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The problem with slippery slope arguments is that once you start using them you quickly move on to other fallacies
March 30, 2012 5:07 AM   Subscribe

An illustrated guide to common logical fallacies as well as well as a very nice worked example of the fallacies involved in Cardinal Keith O'Brien's recent(ish) article against gay marriage.
posted by DRMacIver (123 comments total) 161 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to turn these fallacy icons into some awesome bingo boards for the 2012 US presidential debates.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:27 AM on March 30, 2012 [63 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?
posted by Renoroc at 5:29 AM on March 30, 2012 [30 favorites]


Love that most of the examples are taken verbatim from my right wing Facebook friend's feeds.
posted by monospace at 5:30 AM on March 30, 2012


The definition of 'begging the question' is wrong, or at least confusing.

It should be: Sereptitiously assuming your position when trying to argue for it.
Example: "The universe must have been created because otherwise there would be no god."
posted by leibniz at 5:32 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

Generally, yes, but as my favorite Vulcan once said logic is the beginning of wisdom not the end.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:36 AM on March 30, 2012 [16 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

This fallacy needs its own icon
posted by rocket88 at 5:39 AM on March 30, 2012 [35 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

The point of arguing with people is not always to convince them logically. It can be to merely demonstrate that another viewpoint exists. Or to convince some witness to the exchange.
posted by DU at 5:40 AM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


I love those icons. It should be possible to apply those objectively, yes? Perhaps it would even be possible to create an algorithmic filter? Can we then get such a filter applied to all speech? In real time? Can we put it into a TV channel? How about a major news website? Can we embed it into contact lenses and spectacle frames? I have no problem with allowing different viewpoints and rhetorical backgrounds to contribute to the heuristics.

It would be like adding an intellectual scrutineer to everything.

Please? Oh, please? (weeping)
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:42 AM on March 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


This fallacy needs its own icon

Not really, it's pretty clearly ad hominem
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:42 AM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

This fallacy needs its own icon


It's an appeal to authority isn't it?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:43 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


No cat has two tails.
Any cat has more tails than no cat.
Therefore, logically, any cat has more than two tails.
posted by Mike D at 5:45 AM on March 30, 2012 [14 favorites]


It's good to see the ancient science of rhetology being revived.
posted by temporicide at 5:45 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've found though that if you use a bunch of these at once, they kind of cancel out each other's flaws, and you get a really robust attack.
posted by Flashman at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


And carried to its hilarious extreme.
posted by Mike D at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


It's strange and sad to see a man who seems stuck in the 1950s make an argument that's hopelessly stuck in 2004. It's like he almost made it to the present! But not quite!
posted by bicyclefish at 5:48 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

I wouldn't think that having faith in a deity automatically dismisses someone from any logical discussions (like GenjiandProust said, that seems like ad hominem), but if someone is basing their argument upon the desires of a deity then addressing that with logic is probably going to be pointless, yes.
posted by dumbland at 5:49 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


And rhetoric helped win Gettysburg!
posted by Mike D at 5:49 AM on March 30, 2012


Pretty good, but I wish they had used less politically charged examples. The people who most need the lesson will be turned off by the "agenda" as soon as they find an idea they disagree with. Granted, most of them are probably a lost cause anyway, but some of them might be capable of at least grasping the idea of logical fallacies.
posted by gimli at 5:54 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


@gimli: Agreed. What would be really nice is a whole bunch of well-written examples of those logical fallacies in fictional but not abstract cases.
posted by Zarkonnen at 6:01 AM on March 30, 2012


DU makes a good point about the multiple purposes of argumentation.

As a rhetorician and teacher of persuasive writing, I've come to see that a lot of "fallacious" reasoning often boils down to a much more basic problem: lack of fair summary. When we're invested in a position, it can be difficult to fairly perceive other positions (see my username).

I'm happy if my students can get comfortable with the idea that multiple views exist and are able to describe those views accurately. It isn't necessary to dip into the intricacies of logic to achieve this goal (and besides formal logic doesn't translate well into the rhetorical realm anyway).
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:03 AM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Remember, the Vulcans were destroyed.
posted by temporicide at 6:04 AM on March 30, 2012


I am bothered that the icon for "appeal to common practice" is... a sheep. I want you to know that I have never engaged in a common practice with a sheep, and the newspaper was forced to retract that story! Pistols at dawn, sir!
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


These are not all logical fallacies - many are just rhetorical techniques, not all of them necessarily illegitimate. To deny the right to appeal to tradition and authority seems rather close to ruling out Catholicism.

which would be begging the question?
posted by Segundus at 6:06 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


The illustrated guide looks like troll achievement badges for the Internet.
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!

Appeal to Ridicule!
posted by zamboni at 6:09 AM on March 30, 2012 [26 favorites]


I think the explanation for confirmation bias is wrong. Some of the others seem wrong, too.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:11 AM on March 30, 2012


After years of lurking on the blue, I finally signed up to say: this analysis of O'Brien's article is, well, terrible. I mean, O'Brien's argument is terrible, too, but that's not the point here. I've taught logic and critical thinking for years, and I can attest to the fact that you can't get very far in argument analysis with the fallacy approach--and this conclusion is not idiosyncratic to me. Every now and then someone will commit a textbook fallacy, but you can almost never fruitfully analyze a long argument simply by sticking a series of fallacy labels on it. If you try to do so, you'll end up doing what the author of this document does, i.e. stretching the categories until you've distorted them to the point of uselessness.

Look at just the initial alleged "appeal to fear" to see that that's not what's going on there at all. O'Brien, whatever his other errors, is simply stating that the question might seem innocuous...by way of going on, presumably, to later attempt to show that it isn't. That is simply not an "appeal to fear" in any but the most attenuated sense. He's also not actually making appeals to tradition, he is, rather, making an argument from the definition of marriage. That argument is bogus--but not because it's an appeal to tradition. The argument from the definition of marriage fails for a different reason (two reasons, really; it gets the definition wrong, and the issue isn't about definitions). Note also the contentious characterization of appeals to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a fallacious appeal to authority. The UDHR might get this point wrong, but it's not illegitimate to appeal to it.

Finally, as others have noted above, the author of the guide gets *Begging the Question* wrong. Begging the question is circular reasoning, i.e. *petitio principii*, or including the conclusion in the premises.

I could go on. But the main point is: you can't reduce inference analysis to the application of fallacy labels. It just doesn't work. And this illustrates that point nicely.

