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M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 149
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M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 150. 150 CHAPTER 4 Fallacies, unwarranted proposition When such dubious propositions buried in the. argument are crucial for the support of the conclusion the argument is bad. and can be very misleading Arguments that depend on such unwarranted. leaps are called fallacies of presumption, In fallacious arguments of this kind the premises may indeed be relevant. to the conclusion drawn but that relevance is likely to flow from the tacit sup. position of what has not been given support and may even be unsupportable. The presumption often goes unnoticed To expose such a fallacy it is therefore. usually sufficient to call attention to the smuggled assumption or supposi. tion and to its doubtfulness or its falsity Three common fallacies are included. in this category,P1 ACCIDENT, Circumstances alter cases A generalization that is true by and large may not. apply in a given case or to some subcategory of cases for good reasons The. reasons the generalization does not apply in those cases have to do with the. special circumstances also called the accidental circumstances of that case. or those cases If these accidental circumstances are ignored and we assume. that the generalization applies universally we commit the fallacy of accident. In the preceding section we explained the fallacy of converse accident or. hasty generalization the mistake of moving carelessly or too quickly to a gener. alization that the evidence does not support Accident is the fallacy that arises. when we move carelessly or unjustifiably from a generalization to some partic. ulars that it does not in fact cover, Experience teaches us that even generalizations that are widely applicable. and very useful are likely to have exceptions for which we must be on guard. For example there is a general principle in law that hearsay evidence. statements made by a third party outside court may not be accepted as evi. dence in court this is the hearsay rule and it is a good rule But when the. person whose oral communications are reported is dead or when the party re. porting the hearsay in court does so in conflict with his own best interest that. rule may not apply Indeed there is hardly any rule or general principle that. does not have plausible exceptions and we are likely to argue fallaciously if. we reason on the supposition that some rule applies universally. P2 COMPLEX QUESTION, One of the most common fallacies of presumption is asking a question in such.
a way as to presuppose the truth of some conclusion that is buried in the ques. tion The question itself is likely to be rhetorical with no answer actually being. sought But putting the question seriously thereby introducing its presupposi. tion surreptitiously often achieves the questioner s purpose fallaciously. M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 151. 4 5 Fallacies of Presumption 151,Thus an essayist recently asked. With all of the hysteria all of the fear all of the phony science could it be that. man made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the. American people 29, Such a statement assumes that much of the evidence supporting global warm. ing is unreliable or phony Or a homeowner might ask regarding a pro. posed increase in the property tax How can you expect the majority of the. voters who rent but don t own property and don t have to pay the tax to care. if the tax burden of others is made even more unfair assuming both that. the burden of the proposed tax is unfair and that those who rent rather than. own their own homes are not affected by tax increases on property Because. assumptions like these are not asserted openly the questioners evade the need. to defend them forthrightly, The complex question is often a deceitful device The speaker may pose. some question then answer it or strongly suggest the answer with the truth of. the premise that had been buried in the question simply assumed A letter. writer asks If America s booming economy depends on people s using con. sumer credit beyond their means thus creating poverty do we really have a. healthy economy 30 But the role and the results of consumer credit remain to. be addressed, One critic of research in genetics hides his assumptions in this question. What are the consequences of reducing the world s gene pool to patented in. tellectual property controlled by a handful of life science corporations 31 The. consequences asked about are never actually discussed they are only a. device with which the reader may be frightened by the assumptions of the. question that the world s gene pool is soon likely to be reduced to patented. intellectual property and that a handful of corporations will soon control that. gene pool Establishing the plausibility of such threats requires much more. than asking questions designed to presuppose them, The appearance of a question in an editorial or headline often has the pur.
pose of suggesting the truth of the unstated assumptions on which it is built. Judge Took Bribe This technique is a common mark of what is called. yellow journalism And in debate whenever a question is accompanied by. the aggressive demand that it be answered yes or no there is reason to sus. pect that the question is loaded that it is unfairly complex. Does the distinguished senator believe that the American public is really so na ve. that they will endorse just any stopgap measure, This question of course cannot be answered Yes It conceals several un. challenged assumptions that what is proposed is a stopgap measure that it. is inadequate and that the American public would reject it. M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 152. 152 CHAPTER 4 Fallacies, The mistake that underlies the fallacy of complex question also underlies a. common problem in parliamentary procedure Deliberative bodies sometimes. confront a motion that although not intended deceptively is covertly com. plex In such circumstances there is a need before discussion to simplify the. issues confronting the body This accounts for the privileged position in par. liamentary procedure governed by Robert s Rules of Order or similar manuals. of the motion to divide the question For example a motion that the body post. pone for one year action on some controversial matter may wisely be divided. into the questions of whether to postpone action and if that is done then to. determine the length of the postponement Some members may support the. postponement itself yet find the one year period intolerably long if the op. portunity to divide the question were not given priority the body might be. maneuvered into taking action on a motion that because of its complexity. cannot be decided in a way that captures the true will of the body A presiding. officer having the duty to promote a fully rational debate may solicit the mo. tion to divide the question before beginning the substantive discussion. Egregious examples of the fallacy of the complex question arise in dia. logue or cross examination in which one party poses a question that is com. plex a second party answers the question and the first party then draws a. fallacious inference for which that answer was the ground For example. Lawyer The figures seem to indicate that your sales increased as a. result of these misleading advertisements Is that correct. Witness They did not, Lawyer But you do admit then that your advertising was misleading. How long have you been engaging in practices like these. When a question is complex and all of its presuppositions are to be denied. they must be denied individually The denial of only one presupposition may. lead to the assumption of the truth of the other In law this has been called the. negative pregnant Here is an illustration from a notorious murder trial. Q Lizzie did you not take an axe and whack your mother forty times. and then whack your father forty one times when faced with the. prospect of cold mutton stew, A Not true We were to eat brussel sprouts fondue that day. P3 BEGGING THE QUESTION PETITIO PRINCIPII, The fallacy called begging the question is widely misunderstood partly.
