJillconcludesthatsheshould voteagainstJanebecausesheisathiefandnotjustoutofspite,herreasoningwould notbefallacious. Example#1: Bill:IthinkthatJanedidagreatjobthisyear.Imgoingtonominateherfortheaward. Dave:Haveyouforgottenlastyear?Rememberthatshedidntnominateyoulast year. Bill:Youreright.Imnotgoingtonominateher.
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Example#2: Jill:IthinkJanesideaisareallygoodoneandwillreallysavealotofmoneyforthe department. Bill:Maybe.Rememberhowsheshowedthatyourpaperhadafatalflawwhenyou readitattheconventionlastyear Jill:Ihadjustaboutforgottenaboutthat!IthinkIllgowithyourideainstead.

AppealtoTradition
AlsoKnownas:AppealtotheOld,OldWaysareBest,FallaciousAppealtothePast, AppealtoAge Description: AppealtoTraditionisafallacythatoccurswhenitisassumedthatsomethingisbetter orcorrectsimplybecauseitisolder,traditional,oralwayshasbeendone.Thissortof reasoninghasthefollowingform: 1.Xisoldortraditional 2.ThereforeXiscorrectorbetter. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecausetheageofsomethingdoesnot automaticallymakeitcorrectorbetterthansomethingnewer.Thisismadequite obviousbythefollowingexample:Thetheorythatwitchesanddemonscausediseaseis farolderthanthetheorythatmicroorganismcausediseases.Therefore,thetheory aboutwitchesanddemonsmustbetrue. Thissortofreasoningisappealingforavarietyofreasons.First,peopleoftenprefer tostickwithwhatisolderortraditional.Thisisafairlycommonpsychological characteristicofpeoplewhichmaystemfromthefactthatpeoplefeelmore comfortableaboutwhathasbeenaroundlonger.Second,stickingwiththingsthatare olderortraditionalisofteneasierthantestingnewthings.Hence,peopleoftenprefer olderandtraditionalthingsoutoflaziness.Hence,AppealtoTraditionisasomewhat commonfallacy. Itshouldnotbeassumedthatnewthingsmustbebetterthanoldthings(seethe fallacyAppealtoNovelty)anymorethanitshouldbeassumedthatoldthingsarebetter thannewthings.Theageofthingdoesnot,ingeneral,haveanybearingonitsqualityor correctness(inthiscontext).Inthecaseoftradition,assumingthatsomethingiscorrect justbecauseitisconsideredatraditionispoorreasoning.Forexample,ifthebeliefthat 1+1=56wereatraditionofagroupofpeopleitwouldhardlyfollowthatitistrue. Obviously,agedoeshaveabearinginsomecontexts.Forexample,ifaperson concludedthatagedwinewouldbebetterthanbrandnewwine,hewouldnotbe committinganAppealtoTradition.Thisisbecause,insuchcasestheageofthethingis relevanttoitsquality.Thus,thefallacyiscommittedonlywhentheageisnot,inandof itself,relevanttotheclaim. Onefinalissuethatmustbeconsideredisthetestoftime.Insomecasespeople mightbeassumingthatbecausesomethinghaslastedasatraditionorhasbeenaround alongtimethatitistruebecauseithaspassedthetestoftime.Ifapersonassumes
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thatsomethingmustbecorrectortruesimplybecauseithaspersistedalongtime,then hehascommittedanAppealtoTradition.Afterall,ashistoryhasshownpeoplecan persistinacceptingfalseclaimsforcenturies. However,ifapersonarguesthattheclaimorthinginquestionhassuccessfullystood uptochallengesandtestsforalongperiodoftimethentheywouldnotbecommitting afallacy.Insuchcasestheclaimwouldbebackedbyevidence.Asanexample,the theorythatmatterismadeofsubatomicparticleshassurvivednumeroustestsand challengesovertheyearssothereisaweightofevidenceinitsfavor.Theclaimis reasonabletoacceptbecauseoftheweightofthisevidenceandnotbecausetheclaim isold.Thus,aclaimssurvivinglegitimatechallengesandpassingvalidtestsforalong periodoftimecanjustifytheacceptanceofaclaim.Butmereageorpersistencedoes notwarrantacceptingaclaim. Example#1: SureIbelieveinGod.PeoplehavebelievedinGodforthousandsofyearssoitseems clearthatGodmustexist.Afterall,whyelsewouldthebelieflastsolong? Example#2: GuntharisthefatherofConnan.Theyliveonasmallislandandintheirculturewomen aretreatedaspropertytobeexchangedatwillbymen. Connan:Youknowfather,whenIwasgoingtoschoolintheUnitedStatesIsawthat Americanwomenarenottreatedasproperty.Infact,Ireadabookbythisperson namedMillinwhichhearguedforwomensrights. Gunthar:So,whatisyourpointson? Connan:Well,Ithinkthatitmightbewrongtotrademysistersforcattle.Theyare humanbeingsandshouldhavearighttobemastersoftheirownfate. Gunthar:WhatastrangeandnewfanglednotionyoupickedupinAmerica.That countrymustbeevenmorebarbaricthenIimagined.Nowthinkaboutthisson.We havebeentradingwomenforcattleforaslongasourpeoplehavelivedonthisisland.It isatraditionthatgoesbackintothemistsoftime. Connan:ButIstillthinkthereissomethingwrongwithit. Gunthar:Nonsensemyboy.Atraditionthisoldmustbeendorsedbythegodsand mustberight. Example#3: Ofcoursethismodeofgovernmentisthebest.Wehavehadthisgovernmentforover 200yearsandnoonehastalkedaboutchangingitinallthattime.So,ithasgottobe good. Example#4: Areporterisinterviewingtheheadofafamilythathasbeeninvolvedwithafeudwith anotherfamily.
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Reporter:Mr.Hatfield,whyareyoustillfightingitoutwiththeMcCoys? Hatfield:Wellyouseeyoungman,myfatherfeudedwiththeMcCoysandhisfather feudedwiththemandsodidmygreatgrandfather. Reporter:Butwhy?Whatstartedallthis? Hatfield:Idontrightlyknow.ImsureitwastheMcCoyswhostarteditall,though. Reporter:Ifyoudontknowwhyyourefighting,whydontyoujuststop? Hatfield:Stop?Whatareyoucrazy?ThisfeudhasbeengoingonforgenerationssoIm surethereisadarngoodreasonwhyitstarted.SoIaimtokeepitgoing.Ithasgottobe therightthingtodo.Handmemyshootingironboy,IseeoneofthoseMcCoyskunks sneakinginthecornfield.

BeggingtheQuestion
AlsoKnownas:CircularReasoning,ReasoninginaCircle,PetitioPrincipii Description: BeggingtheQuestionisafallacyinwhichthepremisesincludetheclaimthatthe conclusionistrueor(directlyorindirectly)assumethattheconclusionistrue.Thissort ofreasoningtypicallyhasthefollowingform. 1.Premisesinwhichthetruthoftheconclusionisclaimedorthetruthoftheconclusion isassumed(eitherdirectlyorindirectly). 2.ClaimC(theconclusion)istrue. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecausesimplyassumingthattheconclusionis true(directlyorindirectly)inthepremisesdoesnotconstituteevidenceforthat conclusion.Obviously,simplyassumingaclaimistruedoesnotserveasevidencefor thatclaim.Thisisespeciallyclearinparticularlyblatantcases:Xistrue.Theevidence forthisclaimisthatXistrue. Somecasesofquestionbeggingarefairlyblatant,whileotherscanbeextremelysubtle. Example#1: Bill:Godmustexist. Jill:Howdoyouknow. Bill:BecausetheBiblesaysso. Jill:WhyshouldIbelievetheBible? Bill:BecausetheBiblewaswrittenbyGod. Example#2: Ifsuchactionswerenotillegal,thentheywouldnotbeprohibitedbythelaw. Example#3: ThebeliefinGodisuniversal.Afterall,everyonebelievesinGod.
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Example#4: Interviewer:YourresumelooksimpressivebutIneedanotherreference. Bill:Jillcangivemeagoodreference. Interviewer:Good.ButhowdoIknowthatJillistrustworthy? Bill:Certainly.Icanvouchforher.

BiasedGeneralization
AlsoKnownas:BiasedStatistics,LoadedSample,PrejudicedStatistics,Prejudiced Sample,LoadedStatistics,BiasedInduction,BiasedGeneralization Description: Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenapersondrawsaconclusionaboutapopulationbased onasamplethatisbiasedorprejudicedinsomemanner.Ithasthefollowingform: 1.SampleS,whichisbiased,istakenfrompopulationP. 2.ConclusionCisdrawnaboutPopulationPbasedonS. Thepersoncommittingthefallacyismisusingthefollowingtypeofreasoning,whichis knownvariouslyasInductiveGeneralization,Generalization,andStatistical Generalization: 1.X%ofallobservedAsareBs. 2.ThereforeX%ofallAsareBs. ThefallacyiscommittedwhenthesampleofAsislikelytobebiasedinsomemanner. Asampleisbiasedorloadedwhenthemethodusedtotakethesampleislikelytoresult inasamplethatdoesnotadequatelyrepresentthepopulationfromwhichitisdrawn. Biasedsamplesaregenerallynotveryreliable.Asablatantcase,imaginethataperson istakingasamplefromatruckloadofsmallcoloredballs,someofwhicharemetaland someofwhichareplastic.Ifheusedamagnettoselecthissample,thenhissample wouldincludeadisproportionatenumberofmetalballs(afterall,thesamplewill probablybemadeupentirelyofthemetalballs).Inthiscase,anyconclusionshemight drawaboutthewholepopulationofballswouldbeunreliablesincehewouldhavefew ornoplasticballsinthesample. Thegeneralideaisthatbiasedsamplesarelesslikelytocontainnumbersproportional tothewholepopulation.Forexample,ifapersonwantstofindoutwhatmost Americansthoughtaboutguncontrol,apolltakenatanNRAmeetingwouldbeabiased sample. SincetheBiasedSamplefallacyiscommittedwhenthesample(theobservedinstances) isbiasedorloaded,itisimportanttohavesamplesthatarenotbiasedmakinga generalization.Thebestwaytodothisistotakesamplesinwaysthatavoidbias.There are,ingeneral,threetypesofsamplesthatareaimedatavoidingbias.Thegeneralidea
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isthatthesemethods(whenusedproperly)willresultinasamplethatmatchesthe wholepopulationfairlyclosely.Thethreetypesofsamplesareasfollows RandomSample:Thisisasamplethatistakeninsuchawaythatnothingbutchance determineswhichmembersofthepopulationareselectedforthesample.Ideally,any individualmemberofthepopulationhasthesamechanceasbeingselectedasany other.Thistypeofsampleavoidsbeingbiasedbecauseabiasedsampleisonethatis takeninsuchawaythatsomemembersofthepopulationhaveasignificantlygreater chanceofbeingselectedforthesamplethanothermembers.Unfortunately,creating anidealrandomsampleisoftenverydifficult. StratifiedSample:Thisisasamplethatistakenbyusingthefollowingsteps:1)The relevantstrata(populationsubgroups)areidentified,2)Thenumberofmembersin eachstratumisdeterminedand3)Arandomsampleistakenfromeachstratuminexact proportiontoitssize.Thismethodisobviouslymostusefulwhendealingwithstratified populations.Forexample,apersonsincomeofteninfluenceshowshevotes,sowhen conductingapresidentialpollitwouldbeagoodideatotakeastratifiedsampleusing economicclassesasthebasisfordeterminingthestrata.Thismethodavoidsloaded samplesby(ideally)ensuringthateachstratumofthepopulationisadequately represented. TimeLapseSample:Thistypeofsampleistakenbytakingastratifiedorrandomsample andthentakingatleastonemoresamplewithasignificantlapseoftimebetweenthem. Afterthetwosamplesaretaken,theycanbecomparedforchanges.Thismethodof sampletakingisveryimportantwhenmakingpredictions.Apredictionbasedononly onesampleislikelytobeaHastyGeneralization(becausethesampleislikelytobetoo smalltocoverpast,presentandfuturepopulations)oraBiasedSample(becausethe samplewillonlyincludeinstancesfromonetimeperiod). PeopleoftencommitBiasedSamplebecauseofbiasorprejudice.Forexample,a personmightintentionallyorunintentionallyseekoutpeopleoreventsthatsupporthis bias.Asanexample,apersonwhoispushingaparticularscientifictheorymighttendto gathersamplesthatarebiasedinfavorofthattheory. Peoplealsocommonlycommitthisfallacybecauseoflazinessorsloppiness.Itisvery easytosimplytakeasamplefromwhathappenstobeeasilyavailableratherthan takingthetimeandefforttogenerateanadequatesampleanddrawajustified conclusion. Itisimportanttokeepinmindthatbiasisrelativetothepurposeofthesample.For example,ifBillwantedtoknowwhatNRAmembersthoughtaboutaguncontrollaw, thentakingasampleataNRAmeetingwouldnotbebiased.However,ifBillwantedto determinewhatAmericansingeneralthoughtaboutthelaw,thenasampletakenatan NRAmeetingwouldbebiased.
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Example#1: BillisassignedbyhiseditortodeterminewhatmostAmericansthinkaboutanewlaw thatwillplaceafederaltaxonallmodemsandcomputerspurchased.Therevenues fromthetaxwillbeusedtoenforcenewonlinedecencylaws.Bill,beingtechnically inclined,decidestouseanemailpoll.Inhispoll,95%ofthosesurveyedopposedthe tax.Billwasquitesurprisedwhen65%ofallAmericansvotedforthetaxes. Example#2: TheUnitedPacifistsofAmericadecidetorunapolltodeterminewhatAmericansthink aboutgunsandguncontrol.Janeisassignedthetaskofsettingupthestudy.Tosave mailingcosts,sheincludesthesurveyforminthegroupsnewslettermailing.Sheisvery pleasedtofindoutthat95%ofthosesurveyedfavorguncontrollawsandshetellsher friendsthatthevastmajorityofAmericansfavorguncontrollaws. Example#3: LargescalepollsweretakeninFlorida,California,andMaineanditwasfoundthatan averageof55%ofthosepolledspentatleastfourteendaysayearneartheocean.So,it canbesafelyconcludedthat55%ofallAmericansspendatleastfourteendaysnearthe oceaneachyear.

