Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Master of Philosophy, Lord of Debate, Sultan of Reason
January 4, 2014 4:30 PM   Subscribe

The Adventures of Fallacy Man, from Existential Comics.
posted by Artw (55 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Who knows what absurdity lurks in the heart of hurm?
posted by vrakatar at 4:46 PM on January 4


ok hahahaha this is hilarious! thanks for posting
posted by rebent at 4:47 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


I can't seem to link directly to it on my IPad, but go backwards 3 to find a funny one featuring me.
posted by wittgenstein at 4:50 PM on January 4


I love seeing people -- usually the ones who also have a serious hard-on for the word "rational" -- explicitly start citing fallacies and linking to them on Wikipedia during internet arguments. And it's always the same way: no explanation, just the claim and the link, as if simply saying something is a fallacy is a convincing argument. As if an argument is a battle between wizards and they cast Dispel Magic and now whatever was said is null and void.
posted by griphus at 5:06 PM on January 4 [42 favorites]


"A gift real special, so take off the top
Take a look inside it's a Schrödinger beetle in a box"
posted by greenhornet at 5:13 PM on January 4


Not to be confused with Phallusy Man.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:15 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


As if an argument is a battle between wizards

"...and nihilist types are weak against Zarathustra, but get this: Sartrists can cast "No Exit" but they can only carry paper knives."
posted by Panjandrum at 5:17 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Well, in a couple of those examples Fallacy Man is right. You aren't ever "due" something good. Do I have to bring up the infinite weasels again?
posted by JHarris at 5:21 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


While not wrong, Fallacy Man's actions are a prime example of the Lebowski Corollary.
posted by griphus at 5:25 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


Well, Dawkins is "right" about God being made up...
posted by Artw at 5:25 PM on January 4


explicitly start citing fallacies and linking to them on Wikipedia during internet arguments

I've done this here once in a while, because it's quick and points something out immediately and sharply instead of bloating up the thread with a half page of words on it that probably no one will read. That there's a name for a thing itself demonstrates its pervasiveness.

But it is true, understanding fallacies is only the beginning of learning to think effectively about things. And the existence of a fallacy doesn't mean the premise is false. And there's a reason the thinking that fallacies warn us against is pervasive, because they represent rules of thumb that are useful in many cases.

I think a lot of intelligence is not so much raw brainpower, whatever that might be, but more like meta-knowledge, knowledge about how to think. And to know how to use fallacies effectively in one's own thought means knowing their limits.

One should be aware of fallacies not so one can feel superior over being "rational," because we're all irrational. But it is something to aspire to, to get better at, trying to overcome one's biases and prejudices in such a way that one doesn't just leap towards replacement biases and prejudices.
posted by JHarris at 5:30 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


Many internet "intellectuals" regard fallacies as Pokemon they can put out at certain times to win an argument.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:32 PM on January 4 [17 favorites]


I was wondering what was strange about that comic, and now I see it: in each case we're "supposed" to accept the conclusion, never mind the reasoning. In which sense the comic captures the nature of most internet arguments perfectly.
posted by topynate at 5:43 PM on January 4


Many internet "intellectuals" regard fallacies as Pokemon they can put out at certain times to win an argument.

Always imagine the firing-guns-in-the-air panel when they do that.
posted by Artw at 5:50 PM on January 4


> Well, in a couple of those examples Fallacy Man is right.

No, he is being factual.

Being right requires presenting the argument in a means that can convert the opponent and/or the audience. (For that matter, being right requires engaging in the argument rather than evading it and running straight to the meta-argument.)

Slapping somebody and screaming "FALLACY! LOGICAL ERROR!" can be entertaining and reinforces the prejudices of everybody already on your side, but it won't do jack shit for changing minds.

This has been the Taking It Too Seriously Minute. Remember to support this station during the next pledge drive. Thank you and good night.
posted by ardgedee at 5:51 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


I'm just imagining a guy yelling "phallus!" over and over. Possibly Lacan.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:57 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


One of the problems with those types of arguments is that they attack the statement and not the spirit of the argument. The vendor says they'd need to give it to everyone which is slippery slope, but what they really mean is that there's no particular reason why it'd be fair to give a free drink to you and not to everyone. The vendor is correct, but they are phrasing their sentiment loosely.

The ad hominem one isn't even correct. If someone makes an argument and the response is that they can't be right because they're ugly then that's ad hominem. Pointing out that a person has a history of talking garbage (a good description of an idiot) then it isn't ad hominem. It's a valid reason for being skeptical of anything that person says.

However, fallacies really are excellent ways of summing up problems with an argument. The problem is that this comic uses some pretty crappy examples (except the gambler's fallacy).
posted by HappyEngineer at 5:59 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


Not to be confused with Phallusy Man.

