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   The word fallacy is often used to describe a popular mistaken belief. “Fat is bad” might be said to be a fallacy, since many people do not know that some fats are good for health. 

   However, such factual mistakes are not regarded as fallacies in critical thinking. 

   fallacy is a mistake that violates the principles of correct reasoning. Under this definition, a person can commit a fallacy without making any factual error. Suppose someone argues as follows:

   Some cats have short tails.
Some cats have black hair.
Some cats have short tails and black hair

   This is not a good argument because the conclusion does not follow from the premises. It is quite possible that those cats with short tails are different from those with black hair. Of course, as a matter of fact, some cats have both short tails and black hair. So the premises and the conclusion are all true. But this is still a bad argument. Someone who accepts this argument would indeed be committing a fallacy, but it involves no mistake about empirical facts. 


1.      Fallacies of Inconsistency

   Fallacies of inconsistency are cases in which someone proposes or accepts a claim that is contradictory or self-defeating. 

a)      Contradiction: This fallacy occurs when two or more statements directly contradict each other. Example: “The cat is on the table”  and “The cat is not on the table.” When we say someone is both right and wrong, this is fine if it means the person is right about one thing but wrong about another. What we really want to say is not logically inconsistent. 

Consider this claim: We cannot know anything because we realise from our experience that perception is unreliable. This is a contradiction because if we realise that perception is unreliable then there is at least one thing we do know! 

b)      Self-refuting Claims: A self-refuting statement is like a contradiction, but not quite. In other words, they are claims that, if true, would negate or refute their own truthfulness. If someone says “I cannot speak any English,” this is self-refuting because the speaker has just spoken an English sentence! But strictly speaking, it is not contradictory because the sentence describes a logically possible situation—it is possible not to know any English.

Another example of a self-refuting claim is the assertion “There is no truth.” This claim contradicts itself because if it were true, then the statement itself would be untrue since it asserts the existence of truth.
Self-refuting claims are problematic because they fail to provide a coherent or meaningful position, and they are often used in arguments or debates as a way to refute an opponent's position.

2.      Fallacies of Inappropriate Assumption

    Fallacies of inappropriate assumption are errors in reasoning that occur when an argument makes unwarranted or unjustified assumptions. There are several types of fallacies of inappropriate assumption, including:

a)      Circular and Question-begging Arguments: A circular argument (also known as circular reasoning) occurs when the conclusion of an argument is already assumed in the premise. In other words, the argument assumes what it is trying to prove. This type of argument is often characterised by a lack of evidence or justification.

Example: “The Bible is the word of God because God wrote it, and we know that God wrote it because the Bible says so.” 

In this example, the argument is circular because the conclusion (the Bible is the word of God) is already assumed in the premise (God wrote the Bible). The argument does not provide any evidence or justification to support this assumption.

A question-begging argument occurs when an argument assumes the truth of its own conclusion as a premise. In other words, the argument assumes what it is trying to prove without providing any evidence or justification. 

Example: “God exists because the Bible says so, and the Bible is the word of God.” 

In this example, the argument begs the question because it assumes the truth of the conclusion (God exists) as a premise (the Bible is the word of God). The argument does not provide any evidence or justification to support the claim that the Bible is the word of God, which is necessary to support the conclusion that God exists.

Both circular and question-begging arguments are considered fallacies of inappropriate assumption because they do not provide adequate evidence or justification to support their conclusions. It is important to avoid these types of arguments in order to ensure that arguments are based on sound reasoning.

b)      False Dilemma: False dilemma is a type of fallacy of inappropriate assumption that occurs when an argument presents only two options as if they are the only possibilities, when in fact there may be others. This fallacy is also known as the false dichotomy or black-and-white thinking.

Example: “Either you're with us or against us.” 

In this example, the argument presents only two options, with no possibility of a middle ground or alternative viewpoint. It assumes that these two options are the only ones available, which is not necessarily the case. 

