Avoiding Fallacious Reasoning: Lesson 2
Appeal to Popularity
According to Vaughn, “appeal to popularity is arguing that a claim must be true not because it is backed by good reasons but simply because many people believe it. The idea is that, somehow, there is truth in numbers” (87).
Appeal to Popularity is also known as ad populum. Use the Latin for the exercises.
Appeal to Tradition
According to Vaughn, “Appeal to tradition is actually a kind of appeal to popularity. It is arguing that merely because a claim is sanctioned by tradition, it must be true. This kind of argument says, in effect, that a statement is true because it has been held(or approved of) for a long time” (88).
“Appeal to tradition is fallacious because the longevity of a traditional claim is logically irrelevant to its truth” (88).
Because a traditional claim is irrelevant to its truth, dismissing or affirming a claim because of its traditional status is fallacious reasoning. A traditional claim could very well be founded in good reasoning.
According to Vaughn, “the fallacy of equivocation is assigning two different meanings to the same significant word in an argument. The word is used in one sense in a premise and in a different sense in another place in the argument. The switch in meaning can deceive the reader and disrupt the argument, rendering it invalid or weaker that it would be otherwise” (89).
Appeal to Ignorance
The Latin for appeal to ignorance is ad ignorantiam
According to Vaughn, the appeal to ignorance is when the fallacy “tries to prove something by appealing to what we don’t know. Appeal to ignorance is arguing either that (1) a claim is true because it hasn’t been proven false or (2) a claim is false because it hasn’t been proven true”(90).
Vaughn adds that no one can “search all space and time” to prove that unicorns and centaurs exist. You can’t prove universal negatives.
Here’s what Vaughn says about false dilemmas:
“In a dilemma, you are forced to choose between two unattractive possibilities. The fallacy of the false dilemma is arguing erroneously that since there are only two alternatives to choose from, and one of them is unacceptable, the other one must be true” (91).
The real world usually doesn’t operate in simple either/or premises.
Begging the Question
Vaughn on begging the question:
“The fallacy of begging the question is trying to prove a conclusion by using that very same conclusion as support. It is arguing in a circle. This way of trying to prove something says, in effect, ‘X is true because X is true’”(91).
Put simply by Kreeft, “Begging the question means assuming what you set out to prove.
According to Vaughn, the above example simply states, “All citizens have the right to a fair trial because all citizens have the right to a fair trial.” Yes, it’s written in more complicated language, but it still says the same thing.
Vaughn on hasty generalizations:
“The fallacy of hasty generalization is drawing a conclusion about a whole group, or class, of things based on an inadequate sample of the group”(92).
Vaughn on slippery slope fallacies:
“The fallacy of slippery slope…is arguing erroneiously that a particular action should not be taken because it will lead inevitably to other actions resulting in some dire outcome. A slippery slope scenario becomes fallacious when there is no reason to believe that the chain of events predicted will ever happen”(93).
Vaughn on the fallacy of composition:
“The fallacy of composition is arguing erroneously that what can be said of the parts can also be said of the whole”(94).
Vaughn adds a caveat: “Just remember, sometimes the whole does have the same properties as the parts. If each part of the rocket is made of steel, the whole rocket is made of steel”(94).
Now for the 13th fallacy!
Vaughn on the fallacy of division:
“If you turn the fallacy of composition upside down, you get the fallacy of division – arguing erroneously that what can be said of the whole can be said of the parts” (94).
Okay, so all 13 material fallacies have been covered from Vaughn’s chapter 5. In the next lesson the formal fallacies from chapter 2 will be covered; and in addition, lots of review on the 13 material fallacies.Next lesson >