BurdenofProof
AlsoKnownAs:AppealtoIgnorance(AdIgnorantiam) Description: BurdenofProofisafallacyinwhichtheburdenofproofisplacedonthewrongside. AnotherversionoccurswhenalackofevidenceforsideAistakentobeevidencefor sideBincasesinwhichtheburdenofproofactuallyrestsonsideB.Acommonname forthisisanAppealtoIgnorance.Thissortofreasoningtypicallyhasthefollowingform: 1.ClaimXispresentedbysideAandtheburdenofproofactuallyrestsonsideB. 2.SideBclaimsthatXisfalsebecausethereisnoproofforX. Inmanysituations,onesidehastheburdenofproofrestingonit.Thissideisobligated toprovideevidenceforitsposition.Theclaimoftheotherside,theonethatdoesnot beartheburdenofproof,isassumedtobetrueunlessprovenotherwise.Thedifficulty insuchcasesisdeterminingwhichside,ifany,theburdenofproofrestson.Inmany cases,settlingthisissuecanbeamatterofsignificantdebate.Insomecasestheburden ofproofissetbythesituation.Forexample,inAmericanlawapersonisassumedtobe innocentuntilprovenguilty(hencetheburdenofproofisontheprosecution).As anotherexample,indebatetheburdenofproofisplacedontheaffirmativeteam.Asa finalexample,inmostcasestheburdenofproofrestsonthosewhoclaimsomething exists(suchasBigfoot,psychicpowers,universals,andsensedata).
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Example#1: Bill:Ithinkthatweshouldinvestmoremoneyinexpandingtheinterstatesystem. Jill:Ithinkthatwouldbeabadidea,consideringthestateofthetreasury. Bill:Howcananyonebeagainsthighwayimprovements? Example#2: Bill:Ithinkthatsomepeoplehavepsychicpowers. Jill:Whatisyourproof? Bill:Noonehasbeenabletoprovethatpeopledonothavepsychicpowers. Example#3: YoucannotprovethatGoddoesnotexist,soHedoes.

CircumstantialAdHominem
Description: ACircumstantialadHominemisafallacyinwhichoneattemptstoattackaclaimby assertingthatthepersonmakingtheclaimismakingitsimplyoutofselfinterest.In somecases,thisfallacyinvolvessubstitutinganattackonapersonscircumstances (suchasthepersonsreligion,politicalaffiliation,ethnicbackground,etc.).Thefallacy hasthefollowingforms: 1.PersonAmakesclaimX. 2.PersonBassertsthatAmakesclaimXbecauseitisinAsinteresttoclaimX. 3.ThereforeclaimXisfalse. 1.PersonAmakesclaimX. 2.PersonBmakesanattackonAscircumstances. 3.ThereforeXisfalse. ACircumstantialadHominemisafallacybecauseapersonsinterestsand circumstanceshavenobearingonthetruthorfalsityoftheclaimbeingmade.Whilea personsinterestswillprovidethemwithmotivestosupportcertainclaims,theclaims standorfallontheirown.Itisalsothecasethatapersonscircumstances(religion, politicalaffiliation,etc.)donotaffectthetruthorfalsityoftheclaim.Thisismadequite clearbythefollowingexample:Billclaimsthat1+1=2.ButheisaRepublican,sohis claimisfalse. Therearetimeswhenitisprudenttosuspiciousofapersonsclaims,suchaswhenitis evidentthattheclaimsarebeingbiasedbythepersonsinterests.Forexample,ifa tobaccocompanyrepresentativeclaimsthattobaccodoesnotcausecancer,itwouldbe prudenttonotsimplyaccepttheclaim.Thisisbecausethepersonhasamotivationto maketheclaim,whetheritistrueornot.However,themerefactthatthepersonhasa motivationtomaketheclaimdoesnotmakeitfalse.Forexample,supposeaparent tellshersonthatstickingaforkinalightsocketwouldbedangerous.Simplybecause shehasamotivationtosaythisobviouslydoesnotmakeherclaimfalse.
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Example#1: Sheassertsthatweneedmoremilitaryspending,butthatisfalse,sincesheisonly sayingitbecausesheisaRepublican. Example#2: IthinkthatweshouldrejectwhatFatherJoneshastosayabouttheethicalissuesof abortionbecauseheisaCatholicpriest.Afterall,FatherJonesisrequiredtoholdsuch views. Example#3: OfcoursetheSenatorfromMaineopposesareductioninnavalspending.Afterall, BathIronworks,whichproduceswarships,isinMaine. Example#4: Billclaimsthattaxbreaksforcorporationsincreasesdevelopment.Ofcourse,Billisthe CEOofacorporation.

FallacyofComposition
Description: ThefallacyofCompositioniscommittedwhenaconclusionisdrawnaboutawhole basedonthefeaturesofitsconstituentswhen,infact,nojustificationprovidedforthe inference.Thereareactuallytwotypesofthisfallacy,bothofwhichareknownbythe samename(becauseofthehighdegreeofsimilarity). ThefirsttypeoffallacyofCompositionariseswhenapersonreasonsfromthe characteristicsofindividualmembersofaclassorgrouptoaconclusionregardingthe characteristicsoftheentireclassorgroup(takenasawhole).Moreformally,the reasoningwouldlooksomethinglikethis. 1.IndividualFthingshavecharacteristicsA,B,C,etc. 2.Therefore,the(whole)classofFthingshascharacteristicsA,B,C,etc. Thislineofreasoningisfallaciousbecausethemerefactthatindividualshavecertain characteristicsdoesnot,initself,guaranteethattheclass(takenasawhole)hasthose characteristics. Itisimportanttonotethatdrawinganinferenceaboutthecharacteristicsofaclass basedonthecharacteristicsofitsindividualmembersisnotalwaysfallacious.Insome cases,sufficientjustificationcanbeprovidedtowarranttheconclusion.Forexample,it istruethatanindividualrichpersonhasmorewealththananindividualpoorperson.In somenations(suchastheUS)itistruethattheclassofwealthypeoplehasmorewealth asawholethandoestheclassofpoorpeople.Inthiscase,theevidenceusedwould warranttheinferenceandthefallacyofCompositionwouldnotbecommitted. ThesecondtypeoffallacyofCompositioniscommittedwhenitisconcludedthat whatistrueofthepartsofawholemustbetrueofthewholewithouttherebeing
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adequatejustificationfortheclaim.Moreformally,thelineofreasoningwouldbeas follows: 1.ThepartsofthewholeXhavecharacteristicsA,B,C,etc. 2.ThereforethewholeXmusthavecharacteristicsA,B,C. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecauseitcannotbeinferredthatsimplybecause thepartsofacomplexwholehave(orlack)certainpropertiesthatthewholethatthey arepartsofhasthoseproperties.Thisisespeciallyclearinmath:Thenumbers1and3 arebothodd.1and3arepartsof4.Therefore,thenumber4isodd. Itmustbenotedthatreasoningfromthepropertiesofthepartstothepropertiesof thewholeisnotalwaysfallacious.Ifthereisjustificationfortheinferencefrompartsto whole,thenthereasoningisnotfallacious.Forexample,ifeverypartofthehuman bodyismadeofmatter,thenitwouldnotbeanerrorinreasoningtoconcludethatthe wholehumanbodyismadeofmatter.Similarly,ifeverypartofastructureismadeof brick,thereisnofallacycommittedwhenoneconcludesthatthewholestructureis madeofbrick. Example#1: Amainbattletankusesmorefuelthanacar.Therefore,themainbattletanksuseup moreoftheavailablefuelintheworldthandoallthecars. Example#2: Atigereatsmorefoodthanahumanbeing.Therefore,tigers,asagroup,eatmorefood thandoallthehumansontheearth. Example#3: Atomsarecolorless.Catsaremadeofatoms,socatsarecolorless. Example#4: Everyplayerontheteamisasuperstarandagreatplayer,sotheteamisagreatteam. Thisisfallacioussincethesuperstarsmightnotbeabletoplaytogetherverywelland hencetheycouldbealousyteam. Example#5: Eachpartoftheshow,fromthespecialeffectstotheactingisamasterpiece.So,the wholeshowisamasterpiece.Thisisfallacioussinceashowcouldhavegreatacting, greatspecialeffectsandsuch,yetstillfailtocometogethertomakeamasterpiece. Example#6: Comeon,youlikebeef,potatoes,andgreenbeans,soyouwilllikethisbeef,potato,and greenbeencasserole.Thisisfallaciousforthesamereasonthatthefollowingis fallacious:Youlikeeggs,icecream,pizza,cake,fish,jello,chicken,tacosauce,soda,

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oranges,milk,eggrolls,andyogurtsoyoumustlikethisyummydishmadeoutofallof them. Example#7: Sodiumandchlorinearebothdangeroustohumans.Thereforeanycombinationof sodiumandchlorinewillbedangeroustohumans.

