Wednesday, October 21, 2009

15 How do I discover fallacies?

All cows have four legs. My table has for legs, so my table is a cow and because cows give milk, my table will give milk too. It wont take much to discover why this is an invalid argument.

However, there are many fallacies that are much meaner and harder to discover. And even when you find one……when you are in the audience, believe me, 90% of the audience will be applauding. Take this one for instance.

"If science admits no certainties, then a scientist has no more certain knowledge of the universe than does a Hottentot running through the bush."

This is true, but is intended as an abusive analogy so that the hearer will be more sympathetic to the possibility of certain knowledge.

The fallacy is a subtle one because it relies on the associations which the audience make from the picture presented.

Its perpetrator need not say anything which is untrue; he can rely on the associations made by the hearer to fill in the abuse.

The book "How to win every argument - the use and abuse of logic" by Madsen Pirie (2006) teaches you more than 75 different fallacies, with which you can trick your audience.So let's look at some more good old fallacies.

The local taxes went up and see!, that same year the crime rate went up too. They never should have increased the taxes! Applause !!!! However, this is the famous post hoc propter hoc fallacy.

I means that two events happen after each other, but the speaker suggest a causation. It is what Hume already said about causality. We only see that B happens after A. And we are easily inclined to say that A CAUSED B.

Terrible things may happen because of this fallacy. Every evening your husband comes home late from work, the wife of your neighbor gets home a few minutes later. Has happened now three times….. Up to you to make up the rest of the story.

Let's do a card trick. I show you four cards. Now, what is the quickest way to test the truth of the next thesis: Of these four cards, cards with a vowel have an even number on their backside.

The cards show : E - F - 2 - 5 What do you say…………….?

You may be inclined to suggest E and 2, but you should have turned E and 5. If there is an uneven number at the back of E the thesis is wrong.

If you turn the 2 there has to be a vowel at the back according to the thesis, so you are just confirming, what you learnt from turning the E.

You have to turn the 5 to see if there isn't a vowel at the back. If that were so, the thesis is false too.

A politician running for major claims that lowering the taxes will lower vandalism against municipal property. His assistants do research and indeed find a number of towns where taxes were lowered and vandalism decreased.

What is doing the trick here, is that we seem to have a natural inclination to look for confirmation of our ideas, but Karl Popper has taught us

that confirmation of a hypothesis only increases probability, but never makes it true. So, don't look for confirmation only, but especially for refutation of your ideas.

When we allow people to choose the gender of their unborn child, the next thing they will ask is to be allowed to choose the color of the eyes, and in no time we'll have 'design babies'.

This is an often used fallacy. We even have a saying for this on: Give him a finger, and he'll take the whole hand in no time. The same fallacy in a popular proverb. You could call it the domino fallacy.

The improper dilemma is beloved by politicians..….. Either we cut down on social welfare or the government will get into the red figures. And that we can not allow. Therefor we have to cut down expenses on social welfare. This is a period of global crisis, so we all have to be willing to make a sacrifice.

The second half of this text (crisis) is in fact a second fallacy, a red herring, trying to set the hounds (audience) on the trail of a continued debate about the crisis, so that the real issue - a cut in expenses for social welfare - is forgotten.

Does this one ring a bell….ever heard such a kind of statement? You are with me or against me! An other one famous in this category: the improper dilemma.

These past few weeks the numbers 3, 7 and 28 appeared time and again in the Lotto results, so I wont use them now. Or as the gambler says….I have lost 10 times in a row now, so the next game I certainly will win.
The gambler's fallacy.

God must exist!
It is what the bible says.
How do you know that the bible is reliable?
Because it is God's word, of course!

John is always honest to me.
How do you know that?
Tom told me.
How do you know Tom isn't telling lies?
Jane told me!
And how do you know that Jane is honest?
From John, he told me.

A classic: the circular reasoning ……

Listen, John is playing the piano. When he feels happy , he always plays the piano. Oh, am I so glad John feels happy again…..

Elas, the correct reasonig should be: if John feels happy, he plays the piano. John feels happy so he plays the piano.
Confirmation of the consequence doesn't make the antecedence necessarily true. So maybe John is still unhappy, even while he plays the piano.

What did I say in the beginning, more than 75 ways to fool your audience? You see how easy it is to use these tricks in political speeches and manipulate the audience.