Too long for a first comment, I realize...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:13 AM on March 30, 2012 [112 favorites]


I prefer argument ad Mamet:

"Because fuck you, that's why."
posted by Rangeboy at 6:15 AM on March 30, 2012 [36 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

Can we not do this?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 AM on March 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


It's an appeal to authority isn't it?

Whose?
posted by adamdschneider at 6:20 AM on March 30, 2012


Rangeboy: Is that actually from a Mamet script? There was an Askme about this last month, and nobody seemed to know the source.
posted by KGMoney at 6:21 AM on March 30, 2012


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

No, not at all.
posted by jquinby at 6:23 AM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Remember, the Vulcans were destroyed.

Fallacy, your honor. Appeal to false authority.
posted by fetamelter at 6:26 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Somebody needs to break these up from being a single image to individual ones, and put 'em on blogspot or tumblr or something, for posting in appropriate threads a'la the example in the link.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:26 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Seriously, don't turn this into another anti-religion bloodbath; there's more to talk about here.]
posted by taz at 6:27 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

You mean like, say, these guys?

on preview: jquimby got there first.
posted by gauche at 6:27 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


While I get that the noted fallacies aren't strictly applicable in their formal sense, the diagram breaks up the Cardinal's statement and points out the many flaws pretty well I would say. If you were debating the Cardinal or writing a response to his statement I would be surprised if you didn't find this diagram useful fully undermining his position.
posted by PJLandis at 6:29 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was thinking that if you are claiming "God says" in your argument, then it is an appeal to authority, that authority being god's, or coming from god.

However, that's only if you are using it as your argument. You absolutely can argue logically with those who have faith. Of course you can.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:29 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


KGMoney, I always associate it with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, but as someone in that thread noted, that's not quite what his character says.
posted by Rangeboy at 6:33 AM on March 30, 2012


I love those icons. It should be possible to apply those objectively, yes? Perhaps it would even be possible to create an algorithmic filter? Can we then get such a filter applied to all speech? In real time? Can we put it into a TV channel? How about a major news website? Can we embed it into contact lenses and spectacle frames? I have no problem with allowing different viewpoints and rhetorical backgrounds to contribute to the heuristics.

It would be like adding an intellectual scrutineer to everything.

Please? Oh, please? (weeping)


Google Truth, coming soon to your computer and mobile phone.
posted by Skeptic at 6:35 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


On Facebook, I once saw a contentious argument between a self-styled, vehement Objectivist and some dude with comparatively reasonable views. The dude asked one of those obvious questions that the Objectivists practically have a catechism for; something about the guy driving on government-made roads or utlizing some subsidized resource or whatever. The Objectivist replied with a laundry list of logical phallacies in the original question. Just, like, one by one. Which was pretty great as it serves as a giant, glaring shibboleth revealing interacting this person in any manner is time better spent doing anything but interacting with this person.

So, hey, assholes of the world. Learn your logical fallacies, learn them well, and trot out your knowledge of them in every argument you can. It will save everyone a lot of time.
posted by griphus at 6:38 AM on March 30, 2012 [13 favorites]


All of Alma Cogan is dead, but only some of the class of dead people is Alma Cogan (obligatory Python reference)
posted by Myeral at 6:40 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would be surprised if you didn't find this diagram useful fully undermining his position.

Useful, sure, but we also need to ask the question of which audience you are speaking to when you make your critique. O'Brien himself? Those who know him personally? Catholics in general?

O'Brien has an ethos that is powerful for some audiences. Listing fallacies for those audiences wouldn't likely be as persuasive as finding a contrary argument from someone with a competing ethos (e.g. a Catholic in favor of gay marriage).
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:45 AM on March 30, 2012


The Objectivist replied with a laundry list of logical phallacies in the original question. Just, like, one by one. Which was pretty great as it serves as a giant, glaring shibboleth revealing interacting this person in any manner is time better spent doing anything but interacting with this person.

You misspelled phallusies
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:45 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Logical Phalluses" is a great term for people who argue in that style.
posted by griphus at 6:48 AM on March 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


I have to dig into this later, but at least on first glance, it looks like an awesome resource. My students will thank you, DRMacIver!
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:50 AM on March 30, 2012


'Logical Phalluses' is my favorite song by The Stiff Little Fingers.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:56 AM on March 30, 2012


I'm saying the list would be useful in crafting a response, not as an actual response.

And I don't know a lot about O'Brien, but he's arguing that same-sex marriage is bad for society not just that it's not in line with Catholic doctrine. I took his general argument to be that same-sex marriage threatens traditional marriage, children, and society.

I think addressing those arguments is important because they're the secular arguments being made by opponents of same-sex marriage. Whether or not any individual Catholic or the Church itself sanctions gay marriage within their religion isn't really a democratic issue or relevant to a legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
posted by PJLandis at 7:01 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


O'Brien's argument is terrible, but the analysis is, well, not much better.

I think some of his classifications, descriptions and examples of logical fallacies are wrong to begin with, but when he turns to the article, he seems to willfully misconstrue the Cardinal's arguments. Paragraphs 2 and 3, for examples, aren't appeal to fear or composition. They're an argument that many of the people calling for gay marriage now are liars. That may be true or untrue, relevant or not relevant, but it isn't O'Brien trying to whip up fear or claim that supporters are a monolithic block. He goes on in that vein, just slapping labels on. If you want to parse it this way and call out each specific informal fallacy, good on you, but I think it needs to be done better.
posted by tyllwin at 7:01 AM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


After years of lurking on the blue, I finally signed up to say: this analysis of O'Brien's article is, well, terrible. I mean, O'Brien's argument is terrible, too, but that's not the point here. I've taught logic and critical thinking for years, and I can attest to the fact that you can't get very far in argument analysis with the fallacy approach--and this conclusion is not idiosyncratic to me. Every now and then someone will commit a textbook fallacy, but you can almost never fruitfully analyze a long argument simply by sticking a series of fallacy labels on it. If you try to do so, you'll end up doing what the author of this document does, i.e. stretching the categories until you've distorted them to the point of uselessness.

I agree. A piss-poor job of destroying easily disproven arguments. I was running late this morning and had this exact thought, but had no time to chime in.

