Logical Fallacies – Arguments driven by emotion An alcoholic is addicted to alcohol. A drug addict is addicted to drugs (obviously). Yet, what do you call someone who’s addicted to argument?
And what do you call someone who’s addicted to relying on logical fallacies to prove arguments? To answer the first question: You might call an addict to argument, an argumentative person. However, a person that relies on logical fallacies is not only arguing – that person is basically spewing out nonsense for the sake of it, and in the extreme cases the lying individual could be considered a mythomane – a pathological liar. A logical fallacy makes for a crumbling and unsteady foundation, one that barely supports any argument. The lack of support (most times due to a lack of reason and evidence) inevitably causes the argument to collapse, because the logical fallacy that supports the argument is basically flawed logic – and an argument with flawed logic is neither true nor certain. We have been educated to depend on logical fallacies to prove anything and everything. Since day one we absorb our family’s criticisms, prejudices and discrimination – and we take everything anyone we hold in high esteem says, as God’s honest truth. There is no room for doubt where there is loyalty (as far as societal belief is concerned) and that strong belief in our selves and loved ones creates a huge opportunity for any sort of logical fallacy to creep in and take hold – sometimes permanently. I don’t consider myself free of biased opinions, and I don’t intend to claim that I have not relied on logical fallacies in the past. I have, and did. More so in childhood, which in my opinion, is one of the cornerstones in life that jumpstarts the development that establishes the dependence or independence from flawed logic for use in argument support. With that in mind, there comes a time in everyone’s life when an opportunity surfaces, one to break free of the prison that is logical fallacy dependence. That opportunity could take the form of an apology, like this one: “I guess I was wrong, I’m sorry.”
An apology is an acceptance – and there is no progress before one is accepting of one’s errors. An opportunity could also appear in the form of an openminded remark: “I guess it does sound stupid to say that all nonbelievers are destined to hell.” By accepting that one’s moral standing might not be the only example there is to follow, and to acknowledge opposing factions and their opinions – is a breakthrough moment (accepting you might be wrong can lead to a humbler position, and a more open mind). Many people never come to this. Because people are so used to “being right” and so strongly crave the feeling it produces – I assume everyone has had a taste of the sweet success that comes from putting someone in their place after an argument or debate – the opportunities can come and go, yet can also altogether disappear when one hardens into a protective shell of denial. There is no end to the world of flawed logic. There are so many applications, so many contexts and too many deviations in logic that it’s already too hard to believe that absolutely no one relies – at least somewhat – on logical fallacies, to prove any point. Take faulty generalizations. These assert that a sample’s attribute is enough to generalize and conclude that a whole population holds said attribute. In other words, it gives way for arguments like this one: “I’ve visited Mexico four times, and I’ve gotten food poisoning those four times. Mexican food does not get along well with my stomach.” Getting food poisoning twice is enough of a tragedy for anyone, and amply gives way for the victim to freely generalize and call a Country’s food “bad” or just “wrong for me”. Four times is probably the most unfortunate circumstance to find oneself in out of all such cases – yet it is nonetheless, still completely laced with faulty reasoning. The person could very well have the worst of luck, or made some wrong choices – notice how this argument is proposing that all Mexican food is “wrong for him”, when in fact there are many sorts of food in Mexico which could very well be deemed agreeable to his stomach (and cause nothing but pleasure). Then there’s “Begging the Question” logical fallacy, petitio principii in Latin – a form of circular reasoning which bases its logic on implications. For example:
“Your driving skills must be good” “Why?” “Because you drove through Mill St.” “And?” “Everyone that does is good, so then, you must be good.” Ok, so maybe the driver survived Mill St., a street known for its tight curves, reckless cars zipping around and its share of careless jaywalkers. The fact that the driver was overly cautious, and actually made his way through the street – is not enough evidence to prove he’s a good driver. This is faulty reasoning – yet many (especially those that know Mill St.) might take it for a credible line of evidence. Then there’s another type of fallacy – a type of formal fallacy – one which presents a valid argument, yet finishes the argument off with an irrelevant conclusion. For example: A reformed terrorist could tell the world that he thinks Terrorism is wrong and should be stopped. Whether terrorism is right or wrong, his argument could be refuted, solely based on the fact that he’s criticizing a criminal activity he partook in earlier. The fact that the man engaged in terrorist activities in the past, should not automatically discredit the validity of his argument. Terrorism is wrong. This is something very hard to take in. How does one take moral advice from an excon? How can someone swallow their pride and accept and validate an argument from someone who so viciously refuted it in the past? Then…we have the politician’s favorites: The Straw Man and Ad Hominem (attacking the person rather than the argument). These are two “dirty trick” misinterpretations of the truth that prove very useful in debates, and legal/political careers. “The Straw Man” argument enforces informal logic, in other words, the argument holds faulty reasoning. The term “Straw Man” stems from the use of straw men in combat training. A straw man is meant to represent the opponent that is to be attacked (yet all that is being attacked is a Straw Man, not the opponent) – and in a Straw Man argument,
the opponent is attacked by way misinterpreting his position (he is attacked with no sound reasoning – solely for the purpose of being defeated) and turning his own words and/or actions against him. A Straw Man argument is a product of pure rhetoric – which is why most politicians excel at these sorts of arguments. Take this one for example: Teenager: “Dad I need a car.” Dad: “You don’t need a car, no.” Teenager: “I need it to get around.” Dad: “No” Teenager: “Why are you trying to ruin my life?” Not giving the teenager the car will not ruin his life. Yet he attacks the Father with this faulty line of reasoning, only to reassert why he was “right” all along. Wrong. And parents see through it – but some don’t. Teenagers engage in straw men arguments everyday, trying to get whatever they can out of their parents. What’s funny is that some teenagers are so crafty that they end up getting whatever they want. Husbands and wives have a whole set of logical fallacies under their belts. Every time there’s an argument, either the man or the woman whip out their rhetorical arsenal and get to it. Maybe there is no “cure” to our dependence on arguing for our position – and whether we’re wrong or right most of the time, it’s not what you say that matters, it’s how you say it that causes minds to meld. Take a minute and review great speeches of the past, present, and soontobe future ones. They will hint at some use of logical fallacies, in some context or another. It’s easy to point out logical fallacies. Yet it’s incredibly hard to find someone who’ll readily admit having used them.