ConfusingCauseandEffect
AlsoKnownas:QuestionableCause,ReversingCausation Description: ConfusingCauseandEffectisafallacythathasthefollowinggeneralform: 1)AandBregularlyoccurtogether. 2)ThereforeAisthecauseofB. Thisfallacyrequiresthattherenotbe,infact,acommoncausethatactuallycauses bothAandB. Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenapersonassumesthatoneeventmustcauseanother justbecausetheeventsoccurtogether.Moreformally,thisfallacyinvolvesdrawingthe conclusionthatAisthecauseofBsimplybecauseAandBareinregularconjunction (andthereisnotacommoncausethatisactuallythecauseofAandB).Themistake beingmadeisthatthecausalconclusionisbeingdrawnwithoutadequatejustification. Insomecasesitwillbeevidentthatthefallacyisbeingcommitted.Forexample,a personmightclaimthatanillnesswascausedbyapersongettingafever.Inthiscase,it wouldbequiteclearthatthefeverwascausedbyillnessandnottheotherwayaround. Inothercases,thefallacyisnotalwaysevident.Onefactorthatmakescausalreasoning quitedifficultisthatitisnotalwaysevidentwhatisthecauseandwhatistheeffect.For example,aproblemchildmightbethecauseoftheparentsbeingshorttemperedorthe shorttemperoftheparentsmightbethecauseofthechildbeingproblematic.The difficultyisincreasedbythefactthatsomesituationsmightinvolvefeedback.For example,theparentstempermightcausethechildtobecomeproblematicandthe childsbehaviorcouldworsentheparentstemper.Insuchcasesitcouldberather difficulttosortoutwhatcausedwhatinthefirstplace. Inordertodeterminethatthefallacyhasbeencommitted,itmustbeshownthatthe causalconclusionhasnotbeenadequatelysupportedandthatthepersoncommitting thefallacyhasconfusedtheactualcausewiththeeffect.Showingthatthefallacyhas beencommittedwilltypicallyinvolvedeterminingtheactualcauseandtheactual effect.Insomecases,asnotedabove,thiscanbequiteeasy.Inothercasesitwillbe difficult.Insomecases,itmightbealmostimpossible.Anotherthingthatmakescausal reasoningdifficultisthatpeopleoftenhaveverydifferentconceptionsofcauseand,in somecases,theissuesarecloudedbyemotionsandideologies.Forexample,people oftenclaimviolenceonTVandinmoviesmustbecensoredbecauseitcausespeopleto likeviolence.OtherpeopleclaimthatthereisviolenceonTVandinmoviesbecause
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peoplelikeviolence.Inthiscase,itisnotobviouswhatthecausereallyisandtheissue iscloudedbythefactthatemotionsoftenrunhighonthisissue. Whilecausalreasoningcanbedifficult,manyerrorscanbeavoidedwithduecareand carefultestingprocedures.Thisisduetothefactthatthefallacyarisesbecausethe conclusionisdrawnwithoutduecare.Onewaytoavoidthefallacyistopaycareful attentiontothetemporalsequenceofevents.Since(outsideofStarTrek),effectsdo notgenerallyprecedetheircauses,ifAoccursafterB,thenAcannotbethecauseofB. However,thesemethodsgobeyondthescopeofthisprogram. Allcausalfallaciesinvolveanerrorincausalreasoning.However,thisfallacydiffers fromtheothercausalfallaciesintermsoftheerrorinreasoningbeingmade.Inthecase ofaPostHocfallacy,theerroristhatapersonisacceptingthatAisthecauseofB simplybecauseAoccursbeforeB.InthecaseoftheFallacyofIgnoringaCommonCause AistakentobethecauseofBwhenthereis,infact,athirdfactorthatisthecauseof bothAandB.Formoreinformation,seetherelevantentriesinthisprogram. Example#1: BillandJoearehavingadebateaboutmusicandmoraldecay: Bill:Itseemscleartomethatthisnewmusiciscausingtheyouthtobecomecorrupt. Joe:Whatdoyoumean? Bill:Thisrapstuffisalwaystellingthekidstokillcops,dodrugs,andabusewomen. Thatisallbadandthekidstodayshouldntbedoingthatsortofstuff.Weoughttoban thatmusic! Joe:So,youthinkthatgettingridoftherapmusicwouldsolvethedrug,violenceand sexismproblemsintheUS? Bill:Well,itwouldntgetridofitall,butitwouldtakecareofalotofit. Joe:Dontyouthinkthatmostoftherapsingerssingaboutthatsortofstuffbecause thatiswhatisreallygoingonthesedays?Imean,peopleoftensingaboutthe conditionsoftheirtime,justlikethepeopledidinthesixties.ButthenIsupposethat youthinkthatpeoplewereagainstthewarandintodrugsjustbecausetheylistenedto DylanandBaez. Bill:Well Joe:Well,itseemstomethatthemaincauseofthecontentoftherapmusicisthe preexistingsocialconditions.Iftherewerentalltheseproblems,therapsingers probablywouldntbesingingaboutthem.Ialsothinkthatifthesocialconditionswere great,kidscouldlistentothemusicalldayandnotbeaffected. Joe:Well,Istillthinktherapmusiccausestheproblems.Youcantargueagainstthe factthatsocialillsreallypickedupatthesametimerapmusicgotstarted. Example#2: Itisclaimedbysomepeoplethatsevereillnessiscausedbydepressionandanger.After all,peoplewhoareseverelyillareveryoftendepressedandangry.Thus,itfollowsthat thecauseofsevereillnessactuallyisthedepressionandanger.So,agoodandcheerful attitudeiskeytostayinghealthy.
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Example#3: Billsetsoutseveralplateswithbreadonthem.Afteracoupledays,henoticesthatthe breadhasmoldgrowingalloverit.Billconcludesthatthemoldwasproducedbythe breadgoingbad.WhenBilltellshismotherabouthisexperiment,shetellshimthatthe moldwasthecauseofthebreadgoingbadandthathebettercleanupthemessifhe wantstogethisallowancethisweek.

FallacyofDivision
Description: ThefallacyofDivisioniscommittedwhenapersoninfersthatwhatistrueofawhole mustalsobetrueofitsconstituentsandjustificationforthatinferenceisnotprovided. TherearetwomainvariantsofthegeneralfallacyofDivision: ThefirsttypeoffallacyofDivisioniscommittedwhen1)apersonreasonsthatwhatis trueofthewholemustalsobetrueofthepartsand2)thepersonfailstojustifythat inferencewiththerequireddegreeofevidence.Moreformally,thereasoningfollows thissortofpattern: 1.Thewhole,X,haspropertiesA,B,C,etc. 2.ThereforethepartsofXhavepropertiesA,B,C,etc. Thatthislineofreasoningisfallaciousismadeclearbythefollowingcase:4isaneven number.1and3arepartsof4.Therefore1and3areeven. Itshouldbenotedthatitisnotalwaysfallacioustodrawaconclusionabouttheparts ofawholebasedonthepropertiesofthewhole.Aslongasadequateevidenceis providedintheargument,thereasoningcanbeacceptable.Forexample,thehuman bodyismadeoutofmatteranditisreasonabletoinferfromthisthatthepartsthat makeupthehumanbodyarealsomadeoutofmatter.Thisisbecausethereisno reasontobelievethatthebodyismadeupofnonmaterialpartsthatsomehowform matterwhentheygettogether. Thesecondversionofthefallacyofdivisioniscommittedwhenaperson1)drawsa conclusionaboutthepropertiesofindividualmembersofaclassorgroupbasedonthe collectivepropertiesoftheclassorgroupand2)thereisnotenoughjustificationforthe conclusion.Moreformally,thelineofreasoningisasfollows: 1.Asacollective,grouporclassXhaspropertiesA,B,C,etc. 2.ThereforetheindividualmembersofgrouporclassXhavepropertiesA,B,C,etc. Thatthissortofreasoningisfallaciouscanbeeasilyshownbythefollowing:Itistrue thatathletes,takenasagroup,arefootballplayers,trackrunners,swimmers,tennis players,longjumpers,polevaultersandsuch.Butitwouldbefallacioustoinferthat eachindividualathleteisafootballplayer,atrackrunner,aswimmer,atennisplayer,a swimmer,etc. Itshouldbenotedthatitisnotalwaysfallacioustodrawaconclusionaboutan individualbasedonwhatistrueoftheclasshe/she/itbelongsto.Iftheinferenceis
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backedbyevidence,thenthereasoningcanbefine.Forexample,itisnotfallaciousto inferthatBilltheSiamesecatisamammalfromthefactthatallcatsaremammals.In thiscase,whatistrueoftheclassisalsotrueofeachindividualmember. Example#1: Theballisblue,thereforetheatomsthatmakeituparealsoblue. Example#2: Alivingcellisorganicmaterial,sothechemicalsmakingupthecellmustalsobe organicmaterial. Example#3: Billlivesinalargebuilding,sohisapartmentmustbelarge. Example#4: Sodiumchloride(tablesalt)maybesafelyeaten.Thereforeitsconstituentelements, sodiumandchlorine,maybesafelyeaten. Example#5: AmericansusemuchmoreelectricitythanAfricansdo.SoBill,wholivesinprimitive cabininMaine,usesmoreelectricitythanNelson,wholivesinamodernhouseinSouth Africa. Example#6: Menreceivemorehighereducationthanwomen.ThereforeDr.JaneSmarthasless highereducationthanMr.BillBuffoon. Example#7: MinoritiesgetpaidlessthanwhitesinAmerica.Therefore,theblackCEOofamulti billiondollarcompanygetspaidlessthanthewhitejanitorwhocleanshisoffice.

FalseDilemma
AlsoKnownas:Black&WhiteThinking Description: AFalseDilemmaisafallacyinwhichapersonusesthefollowingpatternof reasoning: 1.EitherclaimXistrueorclaimYistrue(whenXandYcouldbothbefalse). 2.ClaimYisfalse. 3.ThereforeclaimXistrue. Thislineofreasoningisfallaciousbecauseifbothclaimscouldbefalse,thenit cannotbeinferredthatoneistruebecausetheotherisfalse.Thatthisisthecaseis madeclearbythefollowingexample:
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1.Either1+1=4or1+1=12. 2.Itisnotthecasethat1+1=4. 3.Therefore1+1=12. Incasesinwhichthetwooptionsare,infact,theonlytwooptions,thislineof reasoningisnotfallacious.Forexample: 1.Billisdeadorheisalive. 2.Billisnotdead. 3.ThereforeBillisalive. Example#1: SenatorJill:Wellhavetocuteducationfundingthisyear. SenatorBillWhy? SenatorJill:Well,eitherwecutthesocialprogramsofwelivewithahugedeficitand wecantlivewiththedeficit. Example#2: Bill:JillandIbothsupporthavingprayerinpublicschools. Jill:Hey,Ineversaidthat! Bill:YourenotanatheistareyouJill? Example#3: Look,youaregoingtohavetomakeupyourmind.Eitheryoudecidethatyoucan affordthisstereo,oryoudecideyouaregoingtodowithoutmusicforawhile.

