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Logical Fallacies And Applications

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Logical Fallacies and Applications

Kristy Hardin

GEN 330

Michele Wynter

September 11, 2006

Logical Fallacies and Applications

A logical fallacy is defined as a flaw in the structure of a deductive argument which renders the argument invalid. However, it is often used more generally in informal discourse to mean an argument which is problematic for any reason, and thus encompasses informal fallacies Ð'- valid but unsound claims or bad non-deductive argumentation Ð'- as well as logical fallacies. (August, 2006) A logical fallacy appears to be a valid type of argument at first glance, but upon examination is found that it is not. There is much debate over the definition of logical fallacies and what constitutes as a logical fallacy. An argument is not just considered as such because it commits an error in reasoning, but that that someone might be misled by this invalid information that appears to be logical. To identify a logical fallacy, the argument needs to be rendered invalid or to show bad reasoning. Shown below will be examples of logical fallacies, and examples of a few different fallacies.

Ad Hominem

Ad Hominem translates as "against the person." An ad hominem argument is a type of genetic fallacy. "A genetic fallacy occurs when information is accepted for rejected because of its source, rather than its merit." (Holt 2005) An idea is not inherently a bad idea or bad argument simply because the person might be. On the contrary, just because someone is a good person does not necessarily mean all of their ideas will be good. An ad hominem argument involves attacking the individual expressing an argument, rather than addressing the actual argument. A fallacious ad hominem argument has the basic form:

1. A makes claim X.

2. There is something objectionable about A.

3. Therefore claim X is false.

A more detailed example might look like this:

A: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong."

B: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest."

A: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?"

B: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a priest, so you have to

say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to

the Pope, so I can't believe what you say." (Labossiere, 1995)

This example illustrates how this argument would be a fallacy. A claim cannot be determined to be false strictly based upon a person's character or personal feelings. Valid well constructed arguments must be taken into consideration as well. It requires critical thinking to determine what information should be considered from the source. It takes a critical thinker to be able to see outside the box, and look beyond their personal feelings and beliefs to the information being presented. It is also essential in decision making to consider information and the value it may have more so than the source of that information.

False Dilemma

The logical fallacy of false dilemma, also known as black and white thinking occurs when two options are considered to be the only options in a situation when in reality there could be multiple options. The two options held to be the only options are usually at opposite ends of the spectrum, when in reality, there are options in the middle ground. More than two options may exist, but a false dilemma occurs when options are omitted unintentionally, or deliberately. The following is an example of a false dilemma:

1. Either claim X is true or claim Y is true (when X and Y could both be false).

2. Claim Y is false.

3. Therefore claim X is true.

A more detailed example would look like this.

1. I must choose DSL or dial up as my ISP.

2. DSL is not available in my area.

3. Therefore, I must choose dial up internet service.

This argument is a false dilemma because just because claim Y is false does not necessarily mean that claim X is your only other option. There may be many other options yet to consider. Another option would be cable internet access, mobile broadband access, or satellite access. A key component of critical thinking is evaluating all possible alternatives in a situation. Failing to consider all possible



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