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|Common Fallacies In Reasoning That You Need To Know by Adebanjids1(m): 10:29am On Oct 24, 2016|
1. FAULTY CAUSE: (post hoc ergo propter hoc) mistakes correlation or association for causation, by assuming that because one thing follows another it was caused by the other.
example: A black cat crossed Babbs' path yesterday and, sure enough, she was involved in an automobile accident later that same afternoon.
example: The introduction of sex education courses at the high school level has resulted in increased promiscuity among teens. A recent study revealed that the number of reported cases of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) was significantly higher for high schools that offered courses in sex education than for high schools that did not.
2. SWEEPING GENERALIZATION: (dicto simpliciter) assumes that what is true of the whole will also be true of the part, or that what is true in most instances will be true in all instances.
example: Muffin must be rich or have rich parents, because she belongs to ZXQ, and ZXQ is the richest sorority on campus.
example: I'd like to hire you, but you're an ex-felon and statistics show that 80% of ex-felons recidivate.
3. HASTY GENERALIZATION: bases an inference on too small a sample, or on an unrepresentative sample. Often, a single example or instance is used as the basis for a broader generalization.
example: All of those movie stars are really rude. I asked Kevin Costner for his autograph in a restaurant in Westwood the other evening, and he told me to get lost.
example: Pit Bulls are actually gentle, sweet dogs. My next door neighbor has one and his dog loves to romp and play with all the kids in the neighborhood!
4. FAULTY ANALOGY: (can be literal or figurative) assumes that because two things, events, or situations are alike in some known respects, that they are alike in other unknown respects.
example: What's the big deal about the early pioneers killing a few Indians in order to settle the West? After all, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
example: Banning "head" shops from selling drug paraphernalia in order to curb drug abuse makes about as much sense as banning bikinis to reduce promiscuity.
5. APPEAL TO IGNORANCE: (argumentum ad ignorantiam) attempts to use an opponent's inability to disprove a conclusion as proof of the validity of the conclusion, i.e. "You can't prove I'm wrong, so I must be right."
example: We can safely conclude that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy, because thus far no one has been able to prove that there is not.
example: The new form of experimental chemotherapy must be working; not a single patient has returned to complain.
6. BIFURCATION: (either-or, black or white, all or nothing fallacy) assumes that two categories are mutually exclusive and exhaustive, that is, something is either a member of one or the other, but not both or some third category.
example: Either you favor a strong national defense, or you favor allowing other nations to dictate our foreign policy.
example: It’s not TV. It’s HBO.
7. FALSE DILEMMA: (a form of bifurcation) implies that one of two outcomes is inevitable, and both have negative consequences.
example: Either you buy a large car and watch it guzzle away your paycheck, or you buy a small car and take a greater risk of being injured or killed in the event of an accident.
example: You can put your money in a savings account, in which case the IRS will tax you on the interest, and inflation will erode the value of your money, or you can avoid maintaining a savings account in which case you will have nothing to fall back on in a financial emergency.
8. FAULTY SIGN: (also includes argument from circumstance) wrongly assumes that one event or phenomenon is a reliable indicator or predictor of another event or phenomenon.
example: the cars driving in the opposite direction have their lights on; they must be part of a funeral procession.
example: That guy is wearing a Raiders jacket and baggy pants. I’ll bet he’s a gang member.
9. DAMNING THE SOURCE: (ad hominem, sometimes called the genetic fallacy) attempts to refute an argument by indicting the source of the argument, rather than the substance of the argument itself.
example: There is no reason to listen to the arguments of those who oppose school prayer, for they are the arguments of atheists!
example: The American Trial Lawyers Association favors of this piece of legislation, so you know it has to be bad for ordinary citizens.
10. TU QUOQUE: (look who's talking or two wrongs make a right) pointing to a similar wrong or error committed by another.
example: Gee, Mom and Dad, how can you tell me not to do drugs when you both smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol?
example: The United States has no business criticizing the human rights policies of the Third World nations, not as long as discrimination and segregation continue to exist in the United States.
11. EQUIVOCATION: allows a key word or term in an argument to shift its meaning during the course of the argument. The result is that the conclusion of the argument is not concerned with the same thing as the premise(s).
example: Only man is rational. No woman is a man. Therefore, no woman is rational.
example: No one who has the slightest acquaintance with science can reasonably doubt that the miracles in the Bible actually took place. Every year we witness countless new miracles in the form recombinant DNA, micro-chips, organ transplants, and the like. (the word "miracle" does not have the same meaning in each case)
12. BEGGING THE QUESTION: (petitio principii) entails making an argument, the conclusion of which is based on an unstated or unproven assumption. In question form, this fallacy is known as a COMPLEX QUESTION.
example: Abortion is murder, since killing a baby is an act of murder.
example: Have you stopped beating your wife?
13. TAUTOLOGY: (a sub-category of circular argument) defining terms or qualifying an argument in such a way that it would be impossible to disprove the argument. Often, the rationale for the argument is merely a restatement of it.
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