GamblersFallacy
Description: TheGamblersFallacyiscommittedwhenapersonassumesthatadeparturefrom whatoccursonaverageorinthelongtermwillbecorrectedintheshortterm.Theform ofthefallacyisasfollows: 1.Xhashappened. 2.Xdepartsfromwhatisexpectedtooccuronaverageoroverthelongterm. 3.Therefore,Xwillcometoanendsoon. Therearetwocommonwaysthisfallacyiscommitted.Inbothcasesapersonis assumingthatsomeresultmustbeduesimplybecausewhathaspreviouslyhappened departsfromwhatwouldbeexpectedonaverageoroverthelongterm. Thefirstinvolveseventswhoseprobabilitiesofoccurringareindependentofone another.Forexample,onetossofafair(twosides,nonloaded)coindoesnotaffectthe nexttossofthecoin.So,eachtimethecoinistossedthereis(ideally)a50%chanceofit
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landingheadsanda50%chanceofitlandingtails.Supposethatapersontossesacoin6 timesandgetsaheadeachtime.Ifheconcludesthatthenexttosswillbetailsbecause tailsisdue,thenhewillhavecommittedtheGamblersFallacy.Thisisbecausethe resultsofprevioustosseshavenobearingontheoutcomeofthe7thtoss.Ithasa50% chanceofbeingheadsanda50%chanceofbeingtails,justlikeanyothertoss. Thesecondinvolvescaseswhoseprobabilitiesofoccurringarenotindependentof oneanother.Forexample,supposethataboxerhaswon50%ofhisfightsoverthepast twoyears.Supposethatafterseveralfightshehaswon50%ofhismatchesthisyear, thathehislosthislastsixfightsandhehassixleft.Ifapersonbelievedthathewould winhisnextsixfightsbecausehehasuseduphislossesandisdueforavictory,then hewouldhavecommittedtheGamblersFallacy.Afterall,thepersonwouldbeignoring thefactthattheresultsofonematchcaninfluencetheresultsofthenextone.For example,theboxermighthavebeeninjuredinonematchwhichwouldlowerhis chancesofwinninghislastsixfights. Itshouldbenotedthatnotallpredictionsaboutwhatislikelytooccurarefallacious.If apersonhasgoodevidenceforhispredictions,thentheywillbereasonabletoaccept. Forexample,ifapersontossesafaircoinandgetsnineheadsinarowitwouldbe reasonableforhimtoconcludethathewillprobablynotgetanothernineinarow again.Thisreasoningwouldnotbefallaciousaslongashebelievedhisconclusion becauseofanunderstandingofthelawsofprobability.Inthiscase,ifheconcludedthat hewouldnotgetanothernineheadsinarowbecausetheoddsofgettingnineheadsin arowarelowerthangettingfewerthannineheadsinarow,thenhisreasoningwould begoodandhisconclusionwouldbejustified.Hence,determiningwhetherornotthe GamblersFallacyisbeingcommittedoftenrequiressomebasicunderstandingofthe lawsofprobability. Example#1: BillisplayingagainstDouginaWWIItankbattlegame.Doughashadagreatstreakof luckandhasbeenkillingBillstanksleftandrightwithgooddierolls.Bill,whohasa fewtanksleft,decidestoriskallinadesperateattackonDoug.Heisabitworriedthat Dougmightwipehimout,buthethinksthatsinceDougsluckatrollinghasbeengreat Dougmustbedueforsomebaddicerolls.BilllauncheshisattackandDougbutchershis forces. Example#2: JaneandBillaretalking: Jane:IllbeabletobuythatcarIalwayswantedsoon. Bill:Why,didyougetaraise? Jane:No.ButyouknowhowIvebeenplayingthelotteryalltheseyears? Bill:Yes,youbuyaticketforeverydrawing,withoutfail. Jane:AndIvelosteverytime. Bill:Sowhydoyouthinkyouwillwinthistime? Jane:Well,afterallthoselossesImdueforawin.
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Example#3: JoeandSamareattheracetrackbettingonhorses. Joe:Youseethathorseoverthere?Helosthislastfourraces.Imgoingtobetonhim. Sam:Why?Ithinkhewillprobablylose. Joe:Noway,Sam.Ilookedupthehorsesstatsandhehaswonhalfhisracesinthe pasttwoyears.Sincehehaslostthreeofhislastfourraces,hellhavetowinthisrace. SoImbettingthefarmonhim. Sam:Areyousure? Joe:OfcourseImsure.Thatponyisdue,manhesdue!

GeneticFallacy
Description: AGeneticFallacyisalineofreasoninginwhichaperceiveddefectintheoriginofa claimorthingistakentobeevidencethatdiscreditstheclaimorthingitself.Itisalsoa lineofreasoninginwhichtheoriginofaclaimorthingistakentobeevidenceforthe claimorthing.Thissortofreasoninghasthefollowingform: 1.Theoriginofaclaimorthingispresented. 2.Theclaimistrue(orfalse)orthethingissupported(ordiscredited). Itisclearthatsortofreasoningisfallacious.Forexample:Billclaimsthat1+1=2. However,myparentsbroughtmeuptobelievethat1+1=254,soBillmustbewrong. Itshouldbenotedthattherearesomecasesinwhichtheoriginofaclaimisrelevant tothetruthorfalsityoftheclaim.Forexample,aclaimthatcomesfromareliable expertislikelytobetrue(provideditisinherareaofexpertise). Example#1: Yeah,theenvironmentalistsdoclaimthatoverdevelopmentcanleadtoallkindsof seriousproblems.Butweallknowaboutthosedarnbunnyhuggersandtheirsilly views!. Example#2: IwasbroughtuptobelieveinGod,andmyparentstoldmeGodexists,soHemust. Example#3: Sure,themediaclaimsthatSenatorBedfellowwastakingkickbacks.Butweallknow aboutthemediascredibility,dontwe.


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GuiltbyAssociation
AlsoKnownas:BadCompanyFallacy,CompanythatYouKeepFallacy Description: GuiltbyAssociationisafallacyinwhichapersonrejectsaclaimsimplybecauseitis pointedoutthatpeopleshedislikesaccepttheclaim.Thissortofreasoninghasthe followingform: 1.ItispointedoutthatpersonAacceptsclaimP. 2.ThereforePisfalse Itisclearthatsortofreasoningisfallacious.Forexamplethefollowingisobviouslya caseofpoorreasoning:Youthinkthat1+1=2.But,AdolfHitler,CharlesManson, JosephStalin,andTedBundyallbelievedthat1+1=2.So,youshouldntbelieveit. Thefallacydrawsitspowerfromthefactthatpeopledonotliketobeassociatedwith peopletheydislike.Hence,ifitisshownthatapersonsharesabeliefwithpeoplehe dislikeshemightbeinfluencedintorejectingthatbelief.Insuchcasesthepersonwillbe rejectingtheclaimbasedonhowhethinksorfeelsaboutthepeoplewhoholditand becausehedoesnotwanttobeassociatedwithsuchpeople. Ofcourse,thefactthatsomeonedoesnotwanttobeassociatedwithpeopleshe dislikesdoesnotjustifytherejectionofanyclaim.Forexample,mostwickedand terriblepeopleacceptthattheearthrevolvesaroundthesunandthatleadisheavier thanhelium.Nosanepersonwouldrejecttheseclaimssimplybecausethiswouldput theminthecompanyofpeopletheydislike(orevenhate). Example#1: WillandKiteenaarearguingoversocialism.Kiteenaisapacifistandhatesviolenceand violentpeople. Kiteena:IthinkthattheUnitedStatesshouldcontinuetoadoptsocialistprograms.For example,Ithinkthatthegovernmentshouldtakecontrolofvitalindustries. Will:So,youareforstateownershipofindustry. Kiteena:Certainly.Itisagreatideaandwillhelpmaketheworldalessviolentplace. Will:Well,youknowStalinalsoendorsedstateownershiponindustry.Atlastcounthe wipedoutmillionsofhisownpeople.PolPotofCambodiawasalsoforstateownership ofindustry.Healsokilledmillionsofhisownpeople.TheleadershipofChinaisforstate ownedindustry.Theykilledtheirownpeopleinthatsquare.So,areyoustillforstate ownershipofindustry? Kiteena:Oh,no!Idontwanttobeassociatedwiththosebutchers! Example#2: JenandSandyarediscussingthetopicofwelfare.Jenisfairlyconservativepoliticallybut shehasbeenanactiveopponentofracism.Sandyisextremelyliberalpolitically.
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Jen:IwasreadingoversomeprivatestudiesofwelfareandIthinkitwouldbebetterto havepeopleworkfortheirwelfare.Forexample,peoplecouldpickuptrash,putup signs,andmaybeevendoskilledlaborthattheyarequalifiedfor.Thiswouldprobably makepeoplefeelbetteraboutthemselvesanditwouldgetmoreoutofourtaxmoney. Sandy:Isee.So,youwanttohavethepoorpeopleoutonthestreetspickinguptrash fortheirchecks?Well,youknowthatisexactlythepositionDavidCountendorses. Jen:Whoishe? Sandy:Imsurprisedyoudontknowhim,seeinghowalikeyoutwoare.Hewasa GrandMookyWizardfortheAryanPureWhiteLeagueandiswellknownforhishatred ofblacksandotherminorities.Withyourviews,youdfitrightintohislittleracistclub. Jen:So,IshouldrejectmyviewjustbecauseIshareitwithsomeracist? Sandy:Ofcourse. Example#3: LibardandFerrisarediscussingwhotheyaregoingtovoteforasthenextdepartment chairinthephilosophydepartment.LibardisaradicalfeministandshedespisesWayne andBill,whoaretwosexistprofessorsinthedepartment. Ferris:So,whoareyougoingtovotefor? Libard:Well,IwasthinkingaboutvotingforJane,sincesheisawomanandtherehas neverbeenawomanchairhere.But,IthinkthatStevewilldoanexcellentjob.Hehasa lotofcloutintheuniversityandheisadecentperson. Ferris:Youknow,WayneandBillaresupportinghim.Theyreallyliketheideaofhaving Steveasthenewchair.IneverthoughtIdseeyouandthosetwopigsonthesame side. Libard:Well,maybeitistimethatwehaveawomanaschair. HastyGeneralization AlsoKnownas:FallacyofInsufficientStatistics,FallacyofInsufficientSample,Leapingto AConclusion,HastyInduction

Description: Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenapersondrawsaconclusionaboutapopulationbased onasamplethatisnotlargeenough.Ithasthefollowingform: 1.SampleS,whichistoosmall,istakenfrompopulationP. 2.ConclusionCisdrawnaboutPopulationPbasedonS. Thepersoncommittingthefallacyismisusingthefollowingtypeofreasoning,whichis knownvariouslyasInductiveGeneralization,Generalization,andStatistical Generalization:


