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Fallacy Summary And Application

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Fallacy Summary and Application

"Critical thinking is disciplined thinking governed by clear intellectual standards. Among the most important of these intellectual standards is clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, consistency, logical, correctness, completeness and fairness" (Bassham, 2002). In order to achieve a conclusion that incorporates all of the intellectual standards, the critical thinker must have the ability to identify and evaluate logical fallacies in arguments. This paper will define three fallacies, explain their significance to critical thinking, discuss the general application to decision-making, and provide examples that illustrate each fallacy.

Logical Fallacies Defined

We encounter fallacies everywhere, in the work place, home, school, and the media. "An argument is fallacious when it contains one or more logical fallacies. A logical fallacy - or fallacy, for short - is an argument that contains a mistake in reasoning" (Bassham, 2002). A logical fallacy is an argument that contains a mistake in reasoning. Logical fallacies can be categorized into two groups, fallacies of relevance, and fallacies of insufficient evidence. Fallacies of relevance are arguments in which the premises are not relevant to the conclusion. Fallacies of insufficient evidence are arguments which the premises do not supply enough evidence to support a conclusion.

Fallacies always have two premises and a conclusion. These premises create two types of arguments. Deductive arguments where the conclusion is somewhat supported. Inductive arguments create a strong case for the premises and conclusion to be true. Some fallacies are factual errors. Factual errors are simply mistakes about the facts. Regardless of the characteristics of the fallacies, identification of fallacies is essential not only in today's work place, but in society in general. According to a quote by Fischer, being able to identify logical fallacies is a necessity in everyday living. "Logic is not everything. But it is something--something which can be taught, something which can be learned, something which can help us in some degree to think more sensibly about the dangerous world in which we live" (Fischer, 1970).

Red Herring Fallacy

A Red Herring fallacy occurs when an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. For example, "many people say that engineers need more practice in writing, but I would like to remind them how difficult it is to master all the math and drawing skills that an engineer requires" ( Another example of this fallacy was found in the an article on the movie Fahrenheit 911, "I even respect his audacity. I mean, come on? Who else has the guts to make up such garbage about any sitting president (unless you believe that former President Bill Clinton is innocent of sexual harassment - in which case Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinski and Juanita Broaddrick are all just as audacious" (Straka, 2004).

The red herring fallacy clearly attempts to draw attention away from the truth or the facts. When decision makers evaluate available information about a topic, it is important to use good critical thinking skills and identify fallacies. If not, is likely that decisions will be based on inaccurate information. When the red herring fallacy is committed, this can have a negative impact on the decision-making process since the information provided in which to base the decision was distorted and based on issues not relevant to the real issue.

Begging the Question Fallacy

Begging the Question is a fallacy that occurs when the arguer assumes or states as a basis the same thing he or she is trying to prove as a conclusion. "There are two common ways to commit this fallacy. The most obvious way is to simply restate the conclusion in slightly different words. For example, Bungee jumping is dangerous, because it is unsafe. Capitol punishment is morally wrong, because it is ethically impressible to inflict death as punishment for a crime" (Bassham, 2002). Another example of this fallacy -- "The fact that we believe pornography should be legal means that it is a valid form of free expression. And since it's free expression, it shouldn't be banned" (Whitman, 2001).

Although common, begging the question is a fallacy that is not always easy to identify. Many convincing arguments can be made where a statement appears to support a conclusion when no facts are presented. For example, white crimes are on a rise in the United States.



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