In writing you have to hide your fallacies much better, for the written words stay and can be read and reread. Eventually they will catch you…:-)

So…good luck to you all in these matters ^_^

The Discussion

[13:25] Paula Dix: oh, that explains, so many neurolinguistics seminars and few books
[13:25] herman Bergson: This was to give you a taste of verbal manipulation possibilities
[13:25] herman Bergson: who knows, Paula :-)
[13:25] Paula Dix: lol
[13:26] Myriam Brianna: but in speech: Hide them better than your opponent, and expose his. If you are out to "win" an argument, that is
[13:26] herman Bergson: Great strategy Myriam
[13:26] herman Bergson: at least it implies that you have to be smart for that
[13:27] Sunfire Langer liked that Myriam put win in "inverted commas"
[13:27] Frederick Hansome: Here's another: "Cheer up" a friend told me, "things could be worse." So I cheered up, and sure enough, things did get worse!
[13:28] herman Bergson: well Sunfire, you are right, but we are constantly exposed to those fallacies
[13:28] Sunfire Langer: constantly?
[13:28] Paula Dix: lol frederick
[13:28] herman Bergson: lol....that is no fallacy....just the truth
[13:28] Myriam Brianna: they are in part inbuilt. Us falling for them, I mean
[13:28] Sunfire Langer: I'm not convinced
[13:29] herman Bergson: Yes Myriam, like we are inclined to look for confirmation, not refutation....
[13:29] herman Bergson: Cognitive dissonace isnt appreciated either
[13:29] Myriam Brianna: and I do think that it is a good idea to train yourself in sophism / rhetorics in general. Being able to consciously use fallacies to your own advantage makes it perhaps more likely to spot them, when it is of importance
[13:29] Paula Dix: like that guy who says thats safer to buy a gun than building a pool since more children die in pools than being shot??
[13:30] herman Bergson: A great one Paula...
[13:30] Sunfire Langer: I agree with using the knowledge to not be fooled by it. But I'm wary of using it to deceive others
[13:30] herman Bergson: Well Myriam, you could read the book I mentioned...more than 75 tricks...and classics :-)
[13:31] herman Bergson: The problem is Sunfire....
[13:31] herman Bergson: when you are in front of an audience, like politicians,
[13:31] Paula Dix: how can we train ourselves? debates?
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: maybe an imagination in evil is req
[13:31] Myriam Brianna: hehe, Schopenhauer created a "textbook" for the dishonest argumentator
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: o be good...
[13:31] herman Bergson: and your opponent uses these fallacies all the time while you dont
[13:31] Repose Lionheart: sorry
[13:31] herman Bergson: you will loose the debate, I would think
[13:32] Daruma Boa: hehe
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: maybe an imagination in evil is required to be truly good
[13:32] herman Bergson: Schopenhauer did, Myriam...that is fun..we should search for it
[13:32] Repose Lionheart: so learn to use fallacies to avoid them
[13:32] Sunfire Langer: then let politicians use this for swaying opinion if that is what we want. I dont think its the business of philosophers to be deceitful
[13:33] Paula Dix: on the contrary, the idea is being conscious of them
[13:33] herman Bergson: No is a philosophical business to expose these tricks
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: yes, conscious fof them...
[13:33] Repose Lionheart: of
[13:33] herman Bergson: yes...and it is pretty difficult
[13:34] herman Bergson: And where did Sunfire go.....or did he crash?
[13:34] Paula Dix: all the time i dislike something someone said but cant say why
[13:34] Paula Dix: i guess he crashed
[13:34] herman Bergson: In a way I hope so :-)
[13:34] Daruma Boa: *GIGGLES* :)~~~~
[13:35] Paula Dix: lol he is offline... :)
[13:35] itsme Frederix: thats nice about sl, you always can crash instead of loosing the debate
[13:35] Paula Dix: lol
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: lol
[13:35] Repose Lionheart: lol!
[13:35] herman Bergson: lol....great isnt even dont need a fallacy for that
[13:35] Abraxas Nagy: hahaha
[13:35] Daruma Boa: thats not nice
[13:35] Daruma Boa: +i
[13:36] herman Bergson: Actually Itsme uses a fallacy...
[13:36] itsme Frederix: which does not include Sunfire did it that way !
[13:36] herman Bergson: an abusive analogy actually
[13:36] Paula Dix: lol yes
[13:36] herman Bergson: There you didnt imply him, but the audience hears something else
[13:36] itsme Frederix: the problem might be .. from now on everything is interpreted as a .. fallacy