I think part of the problem is that the author tries to get a fallacy in for every paragraph. Plus, the author isn't that good a thinker. O'Brien's pretty bad too, but beating him means getting it all right.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:07 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

Talmudic analysis is by its nature a logical process.

Or, less formally, it a logical argument to extrapolate from Matthew 25:35 that, since it is the Christian individual's moral duty to perform acts of charity, then it is also his duty to strive toward a society in which no one is hungry or homeless.
posted by La Cieca at 7:08 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?

Thank heavens we have the Catholic Church to stand up for heretics.

Wait, what?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:10 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?"

Good example of the Genetic Fallacy, Renoroc. Thank you.
posted by mfoight at 7:15 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: " Can we not do this?"

Seconded.

Just this guy, y'know: "I was thinking that if you are claiming "God says" in your argument, then it is an appeal to authority, that authority being god's, or coming from god.

However, that's only if you are using it as your argument. You absolutely can argue logically with those who have faith. Of course you can.
"

Thank you.
posted by zarq at 7:17 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


These lists are useless for worthwhile reasoning. Even if you manage to "use" the fallacies correctly, which the author didn't quite do, you didn't actually prove anything. You still have to address premises and arguments and construct your own. In fact, if you do that without trying to score cheap audience points off of pre-packaged fallacies, you will eventually address all of the errors. That's because every real fallacy is built on premises and arguments.
posted by michaelh at 7:19 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like the icons and the breakdown, but yeah, it feels like he's really reaching in several parts. Would have been a much better dismantling of O'Brien's position if it were just a little less on the ridicule and more on letting the counter-argument stand on its own merit.

For me, when it comes to debating people of faith, it has been my experience that logic holds very little sway with them. Everything boils down to "(I personally believe that) The Bible says X; your argument is invalid." When I hear such bigots valiantly defending "Traditional Marriage", I kind of boggle a bit and say "Really? You believe that the definition of marriage has always been constant and unchanging throughout history?" "Well, yes," they reply, as if I am stupid. "You realize that in 1769, marriage law was changed so that the wife was no longer recognized as property?" "Uhh," they reply. "And you also realize that until changes were made to marriage law, in 1691 Marriage was for whites only, and until 1993 marital rape was legal? Do you really believe these changes should not have been made in law?" And then you get a few minutes of "Well of course we should have made those changes, just not this change, obviously. You see, the Bible says...."

It is an exercise in futility.
posted by xedrik at 7:20 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


it looks like an awesome resource. My students will thank you

I'm not so enthused. Just pulling a couple off the top, I think he misses the mark a bit.

Appeal to authority
Claiming something is true because an unqualified or untrustworthy "expert" says it is.
"Over 400 prominent scientists and engineers dispute global warming"

First, appeal to authority is a fallacy regardless of whether the expert is trustworthy or not. The use of biased, ignorant, or cherry-picked sources in one's argument is a separate problem. An appeal to authority fallacy is really an appeal to a (presumably) trustworthy authority. The real problem with appeal to authority is the assumption that the authority cannot be wrong:

"Of course the Sun orbits the Earth. Every astrologer in the world knows that."

Second, in practice (though not in logic) appeals to authority carry some utility. "Experts may be wrong, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" isn't logical proof, but it's a useful yardstick.


Appeal to consequences
Arguing a belief is false because it implies something you'd rather not believe.
"That can't be the Senator on that sextape. If it were, he'd be lying about not knowing her. And he's not the kind of man who would lie."

His example is problematic. As he presents it, it may or may be correct, but it isn't a fallacy. The argument here is actually "It is an established fact that the senator does not lie. Since the senator being on that tape would contradict this established fact, it must be not be the senator." The real problem here is that it assumes an unproven premise: that the senator doesn't lie. If the senator never lies, the argument is valid. If he does sometimes lie, it's nonsense, not even appeal to consequences, just to wishful thinking.

It's a worthwhile effort, but I wouldn't hand it to students
posted by tyllwin at 7:28 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Uh Gauche, why is that you seem to be categorizing Socrates as a theist to be argued with?
posted by Chekhovian at 7:29 AM on March 30, 2012


For me, when it comes to debating people of faith, it has been my experience that logic holds very little sway with them. Everything boils down to "(I personally believe that) The Bible says X; your argument is invalid."

....How many theists have you met who cite Scripture when it comes to debating secular things?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 AM on March 30, 2012


Many of his examples in his fallacy cards are poorly chosen, or weirdly vague. Straw Man is super (and needlessly) unclear. I prefer this: A Visual Guide to Cognitive Biases.


I liked it so much, I printed it up as a poster and gave it to my crew for Christmas.
If I stare at it long enough, I can't believe I get anything done with any accuracy.
posted by asavage at 7:43 AM on March 30, 2012 [31 favorites]


asavage: "http://www.scribd.com/doc/30548590/Cognitive-Biases-A-Visual-Study-Guide"

Whoa. I love this. Much clearer than the FPP's link, too. Thanks so much for posting it!
posted by zarq at 7:45 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


[We are asking again: don't turn this into another anti-religion bloodbath. Usual suspects please this starts with all of you.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:46 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Uh Gauche, why is that you seem to be categorizing Socrates as a theist to be argued with?

I'm not sure how to parse the last four words of your question.

I do not think Socrates would rightly be called an atheist or an agnostic because, while there are certainly interpretations to the contrary, I find it difficult to read as ironic the many, many references to piety and to the Gods in the dialogues. I think that Socrates' conception of deity is worlds away from mine and perhaps yours, but I was never saying that Socrates was a religious American of the twenty-first century.

A search for the word "God" in, for instance, this translation of the Apology will highlight a number of instances in which Socrates describes himself as doing God's work and as being the gadfly which God provided to the Athenian state. You certainly can read them as ironic or insincere or manipulative or demegoguery, but I don't see a lot in the text to support those readings.
posted by gauche at 7:53 AM on March 30, 2012


Two of these are commonly mentioned fallacies that have never seemed like straightforward fallacies to me:

- Appeal to authority. The problem: most people's knowledge of most stuff in the world is based not on direct observation but on the fact that they've heard about it from someone else. For instance, I've never been to China, but I know a few facts about China (including that it exists, that it has the size and shape shown on the map, its population, etc.) because I trust authorities who have made statements about the subject. I'm perfectly happy to stay at this level of knowledge without ever investigating the facts first-hand, and I don't feel like this is unreasonable or ignorant of me. And I would bet that everyone reading this is the same way. So if we exclude "authority" as a valid basis of knowledge, that would seem to radically undermine most of what we usually consider "knowledge" in a way that not many people would be willing to defend.