The famous historian and Christian apologist C. S. Lewisargued that since Jesus claimed to be God, either Jesus was telling the truth, he was mad or an evil liar. But Jesus said intelligent things and taught about love and kindness, so he cannot be mad or evil. So Jesus must be God. To evaluate this argument, consider whether there are other alternatives. First, the argument assumes Jesus was a real historic figure and not a myth. Is this correct? Even if he did exist, is the Bible's account of his life accurate? Also, should we agree that Jesus was either God, mad, or evil? Is it possible he was not mad but sincerely mistaken? 

False dilemmas can be problematic because they limit options and oversimplify complex issues, often leading to hasty and uninformed decisions. It is important to be aware of false dilemmas in order to avoid them and to consider all possible options when making decisions or evaluating arguments.

c)      Loaded Question: Fallacies of inappropriate assumption also include loaded questions. “Did you wash your hands after killing the victim?” presupposes that you did kill the victim. 

If you answer either yes or no, you confess that you are a killer. But if it has not been proven that you have killed anyone, it would be wrong to force you to give either an affirmative or a negative answer. A loaded question combines more than one question that should be broken up: Did you kill the victim? If so, did you wash your hands afterwards?

Example: “Have you stopped beating your spouse?” 

In this example, the question assumes that the respondent has been beating their spouse, which is a serious accusation. It is a loaded question because it presupposes an unwarranted assumption, without any evidence to support it.

Loaded questions can be used to manipulate or deceive people, often in order to gain an advantage in a debate or argument. It is important to be aware of loaded questions and to avoid using them, as they can undermine the credibility of an argument and lead to false conclusions.

3.      Fallacies of Irrelevance 

    Fallacies of irrelevance are errors in reasoning that occur when an argument includes irrelevant information that does not actually support the conclusion. These fallacies distract from the main point of an argument, often by appealing to emotions or by using irrelevant information to try to persuade the listener.

    Personal attack (ad hominem arguments) is one example. This fallacy occurs when an argument attacks the person making the argument rather than addressing the argument itself. Example: “You can't trust him because he's a convicted criminal.” 

BUSINESSMANThe government should lower the profit tax.

COMMENTATOR: No way. You say that because you are a greedy capitalist.

    It might be true that the businessman is greedy, but the personal attack is irrelevant to the issue of whether the tax should be lowered. A rational discussion about the correctness of the businessman's claim should focus on the real issues instead. Would the proposal cause more harm than good? Does the current tax rate hinder the economy, or is it already very low? This is not to say that motive and character are always irrelevant. It is legitimate to consider these factors if they bear on the reputation and reliability of the person. 

    There are many related fallacies by which something is argued to be true based on an inappropriate appeal to irrelevant sources. Here are some such arguments: 

    Appeal to Emotion: This fallacy occurs when an argument uses emotional appeals rather than logic or evidence to support the conclusion. Example: “If we don't pass this law, innocent people will suffer.” 

    Appeal to Authority: This fallacy occurs when an argument cites an authority figure or expert in order to support the conclusion, even if the authority figure is not actually an expert on the subject.Example: “Dr X says that this medication is safe, so it must be true.” 

    Appeal to Tradition: It has been an established tradition in the Japanese town of Taiji to hunt and kill thousands of dolphins every year. It is therefore wrong for foreigners to criticise it. 

    Fallacy of Origin, or Equivalently, Genetic fallacy: Arthur Conan Doyle, who created Sherlock Holmes, probably had a drinking problem. His father was an alcoholic, 

    These are just a few examples of fallacies of irrelevance. It is important to be aware of these fallacies in order to avoid them and to ensure that arguments are based on sound reasoning. 

   Irrelevant Responses and Diversions 

    Suppose a teenager was caught climbing into a lion's cage at the zoo, and he explained that nothing happened to him the last time he did it. This is an irrelevant excuse because he was unharmed only because he was lucky, and it does not distract from the fact that what he did was dangerous and unauthorised. 

