Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Common logically fallacious arguments

Today I'm going to visit 5 commonly used statements that are known to be false due to their incoherence in reason and formal logic. It always is a bother to have to deal with people with whom you're arguing that use this sort of flawed logic in order to assert their imaginary validity. The sad part is, they often get away with using fallacious reasoning, so there is very little justice when it comes to debating them. I am going to show you how to dismantle certain falsehoods of whoever it is you're arguing against. Today I'll only do 5, but stay tuned for more to come, because the list is much larger than you think. I hope you can remember these, because they come in handy in life as armor against ignorance.

1)Burden of Proof Claus: As we already know, proof is paramount when presenting both a positive and a negative case. Essentially the argument goes like this - the arguer claims that his side should win by default because the opposition cannot present a strong enough case for the contrary. A few things you have to keep in mind when someone erects the Burden of Proof argument. Firstly he is being impatient with ambiguity. Patience is a strong virtue to have, and especially so in a debate. So just because something has not been proven yet, does not always mean that the opposition wins by default. A key example would be if Copernicus argued that the earth was not flat but didn't posses strong enough evidence to attest to his claim, than it would not mean that the earth is therefore flat by default. Also it should be noted that evidence of absence is not always absence of evidence.

2)Argument Non-Sequitur: Latin for "it does not follow" is an argument or a point being added that is very subtle and easy to let slip from your concentration. It's nature is nonetheless simple, the conclusion that one ends up from an argument, does not follow in accordance with it's premises. For example, in everyday speech if one were to say "Tens of thousands of Americans have seen lights in the night sky which they could not identify. The existence of life on other planets is fast becoming a reality." In no way does the fact that people see unidentifiable lights in the sky necessitate that they were alien lights, or that because of this undeniable fact, the existence of life on other planets is a reality. Other examples are not so easy to identify. Just always remember that if a chain of claims does not follow, it might just be a non-sequitur.

3)A Red Herring: This is also a very subtle and easy to let slip from your attention. And that is exactly the idea behind it. The goal of someone using a red herring is to divert your attention from the actual argument by changing the subject. By changing the subject, the conclusions derived from that subject no longer reflect the actual topic. This would be an example of a red herring: "I know I forgot to take out the trash yesterday. I can't do anything right for you can I?" The subject that was being discussed was the person taking out the trash on time, yet he subtly diverted our attention to his plea for sympathy. The fact still remains, but we're now focused on something completely different.

4)A False Dilemma/Dichotomy: The meaning of a dichotomy or a dilemma is there existing any situation where it is concluded to have only two alternatives, but in reality there can be additional options to the dilemma. That's exactly why the prefix of the word dilemma has "di" in it, meaning only two. But in a false dilemma, there can be multiple options. An example of a false dichotomy is "there are two types of people in this world, ones that believe in capitalism, and ones that don't." This argument overlooks the fact that there can exist people who are either neutral, uncertain, apathetic or ignorant (such as children). So there couldn't possibly be only there two certain types of people in the world. Therefore it follows that the dichotomy is not a dichotomy. An similar example of a false dilemma is "You either knocked the glass over on purpose or by accident. Which is it?" Its clearly obvious that there entails more options than the two. Someone else could have knocked the glass over-or it could have been a force of nature. To understand a dilemma, you must always analyze the conclusions and whether or not they are the only ones that can exist.

5)The Slippery Slope Fallacy: This fallacy suggests that if X happens, than that will cause Y and Z to happen also. To prove using this logic is not fallacious, than there needs to be clear evidence of causation. But if no such evidence can be provided, than it is sadly fallacious reasoning. For example, in a statement such as "I forbid you from smoking cigarettes because the next thing you know is you'll start hanging out with the wrong crowd, coming home late at night and breaking the law" the person making the statement thinks that there is some sort of clear co-relation between smoking and being a violent person or a criminal. But the cause of those things is not the act of smoking, but rather instinctive or premeditated and have nothing to do with smoking. In some cases it's tempting to assume that those things would happen because of preset notions of people who smoke are hardcore or something. But the chain of causation between starting to smoke and breaking the law and becoming a violent person is not at all there, thereby making it a fallacy.

I hope you'll all remember these fallacies and take time to study them, because they help you in all walks of life, not just the casual argument with a mate. There will be more posts like this to come in the future. Until then, arm yourselves with knowledge :)


  1. listen this is a great blog but you have to change fonts and colors...I got watery eyes while reading. I eventually had to stop....

  2. thanks for the input, i'll be experimenting more with the fonts and colors!

  3. i think this article needs to be passed on,,, nice one.