Reread pages 397—404, “Informal Fallacies,” in Writing Arguments and review the hand out from Yourlogicalfallacyis.com. Think about when you have encountered fallacies in your life. Think about times when you have both perpetrated fallacies and times when you have accepted fallacies. Pick a prominent example. Please notice I do not want you to invent a fallacy.
Using what you have learned about fallacies, analyze the example you have selected. Be as specific and detailed as possible. Be sure to identify which fallacy you have chosen from those in the text or from the handout. Draw conclusions and explain how you plan to use your newfound skills in the future.
Although content is going to be primary, organization, spelling, and grammar are also important. Ensure that they are all under your control before you hand anything in. In other words, I expect you to do College Level writing. You should use this as an opportunity to show off your ability to think clearly, precisely, and logically, as well as write elegantly! Treat all your writing as if it were a job application. It is hard for me to imagine that you could even begin to cover this topic in less than 750 words. To ensure a good grade you will probably want to do more!
To receive full credit for this assignment you must submit your writing by noon, on the day specified in the syllabus, to Brightspace. As always, ensure that your work is done in Microsoft Word format and uses APA formatting.
(Pages 397-404 inserted below):
In this appendix, we look at ways of assessing the legitimacy of an argument within a real-world context of probabilities rather than within a mathematical world of certainty. Whereas formal logic is a kind of mathematics, the informal fallacies addressed in this appendix are embedded in everyday arguments, sometimes making fallacious reasoning seem deceptively persuasive, especially to unwary audiences. We begin by looking at the problem of conclusiveness in arguments, after which we give you an overview of the most commonly encountered informal fallacies.
In real-world disagreements, we seldom encounter arguments that are absolutely conclusive. Rather, arguments are, to various degrees, “persuasive” or “nonpersuasive.” In the pure world of formal logic, however, it is possible to have absolutely conclusive arguments. For example, an Aristotelian syllogism, if it is validly constructed, yields a certain conclusion. Moreover, if the first two premises (called the “major” and “minor” premises) are true, then we are guaranteed that the conclusion is also true. Here is an example:
This syllogism is said to be valid because it follows a correct form. Moreover, because its premises are true, the conclusion is guaranteed to be true. However, if the syllogism follows an incorrect form (and is therefore invalid), we can’t determine whether the conclusion is true.
In the valid syllogism, we are guaranteed that Quacko is a feathered animal because the minor premise states that Quacko is a duck and the major premise places ducks within the larger class of feathered animals. But in the invalid syllogism, there is no guaranteed conclusion. We know that Clucko is a feathered animal but we can’t know whether he is a duck. He may be a duck, but he may also be a buzzard or a chicken. The invalid syllogism thus commits a “formal fallacy” in that its form doesn’t guarantee the truth of its conclusion even if the initial premises are true. From the perspective of real-world argumentation, the problem with formal logic is that it isn’t concerned with the truth of premises. For example, the following argument is logically valid even though the premises and conclusion are obviously untrue:
Even though this syllogism meets the formal requirements for validity, its argument is ludicrous. In this appendix, therefore, we are concerned with “informal” rather than “formal” fallacies because informal fallacies are embedded within real-world arguments addressing contestable issues of truth and value. Disputants must argue about issues because they can’t be resolved with mathematical certainty; any contestable claim always leaves room for doubt and alternative points of view. Disputants can create only more or less persuasive arguments, never conclusive ones.
The study of informal fallacies remains the murkiest of all logical endeavors. It’s murky because informal fallacies are as unsystematic as formal fallacies are rigid and systematized. Whereas formal fallacies of logic have the force of laws, informal fallacies have little more than explanatory power. Informal fallacies are quirky; they identify classes of less conclusive arguments that recur with some frequency, but they do not contain formal flaws that make their conclusions illegitimate no matter what the terms may say. Informal fallacies require us to look at the meaning of the terms to determine how much we should trust or distrust the conclusion. In evaluating arguments with informal fallacies, we usually find that arguments are “more or less” fallacious, and determining the degree of fallaciousness is a matter of judgment. Knowledge of informal fallacies is most useful when we run across arguments that we “know” are wrong, but we can’t quite say why. They just don’t “sound right.” They look reasonable enough, but they remain unacceptable to us. Informal fallacies are a sort of compendium of symptoms for arguments flawed in this way. We must be careful, however, to make sure that the particular case before us “fits” the descriptors for the fallacy that seems to explain its problem. It’s much easier, for example, to find informal fallacies in a hostile argument than in a friendly one simply because we are more likely to expand the limits of the fallacy to make the disputed case fit. In arranging the fallacies, we have, for convenience, put them into three categories derived from classical rhetoric: pathos, ethos, and logos. Fallacies of pathos rest on flaws in the way an argument appeals to the audience’s emotions and values. Fallacies of ethos rest on flaws in the way the argument appeals to the character of opponents or of sources and witnesses within an argument. Fallacies of logos rest on flaws in the relationship among statements in an argument.