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Fallacy

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This article is about errors in reasoning. For the formal concept in philosophy and
logic, see Formal fallacy. For other uses, see Fallacy (disambiguation).
A fallacy is the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning, or "wrong moves"[1]
in the construction of an argument.[2][3] A fallacious argument may be deceptive by
appearing to be better than it really is. Some fallacies are committed
intentionally to manipulate or persuade by deception, while others are committed
unintentionally due to carelessness or ignorance. Lawyers acknowledge that the
extent to which an argument is sound or unsound depends on the context in which the
argument is made.[4]
Fallacies are commonly divided into "formal" and "informal". A formal fallacy can
be expressed neatly in a standard system of logic, such as propositional logic,[2]
while an informal fallacy originates in an error in reasoning other than an
improper logical form.[5] Arguments containing informal fallacies may be formally
valid, but still fallacious.[6]
Contents [hide]
1 Formal
1.1 Common examples
2 Aristotle
3 Whately's grouping
4 Intentional
5 Deductive
6 Paul Meehl
7 Measurement
8 Other systems of classification
9 Assessment pragmatic theory
10 Logical fallacies
10.1 Examples of types of logical fallacies
10.1.1 Hasty generalization
10.1.2 Missing the point
10.1.3 Post hoc (false cause)
10.1.4 Slippery slope
11 See also
12 References
13 Further reading
14 External links
Formal[edit]
Main article: Formal fallacy
A formal fallacy is a common error of thinking that can neatly be expressed in
standard system of logic.[2] An argument that is formally fallacious is rendered
invalid due to a flaw in its logical structure. Such an argument is always
considered to be wrong.
The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything
about the argument's premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or may
even be more probable as a result of the argument; but the deductive argument is
still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the
manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if
the argument is not a deductive one: for instance, an inductive argument that
incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a
formal fallacy.
Common examples[edit]
Main article: List of fallacies Formal fallacies
Aristotle[edit]
Aristotle was the first to systematize logical errors into a list, as being able to
refute an opponent's thesis is one way of winning an argument.[7] Aristotle's
"Sophistical Refutations" (De Sophisticis Elenchis) identifies thirteen fallacies.
He divided them up into two major types Linguistic fallacies and Non-linguistic
fallacies, some depending on language and others that do not depend on language.[8]
[9] These fallacies are called verbal fallacies and material fallacies,
respectively. A material fallacy is an error in what the arguer is talking about,
while a verbal fallacy is an error in how the arguer is talking. Verbal fallacies
are those in which a conclusion is obtained by improper or ambiguous use of words.
[10] An example of a language dependent fallacy is given as a debate as to who
amongst humanity are learners: the wise or the ignorant.[11] Language-independent
fallacies may be more complex, e.g.:
"Coriscus is different from Socrates."
"Socrates is a man."
"Therefore, Coriscus is different from a man."[12]
Whately's grouping[edit]
Richard Whately defines a fallacy broadly as, "any argument, or apparent argument,
which professes to be decisive of the matter at hand, while in reality it is not".
[13]
Whately divided fallacies into two groups: logical and material. According to
Whately, logical fallacies are arguments where the conclusion does not follow from
the premises. Material fallacies are not logical errors because the conclusion does
follow from the premises. He then divided the logical group into two groups: purely
logical and semi-logical. The semi-logical group included all of Aristotle's
sophisms except:ignoratio elenchi, petitio principii, and non causa pro causa,
which are in the material group.[14]
Intentional[edit]
Sometimes a speaker or writer uses a fallacy intentionally. In any context,
including academic debate, a conversation among friends, political discourse,
advertising, or for comedic purposes, the arguer may use fallacious reasoning to
try to persuade the listener or reader, by means other than offering relevant
evidence, that the conclusion is true.