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1.X%ofallobservedAsareBs. 2.ThereforeX%ofallAsareBs. ThefallacyiscommittedwhennotenoughAsareobservedtowarranttheconclusion. IfenoughAsareobservedthenthereasoningisnotfallacious. Smallsampleswilltendtobeunrepresentative.Asablatantcase,askingoneperson whatshethinksaboutguncontrolwouldclearlynotprovideanadequatesizedsample fordeterminingwhatCanadiansingeneralthinkabouttheissue.Thegeneralideais thatsmallsamplesarelesslikelytocontainnumbersproportionaltothewhole population.Forexample,ifabucketcontainsblue,red,greenandorangemarbles,then asampleofthreemarblescannotpossibleberepresentativeofthewholepopulationof marbles.Asthesamplesizeofmarblesincreasesthemorelikelyitbecomesthat marblesofeachcolorwillbeselectedinproportiontotheirnumbersinthewhole population.Thesameholdstrueforthingsothersthanmarbles,suchaspeopleand theirpoliticalviews. SinceHastyGeneralizationiscommittedwhenthesample(theobservedinstances)is toosmall,itisimportanttohavesamplesthatarelargeenoughwhenmakinga generalization.Themostreliablewaytodothisistotakeaslargeasampleasis practical.Therearenofixednumbersastowhatcountsasbeinglargeenough.Ifthe populationinquestionisnotverydiverse(apopulationofclonedmice,forexample) thenaverysmallsamplewouldsuffice.Ifthepopulationisverydiverse(people,for example)thenafairlylargesamplewouldbeneeded.Thesizeofthesamplealso dependsonthesizeofthepopulation.Obviously,averysmallpopulationwillnot supportahugesample.Finally,therequiredsizewilldependonthepurposeofthe sample.IfBillwantstoknowwhatJoeandJanethinkaboutguncontrol,thenasample consistingofBillandJanewould(obviously)belargeenough.IfBillwantstoknowwhat mostAustraliansthinkaboutguncontrol,thenasampleconsistingofBillandJane wouldbefartoosmall. PeopleoftencommitHastyGeneralizationsbecauseofbiasorprejudice.Forexample, someonewhoisasexistmightconcludethatallwomenareunfittoflyjetfighters becauseonewomancrashedone.PeoplealsocommonlycommitHastyGeneralizations becauseoflazinessorsloppiness.Itisveryeasytosimplyleaptoaconclusionandmuch hardertogatheranadequatesampleanddrawajustifiedconclusion.Thus,avoiding thisfallacyrequiresminimizingtheinfluenceofbiasandtakingcaretoselectasample thatislargeenough. Onefinalpoint:aHastyGeneralization,likeanyfallacy,mighthaveatrueconclusion. However,aslongasthereasoningisfallaciousthereisnoreasontoacceptthe conclusionbasedonthatreasoning. Example#1: Smith,whoisfromEngland,decidestoattendgraduateschoolatOhioStateUniversity. HehasneverbeentotheUSbefore.Thedayafterhearrives,heiswalkingbackfroman orientationsessionandseestwowhite(albino)squirrelschasingeachotherarounda tree.Inhisnextletterhome,hetellshisfamilythatAmericansquirrelsarewhite.
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Example#2: SamisridingherbikeinherhometowninMaine,mindingherownbusiness.Astation wagoncomesupbehindherandthedriverstartsbeepinghishornandthentriesto forceherofftheroad.Ashegoesby,thedriveryellsgetonthesidewalkwhereyou belong!SamseesthatthecarhasOhioplatesandconcludesthatallOhiodriversare jerks. Example#3: Bill:Youknow,thosefeministsallhatemen. Joe:Really? Bill:Yeah.IwasinmyphilosophyclasstheotherdayandthatRachelchickgavea presentation. Joe:WhichRachel? Bill:Youknowher.ShestheonethatrunsthatfeministgroupoverattheWomens Center.Shesaidthatmenareallsexistpigs.Iaskedherwhyshebelievedthisandshe saidthatherlastfewboyfriendswererealsexistpigs. Joe:Thatdoesntsoundlikeagoodreasontobelievethatallofusarepigs. Bill:ThatwaswhatIsaid. Joe:Whatdidshesay? Bill:Shesaidthatshehadseenenoughofmentoknowweareallpigs.Sheobviously hatesallmen. Joe:Soyouthinkallfeministsarelikeher? Bill:Sure.Theyallhatemen.

IgnoringaCommonCause
AlsoKnownas:QuestionableCause Description: Thisfallacyhasthefollowinggeneralstructure: 1)AandBareregularlyconnected(butnothird,commoncauseislookedfor). 2)ThereforeAisthecauseofB. Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenitisconcludedthatonethingcausesanothersimply becausetheyareregularlyassociated.Moreformally,thisfallacyiscommittedwhenitis concludedthatAisthecauseofBsimplybecauseAandBareregularlyconnected. Further,thecausalconclusionisdrawnwithoutconsideringthepossibilitythatathird factormightbethecauseofbothAandB. Inmanycases,thefallacyisquiteevident.Forexample,ifapersonclaimedthata personssneezingwascausedbyherwateryeyesandhesimplyignoredthefactthat thewomanwasstandinginahayfield,hewouldhavefallenpreytothefallacyof ignoringacommoncause.Inthiscase,itwouldbereasonabletoconcludethatthe womanssneezingandwateringeyeswascausedbyanallergicreactionofsomekind.In othercases,itisnotasevidentthatthefallacyisbeingcommitted.Forexample,a
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doctormightfindalargeamountofbacteriainoneofherpatientsandconcludethat thebacteriaarethecauseofthepatientsillness.However,itmightturnoutthatthe bacteriaareactuallyharmlessandthatavirusisweakeningtheperson,Thus,the viruseswouldbetheactualcauseoftheillnessandgrowthofthebacteria(theviruses wouldweakentheabilityofthepersonsbodytoresistthegrowthofthebacteria). Asnotedinthediscussionofothercausalfallacies,causalityisaratherdifficult matter.However,itispossibletoavoidthisfallacybytakingduecare.Inthecaseof IgnoringaCommonCause,thekeytoavoidingthisfallacyistobecarefultocheckfor otherfactorsthatmightbetheactualcauseofboththesuspectedcauseandthe suspectedeffect.Ifapersonfailstocheckforthepossibilityofacommoncause,then theywillcommitthisfallacy.Thus,itisalwaysagoodideatoalwaysaskcouldtherebe athirdfactorthatisactuallycausingbothAandB? Example#1: OnedayBillwakesupwithafever.Afewhourslaterhefindsthathismusclesaresore. Heconcludesthatthefevermusthavecausedthesoreness.Hisfriendinsiststhatthe sorenessandthefeverarecausedbysomemicrobe.Billlaughsatthisandinsiststhatif hespendsthedayinatubofcoldwaterhissorenesswillgoaway. Example#2: OverthecourseofseveralweekstheleavesfromthetreesalongtheWombatriverfell intothewater.Shortlythereafter,manydeadfishwereseenfloatingintheriver.When theEPAinvestigated,theownersoftheWombatRiverChemicalCompanyclaimedthat isitwasobviousthattheleaveshadkilledthefish.Manylocalenvironmentalists claimedthatthechemicalplantstoxicwastescausedboththetreesandthefishtodie andthattheleaveshadnorealeffectonthefish. Example#3: AthunderstormwakesJoeupinthemiddleofthenight.Hegoesdownstairstoget somemilktohelphimgetbacktosleep.Onthewaytotherefrigerator,henoticesthat thebarometerhasfallenagreatdeal.Joeconcludesthatthestormcausedthe barometertofall.Inthemorninghetellshiswifeabouthisconclusion.Shetellshim thatitwasadropinatmosphericpressurethatcausedthebarometertodropandthe storm.

MiddleGround
AlsoKnownas:GoldenMeanFallacy,FallacyofModeration Description: Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenitisassumedthatthemiddlepositionbetweentwo extremesmustbecorrectsimplybecauseitisthemiddleposition.thissortof reasoninghasthefollowingform: 1.PositionAandBaretwoextremepositions. 2.CisapositionthatrestsinthemiddlebetweenAandB.
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3.ThereforeCisthecorrectposition. Thislineofreasoningisfallaciousbecauseitdoesnotfollowthatapositionis correctjustbecauseitliesinthemiddleoftwoextremes.Thisisshownbythefollowing example.Supposethatapersonissellinghiscomputer.Hewantstosellitforthe currentmarketvalue,whichis$800andsomeoneoffershim$1forit.Itwouldhardly followthat$400.50istheproperprice. Thisfallacydrawsitspowerfromthefactthatamoderateormiddlepositionisoften thecorrectone.Forexample,amoderateamountofexerciseisbetterthantoomuch exerciseortoolittleexercise.However,thisisnotsimplybecauseitliesinthemiddle groundbetweentwoextremes.Itisbecausetoomuchexerciseisharmfulandtoolittle exerciseisallbutuseless.Thebasicideabehindmanycasesinwhichmoderationis correctisthattheextremesaretypicallytoomuchandnotenoughandthemiddle positionisenough.Insuchcasesthemiddlepositioniscorrectalmostbydefinition. Itshouldbekeptinmindthatwhileuncriticallyassumingthatthemiddleposition mustbecorrectbecauseitisthemiddlepositionispoorreasoningitdoesnotfollow thatacceptingamiddlepositionisalwaysfallacious.Aswasjustmentioned,manytimes amoderatepositioniscorrect.However,theclaimthatthemoderateormiddleposition iscorrectmustbesupportedbylegitimatereasoning. Example#1: SomepeopleclaimthatGodisallpowerful,allknowing,andallgood.Otherpeople claimthatGoddoesnotexistatall.Now,itseemsreasonabletoacceptaposition somewhereinthemiddle.So,itislikelythatGodexists,butthatheisonlyvery powerful,veryknowing,andverygood.Thatseemsrighttome. Example#2: CongressmanJoneshasproposedcuttingwelfarepaymentsby50%while CongresswomanShenderhasproposedincreasingwelfarepaymentsby10%tokeepup withinflationandcostoflivingincreases.Ithinkthatthebestproposalistheonemade byCongressmanTrumple.Hesaysthata30%decreaseinwelfarepaymentsisagood middleground,soIthinkthatiswhatweshouldsupport. Example#3: Amonthago,atreeinBillsyardwasdamagedinastorm.Hisneighbor,Joe,askedhim tohavethetreecutdownsoitwouldnotfallonJoesnewshed.Billrefusedtodothis. TwodayslateranotherstormblewthetreeontoJoesnewshed.Joedemandedthat Joepaythecostofrepairs,whichwas$250.Billsaidthathewasntgoingtopayacent. Obviously,thebestsolutionistoreachacompromisebetweenthetwoextremes,soBill shouldpayJoe$125.