Yes, this is Phallusy Man! (NSFW, seriously)
posted by crossoverman at 6:01 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem notwithstanding, any rational human should still not listen to anything Glenn Beck says.
posted by buzzv at 6:01 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


As if an argument is a battle between wizards and they cast Dispel Magic and now whatever was said is null and void.

See also: sovereign citizens.

It's cargo-cult arguing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:31 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


And now that I've finally read through, oh my god that last one it killed me ded
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:43 PM on January 4


He's no God-Man...
posted by jcruelty at 6:51 PM on January 4


MetaFilter: Many internet "intellectuals" regard fallacies as Pokemon they can put out at certain times to win an argument.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:59 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Nelson Goodman drowns his sorrows might be my second favourite, after the blowjob one.

Why are there only nine of these? What is the reason for this artificial shortage?
posted by Mezentian at 7:26 PM on January 4


Metafilter hates Fox News as well as identifying logical fallacies during internet arguments. Now that's fair and balanced for you.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:39 PM on January 4


Too many of these comics try to draw humor from misogyny. I find them pretty ugly.
posted by painquale at 8:58 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


The comic also sort of ignores the fact that not all conversation is about incontrovertibly proving or disproving claims. There are reasons that this kind of zealous, exclusive reliance on calling out fallacies is problematic aside from its lack of affirmative argument and true refutation of the claims bring made.
posted by clockzero at 9:14 PM on January 4


Oh I wouldn't say it ignores that at all.
posted by Artw at 9:36 PM on January 4


Being right requires presenting the argument in a means that can convert the opponent and/or the audience.

I really don't think it does. Look up Cassandra some time, who was right but never believed. (OH NO IM BEIN CLASSICAL ALLUSION MAN)

The thing about fallacies is -- we do them all the time. Appeal to authority, we all do that constantly. Is that not after all what an entire traditional education is based on, people who know telling those who don't? A kid who goes through that shouting APPEAL TO AUTHORITY a bit might be wise, but saying it to everything would get nothing out of it at all.
posted by JHarris at 10:33 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Not to be confused with Phallusy Man.

Fallacy: all men are phallusy.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:52 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Appeal to authority, we all do that constantly.

Says who?
posted by flabdablet at 10:58 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


Sez ME. Believe me dammit!
posted by JHarris at 11:01 PM on January 4


MetaFilter: Many internet "intellectuals" regard fallacies as Pokemon they can put out at certain times to win an argument.

ARGUMENT FROM AUTHORITY!!!
posted by happyroach at 11:36 PM on January 4


Appeal to authority, we all do that constantly. Is that not after all what an entire traditional education is based on, people who know telling those who don't?

I wasn't going to say anything in this thread 'cause I always seem to weigh in on fallacies, but ... I can't let it go.

Relying on an authority (or on testimony more generally) is not a fallacy. Appealing to an inappropriate or irrelevant authority is a fallacy. The qualification is important. It marks the difference between, e.g.

Joe has been driving a cab in this city for 30 years and says that there is a deli around the corner.
Therefore, there is a deli around the corner.

... and ...

Joe has been driving a cab in this city for 30 years and says that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy.
Therefore, the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy.

In one of these arguments, but not the other, Joe is a relevant authority: he knows the geography of the city in which he drives a cab. Hence, in one of these arguments, but not the other, the premiss is evidentially connected to the conclusion. (I am, of course, assuming that Joe has no special knowledge about the Kennedy assassination.)

One might point out that neither argument is valid as it stands, but it is pretty obvious what the suppressed premisses are that would make the arguments valid -- and enthymematic arguments are not exactly uncommon in ordinary discourse. Problematically for those who like pointing to fallacies, both arguments would be valid with an additional premiss. The issue is ultimately about whether the argument is sound, which turns on the truth of the suppressed premiss. The reason, then, that the fallacious argument appears to be fallacious is that it relies on an obviously false, suppressed premiss.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:54 PM on January 4 [12 favorites]


I think FM ought to realise that most assertions in casual conversation are not meant to be rational arguments anyway. "X says this, could be right." "I feel like I'm due some good luck." Not pieces of formal argumentation. Also FM's constant resort to violence itself implies the primitive fallacy that the stronger is always right.

But then I don't think formal fallacies get a mention in serious academic debate all that often either. I suspect enthusiasm for fallacy detection is a bit of a noob thing.
posted by Segundus at 1:03 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Relying on an authority (or on testimony more generally) is not a fallacy. Appealing to an inappropriate or irrelevant authority is a fallacy. The qualification is important.

That's how I read the joke. It's not a problem to say the Pats might be good this year because Brady thinks the roster has a lot of talent. He should know.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:20 AM on January 5


Relying on an authority (or on testimony more generally) is not a fallacy.

Well....

It is a fallacy in strict logical terms. Because authority figures can lie, or be mistaken, they cannot be completely relied upon. But they can usually be right. The question is, can you trust them? In many cases, the answer is no when you think it's yes, or yes when you think it's no.