Examples of this include the speaker or writer:[15]
Diverting the argument to unrelated issues with a red herring (Ignoratio elenchi)
Insulting someone's character (argumentum ad hominem)
Assume the conclusion of an argument, a kind of circular reasoning, also called
"begging the question" (petitio principi)
Making jumps in logic (non-sequitur)
Identifying a false cause and effect (post hoc ergo propter hoc)
Asserting that everyone agrees (bandwagoning)
Creating a "false dilemma" ("either-or fallacy") in which the situation is
oversimplified
Selectively using facts (card-stacking)
Making false or misleading comparisons (false equivalence and false analogy)
Generalizing quickly and sloppily (hasty generalization)
In humor, errors of reasoning are used for comical purposes. Groucho Marx used
fallacies of amphiboly, for instance, to make ironic statements; Gary Larson and
Scott Adams employed fallacious reasoning in many of their cartoons. Wes Boyer and
Samuel Stoddard have written a humorous essay teaching students how to be
persuasive by means of a whole host of informal and formal fallacies.[16]
Deductive[edit]
Main articles: Deductive fallacy and formal fallacy
In philosophy, the term formal fallacy is used for logical fallacies and defined
formally as: a flaw in the structure of a deductive argument which renders the
argument invalid. The term is preferred as logic is the use of valid reasoning and
a fallacy is an argument that uses poor reasoning therefore the term logical
fallacy is an oxymoron. However, the same terms are used in informal discourse to
mean an argument which is problematic for any reason. A logical form such as "A and
B" is independent of any particular conjunction of meaningful propositions. Logical
form alone can guarantee that given true premises, a true conclusion must follow.
However, formal logic makes no such guarantee if any premise is false; the
conclusion can be either true or false. Any formal error or logical fallacy
similarly invalidates the deductive guarantee. Both the argument and all its
premises must be true for a statement to be true.
Paul Meehl[edit]
In Why I Do Not Attend Case Conferences (1973),[17] psychologist Paul Meehl
discusses several fallacies that can arise in medical case conferences that are
primarily held to diagnose patients. These fallacies can also be considered more
general errors of thinking that all individuals (not just psychologists) are prone
to making.
Barnum effect: Making a statement that is trivial, and true of everyone, e.g. of
all patients, but which appears to have special significance to the diagnosis.
Sick-sick fallacy ("pathological set"): The tendency to generalize from personal
experiences of health and ways of being, to the identification of others who are
different from ourselves as being "sick". Meehl emphasizes that though
psychologists claim to know about this tendency, most are not very good at
correcting it in their own thinking.
"Me too" fallacy: The opposite of Sick-sick. Imagining that "everyone does this"
and thereby minimizing a symptom without assessing the probability of whether a
mentally healthy person would actually do it. A variation of this is Uncle George's
pancake fallacy. This minimizes a symptom through reference to a friend/relative
who exhibited a similar symptom, thereby implying that it is normal. Meehl points
out that consideration should be given that the patient is not healthy by
comparison but that the friend/relative is unhealthy.
Multiple Napoleons fallacy: "It's not real to us, but it's 'real' to him." A
relativism that Meehl sees as a waste of time. There is a distinction between
reality and delusion that is important to make when assessing a patient and so the
consideration of comparative realities can mislead and distract from the importance
of a patient's delusion to a diagnostic decision.[clarification needed]
Hidden decisions: Decisions based on factors that we do not own up to or challenge,
and for example result in the placing of middle- and upper-class patients in
therapy while lower-class patients are given medication. Meehl identifies these
decisions as related to an implicit ideal patient who is young, attractive, verbal,
intelligent, and successful (YAVIS). He sees YAVIS patients as being preferred by
psychotherapists because they can pay for long-term treatment and are more
enjoyable to interact with.
The spun-glass theory of the mind: The belief that the human organism is so fragile
that minor negative events, such as criticism, rejection, or failure, are bound to
cause major trauma to the system. Essentially not giving humans, and sometimes
patients, enough credit for their resilience and ability to recover.
Crummy criterion fallacy: This fallacy refers to how psychologists explain away
the technical aspects of tests, using inappropriate and 'crummy' criterion that is
observational instead of scientific, rather than incorporating the psychometric
aspects into the interview, life-history, and other material being presented at
case conferences.
Understanding it makes it normal: The act of normalizing or excusing a behavior
just because one understand the cause or function of it, regardless of its normalcy
or appropriateness. For example, a psychologist would be guilty of committing this
fallacy if he or she began to see the behavior of criminal clients as normal
because of understanding how such behavior came about.
Assumptions that content and dynamics explain why this person is abnormal: Those
who seek psychological services have certain characteristics associated with the
fact they are seeking services. However, not only do they have the characteristics
of clients but also characteristics of being human. To attribute ones complete
life dysfunction to attributes that make one a patient ignores the fact that some
problems are just human problems.