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MisleadingVividness
Description: MisleadingVividnessisafallacyinwhichaverysmallnumberofparticularlydramatic eventsaretakentooutweighasignificantamountofstatisticalevidence.Thissortof reasoninghasthefollowingform: 1.DramaticorvivideventXoccurs(andisnotinaccordwiththemajorityofthe statisticalevidence). 2.ThereforeeventsoftypeXarelikelytooccur. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecausethemerefactthataneventisparticularly vividordramaticdoesnotmaketheeventmorelikelytooccur,especiallyinthefaceof significantstatisticalevidence. Peopleoftenacceptthissortofreasoningbecauseparticularlyvividordramatic casestendtomakeaverystrongimpressiononthehumanmind.Forexample,ifa personsurvivesaparticularlyawfulplanecrash,hemightbeinclinedtobelievethatair travelismoredangerousthanotherformsoftravel.Afterall,explosionsandpeople dyingaroundhimwillhaveamoresignificantimpactonhismindthanwilltherather dullstatisticsthatapersonismorelikelytobestruckbylightningthankilledinaplane crash. Itshouldbekeptinmindthattakingintoaccountthepossibilityofsomething dramaticorvividoccurringisnotalwaysfallacious.Forexample,apersonmightdecide tonevergoskydivingbecausetheeffectsofanaccidentcanbevery,verydramatic.If heknowsthat,statistically,thechancesoftheaccidentarehappeningareverylowbut heconsidersevenasmallrisktobeunacceptable,thenhewouldnotbemakinganerror inreasoning. Example#1: BillandJanearetalkingaboutbuyingacomputer. Jane:Ivebeenthinkingaboutgettingacomputer.Imreallytiredofhavingtowaitin thelibrarytowritemypapers. Bill:Whatsortofcomputerdoyouwanttoget? Jane:Well,ithastobeeasytouse,havealowpriceandhavedecentprocessing power.IvebeenthinkingaboutgettingaKiwiFruit2200.Ireadinthatconsumer magazinethattheyhavebeenfoundtobeveryreliableinsixindependentindustry studies. Bill:IwouldntgettheKiwiFruit.Afriendofmineboughtoneamonthagotofinishhis mastersthesis.HewashalfwaythroughitwhensmokestartedpouringoutoftheCPU. Hedidntgethisthesisdoneontimeandhelosthisfinancialaid.Nowhesworkingover attheGutBoyBurgerWarehouse. Jane:IguessIwontgowiththeKiwi!
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Example#2: JoeandDrewaretalkingaboutflying. Joe:WhenIwasflyingbacktoschool,thepilotcameontheintercomandtoldusthat theplanewashavingenginetrouble.IlookedoutthewindowandIsawsmokebillowing outoftheenginenearestme.Wehadtomakeanemergencylandingandtherewere firetruckseverywhere.Ihadtospendthenextsixhourssittingintheairportwaitingfor aflight.IwasluckyIdidntdie!Imneverflyingagain. Drew:SohowareyougoingtogethomeoverChristmasbreak? Joe:Imgoingtodrive.Thatwillbealotsaferthanflying. Drew:Idontthinkso.Youaremuchmorelikelytogetinjuredorkilleddrivingthan flying. Joe:Idontbuythat!Youshouldhaveseenthesmokepouringoutofthatengine!Im nevergettingononeofthosedeathtrapsagain! Example#3: JaneandSaraharetalkingaboutrunninginanearbypark. Jane:DidyouhearaboutthatwomanwhowasattackedinTuttlePark? Sarah:Yes.Itwasterrible. Jane:Dontyourunthereeveryday? Sarah:Yes. Jane:Howcanyoudothat?Idneverbeabletorunthere! Sarah:Well,ascallousasthismightsound,thatattackwasoutoftheordinary.Ive beenrunningthereforthreeyearsandthishasbeentheonlyattack.Sure,Iworryabout beingattacked,butImnotgoinggiveupmyrunningjustbecausethereissomeslight chanceIllbeattacked. Sarah:Thatisstupid!IdstayawayfromthatparkifIwasyou!Thatwomanwasreally beatupbadlysoyouknowitisgoingtohappenagain.Ifyoudontstayoutofthatpark, itwillprobablyhappentoyou!

PeerPressure
Description: PeerPressureisafallacyinwhichathreatofrejectionbyonespeers(orpeer pressure)issubstitutedforevidenceinanargument.Thislineofreasoninghasthe followingform: 1.PersonPispressuredbyhis/herpeersorthreatenedwithrejection. 2.ThereforepersonPsclaimXisfalse. Thislineofreasoningisfallaciousbecausepeerpressureandthreatofrejectiondo notconstituteevidenceforrejectingaclaim.Thisisespeciallyclearinthefollowing example:
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Joe:Bill,Iknowyouthinkthat1+1=2.Butwedontacceptthatsortofthinginour group. Bill:Iwasjustjoking.OfcourseIdontbelievethat. ItisclearthatthepressurefromBillsgrouphasnobearingonthetruthoftheclaim that1+1=2. Itshouldbenotedthatloyaltytoagroupandtheneedtobelongcangivepeoplevery strongreasonstoconformtotheviewsandpositionsofthosegroups.Further,froma practicalstandpointwemustoftencompromiseourbeliefsinordertobelongtogroups. However,thisfeelingofloyaltyortheneedtobelongsimplydonotconstituteevidence foraclaim. Example#1: Billsaysthathelikestheideathatpeopleshouldworkfortheirwelfarewhentheycan. Hisfriendslaughathim,accusehimoffascistleanings,andthreatentoostracizehim fromtheirgroup.Hedecidestorecantandabandonhispositiontoavoidrejection. Example#2: Bill:IlikeclassicalmusicandIthinkitisofhigherqualitythanmostmodernmusic. Jill:Thatstuffisforoldpeople. Dave:Yeah,onlyrealsissymonkeyslistentothatcrap.Besides,Anthraxrules!It Rules! Bill:Well,Idontreallylikeitthatmuch.Anthraxismuchbetter. Example#3: Billthinksthatwelfareisneededinsomecases.HisfriendsintheYoungRepublicans taunthimeverytimehemakeshisviewsknown.Heacceptstheirviewsinorderto avoidrejection.

PersonalAttack
AlsoKnownas:AdHominemAbusive Description: Apersonalattackiscommittedwhenapersonsubstitutesabusiveremarksfor evidencewhenattackinganotherpersonsclaimorclaims.Thislineofreasoningis fallaciousbecausetheattackisdirectedatthepersonmakingtheclaimandnotthe claimitself.Thetruthvalueofaclaimisindependentofthepersonmakingtheclaim. Afterall,nomatterhowrepugnantanindividualmightbe,heorshecanstillmaketrue claims. NotalladHominemsarefallacious.Insomecases,anindividualscharacteristicscan haveabearingonthequestionoftheveracityofherclaims.Forexample,ifsomeoneis showntobeapathologicalliar,thenwhathesayscanbeconsideredtobeunreliable.

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However,suchattacksareweak,sinceevenpathologicalliarsmightspeakthetruthon occasion. Ingeneral,itisbesttofocusonesattentiononthecontentoftheclaimandnoton whomadetheclaim.Itisthecontentthatdeterminesthetruthoftheclaimandnotthe characteristicsofthepersonmakingtheclaim. Example#1: Inaschooldebate,BillclaimsthatthePresidentseconomicplanisunrealistic.His opponent,aprofessor,retortsbysayingthefreshmanhashisfactswrong. Example#2: Thistheoryaboutapotentialcureforcancerhasbeenintroducedbyadoctorwhoisa knownlesbianfeminist.Idontseewhyweshouldextendaninvitationforhertospeak attheWorldConferenceonCancer. Example#3: Billsaysthatweshouldgivetaxbreakstocompanies.Butheisuntrustworthy,soit mustbewrongtodothat. Example#4: Thatclaimcannotbetrue.Davebelievesit,andweknowhowmorallyrepulsiveheis. Example#5: BillclaimsthatJanewouldbeagoodtreasurer.HoweverIfindBillsbehavioroffensive, soImnotgoingtovoteforJill. Example#6 Janesaysthatdruguseismorallywrong,butsheisjustagoodytwoshoesChristian,so wedonthavetolistentoher. Example#7 Bill:Idontthinkitisagoodideatocutsocialprograms. Jill:Whynot? Bill:Well,manypeopledonotgetafairstartinlifeandhenceneedsomehelp.After all,somepeoplehavewealthyparentsandhaveitfairlyeasy.Othersareborninto povertyand Jill:Youjustsaythatstuffbecauseyouhaveasoftheartandanequallysofthead.

PoisoningtheWell
Description: Thissortofreasoninginvolvestryingtodiscreditwhatapersonmightlaterclaimby presentingunfavorableinformation(beittrueorfalse)abouttheperson.This argumenthasthefollowingform:
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1.Unfavorableinformation(beittrueorfalse)aboutpersonAispresented. 2.ThereforeanyclaimspersonAmakeswillbefalse. Thissortofreasoningisobviouslyfallacious.Thepersonmakingsuchanattackis hopingthattheunfavorableinformationwillbiaslistenersagainstthepersonin questionandhencethattheywillrejectanyclaimshemightmake.However,merely presentingunfavorableinformationaboutaperson(evenifitistrue)hardlycountsas evidenceagainsttheclaimshe/shemightmake.ThisisespeciallyclearwhenPoisoning theWellislookedatasaformofadHomineminwhichtheattackismadepriortothe personevenmakingtheclaimorclaims.Thefollowingexampleclearlyshowsthatthis sortofreasoningisquitepoor. Example#1: Dontlistentohim,hesascoundrel. Example#2: Beforeturningthefloorovertomyopponent,Iaskyoutorememberthatthosewho opposemyplansdonothavethebestwishesoftheuniversityatheart. Example#3: Youaretold,priortomeetinghim,thatyourfriendsboyfriendisadecadentwastrel. Whenyoumeethim,everythingyouhearhimsayistainted. Example#4 Beforeclass Bill:Boy,thatprofessorisarealjerk.IthinkheissomesortofEurocentricfascist. Jill:Yeah. DuringClass: Prof.Jones:andsoweseethattherewasneveranyGoldenAgeofMatriarchyin 1895inAmerica. AfterClass: Bill:SeewhatImean? Jill:Yeah.TheremusthavebeenaGoldenAgeofMatriarchy,sincethatjerksaidthere wasnt.

PostHoc
AlsoKnownas:PostHocErgoPropterHoc,FalseCause,QuestionableCause,Confusing CoincidentalRelationshipsWithCauses Description: APostHocisafallacywiththefollowingform: 1)AoccursbeforeB. 2)ThereforeAisthecauseofB.
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ThePostHocfallacyderivesitsnamefromtheLatinphrasePosthoc,ergopropter hoc.ThishasbeentraditionallyinterpretedasAfterthis,thereforebecauseofthis. Thisfallacyiscommittedwhenitisconcludedthatoneeventcausesanothersimply becausetheproposedcauseoccurredbeforetheproposedeffect.Moreformally,the fallacyinvolvesconcludingthatAcausesorcausedBbecauseAoccursbeforeBand thereisnotsufficientevidencetoactuallywarrantsuchaclaim. ItisevidentinmanycasesthatthemerefactthatAoccursbeforeBinnoway indicatesacausalrelationship.Forexample,supposeJill,whoisinLondon,sneezedat theexactsametimeanearthquakestartedinCalifornia.Itwouldclearlybeirrationalto arrestJillforstartinganaturaldisaster,sincethereisnoreasontosuspectanycausal connectionbetweenthetwoevents.Whilesuchcasesarequiteobvious,thePostHoc fallacyisfairlycommonbecausetherearecasesinwhichtheremightbesome connectionbetweentheevents.Forexample,apersonwhohashercomputercrash aftersheinstallsanewpieceofsoftwarewouldprobablysuspectthatthesoftwarewas toblame.Ifshesimplyconcludedthatthesoftwarecausedthecrashbecauseitwas installedbeforethecrashshewouldbecommittingthePostHocfallacy.Insuchcases thefallacywouldbecommittedbecausetheevidenceprovidedfailstojustify acceptanceofthecausalclaim.Itiseventheoreticallypossibleforthefallacytobe committedwhenAreallydoescauseB,providedthattheevidencegivenconsistsonly oftheclaimthatAoccurredbeforeB.ThekeytothePostHocfallacyisnotthatthereis nocausalconnectionbetweenAandB.Itisthatadequateevidencehasnotbeen providedforaclaimthatAcausesB.Thus,PostHocresemblesaHastyGeneralizationin thatitinvolvesmakingaleaptoanunwarrantedconclusion.InthecaseofthePostHoc fallacy,thatleapistoacausalclaiminsteadofageneralproposition. Notsurprisingly,manysuperstitionsareprobablybasedonPostHocreasoning.For example,supposeapersonbuysagoodluckcharm,doeswellonhisexam,andthen concludesthatthegoodluckcharmcausedhimtodowell.Thispersonwouldhave fallenvictimtothePostHocfallacy.Thisisnottosaythatallsuperstitionshaveno basisatall.Forexample,somefolkcureshaveactuallybeenfoundtowork. PostHocfallaciesaretypicallycommittedbecausepeoplearesimplynotcareful enoughwhentheyreason.Leapingtoacausalconclusionisalwayseasierandfaster thanactuallyinvestigatingthephenomenon.However,suchleapstendtolandfarfrom thetruthofthematter.BecausePostHocfallaciesarecommittedbydrawingan unjustifiedcausalconclusion,thekeytoavoidingthemiscarefulinvestigation.Whileit istruethatcausesprecedeeffects(outsideofStarTrek,anyway),itisnottruethat precedencemakessomethingacauseofsomethingelse.Becauseofthis,acausal investigationshouldbeginwithfindingwhatoccursbeforetheeffectinquestion,butit shouldnotendthere. Example#1: Ihadbeendoingprettypoorlythisseason.Thenmygirlfriendgavemethisneonlaces formyspikesandIwonmynextthreeraces.ThoselacesmustbegoodluckifIkeepon wearingthemIcanthelpbutwin!
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Example#2: BillpurchasesanewPowerMacanditworksfineformonths.Hethenbuysandinstallsa newpieceofsoftware.ThenexttimehestartsuphisMac,itfreezes.Billconcludesthat thesoftwaremustbethecauseofthefreeze. Example#3: Joanisscratchedbyacatwhilevisitingherfriend.Twodayslatershecomesdownwith afever.Joanconcludesthatthecatsscratchmustbethecauseofherillness. Example#4: TheRepublicanspassanewtaxreformlawthatbenefitswealthyAmericans.Shortly thereaftertheeconomytakesanosedive.TheDemocratsclaimthatthetaxreform causedtheeconomicwoesandtheypushtogetridofit. Example#5: ThepictureonJimsoldTVsetgoesoutoffocus.JimgoesoverandstrikestheTV soundlyonthesideandthepicturegoesbackintofocus.Jimtellshisfriendthathitting theTVfixedit. Example#6: Janegetsaratherlargewartonherfinger.Basedonastoryherfathertoldher,shecuts apotatoinhalf,rubsitonthewartandthenburiesitunderthelightofafullmoon. Overthenextmonthherwartshrinksandeventuallyvanishes.Janewritesherfatherto tellhimhowrighthewasaboutthecure.

