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Argument & Fallacy

List of common components of argument and fallacies

Premise All arguments begin with one or more premises: facts that the argument takes for granted. If premises are true, then the conclusion must be true, e.g. premise 1: A = B; premise 2: B = C; conclusion: A = C
Sound argument Premises are true (logic is valid) and thus conclusion is true. An unsound argument can still yield a valid conclusion if the logic is invalid (premises are false)
Tearing down a conclusion by demonstrating the argument is not sound. Break down an argument into its premises and prove that a premise is false. The conclusion can then be rendered suspect.
Rationalizing. How to identify? Starting with conclusions one desires and then reverse engineering arguments to support them. If one uses hypothetical situations to support their conclusions, they’re rationalizing by means of reverse-engineering arguments
Hidden premise When a arguer doesn’t disclose part of the definition or description of a premise in order to help support their conclusion
When all premises are valid can the argument still be invalid? Yes, if the logic employed is not legitimate: a logical fallacy. Often these occur because humans have evolved use heuristic logic which allows us to quickly come to conclusions without having to use sound logic.
Heuristic argument An argument based on intuition and trial-and-error rather than valid evidence.
Re-visit: sound argument One that is based upon valid premises and valid logic (no logical fallacies).
Ad hominem An argument which counters a claim by attacking the person rather than the person’s argument.
“Poisoning the well” A form of ad hominem fallacy: an attempt to discredit the argument of another by claiming that they’re affiliated with other beliefs that are wrong or unpopular. E.g. comparing one’s views to that of the Nazis
Ad ignorantium An argument stating that a specific belief is true because we don’t know that it isn’t true. The argument of intelligent design is almost entirely based upon this fallacy.
Argument from authority Claiming an argument is true because someone of relevant authority believes that it’s true. E.g. UFO proponents claiming UFOs are real because airline pilots have claimed to see them
Ad populum A belief must be true because it’s popular. Similar to argument from authority
Argument from final consequences (AKA teleological arguments) Based on the reversal of cause and effect. It is argued that something is caused by the ultimate effect that it has. E.g. The universe has all the properties necessary to support life, thus it was designed to support life.
Argument from personal incredulity I cannot explain or understand this, therefore it cannot be true. E.g. “black holes are so preposterous, there’s no way that they exist.”
Begging the question Note: it does NOT mean “raises the question”. It is to assume a conclusion in one’s question. E.g. to ask someone if they have stopped beating their wife yet. Or asking: “what are you skeptics afraid of?” which assumes fear
Confusing association with causation Assumes cause and effect for two variables simply because they occur together. E.g. if both religious attendance and drug use increased in the 90s, it would be a fallacy to state that they’re related.
Confusing currently explained with unexplainable The argument: because we do not have an adequate explanation for a phenomenon means we never will. E.g. the “God of the gaps” strategy: whatever cannot be explained must be an act of God
False analogy An argument based upon an assumed similarity between two things; even though they’re not similar in the matter they’re invoked.
False continuum The idea that there’s no definitive demarcation line between two extremes, that the distinction between the extremes is not real or meaningful. E.g. saying that cults and religion are the same thing.
False dichotomy Arbitrarily reducing a set of many possibilities to only two. E.g. evolution is not possible, thus life resulted from a Christian God (ignoring many other theories/religions which attempt to explain the origin of life).
Genetic fallacy Assumes that something’s current utility is dictated or constrained by its historical utility. E.g. a word’s current use may be unrelated to its etymological origins. By saying “sunrise” I don’t think the sun actually rises
Inconsistency Applying criteria to one belief, claim, argument, or position but not to others. E.g. some people claim we need stronger regulation over medication but less over medicinal herbs.
No true Scotsman Circular reasoning: it attempts to include a conclusion about something in the very definition of the word itself. E.g. I claim all Scotsman are brave, you claim you know a cowardly Scotsman, I say “well he’s no true Scotsman”
Non-sequitur An argument in which the conclusion does not necessarily follow the premises. A logical connection is implied where none exists.
Post-hoc ergo propter hoc “After this, and therefore because of this”. A preceded B therefore A caused B: it assumes cause an effect of two events just because they’re temporally related.
Slippery slope The argument that a position is not consistent or tenable because accepting the position means that the extreme of the position must also be accepted. This is a fallacy because moderate positions often stay moderate
Special pleading, or ad-hoc reasoning Subtle and difficult fallacy to recognize. It is the arbitrary introduction of new elements into an argument in order to fix them so that they appear valid.
Straw man An argument where the arguer invents a caricature (a straw man) of the opponent’s position and attacks that instead because it is easily refuted. But it isn’t the position the opponent actually holds
Tautology Circular reasoning where the conclusion is its own premise. E.g. The Bible is true because God says it is (a tautology because God says it’s true in the Bible).
The moving goalpost A method of denial arbitrarily moving the criteria for “proof” or acceptance out of range of whatever evidence currently exists.
Tu quoque Attempt to justify wrong action because someone else does: E.g. “my evidence is invalid, but so is yours so it’s okay!” E.g. “You have a car that dumps CO2 into the atmosphere, so don’t lecture me on my truck’s exhaust.”
Created by: Intellex_

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