Identifying the softhearted with the softheaded: The belief that those who have
sincere concern for the suffering (i.e., the softhearted) are often seen as one and
the same as those who tend to be wrong in logical and empirical decisions (i.e.,
softheaded).
Ad hoc fallacy: Creating explanations after we have been presented with evidence
that is consistent with what has now been proven. For example, in clinical
psychology, this occurs when one explains why a patient is the way he or she is,
based only on the evidence relevant to the explanation.
Doing it the hard way: Going about a task in a more difficult manner when an
equivalent easier option exists; for example, in clinical psychology, using an
unnecessary instrument or procedure that can be difficult and time consuming while
the same information can be ascertained through interviewing or interacting with
the client.
Social scientists anti-biology bias: Meehls belief that social scientists like
psychologists, sociologists, and psychiatrists have a tendency to react negatively
to biological factors in abnormality, therefore tending to be anti-drug, anti-
genetic, and anti-EST.
Double standard of evidential morals: When one is making an argument and requires
less evidence for him or herself than does so for another.
Measurement[edit]
Increasing availability and circulation of big data are driving proliferation of
new metrics for scholarly authority,[18][19] and there is lively discussion
regarding the relative usefulness of such metrics for measuring the value of
knowledge production in the context of an "information tsunami."[20] Where
mathematical fallacies are subtle mistakes in reasoning leading to invalid
mathematical proofs, measurement fallacies are unwarranted inferential leaps
involved in the extrapolation of raw data to a measurement-based value claim. The
ancient Greek Sophist Protagoras was one of the first thinkers to propose that
humans can generate reliable measurements through his "human-measure" principle and
the practice of dissoi logoi (arguing multiple sides of an issue).[21][22] This
history helps explain why measurement fallacies are informed by informal logic and
argumentation theory.
Anchoring fallacy: Anchoring is a cognitive bias, first theorized by Amos Tversky
and Daniel Kahneman, that "describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily
on the first piece of information offered (the 'anchor') when making decisions." In
measurement arguments, anchoring fallacies can occur when unwarranted weight is
given to data generated by metrics that the arguers themselves acknowledge is
flawed. For example, limitations of the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) are well
documented,[23] and even JIF pioneer Eugene Garfield notes, "while citation data
create new tools for analyses of research performance, it should be stressed that
they supplement rather than replace other quantitative-and qualitative-
indicators."[24] To the extent that arguers jettison acknowledged limitations of
JIF-generated data in evaluative judgments, or leave behind Garfield's "supplement
rather than replace" caveat, they court commission of anchoring fallacies.
Naturalistic fallacy: In the context of measurement, a naturalistic fallacy can
occur in a reasoning chain that makes an unwarranted extrapolation from "is" to
"ought," as in the case of sheer quantity metrics based on the premise "more is
better"[20] or, in the case of developmental assessment in the field of psychology,
"higher is better."[25]
False analogy: In the context of measurement, this error in reasoning occurs when
claims are supported by unsound comparisons between data points, hence the false
analogy's informal nickname of the "apples and oranges" fallacy.[26] For example,
the Scopus and Web of Science bibliographic databases have difficulty
distinguishing between citations of scholarly work that are arms-length
endorsements, ceremonial citations, or negative citations (indicating the citing
author withholds endorsement of the cited work).[27] Hence, measurement-based value
claims premised on the uniform quality of all citations may be questioned on false
analogy grounds.
Argumentum ex silentio: An argument from silence features an unwarranted conclusion
advanced based on the absence of data. For example, Academic Analytics' Faculty
Scholarly Productivity Index purports to measure overall faculty productivity, yet
the tool does not capture data based on citations in books. This creates a
possibility that low productivity measurements using the tool may constitute
argumentum ex silentio fallacies, to the extent that such measurements are
supported by the absence of book citation data.
