Political Correctness vs. Philosophical Fallacies

I will put the WIKE article opening here… as it may change in a couple years as PC moves from ideology to government force:


…..A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man“.

The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e., “stand up a straw man“) and the subsequent refutation of that false argument (“knock down a straw man“) instead of the opponent’s proposition.

This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery “battle” and the defeat of an “enemy” may be more valued than critical thinking or an understanding of both sides of the issue.

Allegedly, straw man tactics were once known in some parts of the United Kingdom as an Aunt Sally, after a pub game of the same name where patrons threw sticks or battens at a post to knock off a skittle balanced on top.

Also, here is some excellent information via the STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY:

1. The core fallacies

8. The fallacy of ignoratio elenchi, or irrelevant conclusion, is indicative of misdirection in argumentation rather than a weak inference. The claim that Calgary is the fastest growing city in Canada, for example, is not defeated by a sound argument showing it is not the biggest city in Canada. A variation of ignoratio elenchi, known under the name of the straw man fallacy, occurs when an opponent’s point of view is distorted in order to make it easier to refute. For example, in opposition to a proponent’s view that (a) industrialization is the cause of global warming, an opponent might substitute the proposition that (b) all ills that beset mankind are due to industrialization and then, having easily shown that (b) is false, leave the impression that (a) too is false. Two things went wrong: the proponent does not hold (b), and even if she did, the falsity of (b) does not imply the falsity of (a).

There are a number of common fallacies that begin with the Latin prefix ‘ad’ (‘to’ or ‘toward’) and the most common of these will be described next.


2. History of Fallacy Theory

2.5 Watts

Isaac Watts in his Logick; or, The Right Use of Reason (1724), furthered the ad-argument tradition by adding three more arguments: argumentum ad fidem (appeal to faith), argumentum ad passiones (appeal to passion), and argumentum ad populum (a public appeal to passions). Like Locke, Watts does not consider these arguments as fallacies but as kinds of arguments. However, the Logick does consider sophisms and introduces “false cause” as an alternative name for causa non pro causa which here, as in the Port-Royal Logic, is understood as a fallacy associated with empirical causation. According to Watts it occurs whenever anyone assigns “the reasons of natural appearances, without sufficient experiments to prove them” (1796, Pt. III, 3 i 4). Another sophism included by Watts is imperfect enumeration or false induction, the mistake of generalizing on insufficient evidence. Also, the term ‘strawman fallacy’ may have its origins in Watts’s discussion of ignoratio elenchi: after having dressed up the opinions and sentiments of their adversaries as they please to make “images of straw”, disputers “triumph over their adversary as though they had utterly confuted his opinions” (1796, Pt. III 3 i 1).


3. New approaches to fallacies

3.6 Dialectical/dialogical approaches to fallacies

Walton divides fallacies into two kinds: paralogisms and sophisms. A paralogism is “the type of fallacy in which an error of reasoning is typically committed by failing to meet some necessary requirement of an argumentation scheme” whereas “the sophism type of fallacy is a sophistical tactic used to try to unfairly get the best of a speech partner in an exchange of arguments” (2010, 171; see also 1995, 254). Paralogisms are instances of identifiable argumentation schemes, but sophisms are not. The latter are more associated with infringing a reasonable expectation of dialogue than with failing some standard of argument, (2011, 385; 2010, 175). A further distinction is drawn between arguments used intentionally to deceive and arguments that merely break a maxim of argumentation unintentionally. The former count as fallacies, the latter, less condemnable, are blunders (1995, 235).

Among the informal paralogisms Walton includes: ad hominem, ad populum, ad misericordiam, ad ignorantiam, ad verecundiam, slippery slope, false cause, straw man, argument from consequences, faulty analogy, composition and division. In the category of sophisms he places ad baculum, complex question, begging the question, hasty generalization, ignoratio elenchi, equivocation, amphiboly, accent, and secundum quid. He also has a class of formal fallacies very much the same as those identified by Whately and Copi. The largest class in Walton’s classification is the one associated with argumentation schemes and ad-arguments, and these are the ones that he considers as the most central fallacies. Nearly all the Aristotelian fallacies included find themselves relegated to the less studied categories of sophisms. Taking a long look at the history of fallacies, then, we find that the Aristotelian fallacies are no longer of central importance. They have been replaced by the fallacies associated with the ad-arguments.


4. Current issues in fallacy theory

4.4 Biases

Recently there has been renewed interest in how biases are related to fallacies. Correia (2011) has taken Mill’s insight that biases are predisposing causes of fallacies a step further by connecting identifiable biases with particular fallacies. Biases can influence the unintentional committing of fallacies even where there is no intent to be deceptive, he observes. Taking biases to be “systematic errors that invariably distort the subject’s reasoning and judgment,” the picture drawn is that particular biases are activated by desires and emotions (motivated reasoning) and once they are in play, they negatively affect the fair evaluation of evidence. Thus, for example, the “focussing illusion” bias inclines a person to focus on just a part of the evidence available, ignoring or denying evidence that might lead in another direction. Correia (2011, 118) links this bias to the fallacies of hasty generalization and straw man, suggesting that it is our desire to be right that activates the bias to focus more on positive or negative evidence, as the case may be. Other biases he links to other fallacies.