    Irrelevant responses can be amusing, but they often distract from the main issue. In a press conference, a reporter might question the legitimacy of a police raid. In response, the spokesperson simply reads out a set of rules about when a raid is legally authorised. This is irrelevant because the question is not about what the legal procedures are but whether they have been duly followed. Irrelevant responses are used to deflect criticisms or as a delaying tactic. 

4.      Fallacies of Insufficiency

    Fallacies of insufficiency are errors in reasoning that occur when an argument is based on insufficient or incomplete evidence. These fallacies occur when a conclusion is drawn based on incomplete or insufficient information, or when the evidence presented does not actually support the conclusion. There are several types of fallacies of insufficiency, including: 

a)  Hasty Generalisation: This fallacy occurs when a conclusion is drawn based on insufficient or unrepresentative evidence.Example: “I met one person from France who was rude, so all French people must be rude.

b)  False Cause: This fallacy occurs when a causal connection is assumed between two events without sufficient evidence to support the connection. Example: “Every time I wear my lucky shirt, my team wins. Therefore, my shirt is responsible for our victories.” 

c)  Slippery Slope: This fallacy occurs when an argument assumes that one event will lead to a chain of events without sufficient evidence to support the connection. Example: “If we allow same-sex marriage, it will lead to the breakdown of traditional marriage and the collapse of society.” 

d)  Fallacy of Ignorance: This fallacy occurs when a lack of evidence is used to support a conclusion. Example: “There is no evidence that aliens exist, so they must not exist.” 

    These are just a few examples of fallacies of insufficiency. It is important to be aware of these fallacies in order to avoid them and to ensure that arguments are based on sufficient and relevant evidence.

5.      A List of Fallacies 

    Here is a list of some common fallacies:

a)  Appeal to popularity (ad populum)Claiming that a theory or belief is plausible because it is accepted by a lot of people. An example would be if someone in the Middle Ages were to claim that the sun must go around the Earth because that was the most popular theory of the time. Obviously, whole populations of people can be mistaken about the truth of a matter.

b)  Biased sampleUsing a biased sample is fallacious because the results of a biased sample cannot be reliably generalised to a larger population. A biased sample is a sample that has been selected in a way that makes it unrepresentative of the group it is meant to reflect. For example, a survey might be held in which people near a church on Sunday are asked if they believe in God. If this survey is then reported to represent the general population, the results will be deceptive, because the people near a church on Sunday are more likely to believe in God than the general population. Perhaps 80% of people near a church on a Sunday believe in God, but only 50% of the entire population believe in God.

c)  CompositionAssuming that the whole contains the same properties as each of its parts individually contain. For example, you may think that chocolate tastes good, cheese tastes good, and beer tastes good, but it doesn't follow that if you make a dessert consisting of chocolate, cheese, and beer, it will taste good to you. The whole may have a radically different character than the constituent parts considered separately. 

d)  DivisionThe fallacy of assuming that each part of a whole contains the same properties as the whole itself. For example, it would be a mistake to assume that all the components of a fast car are themselves fast or that all the brushstrokes of a beautiful painting are themselves beautiful. The whole is more than (or less than, or otherwise different from) the sum of its parts. 

e)  Etymological fallacyBelieving that the original meaning of a word or the original word from which a contemporary term derives represents the real meaning of a word. For example, it is incorrect to argue that the true meaning of malaria is "bad air" (with the further implication that bad air is the cause of malaria), simply because the roots of the word literally mean "bad air" in Greek. It would likewise be a mistake to believe that Hong Kong must have a clean and sweet-smelling harbour because the name Hong Kong literally means fragrant harbour.” Meanings of words change over time, and the contemporary meanings of words cannot be restricted to their original meanings when they were first coined.

f)   Two wrongs make a rightThis is the argument that two wrong things cancel each other out, or that one wrong action justifies another wrong action. An example would be to argue that it is okay to pollute the environment because other people do it too, or that, since Russia once invaded Afghanistan, the United States was also justified in invading Afghanistan at another time



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