21-08-2009, 01:52 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
81. Appeal To Complexity:
if the arguer doesn't understand the topic, he concludes that nobody understands it. So, his opinions are as good as anybody's.
82. Common Sense:
unfortunately, there simply isn't a common-sense answer for many questions. In politics, for example, there are a lot of issues where people disagree. Each side thinks that their answer is common sense. Clearly, some of these people are wrong.
The reason they are wrong is because common sense depends on the context, knowledge and experience of the observer. That is why instruction manuals will often have paragraphs like these:
When boating, use common sense. Have one life preserver for each person in the boat.
When towing a water skier, use common sense. Have one person watching the skier at all times.
If the ideas are so obvious, then why the second sentence? Why do they have to spell it out? The answer is that "use common sense" actually meant "pay attention, I am about to tell you something that inexperienced people often get wrong."
Science has discovered a lot of situations which are far more unfamiliar than water skiing. Not surprisingly, beginners find that much of it violates their common sense. For example, many people can't imagine how a mountain range would form. But in fact anyone can take good GPS equipment to the Himalayas, and measure for themselves that those mountains are rising today.
83. Argument By Laziness (Argument By Uninformed Opinion):
the arguer hasn't bothered to learn anything about the topic. He nevertheless has an opinion, and will be insulted if his opinion is not treated with respect. For example, someone looked at a picture on one of my web pages, and made a complaint which showed that he hadn't even skimmed through the words on the page. When I pointed this out, he replied that I shouldn't have had such a confusing picture.
84. Disproof By Fallacy:
if a conclusion can be reached in an obviously fallacious way, then the conclusion is incorrectly declared wrong. For example,
"Take the division 64/16. Now, canceling a 6 on top and a six on the bottom, we get that 64/16 = 4/1 = 4."
"Wait a second! You can't just cancel the six!"
"Oh, so you're telling us 64/16 is not equal to 4, are you?"
Note that this is different from Reductio Ad Absurdum, where your opponent's argument can lead to an absurd conclusion. In this case, an absurd argument leads to a normal conclusion.
85. Reductio Ad Absurdum:
showing that your opponent's argument leads to some absurd conclusion. This is in general a reasonable and non-fallacious way to argue. If the issues are razor-sharp, it is a good way to completely destroy his argument. However, if the waters are a bit muddy, perhaps you will only succeed in showing that your opponent's argument does not apply in all cases, That is, using Reductio Ad Absurdum is sometimes using the Fallacy Of The General Rule. However, if you are faced with an argument that is poorly worded, or only lightly sketched, Reductio Ad Absurdum may be a good way of pointing out the holes.
An example of why absurd conclusions are bad things:
Bertrand Russell, in a lecture on logic, mentioned that in the sense of material implication, a false proposition implies any proposition. A student raised his hand and said "In that case, given that 1 = 0, prove that you are the Pope". Russell immediately replied, "Add 1 to both sides of the equation: then we have 2 = 1. The set containing just me and the Pope has 2 members. But 2 = 1, so it has only 1 member; therefore, I am the Pope."
86. False Compromise:
if one does not understand a debate, it must be "fair" to split the difference, and agree on a compromise between the opinions. (But one side is very possibly wrong, and in any case one could simply suspend judgment.) Journalists often invoke this fallacy in the name of "balanced" coverage.
Television reporters like balanced coverage so much that they may give half of their report to a view held by a small minority of the people in question. There are many possible reasons for this, some of them good. However, viewers need to be aware of this tendency.
87. Fallacy Of The Crucial Experiment:
claiming that some idea has been proved (or disproved) by a pivotal discovery. This is the "smoking gun" version of history.
Scientific progress is often reported in such terms. This is inevitable when a complex story is reduced to a soundbite, but it's almost always a distortion. In reality, a lot of background happens first, and a lot of buttressing (or retraction) happens afterwards. And in natural history, most of the theories are about how often certain things happen (relative to some other thing). For those theories, no one experiment could ever be conclusive.
88. Two Wrongs Make A Right (Tu Quoque, You Too):
a charge of wrongdoing is answered by a rationalization that others have sinned, or might have sinned. For example, Bill borrows Jane's expensive pen, and later finds he hasn't returned it. He tells himself that it is okay to keep it, since she would have taken his.
War atrocities and terrorism are often defended in this way.
Similarly, some people defend capital punishment on the grounds that the state is killing people who have killed.
This is related to Ad Hominem (Argument To The Man).
89. Pious Fraud:
a fraud done to accomplish some good end, on the theory that the end justifies the means.
For example, a church in Canada had a statue of Christ which started to weep tears of blood. When analyzed, the blood turned out to be beef blood. We can reasonably assume that someone with access to the building thought that bringing souls to Christ would justify his small deception.
In the context of debates, a Pious Fraud could be a lie. More generally, it would be when an emotionally committed speaker makes an assertion that is shaded, distorted or even fabricated. For example, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was accused in 2003 of "sexing up" his evidence that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Around the year 400, Saint Augustine wrote two books, De Mendacio[On Lying] and Contra Medacium[Against Lying], on this subject. He argued that the sin isn't in what you do (or don't) say, but in your intent to leave a false impression. He strongly opposed Pious Fraud. I believe that Martin Luther also wrote on the subject.
There..done it. I practically took almost an hour of my life, a whole page on this thread, to do this thing while eating bread and a cup of esspressio and ran through a couple of "database error" and "500 [s]internal database[/s] internet error". Now memorize the damn thing or [s]rot in hell[/s] stay a noob.
I'm certainly not asking any of you to learn all of it in one or four sittings, but all of these will have a great effect on your critical thinking abilities. (you know, the one they claim to teach in school. Funny how they don't seem to mention any of this huh?)
"A witty saying proves nothing."