We will discuss 20 different informal fallacies, and we will group them into four families: (1) Fallacies of Distraction, (2) Fallacies of Weak Induction, (3) Fallacies of Illicit Presumption, and (4) Fallacies of Linguistic Emphasis. We take these up in turn.
- 2.1: Logical Fallacies - Formal and Informal
- Generally and crudely speaking, a logical fallacy is just a bad argument. Bad, that is, in the logical sense of being incorrect—not bad in sense of being ineffective or unpersuasive. Alas, many fallacies are quite effective in persuading people; that is why they’re so common. Often, they’re not used mistakenly, but intentionally—to fool people, to get them to believe things that maybe they shouldn’t. The goal of this chapter is to develop the ability to recognize these bad arguments.
- 2.2: Fallacies of Distraction
- The five informal fallacies under this heading have in common that they involve arguing in such a way that issue that’s supposed to be under discussion is somehow sidestepped, avoided, or ignored. These fallacies are often called “Fallacies of Relevance” because they involve arguments that are bad insofar as the reasons given are irrelevant to the issue at hand. People who use these techniques with malicious intent are attempting to win an argument that they haven’t really engaged in.
- 2.3: Fallacies of Weak Induction
- As their name suggests, what fallacies of weak induction have in common is that they are bad—that is, weak—inductive arguments. Recall, inductive arguments attempt to provide premises that make their conclusions more probable. We evaluate them according to how probable their conclusions are in light of their premises: the more probable the conclusion (given the premises), the stronger the argument; the less probable, the weaker.
- 2.4: Fallacies of Illicit Presumption
- This is a family of fallacies whose common characteristic is that they (often tacitly, implicitly) presume the truth of some claim that they’re not entitled to. They are arguments with a premise (again, often hidden) that is assumed to be true, but is actually a controversial claim, which at best requires support that’s not provided, which at worst is simply false. We will look at six fallacies under this heading.
- 2.5: Fallacies of Lingustic Emphasis
- Languages are messy, complicated. This state of affairs can be taken advantage of by the clever debater, exploiting the vagaries of language to make convincing arguments that are nevertheless fallacious. This exploitation involves the manipulation of linguistic forms to emphasize facts, claims, emotions, etc. that favor one’s position, and to de-emphasize those that do not. We will survey four techniques that fall under this heading.
Thumbnail: The straw man fallacy involves the misrepresentation of an opponent’s viewpoint—an exaggeration or distortion of it that renders it indefensible, something nobody in their right mind would agree with. pixabay.com/photos/straw-puppet-doll-decoration-2881167/