I thought this page could be useful as a guideline for how discourse is carried out in this forum. It identifies a number of logical fallacies that are frequently used in discussion where peoples opinion differ.
The person presenting an argument is attacked instead of the argument itself. This takes many forms. For example, the person's character, nationality or religion may be attacked. Alternatively, it may be pointed out that a person stands to gain from a favourable outcome. Or, finally, a person may be attacked by association, or by the company he keeps.
This is one, that as a moderator I will simply not allow as it clearly violates the AUP. If you disagree with someone, feel free to attack their arguments as vigorously as you want. You should never attack the person themselves under any circumstance.
By the same token, if someone is confining themselves to attacking your argument, try to have a thick skin and not take it personally. It isn't wrong for people to disagree on something, as long as that disagreement is handled properly. (If they are singling you out and try to shoot down any and everything you say, that may qualify as harassment under the AUP and will be dealt with if it occurs.)
This one is surprisingly common.
The author attacks an argument which is different from, and usually weaker than, the opposition's best argument.
This basically amounts to attacking a week version of someone's argument and claiming victory over the whole argument.
Another one that is quite common.
Begging the Question
The truth of the conclusion is assumed by the premises. Often, the conclusion is simply restated in the premises in a slightly different form. In more difficult cases, the premise is a consequence of the conclusion.
Another common one in discussions about micro-processors
Because the parts of a whole have a certain property, it is argued that the whole has that property. That whole may be either an object composed of different parts, or it may be a collection or set of individual members.
A few more:
(post hoc ergo propter hoc)
The name in Latin means "after this therefore because of this". This describes the fallacy. An author commits the fallacy when it is assumed that because one thing follows another that the one thing was caused by the other.
In an analogy, two objects (or events), A and B are shown to be similar. Then it is argued that since A has property P, so also B must have property P. An analogy fails when the two objects, A and B, are different in a way which affects whether they both have property P
There are many more examples as well. The page also has examples of each to help you recognize them when they occur, and even has pointers about what to do when you see them.
"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."
"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."
Good post. I am taking a class now that covers a lot of what's in there. This is definitely great stuff, and if anyone has ever used these arguing techniques (probably without knowing) this would be a good page to check out. After studying the forms of arguments and how they start to work you will commonly see when someone's argument either;
A) Has no merit and is completely invalid or ill-formed
B) Is just a mess of excess verbiage, not even remotely showing any semblance of a complete thought in the process of typing.
I reiterate, this is a very valuable tool (as I have found out) that can help you in many walks of life. If this wasn't a computer forum, I would lobby to have this post stickied for the simple fact that in any general meeting place this would be essential for everyone to understand.
One huge problem with logical fallacies, Morodin. To prove them requires logic. So a person who uses a logical fallacy is never going to admit to the fallacy because s/he lacks the logic to accpet it is indeed a fallacy (hey wait, I didn't see "circular reasoning" in there... ). Its worth a shot, but don't hold your breath.
Great post otherwise, morodin.
Last edited by russ_watters; 03-31-2003 at 09:05 PM.
Originally posted by russ_watters One huge problem with logical fallacies, Morodin. To prove them requires logic. So a person who uses a logical fallacy is never going to admit to the fallacy because s/he lacks the logic to accpet it is indeed a fallacy (hey wait, I didn't see "circular reasoning" in there... ). Its worth a shot, but don't hold your breath.
Great post otherwise, morodin.
Russ, from what I understand, one way to disprove logical fallacy (as well as any other logic that is incorrect) is to show the user an argument that takes the same exact form (counterexample) yet is invalid or weak. The example here with the inductive fallacy is this
Fred, the Australian, stole my wallet. Thus, all Australians are thieves. (Of course, we shouldn't judge all Australians on the basis of one example.)
I asked six of my friends what they thought of the new spending restraints and they agreed it is a good idea. The new restraints are therefore generally popular.
Identify the size of the sample and the size of the population, then show that the sample size is too small. Note: a formal proof would require a mathematical calculation. This is the subject of probability theory. For now, you must rely on common sense.
It is then easily seen that in fact using this sort of counterexample should, and I emphasize should, show the user that their argument is in fact or invalid, or in this case weakened. However, as you said
don't hold your breath
no one can teach someone to be rational, or deprive them of their pride.
I might be wrong here about disproving a logical fallacy, as I haven't studied this in depth, but I think providing a solid counterexample would suffice.
Last edited by Royal Oaks; 04-03-2003 at 03:16 PM.