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Module 4: Fallacies

Zaid Ali Alsagoff zaid_a@unitar.edu.my

Man or Woman?

Source: http://www.coolopticalillusions.com/manwoman.htm

How many legs does this elephant have?

Source: http://www.coolopticalillusions.com/elephantlegs.htm

Which officer is the tallest?

Source: http://www.coolopticalillusions.com/optical_illusions_images_2/giant_man.htm

Is this wave moving?

Source: http://www.grand-illusions.com/opticalillusions/oblong_wave/

Analyze + Evaluate = Your Opinion? Target Audience?


AirAsia + Girls = Fun

Module 4: Fallacies
1. Fallacies of Relevance
What mistake!!!

2. Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence

4.0 What is a Fallacy?


A (logical) fallacy is an argument that contains a mistake in reasoning. Fallacies can be divided into two general types:

Fallacies of Relevance Arguments in which the premises are logically irrelevant to the conclusion. Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence Arguments in which the premises, though logically relevant to the conclusion, fail to provide sufficient evidence for the conclusion.

if you get him off the thing he was educated in - Will Rogers

There is nothing so stupid as an educated man,

4.1 Fallacies of Relevance


A statement is RELEVANT to another statement if it provides at least some reason for thinking that the second statement is true or false. There are three ways in which a statement can be relevant or irrelevant to another:
A statement is positively relevant to another statement if it provides at least some reason for thinking that the second statement is true. A statement is negatively relevant to another statement if it provides at least some reason for thinking that the second statement is false. A statement is logically irrelevant to another statement if it provides no reason for thinking that the second statement is either true or false.

4.1 Fallacies of Relevance Example;


When an arguer rejects a persons argument or claim by attacking the persons character rather than examining the worth of the argument or claim itself.
Example: Professor Doogie has argued for more emphasis on music in our F2F classes to facilitate creativity. But Doogie is a selfish bigheaded fool. I absolutely refuse to listen to him.

Personal Attack

The foolish and the dead alone

never change their opinion. - James Russell Lowell

4.2 Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence

Arguments in which the premises, though logically relevant to the conclusion, fail to provide sufficient evidence to support the conclusion.

4.2 Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence


Inappropriate Appeal to Authority Appeal to Ignorance False Alternatives Questionable Cause

Slippery Slope
Weak Analogy

Loaded Question

Inconsistency

Hasty Generalizations

4.2.1 Inappropriate Appeal to Authority


Inappropriate Appeal to Authority Citing a witness or authority that is untrustworthy.
Example: My dentist told me that aliens built the lost city of Atlantis. So, its reasonable to believe that aliens did build the lost city of Atlantis.
Authority Assessment
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Is the source an authority on the subject at issue? Is the source biased? Is the accuracy of the source observations questionable? Is the source known to be generally unreliable? Has the source been cited correctly? Does the sources claim conflict with expert opinion? Can the sources claim be settled by an appeal to expert opinion? Is the claim highly improbable on its face?

Tips

4.2.2 Appeal to Ignorance


Appeal to Ignorance Claiming that something is true because no one has proven it false or vice versa.

Example: Yoda must exist. No one has proved that he doesnt exist.
Agree I do!

Remember

Not proven, therefore false If such reasoning were allowed, we could prove almost any conclusion.

4.2.3 False Alternatives


False Alternatives Posing a false either/or choice.
Example: The choice in this MPM election is clear: Either we elect Zubaidah as our next president, or we watch our MPM unity slide into anarchy and frustration. Clearly, we dont want that to happen. Therefore, we should elect Zubaidah as our next president.

Remember

Fallacy of false alternatives can involve more than two (2) alternatives. It can also be expressed as a conditional (if-then) statement.

4.2.4 Loaded Question


Loaded Question Posing a question that contains an unfair or unwarranted presupposition.
Example: Lee: Are you still friends with that loser Richard? Ali: Yes. Lee: Well, at least you admit hes a total loser.

Tip

To respond to a loaded question effectively, one must distinguish the different questions being asked and respond to each individually.

4.2.5 Questionable Cause


Questionable Cause Claiming, without sufficient evidence, that one thing Is the cause of something else.
Example: Sarah gets a chain letter that threatens her with dire consequences if she breaks the chain. She laughs at it and throws it in the garbage. On her way to work she slips and breaks his arm. When she gets back from the hospital she sends out 200 copies of the chain letter, hoping to avoid further accidents.

Pattern

1. A and B are associated on a regular basis.

2. Therefore A is the cause of B.

4.2.6 Hasty Generalization


Hasty Generalization Drawing a general conclusion from a sample that is biased or too small.
Example: Norwegians are lazy. I have two friends who are from there, and both of them never prepare for class, or do their homework.

Pattern

1. A biased sample is one that is not representative of the target population. 2. The target population is the group of people or things that the generalization is about. 3. Hasty generalizations can often lead to false stereotypes.