- Slippery slope. The problem: there are slippery slopes. Sometimes, one bad thing does predictably lead to a worse, related thing. Or it may be debatable whether these things are good or bad, but few people would deny that there has been a sequence of one thing leading to another. For instance, the scope of government seems to expand over time; people disagree vehemently over whether this is good or bad, but I don't think it's invalid for a libertarian to argue that we should keep government small in order to prevent it from becoming even bigger later on. It may often be an open question whether the slippery slope will actually end up happening, but just because reasonable people can differ in their predictions doesn't mean that anyone is committing a "fallacy."
posted by John Cohen at 7:54 AM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Incidentally, though the argument from the definition of marriage is *not* an Appeal to Tradition, it's kind of interesting to reflect on what the problem with it really is. Consider an accurate definition, e.g.:

S is a square =df. S is an equilateral quadrangle

One indication that this, or any, definition is correct is that a claim that violates the definition is contradictory/inconceivable. So, for example, if someone says "x is a square with five angles," we can't even imagine what he says being true. It's covertly contradictory. You can't even conceive of such a thing. It's akin to nonsense.

"These two women are married," however is nothing like that. Similarly, "Tribe T practices polygamous marriage." In both cases we know exactly what's being said. And so do opponents of same-sex marriage--they understand what it is, and they oppose it. Same-sex marriage might be many things, including, perhaps, morally wrong (though I doubt it). One thing that it's obviously not, however, is inconceivable/contradictory.

The term "marriage" is simply *not* *defined* as *a union between one man and one woman...plus some other conditions.* The definition of marriage is actually kinda vague, but it's some kind of socially-sanctioned union between at least two people...plus some other stuff. Marriages are typically of an intimate and sexual nature--but not always. There are sexless marriages and political marriages. They're typically between two people, but there are also polygamous marriages. Heck, I've even heard people say that their *dogs* are married, which is stupid, but perhaps not impossible. And so forth.

Anyway. The author of the piece in question completely fails to engage with these real issues--which I think are actually interesting and important--and just slaps the inaccurate "Appeal to Tradition" label on this stuff.

This is one reason why most critical thinking and argumentation courses are so useless to students. The professors themselves aren't very good at it. Another reason is: there's no substitute for actually thinking your way through the issues. Slapping on pre-printed fallacy labels only works about 5% of the time.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:55 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whether or not any individual Catholic or the Church itself sanctions gay marriage within their religion isn't really a democratic issue or relevant to a legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

But understanding Catholic attitudes about marriage equality may help when it comes to arguing with Catholic audiences that they should support (or at least not oppose) marriage equality.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:57 AM on March 30, 2012


I think that Socrates' conception of deity is worlds away from mine and perhaps yours, but I was never saying that Socrates was a religious American of the twenty-first century.

Drinking poison to prove a point never seemed like Pascal's idea of a good debating strategy. So it still seems rather unfair to lump them together.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:59 AM on March 30, 2012


Two of these are commonly mentioned fallacies that have never seemed like straightforward fallacies to me....

Agreed; that is, I agree that the author seems to describe too many things as "fallacies." I kept going down the list and after he categorized argument after argument as a "fallacy," I was wondering, "well, hell, what's left for anyone to say?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seeing this rang a bell.

That time back in Aught Two when I sorta stepped in it.
posted by Danf at 8:05 AM on March 30, 2012


I really like how concisely this was presented.
posted by Meatafoecure at 8:11 AM on March 30, 2012


Drinking poison to prove a point never seemed like Pascal's idea of a good debating strategy. So it still seems rather unfair to lump them together.

Again, I'm not sure I understand. I'm not saying they were drinking buddies, or that they all committed court-ordered suicide in deeply principled ways.

I'm saying they all believed in deities in some form or other, and assuming that they were folks with whom it might not have been pointless to talk logic. I was, I think, offering counterexamples to Renoroc's suggestion that it is pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities.

Insofar as the mods have twice asked us not to keep going down that particular rabbit trail, I would be happy to take this to memail.
posted by gauche at 8:13 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


asavage: This is indeed a much more interesting link. Thanks!

(Even if it is to scribd, that vile value-sucking plague upon the internet).
posted by DRMacIver at 8:14 AM on March 30, 2012


Frankly, I find the breakdown of the original article's "logical fallacies" to be a bit overeager. It seems as though he's skewering the original article for not being a perfect, logical construct - something no article in a magazine or newspaper ever is, nor attempts to be.

I'd say: hit the high- and low-points, and leave off of the minor indisgressions against Vulcan-level reasoning.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:14 AM on March 30, 2012


The illustrated guide looks like troll achievement badges for the Internet.

Please, computer people among you, make this happen, I think I could read the CBC comments pages again if people were early fallacy badges.
posted by chapps at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2012


I was, I think, offering counterexamples

The original article did miss on of the more modern fallacies. The "spam fallacy" or the "quantity has a quality of its own fallacy" or the "strength through numbers fallacy". But spewing out a bunch of "facts" as quickly as possible and counting on people being too lazy to check into them does seem to be new to the modern age.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:28 AM on March 30, 2012


Second, in practice (though not in logic) appeals to authority carry some utility.

There are lots of logics, and while appeal to authority may not be valid in first order logic (depending on how your formulate the general notion of authority, and the specific authority)*, there are other formal inference systems (e.g., Bayesian/statistical inference) where appeals to authority are more easily justified. Part of the problem with these fallacy lists is that the fallacies are all based on predicate logic, but statistical reasoning is a better (but far from perfect) fit for the real world and the way people construct arguments.

Also, a big problem with treating arguments as formal proofs is that everyone disagrees on what set of fundamental premises can be appealed to.

For example, this is a formally valid argument, in that if the premises are true, then the conclusion is true:
P1: If the pope says gay marriage is wrong, then gay marriage is wrong. (P -> Q)
P2: The pope says gay marriage is wrong. (P)
C : Therefore, gay marriage is wrong. (Q)

If you say that P1 is an appeal to authority, then you're making a meta-argument that P1 is not a premise at all, but another conclusion that must itself be proven from some more fundamental set of premises. Ultimately, this question of which premises can be used at the very foundation is not one that logic can itself answer; if I take the pope's authority on gay marriage as axiomatic, then my logic is unassailable**.

