Critical Thinking: Fallacies from Relevance XIII

Posted by Hallee on May 20, 2010 in Critical Thinking, homeschooling |


Fallacies from Relevance

A fallacy from relevance occurs when the response to a conclusion or an argument is not relevant to the conclusion or argument. These are fallacies that ignore the point at hand and attempt to derail the argument by bringing irrelevancies into the arena of the debate. In this post, I will discuss the Fallacist’s Fallacy.

Argumentum ad Logicam (The Fallacist’s Fallacy)

In Latin, Argumentum ad Logicam is an argument (aimed) at logic. This is the Fallacist’s Fallacy, which involves rejecting an idea as false simply because the argument offered for it is fallacious. Having examined the case for a particular point of view, and found it wanting, it can be tempting to conclude that the point of view is false. This, however, would be to go beyond the evidence.

It is an informal and irrelevant logical fallacy where a participant invalidly rejects a proposition because the arguments made in favor of the proposition are themselves fallacious. The most general structure of this argument is:

1. P because of
2. Therefore, not-P.

This is a fallacy because the fact that a bad argument can be presented in support of a proposition does not necessarily mean that there are no other good arguments available and does not mean the propsition is patently false. It only means the argument for the proposition is fallacious.

It is possible to offer a fallacious argument for any proposition, including for those that are true. One could argue that 2+2=4 on the basis of an appeal to authority: “Stephen Hawking says 2+2=4”. Obviously, 2 and 2 make 4 but not because Stephen Hawking says so. If you do not consider Stephen Hawking an authority on mathematics, disbelieving that 2 and 2 equal four on that basis would make you guilty of the Fallacist’s Fallacy.

This argument has a true conclusion. A proposition therefore should not be dismissed because one argument offered in its favor is faulty.

brain toolsConclusion:

Recognizing truth is an essential survival tool for the mind, and ultimately, for the soul.  It is vital that believers weigh the so-called “wisdom” of the world on the perfect scale of authoritative scripture.  (I Corinthians 1:19-21)

Teaching our children the ability to recognize fallacies of this type, giving them the intellectual skill to deconstruct these types of arguments, will ensure that the arguments they, themselves, will one day make are at least valid and thoughtfully arrived upon. It will also assist them to investigate more deeply into the conclusions espoused by those in the world whose motives might not come from love and might not have been very carefully arrived at or well researched.

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