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Introduction and Activities

Logical = something that is reasonable, (it makes sense) Fallacy = something that is faulty, (a mistake)


Logical + Fallacy = A Mistake in Reasoning

A fallacy is an error of reasoning. These are flawed statements that often sound true Logical fallacies are often used to strengthen an argument, but if the reader detects them the argument can backfire, and damage the writers credibility

The word fallacy has derive from the Latin word fallere meaning, to deceive, to trip, to lead into error or to trick. The word may also derive from the Greek phelos, meaning deceitful.

Fallacies can be categorized as 1. Reasons that seem logical but dont necessarily support the conclusion 2. Statements that distract listeners from the real issue
For a comprehensive list see the following websites:

Faulty analogies False cause Ad hominem Two wrong make a right Slippery slope Straw man Hasty conclusion

Analogy compares two things False analogy is when the two things compared really are not similar in the way being compared Sadaam Hussein is like Hitler Therefore, the Gulf War is justified just as WW II was justified

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 later--for 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.

Examples: "President Jones raised taxes, and then the rate of violent crime went up. Jones is responsible for the rise in crime.
The increase in taxes might or might not be one factor in the rising crime rates, but the argument hasn't shown us that one caused the other.

Attack against the man Attacks the character or person of the person making the opposing argument rather than the argument itself Shows lack of objectivity

Two Wrongs Make a Right This fallacy is committed when we suggest some behaviour is morally permissible, offering as evidence that someone else had done the same thing.

Example: After Adityas mother catches him with his hand in the cookie jar, Adityas defence is that his older brother eats cookies before dinner all the time.

Also known as the Camels Nose

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. Example: "Animal experimentation reduces our respect for life. If we don't respect life, we are likely to be more and more tolerant of violent acts like war and murder. Soon our society will become a battlefield in which everyone constantly fears for their lives. It will be the end of civilization. To prevent this terrible consequence, we should make animal experimentation illegal right now." Since animal experimentation has been legal for some time and civilization has not yet ended, it seems particularly clear that this chain of events won't necessarily take place.

Definition: One way of making our own arguments stronger is to anticipate and respond in advance to the arguments that an opponent might make. The arguer sets up a wimpy version of the opponents position and tries to score point by knocking it down. Example: "Feminists want to ban dowry and punish everyone who indulge in it. But such harsh measures are surely inappropriate, so the feminists are wrong: "
The feminist argument is made weak by being overstated--in fact, most gifts are not dowry and do not propose an outright "ban or any punishment for those who merely give it;

Evidence does not support the broad conclusion.

Example: Aditya, who is from India, decides to attend

graduate school at Ohio State University. He has never been to the US before. The day after he arrives, he is walking back from an orientation session and sees two white (albino) squirrels chasing each other around a tree. In his next letter home, he tells his family that American squirrels are white. Example: Fred the Australian, stole my wallet. Thus, all Australians are thieves.

The Red Herring Ad Populum: Jumping on the Bandwagon Appeal to Tradition: wehv alaways done it this way Appeal to pity The false Dilemma Equivocation Begging the question

...named after a strong-smelling fish, the scent of which throws hounds off the scent of a trail. The Red Herring occurs when one draws

attention away from the main issue by focusing on a side issue or on something irrelevant.
"I work 60 hours a week to support my family, and I pay my taxes; you shouldn't arrest me just because I punched him in the face.

Youre not being fair by denying me the opportunity to make up the quiz; after all, Im paying for my own education, I work two jobs and have to raise my six children on my own!

Ad Populum: Jumping on the Bandwagon

An argument aimed at appealing to the prejudices and emotions of the masses Just because a majority believe something is true doesnt make it logical or valid If you dont want to be left out, you better get on the bandwagon and do and think the same things

...We should continue to do things as they have been done in the past. We shouldn't challenge time-honored customs or traditions. (don't rock the boat) Of course you have to play Here Comes the Bride" at your wedding, because that's always been the song that is played. We always have liver on Thanksgiving even though we dislike it because its been a family tradition for generations.

Definition: The appeal to pity takes place when an arguer tries to get people to accept a conclusion by making them feel sorry for someone. Example: "I know the exam is graded based on performance, but you should give me an A. My Dog has been sick, my car broke down, and I've had a cold, so it was really hard for me to study!"
The conclusion here is "You should give me an A." But the criteria for getting an A have to do with learning and applying the material from the course; the principle the arguer wants us to accept (people who have a hard week deserve A's) is clearly unacceptable.

Example: "It's wrong to tax corporations-think of all the money they give to charity, and of the costs they already pay to run their businesses!"

...based on the false assumption that there are only two possibilities. Sometimes called the Either/Or fallacy. Most situations provide more than two possible outcomes. Examples: Either you are with America's fight against terrorism or you are America's enemy. If you dont take this trip now, you will either live with lifelong regret or you will take a better trip later in your life.

