Difference between revisions of "Fallacy"

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A '''Fallacy''' is generally considered to be an error in reasoning, the failure to apply logic to a line of thought and the use of problematic arguments. The term however can be applied when dealing both with informal and formal logic, although it usual refers to the former.
  
A '''Fallacy''' is the failure to apply logic to a line of reasoning that renders an argument invalid. The ability to recognize a variety of different forms of fallacy can be useful when analyzing arguments made by others and help avoid making logical errors when forming one’s own beliefs.
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==Informal vs Formal Fallacy==
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An '''informal fallacy''' refers to a flawed argument, where the premises do not support the conclusion. This deviation has mainly to do with problems of inference in the language used to express the propositions – its justification structure.
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This type of fallacy is commonly divided in two main groups: ''material fallacies'' and ''verbal fallacies''.
  
The structure of a logical argument should follow a certain basic structure. They begin with one or more premises, which act as the arguments starting point and then by applying principles of logic come to a valid conclusion.
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Material fallacies, concerned with the content of the argument, can be divivided following [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle Aristotle]'s taxonomy stemming from his work Organon. One such example is the famous Straw Man fallacy:
  
If A = B and B = C then we can conclude A=C.
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#Person A has position X: We should focus our efforts on [[Friendly AI]] research.
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#Person B distorts position X to a proximal position Y: So you think we should just give up on webdesign?!
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#Person B attacks position Y: That's stupid, websites are such a great way of spreading information!
  
It is the failure to apply logic rigorously that leads to fallacious arguments.
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Verbal fallacies, on the other hand, deal with the way the words are used. These include examples such as Equivocation - using words in ambiguously or with double meanings - and Proof by Verbosity, where one overwhelms his listener with and insurmountable amount of material in an intrinsically tangled way.
  
Fallacies are divided into formal and informal groups. A formal fallacy has a flaw in the logical structure of the argument which renders the argument invalid, whilst an informal fallacy has a logical form, but is false due to the characteristics of its premises, or its justification structure.
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A '''formal fallacy''', contrasting with informal fallacies, which may have a valid logical form, refers to a pattern of reasoning which is wrong due to a flaw in the logical structure of the argument. As such, a deductive fallacy does not imply any information about the premises or the conclusion - its their connection that's wrongly stated. Both can be correct and the argument can be wrong because the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises as it is stated.
  
==Examples==
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==False Fallacies & Awareness==
  
There are dozens of different forms of fallacy some of the most common include:-
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Matters can be further complicated by arguing parties incorrectly claiming that an assertion is false due to a fallacy. For example, if one party was to declare  “Albert Einstein has claimed that time and space are relative qualities of the Universe.”, another party might responded by saying that this is an ‘’’argument from authority’’’. However, Albert Einstein’s claims are based on highly detailed mathematical models that identify him as an expert in this field of inquiry, rather than a casual observer. We are thus facing a kind of meta-fallacy which is wrong by itself.
  
Ad hominem - where the character of the individual making the opposing argument is attacked, rather than the argument itself. e.g “He’s old, fat and bald. There’s no way he would make a good President.
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Recognizing fallacies in everyday arguments can be obscured by complicated patterns of communications that mask the logical connections between statements. At the same time, informal fallacies can also take advantage of the emotional or psychological weaknesses of the listener. It is thus important to develop the ability to recognize fallacies in arguments, so as to reduce the likelihood of being tricked or cheated. This ability becomes even more important when dealing with today's mass media, where the intention is to influence behavior and change beliefs, from political campaigns to simple local newspapers.  
  
False dilemma  - where the argument proposes only a limited number of possible choices, when a variety of other options may be available. e.g “All people who commit murder should be executed, otherwise once they are released from prison they will murder again.”
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==Further Reading & References==
 
 
Post hoc ergo propter hoc - asserting that because event B followed event A, event A caused event B. “My team won after I wore my new shirt, therefore my new shirt is a lucky shirt.”
 
 
 
Straw man - where an argument takes the form of a deliberately weak or inaccurate description  of the counter-argument rendering it easy to “burn down”. e.g “All modern artists do is slap a bit of paint randomly on the canvas without any skill or understanding, if that is art then my three-year old must be genius.”
 
 
 
An appeal to Authority - where an attempt to bolster an argument is made by using well known figure. e.g “We should not go to war with that country because Bono doesn’t want us to.”
 
