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Fallacy Fallacy

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Also Known As: Argumentum ad Logicam, Fallacist’s Fallacy

Description:

This fallacy occurs when it is inferred that a claim is false because a fallacy has been used to “support” that claim.  The form is as follows:

 

Premise 1:  Fallacy F was used to argue for claim C.

Conclusion: Therefore, claim C is false.

 

This is a fallacy (and an ironic one) because the truth or falsity of a claim cannot be inferred solely from the quality of the reasoning offered in support of that claim.  If fallacious reasoning has been used, then an error in reasoning has occurred but it does not follow that a factual error has also occurred. It is one thing to commit an error in reasoning and quite another to get the facts wrong. One does not follow from the other. That said, some people do use the term “fallacy” to refer to an untrue claim. In that case, inferring that a claim is untrue because it is untrue would seem reasonable.

That reasoning and truth are distinct is especially when a deductive fallacy (an invalid deductive argument) is considered:

 

Premise 1: If Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States, then it is in the United States.

Premise 2: Washington D.C. is in the United States.

Conclusion: Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States.

 

This is an example of Affirming the Consequent which is a classic invalid argument. However, the conclusion is true. So, it should be clear that poor reasoning does not entail a false conclusion.

 

Defense: The defense against this fallacy is to remember that bad reasoning (or a lack of reasoning) does not entail that a claim must be false. While bad reasoning (or no reasoning) does not support a claim, it also does not count as evidence against it. So, the fact that something does not give you a reason to accept a claim does not mean that it gives you a reason to reject it.

 

Example #1

Glenn: “The president is a socialist. That is why he is wrong when he claims his stimulus plan helped the economy.”

Jon: “Aha! I just read about fallacies on the internet and you, my fine fellow, have just committed an Ad Hominem! That means that you are wrong: the president’s plan must have helped the economy.”

 

Example #2

Glenn: “The president is a racist. That is why he is wrong when he claims his stimulus plan helped the economy.”

Jon: “Aha! I just read about fallacies on the internet and you, my fine fellow, have just committed an Ad Hominem! That means that you are wrong: the president’s plan must have helped the economy.”

 

Example #3

Sally: “Why should you believe in God? Well, the bible says that God exists.”

Jane: “But why should I believe the bible? It is just a book after all.”

Sally: “It was written by God, so you can believe every word.”

Jane: “Hey, you are just assuming what you need to prove. That isn’t a good argument at all! So, that just about wraps it up for God.”

Jane: “What?”

Sally: “Well, your argument is bad, so your conclusion has to be wrong.”

Jane: “I don’t think it works that way.”

Sally: “Why, did God put that in His book?”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More

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