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Rhetorical Strategies: Fallacies of Argumentation (Logical Fallacy)
A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning, not in grammar or usage. If an argument contains a fallacy, that argument may be invalid. If you detect a fallacy in an argument, you should examine that argument carefully, maintaining skepticism about its conclusion.
- Unqualified or hasty generalization: a statement that draws a general conclusion on the basis of biased or insufficient evidence.
Example: I had a bad experience with my husband and from that I learned that all men are no good.
A special kind of generalization is called post hoc, ergo proctor hoc (after the fact, therefore because of the fact). In this form of hasty generalization it is claimed that because one event followed another, the first event caused the second.
Example: Sales improved after we began the new advertising campaign; therefore the new campaign is a success.
- Begging the question: a statement that says the same thing in the conclusion as in the premise. Such an argument is called circular.
Example: We can believe what it says in the college catalogue because the catalogue itself says that it is the official publication of the college.
A special kind of circular or question-begging argument uses a question-begging definition, one in which the conclusion of an argument is true by definition rather than by evidence.
Example: By my definition, `unbreakable' means `requiring an unusual degree of force to break'; therefore, these dishes are unbreakable.
- Ad hominem argument: a statement that attacks the person who makes an argument rather than the argument itself.
Example: His objections to capital punishment carry no weight because he is a convicted criminal.
- Argument from analogy: a statement that uses an analogy as the basis for conclusion. This is an unsound form of inductive reasoning because, though two things may share a number of common properties this does not mean that they are identical in every way.
Example: Analogy--My love is like a red, red rose, being fair, healthy, lovely, sweet.
Faulty conclusion from analogy: The rose will soon die and so, therefore, will my love.
- Black or white fallacy: a statement that claims that there is no difference, or no important difference, between two things because the difference is a result of continuous degree, and therefore is the sum of many small and trivial differences.
Example: There is no difference between being awake and being asleep because one moves gradually from being awake to bring asleep and/or vice-versa.
- Distraction: a statement that attempts to turn an argument or dispute away from the point at issue by means of appeal to emotion and/or the raising of irrelevant considerations.
Example: You say you are against U.S. intervention in Central America, but what about the behavior of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan?
- Far-fetched hypothesis: a statement that asserts a hypothesis on the basis of evidence that might be used to assert a hypothesis that is simpler and more frequent.
Example: The church was set afire after the civil rights meeting was over; therefore, it must have been set by the leaders of the civil rights movement to cast suspicion on local racists.
- Slanting: a statement that suggests that something true is either not true or conveys a false impression through connotation.
Example: Our space program will cost a certain amount of money. (The statement suggests that the amount of money is not great.)
Money is being poured into the space program. (Poured connotes careless, unnecessary spending.)
[Excerpted from Monroe C. Beardsley's Thinking Straight]
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