Week 1: Arguments & Fallacies

  1. Resources
  2. Smartboard Notes

Here are some web sites that will enhance your understanding of this week’s reading:

Logic and Argument:

        • Factasia - a site devoted to logic and logic resources
        • The psychological roots of moral reasoning. This is an interesting talk by Jonathan Haidt on the roots or moral sentiment. Haight titles this talk “The real difference between liberals and conservatives“:


Arguments: Premises & Conclusions

An argument in logic consists of two parts:

  1. Premises: factual evidence in support of the conclusion; the information should be publicly verifiable or based on strong probabilities that can easily be verified.
  2. Conclusion: the main point of the argument.

Logical Fallacies: Irrational Ways to Argue…

Fallacies are irrational arguments designed to sway opinion through the use of emotion and psychological trickery. The following are some basic fallacies that are commonly found in everyday persuasive situations (e.g., letters to the editor, political debates, common disagreements at work, school or home). Fallacies are designed to work through diversion and attack, diversion from the original subject and attack on some other irrelevant point.

Types of fallacies:

        • Ad hominem fallacy: a personal attack your opponent in an argument. An ad hominem fallacy is committed when:
          1. we become verbally abusive with another (abusive),
          2. we attempt “to discredit an argument by alluding to certain circumstances that affect the opponent or his/her position (circumstantial),”[Hurley*, 125-126]
        • Straw Man Fallacy: we “misrepresent what others have said so we can make their arguments clearly unacceptable.”(196)
        • Circular Reasoning /Begging the Question: here “people presume as true in the beginning what they intend to prove logically at the conclusion of their argument.”(197)
          • Best example: arguments intended to rationally prove the existence of God.
        • Two Wrongs Fallacy/ “You Too”: “defending a particular wrongdoing by drawing attention to another instance of the same behavior that apparently went unchallenged and was, therefore, accepted by implication.”
          • Best example: getting caught for speeding and asking the officer why he/she didn’t pull over others who were also speeding. The old “I was just keeping up with traffic” excuse.
        • Slippery Slope Fallacy: objecting to something because one incorrectly assumes that it will necessarily lead to other undesirable consequences.”
          • These arguments are faulty because they assume a causal relation [cause-effect relationship] between the first course of action and the imagined effects of that decision.
        • Fallacy of Appealing to Authority: This is just what it sounds like. Although there are valid cases where and appeal to scientific, technical or some other authority is warranted, this fallacy involves appealing to authorities in normative situations “where experts have no empirical means or scientific procedures to settle disputes.”
        • Red Herring Fallacy: I call this one the “change the subject” fallacy because the arguer who cannot win the the argument attempts to change the subject so that the argument will be easier to win.
        • Fallacy of Guilt by Association: an attempt to win an argument “by drawing attention to the opponent’s alleged association with some group or an individual that has already been discredited.”

Hurley, Patrick J. A Concise Introduction to Logic, 6th edition. Belmont, CA & Albany, NY: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1997.