** Unless you can prove that the set of axioms I'm operating under are inconsistent, that you can derive a contradiction from them.

*** Then I can counter that I don't care about consistency.

**** Then you can counter with the proof:
[my axioms] => [contradiction] => (via principle of explosion) gay marriage is awesome and also you are a unicorn
posted by Pyry at 8:31 AM on March 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


Correction: after I walked away, it struck me that I'd defined a square as an equilateral quadrangle, instead of an equi-angular quadrilateral. Oops.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 8:37 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


But spewing out a bunch of "facts" as quickly as possible and counting on people being too lazy to check into them does seem to be new to the modern age.

Okay, now you're just being arch. You've asked me why I included Socrates as a theist and I explained it, with a link to a primary source so that you can come to your own conclusion.

Then you wrung your hands over whether it was "unfair" to "lump" two philosophers together.

Now you're being not quite bold enough to come out and say that I was being disingenuous in making my original point. Are you trying to actually come out and say something, or is it just a slow day at the performance art factory?
posted by gauche at 8:44 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Get a room, you guys!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:48 AM on March 30, 2012


Agreed. I'm out. You can memail me. Please.
posted by gauche at 8:52 AM on March 30, 2012


I've taught logic and critical thinking for years

Appeal to authority.

He's also not actually making appeals to tradition, he is, rather, making an argument from the definition of marriage.

The argument is from the traditional definition of marriage. Q.E.D.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:01 AM on March 30, 2012


Correction: after I walked away, it struck me that I'd defined a square as an equilateral quadrangle, instead of an equi-angular quadrilateral. Oops.

Nope, that's not good enough either--- rectangles! You have to specify it's a quadrilateral with 4 equal sides and 4 equal angles.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:05 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a slow day at the performance art factory

Also:

Metafilter: gay marriage is awesome and also you are a unicorn.

haddabesed
posted by tspae at 9:10 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hey, hey, hey, people. This approach is wrong. We shouldn't be cataloguing existing fallacies. We should be developing new and improved ones to better counter the other side, the people with wrong opinions. Because otherwise they might start winning Important Internet Debates. We cannot afford a fallacy gap.
posted by tykky at 9:12 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


tykky: "We should be developing new and improved ones to better counter the other side"

Logical fallacies sound more believable when they are in Latin. If the Romans used it, it must be true!

Caput in anum
The person speaking is obviously wrong.
Cilantro tastes horrible!

posted by charred husk at 10:06 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always refer friends to Straight and Crooked Thinking for this purpose, and it's served us well son far, except the bit about the news driving me insane with its fallacy-laden reporting.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:14 AM on March 30, 2012


to actually come out and say something
You heard the rules, DAS IST VERBOTTEN!!!

But I was general point...that we have whole new kinds of fallacies. This list is rather antiquated for the modern age.

Most troubling is the "alternate reality/reality distortion bubble" effect. Whole swaths of the population live in fact free no truth zones. This article is about cheats in the construction of logical arguments. What's happened in the modern age is that these cheating methods are now built into the foundation elements of any argument before any of these "tricks" even come to play.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:40 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The argument is from the traditional most-common definition of marriage. Q.E.D.

FTFY, Sys Rq. Some Native American cultures recognized TS members with respect, and allowed marriage between same-sex partners (usually where one was TS).

tl;dr: Absolutely nothing we do is unnatural.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:43 AM on March 30, 2012


Second, in practice (though not in logic) appeals to authority carry some utility.

Bullshit. I've been having this argument with fools like you since the first grade, when that know-it-all claimed this: "A" ... was a capital letter "a". ACCORDING TO HER...

(And, sorry to Sys Rq for taking things seriously. I forgot this thread was about Logic!)
posted by IAmBroom at 10:54 AM on March 30, 2012


Hmm... On second and third glance this doesn't look like a good list. I like the graphics, though. I wonder if there's a way to make a "Logic Badge" with this design and custom text?

Also, Appeal to Design was funny.

One thing: we tend to equivocate with the word "fallacy" by using it in both deductive and inductive situations. For instance, the "appeals to..." fallacies are deductively invalid, but many of them are only inductively weak when they're irrelevant. When they're relevant, though, an "appeal" can be the basis of a strong inductive argument. Expertise is one classic example, but so are appeals to tradition and pity.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:57 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I do like what Information Is Beautiful has done here. I love that they've color coded things, and their iconography is nice. I wish this could be folded into a website annotation app, but I'm not inspired enough to code it myself.
posted by Catblack at 11:00 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pyry,

Thank you for your comment. It illustrates what I wanted to say, that a lot of problems when it comes to discussions of logic (like the above declaration that the religious can't be logical) stem from a conflation of logic and truth. As you illustrate, logic isn't truth-creating, it's truth-preserving. It's just a formal method for ensuring that an argument's conclusion flows correctly from its premises, but can't tell us whether those premises are true.

tykky,

The Internet has produced at least one.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:04 AM on March 30, 2012


I'd really like for them to put those onto ImageShack or some other hosting service one at a time. They'd be a great tool for forum moderators.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:10 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think his example for "Appeal to Probability" is poor. Statements like "there are billions of galaxies with billions of stars in the universe. So there must be another planet with intelligent life on it" do not prove that there is another planet with intelligent life on it -- no matter how small the probability of one outcome, there's always the possibility of the other -- but they are certainly a valid point in any argument about the likelihood of the existence of other intelligent life.
posted by vorfeed at 11:13 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want to force these to pop up as error messages with people who insist on arguing poltics with me on Facebook.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:18 AM on March 30, 2012


The problem with talking about 'logical fallacies' is that basically no one actually argues 'logically' online, or anywhere else, unless they are arguing about math or some other logical system (in which case it isn't even really possible to argue in a 'non-logical' way)

No one ever sets up a system of formal axioms and reasons from there, it's all just "here's what I think!!"

Its especially annoying when people complain about "ad hominem" when people point out there is some reason they may be incorrect (such as being wrong all the time, or stupid, or have a conflic of interest).

The basic problem, though is that 'real life' is not a formally defined system with fixed rules (other then at the quantum level, except we still don't even know those rules completely)

Some things might be 'logical' fallacies bust still reasonable to belive. All science is based on the idea that because something alwyas happens, it will continue to happen. If you flip a penny a million times, and at no pooint does it spontaniously turn into a dime, it's not 'logically' sound to say that it never will.