The “Expert” Fallacy ~ Global Warming

A great response to a mushy response to AGW skeptics, here is the typical charge:

Imagine your doctor tells you that you have dangerously high cholesterol and blocked arteries. She says you may drop dead soon. [Note: Based on comments/questions, I should clarify here. By “doctor”, I mean the entire medical establishment. So imagine you got not just a “second opinion,” but 100 opinions…and 97 say the same thing].You might have four basic reactions based on two dimensions, belief (or doubt) in the basic facts/science, and whether you commit to action or delay.

Here are some of the responses — in part — from WATTS UP WITH THAT:

1. A medical doctor is a highly-qualified professional.  Medical doctors must successfully complete a medical school, spend 3-7 years in residency actually treating patients, and be licensed by a state medical board composed mostly of proven doctors.

In contrast, anybody can call him- or herself a scientist and speak on behalf of science.  There are no licensing or certification requirements….


2. A medical doctor is accountable.  A doctor would lose patients or be fired if his or her advice isn’t sound.  A doctor can also be sued by a dissatisfied patient.  In a number of cases, doctors have been indicted.

A putative climate scientist can hardly even be criticized….


3. Patients have direct bidirectional communication with their doctor.  “Direct” means that the patient usually speaks face-to-face with the doctor.  “Bi-directional” means the patient can ask the doctor questions and get answers.  Very few accept TV personalities’ talk as real medical advice.

The so-called “climate science” is usually communicated to the public in third person point of view like “The scientists say that …”, “Majority of peer-reviewed articles conclude …”, and even “Models show that …” These used to be typical introductory clauses before statements about alleged climate dangers…..


4. One takes initiative to seek a doctor, rather than the other way around. Any unsolicited email offering a medical procedure or a wonder pill is sent straight to the spam folder.

But climate alarmism promoters always come unsolicited! …


5. Doctors do not demand patients to trust them.  They earn their trust.

Climate alarmists demand trust because they have earned mistrust.

I would like to finish by paraphrasing Edmund Burke:

  • Alleged science looks for defense from Washington when it fails in the real world.

Godly Contradictions? Rocks, Evil, God’s Origin

Another good read on this can be found at Evidence for God. Similkarly, a common challenge that includes the same categorical mistake has to do with “Can God make a rock soo big He cannot lift it?” Go to a previous post of mine where a paper, a video, and my Power Point presentation on the matter are.

Power Point – Can God Make a Rock So Big That by Papa Giorgio

Can God Make A Rock So Big He Cannot Lift It? by Papa Giorgio

Fallacies Made in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

(h/t to Jim Giordano) I have to say, I REALLY enjoyed reading Rob Bowman’s input on this issue. It is refreshing to see such well-thought-out argumentation using reason and logic. The below is somewhat truncated (via Warren Lamb) from these two excellent posts:

I have added Religious Researcher to my habit… enjoy:

“The appeal to pity is an informal logical fallacy of relevance. That is, it uses pity for a particular person or group as a pretext for reaching a certain conclusion when the pity has no relevance to the issue at hand. Not all expressions of concern for an individual or group are fallacious appeals to pity.

Fashions vs. Logic

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions” ~ G. K. Chesterton

The argument that one of the goods associated with marriage (as traditionally defined) is that children generally benefit from having parents of both genders is not an irrelevant appeal to pity; it is identifying one of the several reasons for preferring the traditional view of marriage. The argument is rooted in the obvious fact, so often ignored or danced around by same-sex marriage advocates, that the normal, biological way in which human children come into the world and are raised to adulthood is through the actions of a father and a mother.

Adoption is a superior alternative to one or no parents when that normal biological parenthood paradigm breaks down … but even here the ideal adoptive model is for a child to be adopted by a father and a mother. Likewise, a single parent or two adoptive “fathers” or “mothers” is preferable to no parents or abusive parents, but it is a mistake to conclude that such parental models should be normalized by making them legally and socially equivalent to father-mother parental couples.

[The] argument that we should recognize same-sex unions as marriages because otherwise the children raised by such couples will be viewed as second-class citizens is fallacious because how unkind people treat the children of same-sex couples is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with what marriage is, and redefining marriage will not persuade those unkind people to behave any differently.

… the compelling argument needs to be made by the advocates of same-sex marriage, not by its opponents… if same-sex marriage is to be made law it should be done by the people through their legislatures, not by executive and judicial fiat.

Creating the legal fiction of same-sex marriage will have (and is already having) a number of negative effects. It will further contribute to the already present problem of people viewing marriage as primarily about personal fulfillment and happiness, with all of the disastrous effects that view is already producing accelerating further. It will undermine social pressures and incentives (again, already under assault in other ways) for the formation and preservation of husband-wife couples as the normal and ideal foundation of home life for children. It will grant not mere tolerance but approval to homosexual relationships (a concern that you will not share if you do not understand that homosexual acts are inherently immoral). It will result (and again this is already happening) in increased infringement on the legitimate religious liberties of people who accept the traditional view of marriage (not just in cases like the one noted above, but in all sorts of cases, such as Catholic adoption agencies being forced to close rather than accede to state mandates to place children with same-sex couples). These are just some of the negative effects that can be expected to result or to be exacerbated by the legal creation of a ‘right’ to same-sex marriage. But again, the burden of proof of compelling state interest is on the side of those who would overturn centuries of settled social and legal convention across cultural and geographical divides.”