Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fallacies Pt. I: The Argument from Fallacy

You know what really grinds my gears?

When people use fallacies in their "logical" arguments or debates.  It bothers me when others do it, and when I accidentally do it.

So I am dedicating this series of posts to ensuring that no one ever be ignorant of a logical fallacy and mistakenly use one.  Brace yourselves--the tangent about to ensue is for the good of mankind.

Part I: The Argument from Fallacy

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Hernandez Hit Man

The first step in any debate is to clarify terms, so I'll do that here.  A fallacy is a flaw in an argument that invalidates the argument.  Pretty basic.

There are two (count 'em, two) types of logical fallacies: formal, and informal.

Formal fallacies relate to the way an argument is structured, and informal fallacies don't.  Simple enough, right?

Now in this first installment, let's take a look at some of the most common formal fallacies so we make sure we are constructing our arguments in a logical fashion.

One of the fallacies I see used most commonly is the argument from fallacy.  One commits this fallacy when they automatically assume the point someone was trying to make is false just because they didn't present it logically.

Image result for argument from fallacy meme

Let's say we have three people, Joe, Tim, and Bob.  Joe and Bob are both convinced that the sky is blue, but Tim isn't convinced.  Bob goes first to try and convince Tim.  He lays out his argument:

a) it is simply absurd to even suggest the sky isn't blue
b) obviously the sky is blue.

Now clearly this is a terrible, terrible logical argument.  It uses one of the most frustrating and simply lazy fallacies, known as the appeal to the stone, in which one simply dismisses an argument as stupid without any proof.

After hearing this awful, awful argument, Tim automatically assumes that Bob doesn't know what he's talking about and therefore must be completely wrong in his assertion that the sky is blue.

We all know that the sky is blue, and Tim would be wrong in assuming it's not simply because Bob failed at arguing it.

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Philosophy - University of Kentucky

But now Joe steps up and is able to present the argument in a logical way, and both Tim and Bob are taught a lesson.

The important thing to remember is that you can get different arguments at different levels, from different people.  Just because one person is horrible at explaining things doesn't mean their conclusion is necessarily wrong.  It's not backed by evidence (in this specific person's case) but it could still be true.

I won't lie: I have exploited this fallacy in mock trial.  Whenever you have an opposing team of lawyers that is using a lot of illogical arguments, it is helpful to bring this to the judge's attention in the closing argument because a) it doesn't leave much time for the other team to fix their mistake since the trial is close to done and b) the fact that they are unaware of their fallacy makes them seem like amateurs and makes them a less believable source of information.

Who are you going to believe in a mock trial?  The team that knows their fallacies and can smartly point out where the other team has strayed from logic, or the team that has committed errors?

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ATX Debate... think. speak. lead.

Of course, as the argument from fallacy states, this does not necessarily mean that your opponent is wrong in their conclusion, but in situations like a mock trial it can certainly make them look incompetent and discredit them.  The trick is to subtly mention their flaws without committing an argument from fallacy yourself.

To summarize: the argument can be poor and the conclusion still valid.


  1. What a cool series! I'll have to see how much I remember from that logic study course back in my homeschool days. Fallacies are indeed frustrating, especially *cough* during election season.

    - Ellen