But you can use probability theory to put an uppper bound on the probability that it ever will.

A good example of a logically fallacy that actuall doesn't work in real life is the 'slippery slope'. If you take it to an extreme, you can't even argue that someone on an actual slippery slope is more likely to fall without violating the 'rule'.

It's moronic.
posted by delmoi at 11:27 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Logic is the cornerstone of faith.

By logic, a human being can realize the limitations of the senses as they vainly attempt to grasp the external objective world, and fail miserably.

Then, in the vacuum, realizing they will never know the outer world with any true certainty, a person may choose to examine what remains when the external is stripped away. They may discover an inner sense of virtue, a moral compass defying all empirical explanations. They may discover consciousness, an awareness which pervades the human body, and remains awake even while in the depths of sleep. They may discover grace, and nobility, and any number of inexplicable phenomenon which permeate our universe with an almost magical quality.

Based off of these experiences, they may then reasonably conclude there is more to this world then just the material space we occupy with our grosser physical selves.

Faith may involve a jump; pure logic and reason can only take us so far. This jump must then necessarily take us outside the realm of logic and into the realm of experience. However, we cannot get to the end of the road except by logic.
posted by satori_movement at 11:53 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: We cannot afford a fallacy gap.
posted by epersonae at 12:12 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


unless they are arguing about math or some other logical system (in which case it isn't even really possible to argue in a 'non-logical' way)

If I assume that some bizzare special function does some bizzare thing just because Abramowitz and Stegun told me it did, is that an appeal to authority?
posted by Chekhovian at 12:21 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chekhovian,

Abramowitz and Stegun is old and busted. Olver et al. is the new hotness.
posted by lukemeister at 12:47 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]



The One-Sidedness Fallacy

Also: The Clinical Attitude
posted by billb at 1:30 PM on March 30, 2012


This is all horribly sloppy. The article analysis would barely merit a passing grade in a critical thinking course, if it merited a passing grade at all.

There was a discussion on Metafilter a couple of weeks ago about how poor these lists of fallacies tend to be. The linked article is yet another example of a bad one.
posted by painquale at 1:32 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I've taught logic and critical thinking for years

>> Appeal to authority.

> He's also not actually making appeals to tradition, he is, rather, making an argument from the definition of marriage.

>> The argument is from the traditional definition of marriage. Q.E.D.

Sorry, Sys Rq, none of that is correct.

1. The problem with the fallacy name 'Appeal to Authority' is that, like many fallacy labels, it is ambiguous as between (a) valid appeal to authority and (b) invalid appeal to authority. Indicating one's relevant expertise is a valid appeal to authority. So you're really just pointing to another problem with relying on fallacy labels.

2. No, appealing to a definition of something is not the same as an appeal to tradition. This is the problem the author encounters. Just because there might be something traditional associated with something doesn't make a reference to it an appeal to authority. One might as well say "oh, you appeal to the Encylopedia Britannica, but that has traditionally been considered authoritative...so that's an appeal to tradition!

An appeal to tradition is an argument that goes roughly like this:

x has always been done
Therefore
x is the right way to do things

That's different than an appeal to a definition, even if the definition is old.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 1:41 PM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The problem with talking about 'logical fallacies' is that basically no one actually argues 'logically' online, or anywhere else, unless they are arguing about math or some other logical system (in which case it isn't even really possible to argue in a 'non-logical' way)

Yes they do. It's called informal logic, and though it borrows heavily from formal logic, it is nonetheless suited to making correct inferences and statements about "real life." Philosophers use it every day. Analytic philosophers, anyway.

Anyway, there's nothing moronic about the concept of the logical fallacy: it is a statement that has no or incorrect logical content. The problem is when you apply in realms where it's not really merited, like that article, because there are a lot of rhetorical techniques that are valid in some contexts but are fallacious by the rigorous definition.

As for slippery slope, I do think it deserves qualification when included in a list of fallacies, because there are slippery slope arguments that are perfectly valid. I think it's called a fallacy because it's so frequently abused or misused. A slippery slope argument takes the form of a chain of hypothetical syllogisms, and it's easy for one of the implications in that chain to be fallacious, which invalidates all of the implications after it. Another problem is that, the further you get out on the chain, the less relevant the consequences are to the issue at hand, because it becomes more likely that there are other events, and possibly very likely events, that are sufficient to produce the inferred outcome.
posted by invitapriore at 1:52 PM on March 30, 2012


After reading it, I am firmly of the belief that this should be linked to whenever logical fallacies come up.
posted by invitapriore at 2:02 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?
..So all my time has been wasted talking to friends who worship Richard Dawkins? I just tell them I worship one less god than them and they just get upset.
posted by snap_dragon at 2:11 PM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is actually pretty funny, in light of the project:

Appeal to Authority: claiming something is true because an unqualified or untrustworthy 'expert' say that it is. "Over 400 prominent scientist and engineers dispute global warming."

I think the example of this fallacy begs the question regarding what is or is not a qualified expert. The actually definition of appeal to authority has nothing to do with siding with someone who is untrustworthy. The idea is to judge the claim on its own merits, and then to decide whether or not someone claiming to be an authority is correct after the fact. In other words, don't believe something simply because some in a position of authority says that it is true.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:30 PM on March 30, 2012


Logic is the cornerstone of faith.

The problem is that so many religions have the origin of their authority in guys who claim they talked to god and therefore know what's up better than anyone else. It seems a stretch to believe someone who claims they can talk to god. Maybe they can, but only wishful thinking really supports that. If religion was based in logic, this uncertainty would be carried over and all the commandments would read like ÔÇťAssuming that Moses wasn't making it up or high or taking to aliens or mixed up a tricky bit of syntax while taking notes or apocryphal... then Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery!" Of course you never see this because people take it on faith that Moses was none of those things.

Faith isn't based on logic. Faith is just picking axioms and discarding uncertainty. Most faith is based on wishful thinking. There's no reason someone couldn't have faith in a miserable uncaring god, but this isn't very popular.
posted by Winnemac at 2:34 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


An appeal to tradition is an argument that goes roughly like this:

x has always been done
Therefore
x is the right way to do things

That's different than an appeal to a definition, even if the definition is old.


Well, now you're just being pedantic with semantics. What you've just outlined is exactly what was being done. The definition of marriage IS the tradition being appealed to. That's what the whole debate is about.

