It’s Logically Fallacious!

logicalfallaciesToday I came across a site called, Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies, that defines a bunch of logical fallacies. It includes this great poster (shown smaller in this post) as well as a TEDx talk about the importance of critical thinking.

I find the logical fallacy that I encounter most is the strawman but I think humans as a whole fall victim to the gambler’s fallacy, appeal to nature, and appeal to authority the most.

14 thoughts on “It’s Logically Fallacious!

  1. I now know I’m wrong, technically, but sometimes I think the Straw Man gets a bad rap. I always called it “exaggerating to make the point” and relied on it heavily. Sigh…

    • You shouldn’t be exaggerating your opponent’s position to make a point about it. If you can’t make a point about your opponent’s position without exaggerating it, then you have no point to make.

      But yes, “straw man” is called *way* too often, often incorrectly. There are many people who will cry “straw man” with no further explanation or justification any time you repeat their position – with no exaggeration – in clear, intelligible terms (which is usually necessary because they won’t be clear themselves).

      • Yeah yeah, I know. Although in my defense, I would as often exaggerate MY position, to make it clearer, I thought. Either way, though I know better, I still feel the siren song of the straw man (how’s that for a mixed metaphor) calling me to exaggerate ever so slightly to make my point.

    • You may be engaging in reductio ad absurdum. Sometimes it has its place, sometimes it doesn’t.

      • Reductio ad absurdum is proving an argument is right by showing that if it was false, ridiculous things would happen – or vice versa, proving an argument is wrong by showing that if it was true then ridiculous things would happen. It does not involve distorting someone else’s argument.

        • Let’s be clear here. Not that ‘ridiculus things would happen’, but that impossible things would follow from the logic. Of course since the word ‘impossible’ has no firm meaning outside of an axiomatic context, and since there is not necessarily an axiomatic system applicable to the notion of existence outside of possibly either ‘there is nothing that is impossible to exist’ or ‘there are some things that cannot possibly exist’, we are left with only what we can be reasonably certain to exist or not, based on axiomatic systems applied to the notion of reasonability.

  2. Is there not a deference between reason and logic? I am a passionate person. So to rely solely on logic is, well, a bore. I can argue with reason and emotion, but logic seeks to remove emotion from the argument. Wouldn’t it be logical, when arguing in debate, to adhere to the use of emotions if that intern meant wining over the crowd? Reason, it seems to me, is the proper use of both emotion and logic. Like a warm cup of coffee with a fantastic book (Oops was that appealing to emotions?). Pathos and Logos, a well balance of the two will give a good Ethos. One without the other will either make for a bore or an over stimulating evening.

    • No, there is no difference between reason and logic in this context. The fiction that there is a difference is an invention of people who don’t really want to use reason/logic, but still want to be taken seriously.

      The idea that emotion is not allowed at all in reasoned/logical discussion is not true. Emotion has its place in discussion – for example, there is nothing wrong with observing that most people are disgusted/horrified by something, so without a good argument to the contrary it shouldn’t be acceptable in most public spaces. The only restriction is that basing an argument on emotion is always the weakest kind of argument you can make. If that’s good enough – if there are no stronger arguments – then fine, emotion wins the day. But if any stronger arguments come along, then emotional arguments get overridden, and continuing to take them seriously becomes fallacy.

    • I think the word you are looking for is ‘rhetoric’, in the classical sense it is the art of persuasion. An appeal to emotion, a logical fallacy, can be a very useful rhetorical tool. Rhetoric gets a lot of bad press, because it often gets used instead of a good logical argument or because one has no logical argument. However, when used in conjunction WITH logic it can be very powerful indeed. Because… Humans suck at logic.

      • I like your logic. 😉 Seems to me that the reason we appeal to logic is due, in part, to an emotional pull. Would we seek logic without first having some emotional need to use logic? Or, perhaps, it is logical to have an emotional response?

        • Hume said: Reason is a slave to the passions.

          Essentially, emotion defines a goal, and motivates us towards that goal, logic is just about the technical details on how we get there.

  3. Here’s a song about 10 logical fallacies (to be sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas” (which other than the name has nothing whatsoever to do with the alleged birth of Jesus).

    In the first bad argument there was a fallacy
    A false dichotomy

    In the second bad argument there was a fallacy
    Tu quoque

    In the third bad argument there was a fallacy
    Moving the goalposts

    In the fourth bad argument there was a fallacy
    No true Scotsman

    In the fifth bad argument there was a fallacy
    Ad hominem

    In the sixth bad argument there was a fallacy
    Begging the question

    In the seventh bad argument there was a fallacy
    Correlation’s not causation

    In the eighth bad argument there was a fallacy
    Burden of proof

    In the nineth bad argument there was a fallacy
    Middle ground

    In the tenth bad argument there was a fallacy
    Special pleading, Middle ground, Correlation’s not causation,Begging the question
    Ad hominem
    No true Scotsman
    Moving the goalposts
    Tu quoque
    And a false dichotomy

  4. There are many fallacies missing from the list.

    At first, I thought the fallacy of accusing somebody of employing a fallacy being sufficient to discount an argument, was missing. So I was glad to see it included near the end as, “The fallacy fallacy”.

    However there is for example the fallacy of a complete and finished list of fallacies that we can always rely on to fully describe all logical fallacies, missing.

    Maybe it can be called, “The Finished List Fallacy”

    • Or maybe that name shoul be reserved for the logical fallacy that says all aspects of a subject have been fully described and accounted for, therefore the conclusion given must be conclusive, which is also missing from the above list.

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