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Logic Fallacies

Logic Fallacies

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  • Fallacies
  • 1. Fallacy

    A fallacy is an error in reasoning. A fallacy can be anything from invalid reasoning to an irrelevant point. It undermines or invalidates an argument.

  • 2. The anecdotal fallacy

    Using an isolated example or personal experience as evidence is the anecdotal fallacy.

    A single example, or even a few examples, may or may not be typical or atypical and therefore does not constitute evidence.

    "My grandfather smoked until he died at 95 so smoking is not dangerous" is an example of the anecdotal fallacy. There may be many reasons for the grandfather's longevity which is no more than a statistical anomaly.

  • 3. Correlation, Coincidence and Causation

    Because two things occur together, it cannot be assumed that one causes the other. Think of the 'Y'.

    In the Middle Ages, it was believed that lice were necessary to remain healthy as lice are seldom found on sick people. They concluded that if a person had no lice on them, they would become sick and so worked hard to ensure they were never free of lice.

    Lice are very sensitive to body changes. So when for example lice detect a change in a person's temperature, which happens when someone is sick, they will leave the person and look for a new host. - who versus whom

  • Fallacies
  • 4. False Dichotomy

    A false dichotomy or false dilemma occurs when an argument presents two options and ignores, either purposefully or out of ignorance, other alternatives.

    In general, a false dichotomy gives the impression that the two oppositie options are mutually exclusive (that is, only one of them may be the case, never both) and that at least one of them is true, that is, they represent all of the possible options.

    For example, if someone says "you're either with me, or you're against me" is an example of a false dichotomy. It is used to persuade or even threaten, but it ignores the fact that the individual or group addressed may have a neutral opinion towards the speaker, or support some of their views but not all.

  • 5. Ad Hominem

    An attack on an opponent rather than the argument is an ad hominem.

    An ad hominem attack can involve attacking somebody casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit or distract from the argument. It is an attempt to reject a claim or argument is on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the opponent.

    A lawyer attacking a defendant's character rather than addressing or questioning based on the case, for example, in a case of theft pointing out the defendant's bad behaviour at school.

  • Fallacies
  • 6. Argument From Ignorance

    The claim that something is true or likely to be true because it has not been proven false is an appeal to ignorance, or vice versa.

    The legal system protects us from this fallacy under the presumption of innocence guideline - innocent until proven guilty. Religious beliefs are founded on this fallacy, as they are, by definition, based on faith, rather than empirical proof or mathematical logic.

  • 7. Argument From Authority

    The claim that something is true because an expert said so is an appeal to authority.

    This does not mean that experts should be ignored but it is important to ensure that the conclusion of the expert is well supported with evidence and research.

    There are times, as with doctors, that we rely on the system to police experts. Doctors can be wrong but it is not within the knowledge base or skill set of most people to know when they are, so we ask for a second opinion and rely on their regularity body to keep them in check.

  • 8. Burden of Proof

    The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim i.e. the person making the claim must provide evidence to support the claim. It is not up to anyone else to to prove or disprove the claim.

    Trying to shift the burden of proof is a fallacy.

  • Fallacies
  • 9. Strawman

    A strawman involves exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone's argument to make it seem easy to discredit it.

    When Jane said that there should be a referendum after negotiations to see if the country still wants Brexit, Pete responded by saying that he was surprised that Jane is against democracy.

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