I mean, jeez.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:47 PM on March 30, 2012


The icons mostly miss for me. Being very familiar with the informal fallacy canon, I "tested" several of the icons by seeing whether I could figure out which fallacy the images represented. In most cases, no. Even for some of the ones every one knows this is a problem. Just look at the slippery slope one. Huh?! Boulder-y slope?
posted by O Blitiri at 2:53 PM on March 30, 2012


1. The problem with the fallacy name 'Appeal to Authority' is that, like many fallacy labels, it is ambiguous as between (a) valid appeal to authority and (b) invalid appeal to authority. Indicating one's relevant expertise is a valid appeal to authority. So you're really just pointing to another problem with relying on fallacy labels.
Well, it technically is an "appeal to authority", but that's the problem with "purely" logical thinking. Lots of normal, valid, scientifically sound thinking is technically 'fallacious' if we go by the 'pure' logic only. In fact, as I said almost all observational science is based on "fallacious" logic, because it suffers the problem of induction, which underlies all science. (the exception would be scientific theories like thermodynamics that apply to all possible universes).

If we think in terms of probabilities, we can use a heuristic that says someone who is an expert in a topic is more likely to be correct then someone who just heard about it for the first time 10 minutes ago and just skimmed the Wikipedia article. That's probably a good way to judge things, but in theory it's a "logical fallacy." And indeed, experts can sometimes make mistakes, it just doesn't happen very often.
Yes they do. It's called informal logic, and though it borrows heavily from formal logic, it is nonetheless suited to making correct inferences and statements about "real life." Philosophers use it every day. Analytic philosophers, anyway.
Is that like "informal" math where 2+2 "kind of" equals 4? Sure, people take mathematical shortcuts all the time, but they don't get angry when they estimate about 1000 and someone else estimates about 1024.

"Informal" logic can only be correct when it matches formal logic, just like mathematical estimates are only right if they match what formal math would say to within the error bounds you need.

But the problem is formal logic can say nothing about the real world, or even most of science because there are no fundamental axioms to work from (except for quantum mechanics which requires too much computer time to make statements about human scale phenomena anyway)

It's entirely possible to write an argument that you think is formally logically correct as normal text, and I think most philosophers would say that their logic is formally sound, not "informal".
Anyway, there's nothing moronic about the concept of the logical fallacy:
No, there is something very moronic about them.

Let's suppose you're on a hill covered with ice, at a 45 degree angle. Is there a danger you might slip? Should you take precautions? If you say "No! Believing you might fall is an example of the slippery slope fallacy! You don't need to take precautions!" then you may in fact be a moron.

It's true that in some cases people do make logical errors, and those can be pointed out. But 90% of the time they are not making arguments based on pure logic at all

In fact, kind of amazingly this guy lists "appeal to probability" as a logical fallacy. When in fact "probability" is mostly what people use to reason with. Probability doesn't suffer the problem of induction, each piece of information can be used even without perfect information. "Ad Hominem", "Slippery slope", and "Appeal to authority" (and certainly, appeal to probability) are all perfectly reasonable ways of thinking when you are dealing with probability theory, rather then pure logic.

If you insist on 'pure' logic you have to give up all science (except for scientific theories that apply to all hypothetical universes). In fact, you could argue that it's almost scientifically certain that intelligent life evolved somewhere else in the universe - our current estimates are that there are about hundreds of billions planets in the milky way alone, probably 10 billion of which are habitable.

So from a scientific perspective, we can say that out of the three planets we've observed in the habitable zone around a star, one of them has intelligent life on it. What are the odds that out of ten billion more, there's no life? Additionally, there are 170 galaxies in the observable universe. From a scientific perspective, it's obviously true that somewhere intelligent life of some type evolved, at least to the level of other mammals.

But this guy says: it's a logical fallacy to point out something that's obviously true from a scientific perspective. And he's right. In order to be logically pure, you must discard almost all science.

His example of "appeal to authority" is just as absurd "Over 400 prominent scientists and engineers dispute global warming" is an appeal to authority, for sure. But the response is almost always "Well, pretty much N-400 scientists say global warming is real where N is the total number of scientists". The arguments for global warming, from people who are not scientists are almost always appeals to authority. And if not, they are all appeals to probability, because most climate science is based on gathering statistics, which entails some probability of being wrong.

---
Also, as far as religion and logic goes, keep in mind that a lot of philosophers a few centuries ago were very logical and all too god to be the foundational premise of universe of logic. Liebniz, Descartes, etc.
posted by delmoi at 3:56 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that like "informal" math where 2+2 "kind of" equals 4? Sure, people take mathematical shortcuts all the time, but they don't get angry when they estimate about 1000 and someone else estimates about 1024.

No, the meaning of "informal" in this context is similar to its meaning in the mathematical term of art "informal proof," which is a concept that I imagine wouldn't elicit such an offhand disparagement from you. More here. An inference made using informal logic can always be represented with formal logic, but the very fact of that difference in presentation is what distinguishes the two.

I'm not sure why you're so insistent on claiming that making logical inferences about real-world phenomena requires axioms. All it requires is true statements, and while you're technically correct that the truth value of a statement such as "Socrates is mortal" is not derivable from first principles, in practice its lack of provability isn't relevant to the thing being debated. It is not inconsistent to demand, for example, that witnesses in a hearing on coal power base their arguments on correct chains of inference, while simultaneously not expecting them to construct a proof from first principles that combustion of coal yields CO2.

Let's suppose you're on a hill covered with ice, at a 45 degree angle. Is there a danger you might slip? Should you take precautions? If you say "No! Believing you might fall is an example of the slippery slope fallacy! You don't need to take precautions!" then you may in fact be a moron.

I talked about that above, but I'm glad you took the time to revisit this very instructive example.
posted by invitapriore at 4:34 PM on March 30, 2012


Sorry, that last bit of sarcasm was uncalled for, but I wish you had read the entirety of my post before responding to it.
posted by invitapriore at 4:38 PM on March 30, 2012


Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?
posted by Renoroc at 5:29 AM on March 30 [22 favorites +] [!]


Speaking truth to power is never futile, no matter the outcome.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:41 PM on March 30, 2012


eSatori_movement: Logic is the cornerstone of faith.

Winnemac: Faith isn't based on logic. ... Most faith is based on wishful thinking.

