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Author Topic:   A proper understanding of logical fallacies will improve the quality of debate
Member (Idle past 1031 days)
Posts: 390
From: Irvine, CA, United States
Joined: 09-15-2011

Message 1 of 2 (640788)
11-13-2011 9:15 AM

Having just completed my first thread, I am convinced a better understanding of logical fallacies will improve the quality of debates here. While I studied logic in college (and therefore logical fallacies), it has been a long time and this debate will do me good as well.

Logical fallacies have been studied and debated for thousands of years and are well-defined and well-categorized, but not always well-presented. I am interested in debating the definitions and practical application of these fallacies to debate.

I recommend reading Taxonomy of Fallacies at http://www.logicalfallacies.info/ as a way to get some context for the debate. There are a number of links there, providing more information about the types of fallacies.

Goal of the debate
The goal of this debate is for us to come to some agreement about the definitions of important fallacies and also about how they are to be confronted.

I suggest information about each fallacy be gathered into the following outline:

Definition of the fallacy – quote from a standard online source (not a blog belonging to a participant here)
Short explanation of why it is bad –
An example -
What to do when you recognize this fallacy –
What to do when you are accused of this fallacy –

Example: Quote-mining

Definition: “The practice of quoting out of context, sometimes referred to as "contextomy" or "quote mining", is a logical fallacy and a type of false attribution in which a passage is removed from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its intended meaning.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quote_mining

Why this is bad: Quoting out of context can change the author’s original meaning. The “context “is generally thought of as the immediate linguistic context, but can also refer to the historical context of a person’s life. This is sometimes complicated by the fact people can and do sometimes change their views as they go through life.

Example: Newbie says: “Albert Einstein was a Christian because he once wrote “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”
In this example, Newbie is probably not maliciously attempting to mislead, but is simply misled himself. It is very easy for someone to project their own views into a quote.

How to respond to Newbie: Newbie, yes, Einstein did say that but he was never a Christian. Einstein also wrote “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” Please, Newbie, try to be careful not to project your own views into quotes you read.

Quotes are extremely valuable inputs into any debate. By responding in this way, it is more likely Newbie will stick around and become a valuable member of the forum. A comment calling Newbie a liar will not increase learning or encourage him to stay. In fact, if Newbie has introduced the quote slightly differently, someone might think is quote mining but he was not. By taking a few minutes to verify the quote does not represent Einstein’s position, you can provide Newbie with new information and a link to conclude the matter.

Other fallacies I hope others will consider and write about include:
• Ad hominem
• Appeal to authority
• Circular reasoning
• Non-sequitor
• Many others

I hope we get many people to engage in this discussion and debate.

Posts: 12339
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002
Member Rating: 1.8

Message 2 of 2 (640790)
11-13-2011 9:34 AM

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