4.2.7 Slippery Slope


Slippery Slope Claiming, without sufficient evidence, that a seemingly Harmless action, if taken, will lead to a disastrous outcome.
Examples: The Malaysian militarily shouldn't get involved in other countries. Once the government sends in a few troops, it will then send in thousands to die."

1. 2.

Pattern

3.

The arguer claims that if a certain seemingly harmless action, A, is permitted, A will lead to B, B will lead to C, and so on to D. The arguer holds that D is a terrible thing and therefore should not be permitted. In fact, there is no good reason to believe that A will actually lead to D.

4.2.8 Weak Analogy


Weak Analogy Comparing things that arent really comparable.
Example: Nobody would buy a car without first taking it for a test drive. Why then shouldnt two mature UNITAR students live together before they decide whether to get married?

Tip

1. List all important similarities between the two cases. 2. List all important dissimilarities between the two cases. 3. Decide whether the similarities or dissimilarities are more important.

4.2.9 Inconsistency
Inconsistency Asserting inconsistent or contradictory claims.
Example: Note found in a Forest Service Suggestion box: Park visitors need to know how important it is to keep this wilderness area completely pristine and undisturbed. So why not put up a few signs to remind people of this fact?

Remember

It is also a mistake to cling stubbornly to an old idea when new information suggests that the idea is false.

Open-minded to new ideas = Learning

4.2 Mini Quiz Question 1


What's to say against [cigars]? They killed George Burns at 100. If he hadn't smoked them, he'd have died at 75. (Bert Sugar, quoted in New York Times, September 20, 2002)

Which fallacy?
A) B) C) D) Questionable Cause Hasty Generalization Slippery Slope Weak Analogy

4.2 Mini Quiz Question 2


According to North Korea's official state-run news agency, "a war between North Korea and the United States will end with the delightful victory of North Korea, a newly emerging military power, in 100 hours. . . . The U. S. [will] be enveloped in flames. . . and the arrogant empire of the devil will breathe its last". Given that this prediction comes from the official North Korean news agency, it is probably true. (Passage quoted in Nicholas D. Kristof, "Empire of the Devil," New York Times, April 4, 2003)

Which fallacy?
A) B) C) D) Inappropriate Appeal to Authority Appeal to Ignorance False Alternatives Loaded Question

4.2 Mini Quiz Question 3


Jurors in tobacco lawsuits should award judgments so large that they put tobacco companies out of business. Respecting the right of tobacco companies to stay in business is akin to saying there are "two sides" to slavery... (Anti-tobacco lawyer, quoted in George F. Will, "Court Ruling Expresses Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy," Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, May 25, 2003)

Which fallacy?
A) B) C) D) Loaded Question Hasty Generalization Slippery Slope Weak Analogy

Group Activity
Break into groups of 4 - 6, and construct five (5) fallacious arguments. Each group can choose any of the 20 fallacies discussed, but must construct at least two fallacious arguments of each category: Fallacies of Relevance & Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence). The constructed fallacious arguments must discuss the topics specified in the template provided (Business, Education, Information Technology, Environment, and Tourism).
20 min 5 min Construct 5 fallacious arguments. Document constructed arguments into the template provided.

15 min

Group presentation & discussion.

The Group leader must submit their findings in hard-copy or soft-copy format to the lecturer before or during the next class.

Summary 20 Common Fallacies


Fallacy An argument that contains a mistake in reasoning.
Fallacies of Relevance
Arguments in which the premises are logically irrelevant to the conclusion.

Fallacies of Insufficient Evidence


Arguments in which the premises, though logically relevant to the conclusion, fail to provide sufficient evidence for the conclusion.

Personal Attack Attacking the Motive Look Whos Talking Two Wrongs Make a Right Scare Tactics Appeal to Pity Bandwagon Argument Straw Man Red Herring Equivocation Begging the Question

Inappropriate Appeal to Authority Appeal to Ignorance False Alternatives Loaded Question Questionable Cause

Hasty Generalization
Slippery Slope Weak Analogy Inconsistency

Any Questions?

The End

References
Book Chapter 5 (Logical Fallacies -1) & 6 (Logical Fallacies 2): G Bassham, W Irwin, H Nardone, J M Wallace, Critical Thinking: A Student's Introduction, McGraw-Hill International Edition, 2007 Online Resources Fallacies (The Nizkor Project): http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ Cool Optical Illusions: http://www.coolopticalillusions.com/

Contact Details

Zaid Ali Alsagoff


UNIVERSITI TUN ABDUL RAZAK 16-5, Jalan SS 6/12 47301 Kelana Jaya Selangor Darul Ehsan Malaysia E-mail: zaid_a@unitar.edu.my
Tel: 603-7627 7238 Fax: 603-7627 7246