Definition: Equivocation is sliding between two or more different meanings of a single word or phrase that is important to the argument. Example: "Giving money to charity is the right thing to do. So charities have a right to our money."
The equivocation here is on the word "right": "right" can mean both something that is correct or good (as in "I got the right answers on the test") and something to which someone has a claim (as in "everyone has a right to life"). Sometimes an arguer will deliberately, sneakily equivocate, often on words like "freedom," "justice," "rights," and so forth; other times, the equivocation is a mistake or misunderstanding. Either way, it's important that you use the main terms of your argument consistently.

Definition: A complicated fallacy, an argument that begs the question asks the reader to simply accept the conclusion without providing real evidence

Examples: "Active euthanasia is morally acceptable. It is a decent, ethical thing to help another human being escape suffering through death." Let's lay this out in premise-conclusion form:
Premise: It is a decent, ethical thing to help another human being escape suffering through death. Conclusion: Active euthanasia is morally acceptable.

the argument either relies on a premise that says the same thing as the conclusion (which you might hear referred to as "being circular" or "circular reasoning"), or simply ignores an important (but questionable) assumption that the argument rests on. Sometimes people use the phrase "beg the question" as a sort of general criticism of arguments, to mean that an arguer hasn't given very good reasons for a conclusion, but that's not the meaning we're going to discuss here.

If we "translate" the premise, we'll see that the arguer has really just said the same thing twice: "decent, ethical" means pretty much the same thing as "morally acceptable," and "help another human being escape suffering through death" means "active euthanasia." So the premise basically says, "active euthanasia is morally acceptable," just like the conclusion does! The arguer hasn't yet given us any real reasons why euthanasia is acceptable; instead, she has left us asking "well, really, why do you think active euthanasia is acceptable?" Her argument "begs" (that is, evades) the real question (think of "beg off").

1) It is ridiculous to have spent thousands of dollars to rescue those two whales trapped in the Arctic ice. Why look at all the people trapped in jobs they dont like.


2) Plagiarism is deceitful because it is dishonest.


3) Water fluoridation affects the brain. Citywide, students test scores began to drop five months after fluoridation began.

POST HOC (false cause)

4) I know three redheads who have terrible tempers, and since Annabel has red hair, Ill bet she has a terrible temper too.


5) Supreme Court Justice Byron White was an All-American football player while in college, so how can you say that athletes are dumb?


6) Why should we put people on trial when we know they are guilty?


7) You support capital punishment just because you want an eye for an eye, but I have several good reasons to believe that capital punishment is fundamentally wrong


8) The meteorologist predicted the wrong amount of rain for May. Obviously the meteorologist is unreliable.


9) You know Jane Fondas exercise videos must be worth the money. Look at the great shape shes in.

POST HOC (false cause)

10) We have to stop the tuition increase! The next thing you know, they'll be charging $40,000 a semester!


11) The book Investing for Dummies really helped me understand my finances better. The book Chess for Dummies was written by the same author, was published by the same press, and costs about the same amount, so it would probably help me understand my finances as well.


12) Look, you are going to have to make up your mind. Either you decide that you can afford this stereo, or you decide you are going to do without music for a while.


13) I'm positive that my work will meet your requirements. I really need the job since my grandmother is sick.


According to the song, the pinball wizard is deaf, dumb, and blind. Dumb people aren't very smart. So, the pinball wizard isn't very smart.

Based on your reading of this chapter, what fallacy does this argument commit?

According to the song, the pinball wizard is deaf, dumb, and blind. Dumb people aren't very smart. So, the pinball wizard isn't very smart.

The fallacy of equivocation.

The arguer uses the word "dumb" in two different senses. In the first sentence, "dumb" means "unable to speak." In the second sentence, it means "unintelligent." Consequently, although the argument may superficially appear to be valid, the premises do not support the conclusion.

Based on your reading of this chapter, what fallacy does this argument commit?

The fallacy of straw man.

The Red Cross, of course, is not suggesting that the detainees be treated as vacationers. The caller is misrepresenting the Red Cross's argument in order to make it appear ridiculous.

Based on your reading of this chapter, what fallacy does Youngblood commit?

Bandwagon argument. The speaker attempts to justify nepotism--a practice that creates clear conflicts of interest and often results in the hiring of lessqualified applicants--simply by noting that it is widely practiced.

Based on your reading of this chapter, what fallacy does Lisa commit?

Begging the question. Lisa is trying to prove that our memories are sometimes reliable. Yet in saying that she remembers times when her memory was accurate, she is assuming what she attempts to prove.

(Using a printout of the Owl fallacy list)



Logical fallacy roundup: in groups, search websites, newspapers, advertisements, etc. to find arguments that may contain logical fallacies. Present these to the class. Find two logical fallacies to share with the class

3) 4) 5)

Using your list of fallacies, create examples of your own Write an argument using as many logical fallacies as you can Make a chart to tally logical fallacies that you hear in everyday conversation

7) 8)

Bring in visual examples of logical fallacies from advertisements, etc. Identify logical fallacies from editorial cartoons

If you read this PowerPoint and completed some of the activities, you are a genius!