Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fallacies of the daily argument

In this post, I wish to create a curated list of daily arguments used in society (Indian or elsewhere,) that have logical fallacies. I am sure all of you, growing up, have argued with your friends / parents / within family circles or with your school teachers about issues concerning "must do", or "should not do". You would have come across many logical fallacies in the arguments where you were told 'this is why you should follow X', or 'this is why you should never do Y'. These could also include superstitions such as 'see, I told you, whenever A happens, B happens', or even refusing the causality of A-B and insisting it is just a coincidence. 

Let's play a game ! In the comments section, why don't you add some of the fallacies you have seen in your daily arguments with your friends / parents / society, and I will add them here ! I will also update the list of authors accordingly, giving due credit !! Meanwhile, I will add more as I keep identifying them. 

For starters, here is a wiki on `non sequitur' : (latin for `does not follow', and describes an argument that does not follow from its premises.) In the examples below, it is irrelevant whether the boolean value of the premises is True (or False), it is only that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. 

Example 1. Grades in School
a. Every student with poor grades fails to study regularly
b. you fail to study regularly
c. therefore you will get poor grades
It may or may not be that 'a' above is true, but in either case it is irrelevant to the conclusion. What is relevant to the conclusion is whether it is true that "every student who does not study regularly does get poor grades", which is ignored in the argument.

Example 2. Social norms and rituals 
a. If you do everything according to 'social norms and religious prescriptions', society will accept you
b. You are not doing everything according to the social norms and religious prescriptions
c. Hence society [as defined] will not accept you
It may or may not be that 'a' above is true, but in either case it is irrelevant to the conclusion. What is relevant to the conclusion is whether it is true that "everyone who is accepted by the society has been doing everything according to social norms and religious prescriptions", which is ignored in the argument. 

Slippery slope fallacy 
Example 1: "If we raise the minimum wage to 15$ why not raise it to 100000$ (slippery slope)". This actually happened on fox ! (contributed by Purushottam Dixit

This reminded me of another one of the golden fallacies of the childhood:
Example 2: If you can not change your habits now, you can not change them later !

True scotsman fallacy (contributed by Purushottam Dixit
Example 1: After a terrible tragedy: "Real Christians/Muslims/Whatever would never do this!"

The false dilemma, or black-and-white
Example: You are with us in this war/cause, or else you are against us !

The Strawman: Misrepresent someone's argument and then attack it easily
Well just listen / read any political argument !!

Appeal to authority: because it is said somewhere or by someone authoritative, it must therefore be true.
Example: Citing scriptures for basically everything you want to make true.
Example: Propagating unsubstantiated pseudo-factoids like structure of water based on one person's experiments. Classic example here is Emoto water experiments.

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