Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Big Fat Fallacies: Introduction

Samuel Clemens said "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."  Logical fallacies are a fourth type of lie, and one that is often entirely unintentional.  While false facts can be refuted, fallacies are more insidious.  They set up the illusion that the conclusion of their argument is supported by their argument when it is not. This can be confusing, because what you're really fighting is the subtext; the things that aren't being said directly.  Pointing out the fallacy means you'll be accused of missing the point, changing the subject, or putting words in someone's mouth.   But being able to spot these fallacies not only helps you think more critically when you read or encounter a claim about weight, avoiding them yourself gives your argument better credibility against attacks in turn.  

This is the starting point and index for my series on informal logical fallacies used against FA or HAES. Since every philosophy textbook you read will have a slightly different approach and interpretation of fallacies (even as to whether they exist or belong in philosophy), I should specify that I am drawing from A Concise Introduction to Logic (11th Edition) by Patrick J. Hurley, and Dr. Michael C. Labossiere's Fallacy Tutorial Pro 3.0 as appearing on the Nizkor Project website, for definitions of informal fallacies.  
Each fallacy will appear as a link once there is a post covering it.  

 Fallacies of Relevance:  These bring in information that is completely irrelevant to a person's conclusion, but pretend to give strong evidence as to why you should agree. 
  1. Appeal to Fear/Argument from Force
  2. Appeal to Pity
  3. Appeal to the People
  4. Argument Against the Person
  5. Fallacy of Accident
  6. Straw Man
  7. Missing the Point
  8. Red Herring
Fallacies of Weak Induction:  These arguments are phrased in a way that gives the illusion that the evidence strongly supports the conclusion, but the support is actually quite weak on closer examination.
  1. Appeal to Unqualified Authority
  2. Appeal to Ignorance
  3. Hasty Generalization
  4. False Cause 
  5. Slippery Slope
  6. Weak Analogy
Fallacies of Presumption:  These assume information when making a point, and try to distract you from the fact that the evidence assumed is actually weak, non-existent, or modified by certain unstated facts.
  1. Begging the Question
  2. Complex Question
  3. False Dichotomy
  4. Suppressed Evidence
Fallacies of Ambiguity: These rely on ambiguous meaning in a word or phrase to twist them into the illusion of support for a conclusion.
  1. Equivocation
  2. Amphiboly
Fallacies of Grammatical Analogy: These erroneously transfer attributes from parts to the whole (or vice-versa).
  1. Fallacy of Composition
  2. Fallacy of Division

Some Definitions

 If you've never encountered logic, there are some basic terms that will be thrown around in these posts that might need explanation.  This section will be expanded as needed as the series continues. 

Argument: A collection of statements including one or more premises which claim to support a conclusion.  

Premise: A statement used to support a conclusion.

Conclusion: A statement claimed to be supported by one or more premises.

Example 1: 
Premise: A if B
Premise: B
Conclusion: Therefore A.

Example 2: 
Premise: Doctor Who has had over 800 episodes
Premise: Star Trek has had 726 episodes in all series combined
Conclusion: Therefore, Doctor Who has been a longer television series than Star Trek.  

(unstated conclusion: I am a big ol' nerd!) 

Fallacy: in informal logic, a flaw in an argument that is not based on false premises alone.  In other words, there is more wrong with the argument than just incorrect facts; there is something fundamentally wrong with the argument itself.

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