because its name is misleading It is in fact the mistake of assuming the. truth of what one seeks to prove The question in a formal debate is the. M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 153. 4 5 Fallacies of Presumption 153, issue that is in dispute to beg the question is to ask or to suppose that. the very matter in controversy be conceded This is an argument with no. merit at all of course and one who makes such an assumption commits a. gross fallacy, The Latin name of the fallacy for which begging the question is the. translation is petitio principii so each instance of it is called a petitio One might. think the fallacy would be so obvious that no one would ever commit it but. that is not the case The logical mistake arises because it is obscured even from. its author by the language used Logician Richard Whately used this classic. example of a deceptive petitio, To allow every man unbounded freedom of speech must always be on the whole. advantageous to the state for it is highly conducive to the interests of the com. munity that each individual should enjoy a liberty perfectly unlimited of express. ing his sentiments 32, This statement says only that freedom of speech is a good thing because it is a. good thing which is not much of an argument, In the effort to establish the desired conclusion an author may cast about.
searching for premises that will do the trick Of course the conclusion itself. reformulated in other words will do the trick very nicely Another illustration. equally fallacious is found in this claim by a sixteenth century Chinese. philosopher, There is no such thing as knowledge which cannot be carried into practice for. such knowledge is really no knowledge at all 33, This fallacy like the fallacy of missing the point is often a mistake that is not. recognized by the author of the passage The presumption that is the heart of. the fallacy is buried in the verbiage of the premises sometimes obscured by. confusing or unrecognized synonyms The arguments are circular every. petitio is a circular argument but the circle that has been constructed may be. large and confusing and thus the logical mistake goes unseen. It would be wrong to suppose that only silly authors make this mistake. Even powerful minds are on occasion snared by this fallacy as is illustrated by. a highly controversial issue in the history of philosophy Logicians have long. sought to establish the reliability of inductive procedures by establishing the. truth of what is called the principle of induction This is the principle that the. laws of nature will operate tomorrow as they operate today that in basic ways. nature is essentially uniform and that therefore we may rely on past experi. ence to guide our conduct in the future That the future will be essentially. like the past is the claim at issue but this claim never doubted in ordinary. life turns out to be very difficult to prove Some thinkers have claimed that. they could prove it by showing that when we have in the past relied on the. M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 154. 154 CHAPTER 4 Fallacies, inductive principle we have always found that this method has helped us to. achieve our objectives They ask Why conclude that the future will be like. the past and answer Because it always has been like the past. As David Hume pointed out however this common argument is a. petitio it begs the question The point at issue is whether nature will continue. to behave regularly That it has done so in the past cannot serve as proof that it. will do so in the future unless one assumes the very principle that is here in. question that the future will be like the past And so Hume granting that in. the past the future has been like the past asked the telling question with. which philosophers still tussle How can we know that future futures will be. like past futures They may be so of course but we cannot assume that they. will be for the sake of proving that they will 34, Because the name of this fallacy is widely misunderstood that name is. sometimes wrongly used to refer to a linguistic device that is not a fallacy not. even an argument of any kind but merely a provocative observation A claim. begs the question in this sense when it raises some question or opens the. door to some controversy Thus a magazine headline may mistakenly read. The President s decision to invade Iraq begs the question What are the limits. of the President s war making authority This use of the phrase is simply a. linguistic mistake To beg the question is not to raise the issue but to assume. the truth of the conclusion sought, Circular arguments are certainly fallacious but the premises are not irrele.
vant to the conclusions drawn They are relevant indeed they prove the con. clusion but they do so trivially they end where they began A petitio principii. is always technically valid but always worthless,Fallacies of Presumption. P1 Accident, An informal fallacy in which a generalization is applied to individual cases. that it does not govern,P2 Complex Question, An informal fallacy in which a question is asked in such a way as to presup. pose the truth of some proposition buried in the question. P3 Begging the Question petitio principii, An informal fallacy in which the conclusion of an argument is stated or as. sumed in one of the premises, M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 155.