[13:37] herman Bergson: isnt that itself a fallacy?
[13:37] itsme Frederix: I quit
[13:37] herman Bergson: the kind of domino fallacy?
[13:37] Paula Dix: there is a list of fallacies on wikipedia!
[13:37] herman Bergson: oh yes...
[13:37] Repose Lionheart: oh, good
[13:37] Heinzi Gabe: on the other hand ... how can we decide wether its an abusive argument or valid? maybe the claim is correct and A leads to B in a specific case
[13:38] herman Bergson: I would suggest we all pracice the use of fallacies :-)
[13:38] Paula Dix: yes we have to practice!!
[13:38] herman Bergson: yes is not a matter of fact tho it is suggested that way
[13:39] itsme Frederix: The point might come up, that you yourself are only fallacy
[13:39] herman Bergson: that cant be....
[13:39] Myriam Brianna: "Schopenhauer - Eristische Dialektik. Oder: Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten" (dunno what it would be titled in English)
[13:39] herman Bergson: if all is a fallacy there is no fallacy
[13:39] itsme Frederix: thats a fallacy
[13:40] Abraxas Nagy: haaaahaaaahaaaahaaaahaaa
[13:40] herman Bergson: lol
[13:40] Paula Dix: lol
[13:40] Myriam Brianna: ^^
[13:40] itsme Frederix: which does not mean my statement becomes true - but it overcame one falsification
[13:40] herman Bergson: I thought that this subject wouldnt give rise to much debate, but this debate is really fun and instructive
[13:41] Paula Dix: yes!
[13:41] Daruma Boa: die kunst recht zu behalten is that the next lesson??^^
[13:41] Frederick Hansome: I think it is more important to be abl;e to recognize a fallacy than to practic it
[13:41] herman Bergson: No the next class will be on a creepy thing: paradoxes.
[13:41] Repose Lionheart: agreed
[13:41] Abraxas Nagy: ah nice
[13:41] herman Bergson: there were our understanding ends:-)
[13:42] Daruma Boa: so cool!
[13:42] Daruma Boa: ah, thats
[13:42] Paula Dix: lol
[13:42] Daruma Boa: i love paradoxes
[13:42] Repose Lionheart: yes, interesting topic
[13:42] Abraxas Nagy: very
[13:42] herman Bergson: they are the greatest challenge for us :-)
[13:42] Myriam Brianna: well, making yourself conscious of something is always a dangerous thing. But worth it. In language: Not to be led around by a leash (formed out of linguistic structures and our in-built biases), but to lead on a leash
[13:42] itsme Frederix: there are some classic ones, always interesting though
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes Itsme...:-)
[13:43] herman Bergson: So for the next lecture....practice fallacies to solve a few paradoxes :-)
[13:43] Paula Dix: lol
[13:43] itsme Frederix: Herman you most certainly know that Russell classified a lot of paradoxes and came up with a language for them
[13:43] Abraxas Nagy: ah yes
[13:43] Repose Lionheart: :))
[13:44] Myriam Brianna: ^^
[13:44] Daruma Boa: aways do every day^^
[13:44] Daruma Boa: +l
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes, Russell was one of the best in it
[13:44] itsme Frederix: and failed
[13:44] Daruma Boa: *GIGGLES* :)~~~~
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes unfortunately..:-)
[13:44] itsme Frederix: well looking forward, understanding afterwards
[13:44] herman Bergson: ok :-)
[13:44] Daruma Boa: true itsme
[13:45] herman Bergson: then I thank you all for this very entertaining discussion...
[13:45] herman Bergson: and I hope that you're more aware of fallacies now :-)
[13:45] itsme Frederix: well I just parafrased about life,: living forward, understanding backward
[13:45] Paula Dix: :))
[13:45] Repose Lionheart: Thank you, Professor
[13:45] Daruma Boa: is there another way itsme?
[13:46] itsme Frederix: Herman THX, each time (well most) it's a good time spend here
[13:46] Heinzi Gabe: and enjoy the presenece, itsme
[13:46] itsme Frederix: keeps me sharp
[13:47] herman Bergson: Yes...lest begin with enjoying the presence ^_^
[13:47] herman Bergson: Anyone wants a beer? ^_^
[13:47] Paula Dix: :)))
[13:47] Daruma Boa: mmh, yes me
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy: gimme 3
[13:47] Daruma Boa: but i have only wine in rl here
[13:47] Frederick Hansome: Yea!!!
[13:47] Abraxas Nagy accepted a beer.
[13:48] Daruma Boa accepted a beer.
[13:48] Myriam Brianna raises the Belgian beer she enjoys at the moment - cheers
[13:48] Abraxas Nagy: ah ty Herman
[13:48] itsme Frederix: that questing might have been retoric
[13:48] Draft Beer whispers: CHEERS!
[13:48] Draft Beer whispers: CHEERS!
[13:48] Daruma Boa: cheers^
[13:48] Draft Beer whispers: CHEERS!
[13:48] itsme Frederix: Myriam good idea, I've a bottle of Maradouce somewhere.

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