Saturday, July 23, 2011

Logical Fallacy of the Week: Week 1

Rich Kozlovich

I have decided to repeat what I did in my old weekly newsletter; that is, highlighting a "Logical Fallacy of the Week". I still find it irritating that so many rely on logical fallacies as the basis for their views. The number and complexity of logical fallacies is really quite remarkable, and there actually is a taxonomy of logical fallacies that is worth viewing.

Logical fallacies that go unrecognized are unsettling because you truly believe you are right, but you just can’t pinpoint why they are wrong. And why you can’t seem to get a handle on the argumentation. However, once you learn what logical fallacies are, and how they are used, you can spot them. Once you spot them you will find they are easily overcome.

Most of the definitions and explanations I will be using will be from Wikipedia. However, there are other sites that I will be referencing also. It appears that some logical fallacies are merely the repeat of fallacies explained by others at different times and locations, and with a different name. However, even the ones that appear to be much the same are slightly different. We shall start with the category of logical fallacy known as “formal fallacies”. After we have exhausted the "formal fallacies" we will examine the "informal fallacies. This will take many months, and worth the effort. Please enjoy!

The definition of a formal fallacy is as follows:


A formal fallacy is an error in logic that can be seen in the argument's form without an understanding of the argument's content.  All formal fallacies are specific types of non sequiturs. In philosophy, a formal fallacy is a pattern of reasoning that is always wrong. This is due to a flaw in the logical structure of the argument which renders the argument invalid. A formal fallacy is contrasted with an informal fallacy, which may have a valid logical form, but be false due to the characteristics of its premises, or its justification structure.

The term fallacy is often used generally to mean an argument that is problematic for any reason, whether it is formal or informal.

The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument's premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument, but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.

"Fallacious arguments usually have the deceptive appearance of being good arguments." Recognizing fallacies in everyday arguments may be difficult since arguments are often embedded in rhetorical patterns that obscure the logical connections between statements. Informal fallacies may also exploit the emotional, intellectual, or psychological weaknesses of the audience. Having the capability to recognize fallacies in arguments is one way to reduce the likelihood of such occurrences.

A different approach to understanding and classifying fallacies is provided by argumentation theory. In this approach, an argument is regarded as an interactive protocol between individuals which attempts to resolve their disagreements. The protocol is regulated by certain rules of interaction and violations of these rules are fallacies.

Such fallacies are used in many forms of modern communications where the intention is to influence behavior and change beliefs. Examples in the mass media today include but are not limited to propaganda, advertisements, politics, newspaper editorials and opinion-based news shows.

There are a great many links in this definition that are worth exploring. If you wish to see the original definition in order to follow the many links please go HERE.

Logical Fallacy of the Week: Week 1
Logical Fallacy of the Week, Argument from authority: Week 2
Logical Fallacy of the Week, Appeal to Probability: Week 3



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