QuestionableCause
Description: Thisfallacyhasthefollowinggeneralform: 1)AandBareassociatedonaregularbasis. 2)ThereforeAisthecauseofB. Thegeneralideabehindthisfallacyisthatitisanerrorinreasoningtoconcludethat onethingcausesanothersimplybecausethetwoareassociatedonaregularbasis. Moreformally,thisfallacyiscommittedwhenitisconcludedthatAisthecauseofB simplybecausetheyareassociatedonaregularbasis.Theerrorbeingmadeisthata causalconclusionisbeingdrawnfrominadequateevidence. TheQuestionableCauseFallacyisactuallyageneraltypeoffallacy.Anycausalfallacy thatinvolvesanerrorinareasoningduetoafailuretoadequatelyinvestigatethe suspectedcauseisafallacyofthistype.Thus,fallacieslikePostHocandConfusing CauseandEffectarespecificexamplesofthegeneralQuestionableCauseFallacy. Causalreasoningcanbequitedifficultsincecausationisarathercomplexphilosophic issue.Thecomplexityofcausationisbrieflydiscussedinthecontextofthespecific versionsofthisfallacy.
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ThekeytoavoidingtheQuestionableCausefallacyistotakeduecareindrawing causalconclusions.Thisrequirestakingstepstoadequatelyinvestigatethephenomena inquestionaswellusingthepropermethodsofcarefulinvestigation. Example#1: Joegetsachainletterthatthreatenshimwithdireconsequencesifhebreaksthechain. Helaughsatitandthrowsitinthegarbage.Onhiswaytoworkheslipsandbreakshis leg.Whenhegetsbackfromthehospitalhesendsout200copiesofthechainletter, hopingtoavoidfurtheraccidents. Example#2: Wheninvestigatingasmallpondagroupofgraduatestudentsfoundthattherewasa severedropinthefishpopulation.Furtherinvestigationrevealedthatthefishesfood supplyhadalsobeenseverelyreduced.Atfirstthestudentsbelievedthatthelackof foodwaskillingthefish,butthentheyrealizedtheyhadtofindwhatwascausingthe declineinthefoodsupply.Thestudentssuspectedacidrainwasthecauseofboththe reductioninthefishpopulationaswellasthefoodsupply.However,thelocalbusiness councilinsistedthatitwasjustthelackoffoodthatcausedthereductioninthefish population.Mostofthetownspeopleagreedwiththisconclusionsinceitseemedpretty obviousthatalackoffoodwouldcausefishtodie.

RedHerring
AlsoKnownas:SmokeScreen,WildGooseChase Description: ARedHerringisafallacyinwhichanirrelevanttopicispresentedinordertodivert attentionfromtheoriginalissue.Thebasicideaistowinanargumentbyleading attentionawayfromtheargumentandtoanothertopic.Thissortofreasoninghasthe followingform: 1.TopicAisunderdiscussion. 2.TopicBisintroducedundertheguiseofbeingrelevanttotopicA(whentopicBis actuallynotrelevanttotopicA). 3.TopicAisabandoned. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecausemerelychangingthetopicofdiscussion hardlycountsasanargumentagainstaclaim. Example#1: Argumentagainstabondmeasure: Weadmitthatthismeasureispopular.Butwealsourgeyoutonotethatthereareso manybondissuesonthisballotthatthewholethingisgettingridiculous.
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Example#2: Argumentforataxcut: Youknow,IvebeguntothinkthatthereissomemeritintheRepublicanstaxcutplan. Isuggestthatyoucomeupwithsomethinglikeit,becauseIfweDemocratsaregoingto surviveasaparty,wehavegottoshowthatweareastoughmindedasthe Republicans,sincethatiswhatthepublicwants. Example#3: Argumentformakinggradschoolrequirementsstricter: Ithinkthereisgreatmeritinmakingtherequirementsstricterforthegraduate students.Irecommendthatyousupportit,too.Afterall,weareinabudgetcrisisand wedonotwantoursalariesaffected.

RelativistFallacy
AlsoKnownas:TheSubjectivistFallacy Description: TheRelativistFallacyiscommittedwhenapersonrejectsaclaimbyassertingthatthe claimmightbetrueforothersbutisnotforhim/her.Thissortofreasoninghasthe followingform: 1.ClaimXispresented. 2.PersonAassertsthatXmaybetrueforothersbutisnottrueforhim/her. 3.ThereforeAisjustifiedinrejectingX. Inthiscontext,relativismistheviewthattruthisrelativetoZ(aperson,time,culture, place,etc.).Thisisnottheviewthatclaimswillbetrueatdifferenttimesorofdifferent people,buttheviewthataclaimcouldbetrueforonepersonandfalseforanotherat thesametime. Inmanycases,whenpeoplesaythatXistrueformewhattheyreallymeanisI believeXorXistrueaboutme.Itisimportanttobequiteclearaboutthedistinction betweenbeingtrueaboutapersonandbeingtrueforaperson.Aclaimistrueabouta personiftheclaimisastatementthatdescribesthepersoncorrectly.Forexample,Bill hasblueeyesistrueofBillifBillhasblueeyes.TomakeaclaimsuchasXistruefor BillistosaythattheclaimistrueforBillandthatitneednotbetrueforothers.For example:1+1=23istrueforBillwouldmeanthat,forBill,1+1actuallydoesequal23, notthathemerelybelievesthat1+1=23(thatwouldbeItistrueofBillthathebelieves 1+1=23).AnotherexamplewouldbeTheclaimthattheearthisflatistrueforBill wouldmeanthattheearthreallyisflatforBill(inotherwords,Billwouldbeina differentworldthantherestofthehumanrace).Sincethesesituations(1+1being23 andtheearthbeingflatforBill)areextremelystrange,itcertainlyseemsthattruthis notrelativetoindividuals(althoughbeliefsare).

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Aslongastruthisobjective(thatis,notrelativetoindividuals),thentheRelativist Fallacyisafallacy.Iftherearecasesinwhichtruthisactuallyrelative,thensuch reasoningneednotbefallacious. Example#1: Jill:Lookatthis,Bill.Ireadthatpeoplewhodonotgetenoughexercisetendtobe unhealthy. Bill:Thatmaybetrueforyou,butitisnottrueforme. Example#2: Jill:Ithinkthatsocalledargumentyouusedtodefendyourpositionisterrible.After all,afallacyhardlycountsasanargument. Bill:Thatmaybetrueforyou,butitisnottrueforme. Example#3: Bill:Yourpositionresultsinacontradiction,soIcantacceptit. Dave:ContradictionsmaybebadinyourEurocentric,oppressive,logicalworldview, butIdontthinktheyarebad.Thereforemypositionisjustfine.

SlipperySlope
AlsoKnownas:TheCamelsNose Description: TheSlipperySlopeisafallacyinwhichapersonassertsthatsomeeventmust inevitablyfollowfromanotherwithoutanyargumentfortheinevitabilityoftheeventin question.Inmostcases,thereareaseriesofstepsorgradationsbetweenoneeventand theoneinquestionandnoreasonisgivenastowhytheinterveningstepsorgradations willsimplybebypassed.Thisargumenthasthefollowingform: 1.EventXhasoccurred(orwillormightoccur). 2.ThereforeeventYwillinevitablyhappen. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecausethereisnoreasontobelievethatone eventmustinevitablyfollowfromanotherwithoutanargumentforsuchaclaim.Thisis especiallyclearincasesinwhichthereareasignificantnumberofstepsorgradations betweenoneeventandanother. Example#1: Wehavetostopthetuitionincrease!Thenextthingyouknow,theyllbecharging $40,000asemester! Example#2: Europeshouldntgetinvolvedmilitarilyinothercountries.Oncethegovernmentssend inafewtroops,thentheywillsendinthousandstodie.
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Example#3: Youcannevergiveanyoneabreak.Ifyoudo,theyllwalkalloveryou. Example#4: Wevegottostopthemfrombanningpornographicwebsites.Oncetheystartbanning that,theywillneverstop.Nextthingyouknow,theywillbeburningallthebooks!