Winnemac, I understand what you're saying, but I don't think you're being fair to S_M's overall point: "Then, in the vacuum, realizing they will never know the outer world with any true certainty, a person may choose to examine what remains when the external is stripped away."

This is simply the starting point for a faithful, logical examination of one's own experience. We don't put our faith in external sources, we put it in logic, in honesty, and in the world itself. We're specifically refusing to take other's statements on faith, preferring to find out for ourselves. There's no reason to think that somebody else's idea of god has any value in this process.
posted by sneebler at 6:42 PM on March 30, 2012


You nailed it sneebler.

Winnemac, I completely agree with a lot of what you are saying. Some people put their 'faith' in other human beings, taking what they say as gospel. This is not faith, this is stupidity.

I was trying to define true faith as taking logic to its absolute limit, realizing some fundamental paradoxes about our world which cannot be resolved by logical thinking, and then 'breaking' through by making a rational leap based off of their own experience of reality.

Many people claim to have faith, but their actions suggest they are simply brainwashed. This is not faith.

If you see a humble quiet person, diligently doing their work, walking the shady uncertain corridors of our world with an open heart, ask them about their beliefs. If they refuse to discuss them, you may have found a good teacher.
posted by satori_movement at 12:51 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cardinal Keith O'Brien: Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?

(Emphasis mine.) I do not think it is as terrible as you make it sound. Tolerance is not what I would consider a grave evil, or really an evil of any sort. In fact, tolerance sounds pretty good about now.


Comment upthread: Isn't it pointless to argue logically with people who have faith in deities?

Faulty deduction. Reason: composition - assuming that the characteristics or beliefs of some of a group applies to the entire group.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:41 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was an interesting Ask.Me question a few months back, looking for reasonable arguments against same-sex marriage. People provided some examples, and counter-examples were calmly provided.

For example, claims that marriage has always been one man and one woman take a very limited view of "always." See: Same sex marriage in the non-European world.
Woman-woman marriage has been documented in more than 30 African populations...

Formalized, socially-recognized relations between two men also exist in Africa.

Many indigenous societies in the Americas supported alternative gender roles for both biological men and women. These identities have been termed 3rd and 4th genders (though some cultures recognized up to 6 genders) and are usually coupled with supernatural powers and shamanistic roles.

Hu Pu'an records the phenomenon of two-women commitment ceremonies in "A Record of China's Customs: Guangdong" ...

In the neighboring province of Fujian, same-sex marriages between males were also recognized.
These are just excerpts from the longer article, which cites its sources.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:52 PM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pyry: "
**** Then you can counter with the proof:
[my axioms] => [contradiction] => (via principle of explosion) gay marriage is awesome and also you are a unicorn
"

***** Then I can counter with a para-consistent logic that denies the principle of explosion.

"The rules of logic" are much less settled than a lot of people think.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 3:44 AM on April 1, 2012


I was trying to define true faith as taking logic to its absolute limit, realizing some fundamental paradoxes about our world which cannot be resolved by logical thinking, and then 'breaking' through by making a rational leap based off of their own experience of reality.

This sounds nice, but you haven't actually said anything.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:43 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Adam, I definitely said SOMETHING. I was making a pretty simple argument about faith and logic being compatible. I did this by defining faith.

If logic is the calculus of making reasonable deductions based off of axioms, and faith is understanding the limitations of logical thinking with regards to actually understanding the world around us(using experience to fill the gap), then these concepts are not diametrically opposed. A reasonable person can be extremely logical and have faith(assuming the above definition of faith) without cognitive dissonance.

You may disagree with my definition of faith, or my definition of logic, or individual elements within my argument, or any number of things, but it is unfair of you to say I was not saying anything.
posted by satori_movement at 9:30 AM on April 2, 2012


What I mean is you asserted several things without really saying what you meant by them.

What are "some fundamental paradoxes about our world which cannot be resolved by logical thinking"?

What does it mean to "break through" these?

What are the limitations of logical thinking, in your view?

How does experience "fill the gap"/what is "a rational leap based off of [your] own experience of reality"?
posted by adamdschneider at 10:44 AM on April 2, 2012


I find it rather telling that the author left off the "Fallacy Fallacy" (i.e., an argument advanced in support of X is fallacious, therefore X is false). I suspect the author, as well as others who are too much in love with identifying and pointing out fallacies, tend to fall into that one.

--------

We shouldn't be cataloguing existing fallacies. We should be developing new and improved ones to better counter the other side

A favorite of mine is the Appeal to Flattery/Ad Hominem combo: "You usually seem like such an intelligent and rational person. I'm surprised to hear you make an argument like that."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:25 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Adam,

Touche, well, the fundamental paradox we cannot resolve is namely we can only know the world around us through our senses, our senses are imperfect, thus we can only know the external world imperfectly.

As Descartes tried to do with the cogito, logical thinkers for millenia have attempted to build world systems which explain the universe based on a minimum set of purely logical axioms. They have not been successful.

Scientists, who take as a given the existence of the world, and also take as a given that said world is fundamentally sensical and obeys specific understandable 'laws' have been far more successful with their models(where success here means predictive ability, or ability to derive further valid conclusions from their models).

Is one method better or worse than another? Well, we cannot answer that from a strictly logical standpoint. If we believe, or have faith, in the value of society, then we might say the scientist has done more for the human 'situation'.

So, I guess my argument is pure logical thinking is like an Ouroboros, axioms may emerge, they may be argued, but ultimately they can never be proven by any kind of purely logical technique, they can only be reduced to still other axioms which can never be proven.

However, if we allow our experience to be a part of the equation, take 'on faith' or 'as a given' that our experience of reality is valid, that reality itself is valid, stable, secure, etc, then we can learn many incredible things. These things we learn may be axiomatic. If we root axioms in our experience, connect them to our experience, then it gives us another tool for explaining the world.

Of course, someone of a strictly logical mindset might argue 'but we can never prove the existence of the world, or prove that any of this matters,' which is completely true. If my experience of reality suggests otherwise, then I have 'faith' in these axioms, but I may never be able to prove them. They may not be provable, but they may be useful(science!).

Now, I am NOT saying logical thinking is pointless. On the contrary, I think logical thinking is the highest level of thinking. I just think logical thinking alone is not sufficient for a good and happy life, but this is my opinion rooted in experience, not any kind of strictly logical statement.
posted by satori_movement at 7:38 AM on April 3, 2012


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