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Fallacies

Thursday, April 24, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

The amount of utter random crap I’ve seen lately on forum boards, discussion threads or facebook topics (should have seen this one coming, methinks) on subjects ranging from fanfiction to Tibet to the best poutines in town has been very interesting and lolcat worthy. Yes, I know, if I bothered to venture out of my own little bubble of safety and lala-ness I would see that most netizens think spelling and punctuation apply to other people, are astoundingly agrammatical, rude, into capslock and bad at logic.

However… this will hopefully help you distinguish between what actually is a valid argument or not. Taken from a handout in law class, this lists a common number of illogical lines of debate.

If people persist in being idiots, then feel free to claim ‘troll’ and move on. There are better things to do with your life.

Fallacies that occur in writing:

Bandwagon appeals: if everyone is doing it, it must be right. Or, since everyone is doing it, what’s the harm in it?

Begging the question: the claim itself is actually used as proof to support… the claim.

Oversimplification: common or garden variety statement that doesn’t do justice to the complexity of an issue.

Either this or that: nothing is ever that simple, not even George Bush’s intelligence.

Hasty generalization: big claim, little evidence. This may go under oversimplification, in fact.

False analogy: making a nonsensical connection between two issues/events. One particular instance of false analogy is so famous it has its own name – Godwin’s Law.

Name calling: self-evident, and very distracting.

Non sequitur: almost all logical fallacies fall under this category, which is Latin for ‘it does not follow’. Any two things that are linked haphazardly is a non sequitur.

Polarization: proposes a divide into two sides – rather like oversimplification.

Post hoc: from another Latin term post hoc ergo procter hoc, this time meaning ‘after this, therefore because of this’. This assumes that two events following each other have a causal relationship. Like… The Canadiens lose 1-5 to the Bruins, oil prices jump $15/barrel the next day. Therefore, losing in a hockey game leads to a rise in oil prices. (Anything these days makes crude more expensive.)

Rationalization: Excuses and weak explanations for something which allows the speaker to get away with explaining the actual reason. My personal favourite? At least we liberated the Iraqi people. (I think you know the context on this one, if not, I shall make you a nice long post sometime.)

Slippery slope: one thing will always lead to another. This one just annoys me: Legalizing gay marriage means no man and woman will marry again.

Straw man: a ridiculous but appealing stance that distracts the reader from being critical thinkers on a certain subject. This I’ve seen often – “Tibtans r opressed! Free dem from bad children-eaters!”

Appeal to tradition/emotion/fear: self-explanatory. Well-beloved of lawyers and politicians, especially in the last instance.

Ad hominem: attacking the holder of an opinion instead of the actual issue as a way of invalidating their position. Here’s a great site for examples.

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did writing it,

Sevenses

P.S. Points if you can spot the two references to where I live!

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  1. Jess
    Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    “Best poutines in town” and “The Canadiens lose 1-5 to the Bruins”? I think you already mentioned that you were Canadian a while ago though.

  2. sevenses
    Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Points for Jess, though I was looking for a specific pinpoint. ^^

  3. irugnotmis
    Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Montreal?

  4. Jess
    Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Lol iurgnotmis I was just going to guess Quebec 😛

    sevenses tell us!

  5. sevenses
    Friday, April 25, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Yep! You’re both right. iurgnotmis gets to request my next post, whatever it may be. 😀

  6. irugnotmis
    Friday, April 25, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    YAY! so honored! Can you do a book review to recommend a really good book? 😀 OR tell us about an interesting anecdote? 🙂 Merci!

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