This past winter I took a Critical Thinking class at Providence, (a must take for pretty much anyone who wants to think properly) and learned a lot. However, it has become nearly impossible for me to take seriously some people's poorly reasoned arguments when they are so full of fallacies. I thought I would provide you members of PFC with a list of fallacies so that you will be better able to reason properly and show the truth of Jesus Christ in a reasonable and logical fashion.
1. Ad Hominem
- Attacking the person instead of his/her argument
2. Affirming the Consequent
- A corruption of the logical form Modus Ponens, where one sets it out P->Q; Q therefore P instead of the proper form P->Q; P therefore Q.
3. Anecdotal Argument
- A premise that describes a story or anecdote is used to infer a general point in a hasty manner.
4. Appeals to Authority, Fear, Pity, Popularity, and Tradition
- Using an appeal to any of the above as a premise when doing so is invalid.
5. Begging the Question
- Assuming as proven that which is at issue, I recently saw a beautiful example of this, "Murder and revenge are inherently morally wrong and never justified. Therefore, capital punishment is morally wrong and is never justified."
6. Causal Slippery Slope
- An argument that claims that if one causal event goes through it will trigger a causal chain that will end in calamity, but this slippery slope is usually unfounded and merely a projection of the arguer's fears rather than having any basis in truth.
- Arguing from the parts to the whole, i.e., these parts have property x therefore the whole being must have property x.
8. Confirmation Bias
- Only acknowledging evidence that lends positive support to one's argument and disregarding all negative evidence.
9. Confusing Correlation and Cause
- The fallacious assumption that because two things have a positive correlation, event A must cause event B, i.e., a survey of a class reveals that there is a strong correlation between large foot size and high grades, the assumption then is that large foot size causes high grades which is fallacious.
10. Denying the Antecedent
- A corruption of the logical form Modus Tollens (proper form is P -> Q; ~Q therefore ~P) which is instead laid out as P->Q; ~P therefore ~Q which is wrong.
- Arguing from the whole to the parts, ie, the whole has property y therefore the parts have property y.
- When a key word in the premises is used in multiple senses and the conclusion is derived from this ambiguity. A fun example: "Nothing is better than sex, philosophy is better than nothing, therefore, philosophy is better than sex."
13. False Dichotomy
- A statement claiming either x or y when x or y do not exhaust all the possible options, a famous example of this is the Euthyphro Dilemma
14. Faulty Analogy
- When an analogy between two items are two superficial to support a conclusion, this was an alleged critique of Paley's watch analogy.
15. Guilt by Association
- Using a supposed link between an individual and a group or other individual of ill repute to cast a poor reflection upon said individual.
16. Hasty Inductive Generalization
- "A hasty inductive generalization occurs when a person generalizes from a single anecdote or experience, or from a sample that is too small or too unrepresentative to support his conclusion." (Govier 382)
- Occurs when because of a lack of knowledge about a proposition, one makes an assertion about it, by pointing to the lack of evidence against that assertion as proof.
18. Objectionable Cause
- Asserting that even A caused even B when other interpretations of the available data have not been ruled out.
19. Our Side Bias
- "Selective application of principles and norms so as to treat one's own side more leniently than the other side." (Govier, 383)
20. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
- The false assumption that just because event B came after event A, event A must have caused it.
21. Slippery Precedent
- A case that on its own is good, but if permitted, could lead to a number of bad conclusions.
22. Straw Man
- Misrepresenting an opponent's argument and making a weakened version of it which is then easily defeated.
23. Tu Quoque
- A type of ad hominem fallacy in which you reject a person's argument because they are guilty of the same thing they argue against. I.e., a smoker saying don't smoke and listing reasons for doing so, if one replies, "Well you do it", one has committed the tu quoque fallacy.
24. Two Wrongs make a Right
- an attempt to convince someone that they should allow one wrong thing because something else equally as wrong is common practice.
- an argument that uses language that is unclear as to its meaning. The language is so vague that it is impossible to determine the veracity of it.
This list was taken from Trudy Govier's "A Practical Study of Argument" and more detail on these fallacies can be found on pages 378 to 385.
May we all strive to reason carefully in glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ.