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Bad Faith Fallacy

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This fallacy occurs when it is inferred a claim is false or an argument is fallacious because the person making it is arguing in bad faith.  The form is as follows:

 

Premise 1:  Person A made claim C or Argument A in bad faith.

Conclusion: Therefore, claim C is false or Argument A is fallacious.

 

This is a fallacy because even if a person is arguing in bad faith, this does not entail that a specific claim is false or that a specific argument is fallacious.

This fallacy is tempting because arguing in bad faith, by definition, involves using deceit. This deceit can include intentionally making false claims and intentionally using fallacies.

But even in the context of arguing in bad faith, a person can make true claims and make non-fallacious arguments. While this might occur due to ignorance, it is more likely to be intentional. The person might be combing good faith arguments and claims with their bad faith arguments and claims as part of an overall bad faith strategy. After all, lies can seem more plausible when they are in the company of true claims and a good argument might be used to make the person seem reasonable. The person might even have some isolated instances of good faith claims and arguments, because they think those will serve their purpose better than bad faith claims and arguments. That this fallacy is bad reasoning can be shown with this silly example:

 

Ted: “To recap, by showing the clear inconsistencies in Senator Smith’s claims and his repeated use of various fallacies against his critics, it is reasonable to conclude that Smith has been arguing in bad faith.”

Alice: “Hmm, Smith also claimed that 2+2=4. So, he must be lying about that. I wonder what 2+2 really equals?”

 

A bad faith (and ironic) variant of this fallacy is the Accusation of Bad Faith. This fallacy involves intentionally and falsely accusing someone of arguing in bad faith to conclude that their claim is false, or their argument is fallacious

 

Premise 1:  Person A intentionally and falsely claims that Person B is arguing in bad faith when they make claim C or argument A.

Conclusion: Therefore, Person B’s claim C is false, or argument A is fallacious.

 

As a fallacy of reasoning, the logic is flawed because it uses the same logic as the Bad Faith fallacy. This fallacy can be psychological effective if the audience knows enough about bad faith to know that it involves the intentional making of false claims and fallacious arguments but are ignorant of the Bad Faith Fallacy. While sometimes used for trolling, it can also be combined with other fallacies. For example, it can be very effective in a Gish Gallop because accusing someone of arguing in bad faith takes a few words while trying to prove one is arguing in good faith and explaining the Bad Faith Fallacy can take a long time.

The Bad Faith Fallacy can look like a Fallacy Fallacy or an Ad Hominem. In part, this is because they are similar. People also tend to be sloppy or intentionally obscure when committing fallacies. In such unclear cases, the important thing is recognizing that a fallacy is occurring. Being able to precisely identify it can be useful, but is not essential.

 

Defense: The defense against this fallacy is to remember that just because a person is arguing in bad faith, this does not entail that a specific claim must be false or that a particular argument must be fallacious. While you should be suspicious of anyone who seems to be arguing in bad faith you should also not rush to an unwarranted inference about their claims or arguments.

If someone else is targeted by what you suspect is an Accusation of Bad Faith, you should assess the allegation. But even if it is true, there would still be a Bad Faith Fallacy occurring.

If you are targeted by an Accusation of Bad Faith, a time-consuming defense is to show that you are arguing in good faith and to explain the Bad Faith Fallacy. The burden of proof generally rests on the person who accuses someone else of arguing in bad faith, but someone who is operating in bad faith is unlikely to respect this.

 

Example #1

Brent: “And that is why abortion is morally wrong.”

Yolanda: “Meh, I have tried to engage in a serious discussion with you, but you keep on arguing in bad faith. I have lost count of your lies and every argument you advance is either a fallacy or incoherent. Your bad faith shows that your view about abortion is wrong.”

 

Example #2

Brent: “And that is why abortion is morally acceptable.”

Yolanda: “Meh, I have tried to engage in a serious discussion with you, but you keep on arguing in bad faith. I have lost count of your lies and every argument you advance is either a fallacy or incoherent. Your bad faith shows that your view about abortion is wrong.”

 

Example #3

“The governor’s speech was yet another example of bad faith. He says he is signing all these bills because he cares about children. But the state has a severe child poverty problem, infant mortality and illness are both high, and so on. Whenever a bill is introduced to address these problems, he always says he will veto them if they manage to pass. He also said that reducing regulations on businesses would help create jobs. Just more bad faith, so that is obviously nonsense.”

 

Example #4

“The speaker of the house’s speech was yet another example of bad faith. She says she is fighting for the common people and against the rich, but she always opposes laws aimed at preventing her from engaging in insider trading. She claims that the green energy bill will be good. Just more bad faith, so that is obviously nonsense.”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More

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