Art, Education, Musings, Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized

Logical Fallacies in a Political Season

This logical fallacy is the argument that a position is not consistent or tenable because accepting the position means that the extreme of the position must also be accepted. But moderate positions do not necessarily lead down the slippery slope to the extreme.

Following up my piece on The Arch of Knowledge, I wanted to share with you a list of logical fallacies that you may encounter in your reading. It’s a political season here in the U.S. and for those of you who keep up with such things, you may find this short list useful when you listen to potential candidates square off against one another. A logical fallacy is a flawed argument that either results in a logical misperception or presumption. Those that are designed to result in flawed perceptions are similar to rhetorical devices and those that do so by chance are more properly logical fallacies or deductive fallacies.

Detecting fallacies is a science and an Art – It takes practice so usually if something doesn’t sound quite right, it’s often because it isn’t. Fallacies start with Syllogisms. A syllogism is an argument that contains 3 propositions; 2 premises and a conclusion. There are a total of 256 possible syllogisms but only a few are sound. A valid argument is one where the conclusion follows correctly from the premises but it also may not be true but it is logically correct. A sound argument is one in which the premises are true and the conclusion is valid.

There are three subgroupings for informal fallacies and they are categorized according to their premises as in syllogisms.

1. Unacceptable premises

2. Irrelevant premises

3. Insufficient premises

Since this is a political season, I will stick to a few fallacies commonly encountered in politics and this is a short list so keep in mind there are more than these few. Remember you can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf!

The False Dilemma or Fallacy of Bifurcation, The either/or dilemma or False Dichotomy that depends on only two choices.

Example: “Either we must have war against Russia, before she has the atom bomb, or we will have to lie down and let them govern us.” – Bertrand Russell

Example: We must choose between safety and freedom. And it is the nature of good Americans to take the risk of Freedom.

Example: When it is raining do you run from doorway to doorway or do you walk with dignity knowing you cannot escape the rain? – This is from a Star Trek Voyager episode and Captain Janeway responded that she would take an umbrella.

The Fallacy of Equivocation or Bait and Switch where the meaning of a key term is changed without expressly stating so.

Example: I gave you my reasons for doing it, but as usual you wont listen to reason, so you continue to fight me.

Example: Pigs are filthy animals. All men are pigs. Therefore all men are filthy animals.

Note: Equivocation does not necessarily mean that the word will be repeated twice but it is simply implied.

Appeal to the Person or Ad Hominem fallacy

Example: The Rev. Dr. Smith is a known Biblical Fundamentalist, so his objections to evolution need not be taken seriously.

Example: Members of the jury, of course Mrs. Jones killed her husband. Look who was the beneficiary of this 1 million dollar life insurance policy.

Poisoning the Well – Putting the opponent in a position where they are not able to reply.

Example: Don’t listen to him, he’s a scoundrel!

Genetic Fallacy: argues that a perceived defect in the origin or claim or thing is taken to be evidence that discredits the claim or the thing itself.

Example: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Example: The only reason you believe in God is because you were raised in the Church.

Example: Americas fight against drugs obviously stems from their long puritanical heritage.

Example: He became a mass murderer because he was beaten as a child.

I hope this short list of common fallacies helps you navigate the political waters this election cycle and that you are better equipped to have rational debates and conversations with our fellow citizens!

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