Ecological fallacy: An ecological fallacy is committed when one draws an inference
from data based on the premise that qualities observed for groups necessarily hold
for individuals; for example, "if countries with more Protestants tend to have
higher suicide rates, then Protestants must be more likely to commit suicide."[28]
In metrical argumentation, ecological fallacies can be committed when one measures
scholarly productivity of a sub-group of individuals (e.g. "Puerto Rican" faculty)
via reference to aggregate data about a larger and different group (e.g. "Hispanic"
faculty).[29]
Other systems of classification[edit]
Of other classifications of fallacies in general the most famous are those of
Francis Bacon and J. S. Mill. Bacon (Novum Organum, Aph. 33, 38 sqq.) divided
fallacies into four Idola (Idols, i.e. False Appearances), which summarize the
various kinds of mistakes to which the human intellect is prone. With these should
be compared the Offendicula of Roger Bacon, contained in the Opus maius, pt. i. J.
S. Mill discussed the subject in book v. of his Logic, and Jeremy Bentham's Book of
Fallacies (1824) contains valuable remarks. See Rd. Whateley's Logic, bk. v.; A. de
Morgan, Formal Logic (1847); A. Sidgwick, Fallacies (1883) and other textbooks.
Assessment pragmatic theory[edit]
According to the pragmatic theory,[30] a fallacy can in some instances be an error
a fallacy, use of a heuristic (short version of an argumentation scheme) to jump to
a conclusion. However, even more worryingly, in other instances it is a tactic or
ploy used inappropriately in argumentation to try to get the best of a speech part
unfairly. There are always two parties to an argument containing a fallacy the
perpetrator and the intended victim. The dialogue framework required to support the
pragmatic theory of fallacy is built on the presumption that argumentative dialogue
has both an adversarial component and a collaborative component. A dialogue has
individual goals for each participant, but also collective (shared) goals that
apply to all participants. A fallacy of the second kind is seen as more than simply
violation of a rule of reasonable dialogue. It is also a deceptive tactic of
argumentation, based on sleight-of-hand. Aristotle explicitly compared contentious
reasoning to unfair fighting in athletic contest. But the roots of the pragmatic
theory go back even further in history to the Sophists. The pragmatic theory finds
its roots in the Aristotelian conception of a fallacy as a sophistical refutation,
but also supports the view that many of the types of arguments traditionally
labelled as fallacies are in fact reasonable techniques of argumentation that can
be used, in many cases, to support legitimate goals of dialogue. Hence on the
pragmatic approach, each case needs to analyzed individually, to determine by the
textual evidence whether the argument is fallacious or reasonable.
Logical fallacies[edit]
Fallacies are defects that weaken arguments; Logical fallacies are errors in
reasoning that invalidate the argument. McMullin (2000), a clinical psychologist,
explains that: "Logical fallacies are unsubstantiated assertions that are often
delivered with a conviction that makes them sound as though they are proven facts".
[31] It is important to understand what fallacies are so that you can recognize
them in either your own or others writing. Avoiding fallacies will strengthen your
ability to produce strong arguments. It is important to note that;
Fallacious arguments are very, very common and can be quite persuasive, at least to
the casual reader or listener. You can find dozens of examples of fallacious
reasoning in newspapers, advertisements, and other sources. It is sometimes hard to
evaluate whether an argument is fallacious. An argument might be very weak,
somewhat weak, somewhat strong, or very strong. An argument that has several stages
or parts might have some strong sections and some weak ones.
Examples of types of logical fallacies[edit]
Hasty generalization[edit]
Definition: Making assumptions about a whole group or range of cases based on a
sample that is inadequate (usually because it is atypical or just too small).
Stereotypes about people ("frat boys are drunkards," "grad students are nerdy,"
women dont enjoy sport etc.) are a common example of the principle underlying
hasty generalization.
Missing the point[edit]
Definition: The premises of an argument do support a particular conclusion--but not
the conclusion that the arguer actually draws.
Post hoc (false cause)[edit]
This fallacy gets its name from the Latin phrase "post hoc, ergo propter hoc,"
which translates as "after this, therefore because of this." Definition: Assuming
that because B comes after A, A caused B. Of course, sometimes one event really
does cause another one that comes laterfor example, if I register for a class, and
my name later appears on the roll, it's true that the first event caused the one
that came later. But sometimes two events that seem related in time aren't really
related as cause and event. That is, correlation isn't the same thing as causation.
Slippery slope[edit]
Definition: The arguer claims that a sort of chain reaction, usually ending in some
dire consequence, will take place, but there's really not enough evidence for that
assumption. The arguer asserts that if we take even one step onto the "slippery
slope," we will end up sliding all the way to the bottom; he or she assumes we
can't stop halfway down the hill.[32]