 
 
==False Accusations of Fallaciousness==
 
 
 
Matters are further complicated by arguing parties incorrectly claiming that an assertion is false due to a fallacy. For example, if one party was to declare  “Albert Einstein has claimed that time and space are relative qualities of the Universe.”, another party might responded by saying that this is an ‘’’argument from authority’’’. However, Albert Einstein’s claims are based on highly detailed mathematical models that identify him as an expert in this field of inquiry, rather than a casual observer.
 
 
 
Equally, if somebody was to make the ad hominem attack “That guy can’t play for the Lakers, he’s only 3 feet tall!”, it would be a valid point as the characteristics of the individual do have a bearing on his ability to play basketball.
 
 
 
Whilst it is possible to overcome these issues by clarifying one's point e.g "Einstein's equations demonstrate that time and space are relative qualities of the Universe" or "He's only 3 feet tall which will make it much harder for him to score" - the necessity to validate each and every aspect of every premise would ultimately mean every argument would have to infinitely regress into explaining all aspects of the entire Universe. So certain commonsense, shared assumptions do need to be made in order to communicate an idea.
 
 
 
However it remains important to consider the possibility that under certain circumstances the structure of an argument may take the form of a recognized fallacy, but under closer examination may be perfectly valid.
 
 
 
==External Links==
 
  
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* Aristotle's [http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/a/aristotle/sophistical/ On Sophistical Refutations]
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* Damer, T. Edward (2008). Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-free Arguments (6 ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 130. ISBN 978-0-495-09506-4.
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* John Woods (2004). The death of argument: fallacies in agent based reasoning. Springer. ISBN 978-1-4020-2663-8.
 
* [http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/ Logical Fallacies] A peer-reviewed academic resource.
 
* [http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/ Logical Fallacies] A peer-reviewed academic resource.
 
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_regress Infinite regression] Wikipedia entry
 
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_regress Infinite regression] Wikipedia entry

Revision as of 02:15, 26 September 2012

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A Fallacy is generally considered to be an error in reasoning, the failure to apply logic to a line of thought and the use of problematic arguments. The term however can be applied when dealing both with informal and formal logic, although it usual refers to the former.

Informal vs Formal Fallacy

An informal fallacy refers to a flawed argument, where the premises do not support the conclusion. This deviation has mainly to do with problems of inference in the language used to express the propositions – its justification structure. This type of fallacy is commonly divided in two main groups: material fallacies and verbal fallacies.

Material fallacies, concerned with the content of the argument, can be divivided following Aristotle's taxonomy stemming from his work Organon. One such example is the famous Straw Man fallacy:

  1. Person A has position X: We should focus our efforts on Friendly AI research.
  2. Person B distorts position X to a proximal position Y: So you think we should just give up on webdesign?!
  3. Person B attacks position Y: That's stupid, websites are such a great way of spreading information!

Verbal fallacies, on the other hand, deal with the way the words are used. These include examples such as Equivocation - using words in ambiguously or with double meanings - and Proof by Verbosity, where one overwhelms his listener with and insurmountable amount of material in an intrinsically tangled way.

A formal fallacy, contrasting with informal fallacies, which may have a valid logical form, refers to a pattern of reasoning which is wrong due to a flaw in the logical structure of the argument. As such, a deductive fallacy does not imply any information about the premises or the conclusion - its their connection that's wrongly stated. Both can be correct and the argument can be wrong because the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises as it is stated.

False Fallacies & Awareness

Matters can be further complicated by arguing parties incorrectly claiming that an assertion is false due to a fallacy. For example, if one party was to declare “Albert Einstein has claimed that time and space are relative qualities of the Universe.”, another party might responded by saying that this is an ‘’’argument from authority’’’. However, Albert Einstein’s claims are based on highly detailed mathematical models that identify him as an expert in this field of inquiry, rather than a casual observer. We are thus facing a kind of meta-fallacy which is wrong by itself.

Recognizing fallacies in everyday arguments can be obscured by complicated patterns of communications that mask the logical connections between statements. At the same time, informal fallacies can also take advantage of the emotional or psychological weaknesses of the listener. It is thus important to develop the ability to recognize fallacies in arguments, so as to reduce the likelihood of being tricked or cheated. This ability becomes even more important when dealing with today's mass media, where the intention is to influence behavior and change beliefs, from political campaigns to simple local newspapers.

Further Reading & References

  • Aristotle's On Sophistical Refutations
  • Damer, T. Edward (2008). Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-free Arguments (6 ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 130. ISBN 978-0-495-09506-4.
  • John Woods (2004). The death of argument: fallacies in agent based reasoning. Springer. ISBN 978-1-4020-2663-8.
  • Logical Fallacies A peer-reviewed academic resource.
  • Infinite regression Wikipedia entry

See Also