Fallacious Example

Date

source

share

Also Known As: Fallacious Argument by/from Example

Description:

This fallacy occurs when an Argument by Example fails to adequately meet the standards for assessing this type of inductive argument.

An Argument by Example is an argument in which a claim is supported by providing examples.

Formally presented, an Argument by Example will have at least one premise that provides an example and a conclusion. Each premise is used to support the conclusion by providing an example. The idea is that the weight of the examples establishes the claim.

Although usually presented in an informal manner, they have the following logical form:

 

Premise 1: Example 1 is an example that supports claim P.

Premise n: Example n is an example that supports claim P.

Conclusion: Claim P is true.

 

In this case n is a variable standing for the number of the premise in question and P is a variable standing for the claim under consideration.

An example of an Argument by Example presented in strict form is as follows:

 

Premise 1: Lena ate pizza two months ago and did not contribute any money.

Premise 2: Lena ate pizza a month ago and did not contribute any money.

Premise 3: Lena ate pizza two weeks ago and did not contribute any money.

Premise 4: Lena ate pizza a week ago and did not contribute any money.

Conclusion: Lena is a pizza mooch who eats but does not contribute.

 

Standards of Assessment

The strength of an Argument by Example depends on four factors First, the more examples, the stronger the argument. For example, if Lena only failed to pay for the pizza she ate once, then the claim that she is a mooch who does not contribute would not be well supported and the argument would be very weak.

Second, the more relevant the examples, the stronger the argument. For example, if it were concluded that Lena was a pizza mooch because she regularly failed to pay for her share of gas money, then the argument would be weak. After all, her failure to pay gas money does not strongly support the claim that she will not help pay for pizza. There can be reasonable debate about whether an example is relevant. For example, people can sensibly differ about what counts are relevant experience for a job or political office.

Third, the examples must be specific and clearly identified. Vague and unidentified examples do not provide much in the way of support. For example, if someone claimed that Lena was a pizza mooch because “you know, she didn’t pay and stuff on some days…like some time a month or maybe a couple months ago”, then the argument would be weak. Unidentified examples also cannot be confirmed, so there would not be any way of knowing if the examples are accurate or even real.

Fourth, counterexamples must be considered. A counterexample is an example that counts against the claim. One way to look at a counter example is that it is an example that supports the denial of the conclusion being argued for. The more counterexamples and the more relevant they are, the weaker the argument. For example, if someone accuses Lena of being a pizza mooch, but other people have examples of times which she did contribute, then these examples would serve as counterexamples against the claim that she is a pizza mooch. As such, counterexamples can be used to build an Argument by Example that has as its conclusion the claim that the conclusion it counters is false.

An argument that does not meet these standards would be a weak argument. If the argument is weak enough (though there is not an exact line that defines this) it would qualify as a fallacy because the premises would not adequately support the conclusion. And that would be a Fallacious Example.

 

Defense: Since a Fallacious Example is just a significantly flawed Argument by Example, the defense is to apply the standards for assessing this argument type to determine if it is fallacious.

 

Example #1

Rush: “The President is a socialist!”

Sean: “Really? Can you prove that?”

Rush: “Well he did those things; you know like that money thing and that other thing with insurance. You know, the socialist things.”

Sean: “So, those examples prove he is a socialist?”

Rush: “Well, yeah.”

 

Example #2

Rush: “The President is an authoritarian!”

Sean: “Really? Can you prove that?”

Rush: “Well he did those things; you know like that voting thing and that other thing with police stuff. You know, the authoritarian things.”

Sean: “So, those examples prove he is an authoritarian?”

Rush: “Well, yeah.”

 

Example #3

Dan: “In the Apology, Socrates argues that he did not corrupt the youth intentionally. He does this by asserting that if he corrupted them, they would probably hurt him. But, since no one wants to be harmed, he would not corrupt them intentionally. However, there are plenty of examples of leaders who corrupted their followers without being harmed by them. So much for Socrates’ argument!”

Ted: “Like who?”

Dan: “You know, like those leaders that corrupted people.”

Ted: “Oh, them.”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More

More
articles

More
news

Language vs. Reality

Language is the main tool we have to communicate to others our view of reality. We choose our words carefully...