SpecialPleading
Description: SpecialPleadingisafallacyinwhichapersonappliesstandards,principles,rules,etc. tootherswhiletakingherself(orthoseshehasaspecialinterestin)tobeexempt, withoutprovidingadequatejustificationfortheexemption.Thissortofreasoninghas thefollowingform: 1.PersonAacceptsstandard(s)Sandappliesthemtoothersincircumstance(s)C. 2.PersonAisincircumstance(s)C. 3.ThereforeAisexemptfromS. ThepersoncommittingSpecialPleadingisclaimingthatheisexemptfromcertain principlesorstandardsyetheprovidesnogoodreasonforhisexemption.Thatthissort ofreasoningisfallaciousisshownbythefollowingextremeexample: 1.Barbaraacceptsthatallmurderersshouldbepunishedfortheircrimes. 2.AlthoughshemurderedBill,Barbaraclaimssheisanexceptionbecauseshereally wouldnotlikegoingtoprison. 3.Therefore,thestandardofpunishingmurderersshouldnotbeappliedtoher. Thisisobviouslyablatantcaseofspecialpleading.Sincenoonelikesgoingtoprison, thiscannotjustifytheclaimthatBarbaraaloneshouldbeexemptfrompunishment. ThePrincipleofRelevantDifference Fromaphilosophicstandpoint,thefallacyofSpecialPleadingisviolatingawell acceptedprinciple,namelythePrincipleofRelevantDifference.Accordingtothis principle,twopeoplecanbetreateddifferentlyifandonlyifthereisarelevant differencebetweenthem.Thisprincipleisareasonableone.Afterall,itwouldnotbe particularlyrationaltotreattwopeopledifferentlywhenthereisnorelevantdifference betweenthem.Asanextremecase,itwouldbeveryoddforaparenttoinsiston makingonechildwearsize5shoesandtheotherwearsize7shoeswhenthechildren arebothsize5. ItshouldbenotedthatthePrincipleofRelevantDifferencedoesallowpeopletobe treateddifferently.Forexample,ifoneemployeewasaslackerandtheotherwasavery productiveworkerthebosswouldbejustifiedingivingonlytheproductiveworkera raise.Thisisbecausetheproductivityofeachisarelevantdifferencebetweenthem. Sinceitcanbereasonabletotreatpeopledifferently,therewillbecasesinwhichsome
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peoplewillbeexemptfromtheusualstandards.Forexample,ifitisBillsturntocook dinnerandBillisveryill,itwouldnotbeacaseofSpecialPleadingifBillaskedtobe excusedfrommakingdinner(this,ofcourse,assumesthatBilldoesnotaccepta standardthatrequirespeopletocookdinnerregardlessofthecircumstances).Inthis caseBillisofferingagoodreasonastowhyheshouldbeexemptand,mostimportantly, itwouldbeagoodreasonforanyonewhowasillandnotjustBill. Whiledeterminingwhatcountsasalegitimatebasisforexemptioncanbeadifficult task,itseemsclearthatclaimingyouareexemptbecauseyouareyoudoesnotprovide suchalegitimatebasis.Thus,unlessaclearandrelevantjustificationforexemptioncan bepresented,apersoncannotclaimtobeexempt. TherearecaseswhicharesimilartoinstancesofSpecialPleadinginwhichapersonis offeringatleastsomereasonwhyheshouldbeexemptbutthereasonisnotgood enoughtowarranttheexemption.ThiscouldbecalledFailedPleading.Forexample,a professormayclaimtobeexemptfromhelpingtherestofthefacultymovebooksto thenewdepartmentofficebecauseitwouldbebeneathhisdignity.However,thisisnot aparticularlygoodreasonandwouldhardlyjustifyhisexemption.Ifitturnsoutthatthe realreasonapersonisclaimingexemptionisthattheysimplytakethemselvestobe exempt,thentheywouldbecommittingSpecialPleading.Suchcaseswillbefairly common.Afterall,itisfairlyrareforadultstosimplyclaimtheyareexemptwithoutat leastsomepretenseofjustifyingtheexemption. Example#1: BillandJillaremarried.BothBillandJillhaveputinafulldayattheoffice.Theirdog, Rover,hasknockedoveralltheplantsinoneroomandhasstrewnthedirtalloverthe carpet.Whentheyreturn,BilltellsJillthatitisherjobtocleanupafterthedog.When sheprotests,hesaysthathehasputinafulldayattheofficeandistootiredtocleanup afterthedog. Example#2: JaneandSueshareadormroom. Jane:Turnofthatstupidstereo,Iwanttotakeanap. Sue:WhyshouldI?Whatareyouexhaustedorsomething? Jane:No,Ijustfeelliketakinganap. Sue:Well,Ifeellikeplayingmystereo. Jane:Well,Imtakingmynap.Youhavetoturnyourstereooffandthatsfinal. Example#3: MikeandBarbarashareanapartment. Mike:Barbara,youvetrackedinmudagain. Barbara:So?Itsnotmyfault. Mike:Sure.Isupposeitwalkedinonitsown.Youmadethemess,soyoucleanitup. Barbara:Why?
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Mike:Weagreedthatwhoevermakesamesshastocleanitup.Thatisfair. Barbara:Well,ImgoingtowatchTV.Ifyoudontlikethemud,thenyoucleanitup. Mike:Barbara Barbara:What?Iwanttowatchtheshow.Idontwanttocleanupthemud.LikeIsaid, ifitbothersyouthatmuch,thenyoushouldcleanitup.

Spotlight
Description: TheSpotlightfallacyiscommittedwhenapersonuncriticallyassumesthatall membersorcasesofacertainclassortypearelikethosethatreceivethemost attentionorcoverageinthemedia.Thislineofreasoninghasthefollowingform: 1.XswithqualityQreceiveagreatdealofattentionorcoverageinthemedia. 2.ThereforeallXshavequalityQ. Thislineofreasoningisfallacioussincethemerefactthatsomeoneorsomething attractsthemostattentionorcoverageinthemediadoesnotmeanthatit automaticallyrepresentsthewholepopulation.Forexample,supposeamassmurderer fromOldTown,Mainereceivedagreatdealofattentioninthemedia.Itwouldhardly followthateveryonefromthetownisamassmurderer. TheSpotlightfallacyderivesitsnamefromthefactthatreceivingagreatdealof attentionorcoverageisoftenreferredtoasbeinginthespotlight.ItissimilartoHasty Generalization,BiasedSampleandMisleadingVividnessbecausetheerrorbeingmade involvesgeneralizingaboutapopulationbasedonaninadequateorflawedsample. TheSpotlightFallacyisaverycommonfallacy.Thisfallacymostoftenoccurswhen peopleassumethatthosewhoreceivethemostmediaattentionactuallyrepresentthe groupstheybelongto.Forexample,somepeoplebegantobelievethatallthosewho opposeabortionarewillingtogundowndoctorsincoldbloodsimplybecausethose incidentsreceivedagreatdealofmediaattention.Sincethemediatypicallycovers peopleoreventsthatareunusualorexceptional,itissomewhatoddforpeopleto believethatsuchpeopleoreventsarerepresentative. Forbriefdiscussionsofadequatesamplesandgeneralizations,seetheentriesfor HastyGeneralizationandBiasedSample. Example#1: Bill:Jane,yousayyouareafeminist,butyoucantbe. Jane:What!Whatdoyoumean?Isthisoneofyourstupidjokesorsomething? Bill:No,Imserious.OverthesummerIsawfeministsappearonseveraltalkshowsand newsshowsandIreadabouttheminthepapers.Thewomenwerereallybitterandsaid thatwomenwerevictimsofmenandneededtobegivenspecialcompensation.Youare alwaystalkingaboutequalrightsandforgingyourownplaceintheworld.So,youcant beafeminist. Jane:Bill,therearemanytypesoffeminism,notjustthebrandsthatgetmedia attention.
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Bill:Oh.Sorry. Example#2: Joe:Man,IdneverwanttogotoNewYork.Itisallconcreteandpollution. Sam:Notallofit. Joe:Sureitis.EverytimeIwatchthenewstheyarealwaysshowingconcrete, skyscrapers,andlotsofpollution. Sam:Sure,thatiswhatthenewsshows,butalotofNewYorkisfarmlandsandforest. ItisnotallNewYorkCity,itjustreceivesmostoftheattention. Example#3: Ann:ImnotlettinglittleJimmyusehisonlineaccountanymore! Sasha:Whynot?DidhehackintothePentagonandtrytostartworldwarthree? Ann:No.Haventyoubeenwatchingthenewsandreadingthepapers?Thereare pervertsonlinejustwaitingtomolestkids!Youshouldtakeawayyourdaughters account.Why,theremustbethousandsofsickosoutthere! Sasha:Really?Ithoughtthattherewereonlyaveryfewcases. Ann:Imnotsureoftheexactnumber,butifthemediaiscoveringitsomuch,then mostpeoplewhoareonlinemustbeindecent.

StrawMan
Description: TheStrawManfallacyiscommittedwhenapersonsimplyignoresapersonsactual positionandsubstitutesadistorted,exaggeratedormisrepresentedversionofthat position.Thissortofreasoninghasthefollowingpattern: 1.PersonAhaspositionX. 2.PersonBpresentspositionY(whichisadistortedversionofX). 3.PersonBattackspositionY. 4.ThereforeXisfalse/incorrect/flawed. Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecauseattackingadistortedversionofaposition simplydoesnotconstituteanattackonthepositionitself.Onemightaswellexpectan attackonapoordrawingofapersontohurttheperson. Example#1: Prof.Jones:Theuniversityjustcutouryearlybudgetby$10,000. Prof.Smith:Whatarewegoingtodo? Prof.Brown:Ithinkweshouldeliminateoneoftheteachingassistantpositions.That wouldtakecareofit. Prof.Jones:Wecouldreduceourscheduledraisesinstead. Prof.Brown:Icantunderstandwhyyouwanttobleedusdrylikethat,Jones.
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Example#2: SenatorJonessaysthatweshouldnotfundtheattacksubmarineprogram.Idisagree entirely.Icantunderstandwhyhewantstoleaveusdefenselesslike that. Example#3: BillandJillarearguingaboutcleaningouttheirclosets: Jill:Weshouldcleanouttheclosets.Theyaregettingabitmessy. Bill:Why,wejustwentthroughthoseclosetslastyear.Dowehavetocleanthemout everyday? Jill:Ineversaidanythingaboutcleaningthemouteveryday.Youjustwanttookeepall yourjunkforever,whichisjustridiculous.

TwoWrongsMakeaRight
Description: TwoWrongsMakeaRightisafallacyinwhichapersonjustifiesanactionagainsta personbyassertingthatthepersonwoulddothesamethingtohim/her,whenthe actionisnotnecessarytopreventBfromdoingXtoA.Thisfallacyhasthefollowing patternofreasoning: 1.ItisclaimedthatpersonBwoulddoXtopersonA. 2.ItisacceptableforpersonAtodoXtopersonB(whenAsdoingXtoBisnot necessarytopreventBfromdoingXtoA). Thissortofreasoningisfallaciousbecauseanactionthatiswrongiswrongevenif anotherpersonwouldalsodoit. ItshouldbenotedthatitcanbethecasethatitisnotwrongforAtodoXtoBifXis donetopreventBfromdoingXtoAorifXisdoneinjustifiedretribution.Forexample, ifSallyisrunningintheparkandBifftriestoattackher,Sallywouldbejustifiedin attackingBifftodefendherself.Asanotherexample,ifcountryAisplanningtoinvade countryBinordertoenslavethepeople,thencountryBwouldbejustifiedinlaunching apreemptivestriketopreventtheinvasion. Example#1: BillhasborrowedJanesexpensivepen,butfoundhedidntreturnit.Hetellshimself thatitisokaytokeepit,sinceshewouldhavetakenhis. Example#2: Jane:Didyouhearaboutthoseterroristskillingthosepoorpeople?Thatsortofkilling isjustwrong. Sue:Thoseterroristsarejustified.Afterall,theirlandwastakenfromthem.Itis morallyrightforthemtodowhattheydo. Jane:Evenwhentheyblowupbusloadsofchildren? Sue:Yes.
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Example#3: Afterleavingabookstore,Jillnoticesthatshewasunderchargedforherbook.She decidesnottoreturnthemoneytothestorebecauseifshehadoverpaid,theywould nothavereturnedthemoney. Example#4: Jillishorrifiedbythewaythestateusescapitalpunishment.Billsaysthatcapital punishmentisfine,sincethosethestatekilldonthaveanyqualmsaboutkillingothers.

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