Fallacious arguments and false reasoning seem to thrive in today’s media and political circles, but this lack of critical thinking has a life of its own and has found its way into relationships, friendships, and work environments. In promoting our own ideas and views, we tend to use misleading statements, and it is not rare that we too are manipulated by them in return. Critical thinking can save you time, money, and personal dignity.
A logical fallacy is an error in reasoning. It is an argument that uses a false basis in an attempt to persuade someone.
Speaking objectively, logically, and truthfully is sometimes harder than you might think. This text will cover commonly used fallacies by politicians, TV commercials, and religious leaders in today’s society. There are many logical fallacies to choose from, and my initial intention was to cover them all. After realizing I was writing a post and not a book about this topic, I decided to deal with the five that were used the most, but I brought that number down even further, so the focus will be on three logical fallacies that I’ve seen flourish in the past decade.
1. Ad hominem
This one is by far the most favorite one from politicians across the globe, the most dominant in media, and the hardest to be free of in our daily lives even. It is because we were raised by listening to that old stupid saying “It is not about what is said but about who has said it.” Ad hominem fallacy refers to an attack on the person advancing the argument instead of on the validity of the evidence behind that argument. You will recognize it by the speaker’s focus on personality, speech patterns, wardrobe, educational background, political views, sexual preferences, religion, skin color, or anything other that has nothing to do with the actual statement from the opponent.
Ad hominem is usually used when a person has no valid argument. Attacking the person is easier than attacking her views.
Instead of providing sound reasoning, ad hominem fallacies replace logical argumentation with attacks that are unrelated to the truth of the matter. The aim is to discredit the other person. “Bad” people can make valid claims, and “good” people can make invalid claims. You should always separate the words from the person saying them. The validity of an argument has absolutely NOTHING to do with the character of the person, and you not liking somebody is not evidence for that person to be wrong about something.
The truth is the truth no matter who says it.
EXAMPLES of AD HOMINEM fallacy:
- You are too young to have an opinion about that.
- Your doctor is cheating on his wife so you shouldn’t listen to his medical advice.
- All politicians are liars.
- He is ______ (insert religion) so he must be wrong about this too.
- She is old. What could she possibly know about social networking?
- You do not live in my country so your opinion about _____ (insert anything) is wrong.
2. Petitio principii
Circular reasoning is repeating the same argument over and over again, and it is often present in dogmatic thinkers. You will recognize it by having the same conclusion as the premise. An argument is made by trying to prove itself by itself alone. It is mostly used in the fanatic approach to religion with an unwillingness to even consider the opponent’s argument.
People who use these kinds of arguments are very difficult to talk to. Their sentences are meaningless even though they seem correct.
The problem with these arguments is that they may seem correct. The form of an argument is invalid, but the statement sounds like it is true. Saying that someone is the best because no one else is as good as him is, in fact, circular reasoning. That someone may be the best, but the argument does absolutely nothing to prove it. Some people even try to justify their arguments by giving examples of other circular statements such as, “I am right because I am right just as the sky is blue because it is blue.”
If the premise and the conclusion are the same, the argument is a fallacy.
EXAMPLES of PETITIO PRINCIPII fallacy:
- I am right because I said I’m right.
- Smoking pot is illegal because it is against the law.
- That book is true because it is written in it that it is true.
3. Non Sequitur
This is the fallacy of stating a conclusion that does not strictly follow from the premises. The most common form of this fallacy is what is often called “a slippery slope,” but it is also referred to in modern pop culture as “that escalated quickly.” In the attempt to convince others of their views, some people will resort to exaggeration to get their point across and list a series of actions resulting from the first action without showing a causal connection.
People who use the slippery slope often play with fears and list a number of things as consequences. A good example of this is fearmongering, the intentional attempt of making people afraid of something when it is not necessary.
The purpose of the slippery slope is to shock the listener. Provoking an emotional response often leads to agreeing. You should always stop and think about the potential manipulation of your provoked feelings. The problem with this fallacy is that it suggests unlikely and/or ridiculous outcomes with no proof. One change inevitably leading to another with no evidence is a common way politicians and religious leaders manipulate the masses.
Be careful. Fear is a powerful tool.
EXAMPLES of NON SEQUITUR:
- If we let gay people adopt children, we will soon let pedophiles adopt children and children will be put into homes where they will be abused, which will lead to them being psychologically damaged and grow up to be crazy murderers and rapists.
- Legalizing prostitution would cause more marriages to break up, which would in turn cause the breakdown of the family, which would finally result in the destruction of civilization.
- If you don’t do your homework, you’ll fail the class. Then you won’t graduate from school or get into college. You won’t get a good job, and finally, you’ll be homeless.
Recognizing logical fallacies
Think for yourself. Trust should never be blind without any questioning. When trying to recognize when someone is trying to mislead or fool you, understanding logical fallacies (intentional and unintentional) is very important. They are false arguments that will not prove the point. Try following the premises and logic, stop for a moment before making your decision, and don’t be easily manipulated by those who provoke fear in you. Follow your heart, but take your brain with you.
Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again my dear pagan soul. Rejoice in life, and life will rejoice in you. May God and Goddess bless you in everything you do and spirit guides follow you wherever you go.
In love and light,