4 5 Fallacies of Presumption 155, Identify and explain any fallacies of defective induction or of presumption in. the following passages, 1 My generation was taught about the dangers of social diseases how. they were contracted and the value of abstinence Our schools did not. teach us about contraception They did not pass out condoms as many. of today s schools do And not one of the girls in any of my classes not. even in college became pregnant out of wedlock It wasn t until people. began teaching the children about contraceptives that our problems. with pregnancy began,Frank Webster No Sex Education No Sex. Insight 17 November 1997, 2 A national mailing soliciting funds by People for the Ethical Treat. ment of Animals PETA included a survey in which questions. were to be answered yes or no Two of the questions asked. were these, Do you realize that the vast majority of painful animal experi.
mentation has no relation at all to human survival or the elimination. of disease, Are you aware that product testing on animals does not keep un. safe products off the market, 3 If you want a life full of sexual pleasures don t graduate from col. lege A study to be published next month in American Demographics. magazine shows that people with the most education have the least. amount of sex,The Chronicle of Higher Education 23 January 1998. 4 There is no surprise in discovering that acupuncture can relieve pain. and nausea It will probably also be found to work on anxiety insom. nia and itching because these are all conditions in which placebos. work Acupuncture works by suggestion a mechanism whose effects. on humans are well known, The danger in using such placebo methods is that they will be. applied by people inadequately trained in medicine in cases where. essential preliminary work has not been done and where a correct. diagnosis has not been established, Fred Levit M D Acupuncture is Alchemy Not Medicine.
The New York Times 12 November 1997, M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 156. 156 CHAPTER 4 Fallacies, 5 In a motion picture featuring the famous French comedian Sacha. Guitry three thieves are arguing over division of seven pearls worth. a king s ransom One of them hands two to the man on his right then. two to the man on his left I he says will keep three The man on. his right says How come you keep three Because I am the. leader Oh But how come you are the leader Because I have. more pearls, 6 I ve always reckoned that looking at the new moon over your. left shoulder is one of the carelessest and foolishest things a body. can do Old Hank Bunker done it once and bragged about it and. in less than two years he got drunk and fell off of the shot tower. and spread himself out so that he was just a kind of a layer as you. may say and they slid him edgeways between two barn doors for. a coffin and buried him so so they say but I didn t see it Pap told. me But anyway it all come of looking at the moon that way like. Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 1885. 7 Former Senator Robert Packwood of Oregon became so angry at. the state s leading newspaper the Portland Oregonian that in. response to a request from that paper for a quote he offered this. Since I quit talking to the Oregonian my business has prospered. beyond all measure I assume that my business has prospered be. cause I don t talk to the Oregonian Therefore I will continue that. policy Thanks,The New York Times 7 February 1999, 8 Mr Farrakhan the Black Muslim leader citing the example of Israel. said black Americans should also be able to form a country of their. own on the African continent and said he plans to ask African lead. ers to carve out a territory for all people in the diaspora He said. black Americans should also be granted dual citizenship by all. African countries We want dual citizenship he said and because. we don t know where we came from we want dual citizenship every. Kenneth Noble U S Blacks and Africans Meet to Forge Stronger Ties. The New York Times 27 May 1993, 9 The French claim to be a nation of rebels In fact their heyday of.
revolution is over Twenty first century France rebels against change. not for it What typically happens is that a French government. M04 COPI1396 13 SE C04 QXD 10 12 07 11 53 AM Page 157. 4 6 Fallacies of Ambiguity 157, decides to do something radical like say enable companies to fire. service sector workers who assault their customers The unions see. this as the first step on the road to slavery and call a national strike. After a week of posturing the government backs down and waiters. and sales clerks go back to insulting customers just as they have. done since time immemorial,S Clarke No Sex Please We re French. The New York Times 23 March 2007, 10 Hiroyuki Suzuki was formerly a member of the Sakaume gumi an. independent crime family in Japan known for its role in gambling. Mr Suzuki s wife Mariko broke her kneecap and when Mariko. went to church the next Sunday the minister put his hands on her. broken knee and pronounced it healed She walked away from. church that day Mr Suzuki regarded her religion as a silly waste of. time but he was fascinated by the recovery of her knee In gam. bling he said you use dice Dice are made from bone If God. could heal her bone I figured he could probably assist my dice and. make me the best dice thrower in all of Japan Mr Suzuki s gam. bling skills did improve enabling him to pay off his debts He now. says his allegiance is to Jesus,Stephanie Strom He Watched over His Rackets. The New York Times 22 June 1999,4 6 Fallacies of Ambiguity.
The meaning of words or phrases may shift as a result of inattention or may. be deliberately manipulated within the course of an argument A term may. have one sense in a premise but quite a different sense in the conclusion. When the inference drawn depends on such changes it is of course fallacious. Mistakes of this kind are called fallacies of ambiguity or sometimes. sophisms The deliberate use of such devices is usually crude and readily. detected but at times the ambiguity may be obscure the error accidental the. fallacy subtle Five varieties are distinguished here. A1 EQUIVOCATION, Most words have more than one literal meaning and most of the time we. have no difficulty keeping those meanings separate by noting the context and. using our good sense when reading and listening Yet when we confuse the. several meanings of a word or phrase accidentally or deliberately we are.

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