That's one of the reasons you can't go by strict logic, if you only used if-X-then-Y logic as your guiding star you'd never get anywhere. You have to play percentages. You have to trust someone, some time.

If you can recognize that, then you can also recognize that it is impossible to speak with absolute certainty. Then you can realize that others can't speak with certainty either, we're all in the same boat, none of us has privileged information no matter how confident they seem.

Then you can recognize that the people's opinions you can trust most are the people who recognize this fact, about the nature of truth: scientists, who use hard logic and educated guesses to make the firmest statements possible about the nature of the world with the information available to us, who will recognize that we're wrong sometimes, that we're always getting better, and to make due with what you know now, but be prepared to revise your opinion when you learn better.
posted by JHarris at 5:15 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Plate-of-beans fallacy.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:20 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Being right requires presenting the argument in a means that can convert the opponent and/or the audience.
posted by ardgedee at 1:51 AM on January 5 [7 favorites +] [!]


Umm..., no, it has absolutely nothing to do with that. Or are you making some sort of fallacy-related joke that I am insufficiently caffeinated to catch?
posted by Decani at 5:20 AM on January 5 [3 favorites]


It is a fallacy in strict logical terms. Because authority figures can lie, or be mistaken, they cannot be completely relied upon. But they can usually be right.

This is really the heart of the matter. Very few things that we now understand to be true can be demonstrated logically, which is why science has overwhelmingly shifted to a statistical approach to truth-testing. This doesn't invalidate being sensitive to structural flaws in argumentation, but it does reveal the pedestrian ignorance of reflexive and unthinking rejection of an idea that is logically imperfect.
posted by belarius at 6:31 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


Summary of common logical fallacies.
posted by lordrunningclam at 7:43 AM on January 5


Very few things that we now understand to be true can be demonstrated logically, which is why science has overwhelmingly shifted to a statistical approach to truth-testing.

And why argumentation theory has shifted to consideration of Informal Logic pioneered by J. Anthony Blair and Ralph Johnson, the pragmatic dialogue goals in the work of Douglas Walton on relevance, Frans H. van Eemeren's pragma-dialectics model, and Ruth Amossy's work in French Discourse Analysis among other approaches.

To paraphrase Spock, logic is the beginning of good argument, not the end.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:54 AM on January 5 [5 favorites]


It is a fallacy in strict logical terms. Because authority figures can lie, or be mistaken, they cannot be completely relied upon. But they can usually be right. The question is, can you trust them? In many cases, the answer is no when you think it's yes, or yes when you think it's no.

You are using "fallacy" in a very idiosyncratic way.

Usually, fallacies are divided into two types: formal and informal. Formal fallacies involve failure of logical structure. A formally fallacious argument is an invalid argument. But all appeals to authority are easily transformed into valid arguments. For example:

Everything Joe the cabby says is true.
Joe says that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy.
Therefore, the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy.

But the foregoing reasoning would still be counted as fallacious. So, appeals to authority are not, ultimately, formal fallacies. They are informal fallacies.

Informal fallacies, which include appeals to inappropriate authority, involve some special mistake about content, rather than structure. But typically -- and here is where your usage is non-standard -- we don't want to say that an argument is fallacious simply in virtue of being unsound. That is, we want to say that some unsound arguments -- some valid arguments that have one or more false premisses and even some deductively invalid but inductively strong arguments -- are nonetheless not fallacious. (Think about statistical deductions here.) Calling an argument a fallacy marks it as especially or characteristically bad in some way. A fallacious argument isn't just an argument that fails. If it were, then we would have to say that Newton, Priestley, Kant, Laplace, Frege, and every other historical thinker you care to mention argued fallaciously, since they all argued for one or another falsehood.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:47 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


That Nelson Goodman comic keeps raising my hackles every time I think of it. The joke itself is predicated on it being funny to hear a high-minded philosopher call women "cheating bitches" and "whores". In addition, the author doesn't understand Goodman, and has Goodman invent traditional Humean skepticism about induction instead of his new riddle of induction.

Sexism and sloppiness are the last things that philosophy needs more of.
posted by painquale at 10:40 AM on January 5 [6 favorites]


Relying on an authority (or on testimony more generally) is not a fallacy..

The fallacy is relying the opinion of an authority in place of making an actual argument, ie, 'X says it is so, therefore it is so', as opposed to 'X says it is so, because [X's argument], and I agree'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:13 PM on January 5


The fallacy is relying the opinion of an authority in place of making an actual argument, ie, 'X says it is so, therefore it is so', as opposed to 'X says it is so, because [X's argument], and I agree'.

No, that is not correct. Although it is true that typically a domain expert will have arguments to give, a non-fallacious appeal to authority need not make reference to any arguments given by the authority. For example, suppose there is an oracle that makes claims but never provides arguments. In the past, about 90% of the oracle's claims have been correct. Hence, one could give the following non-fallacious inductive argument:

90% of the things the oracle says are true.
The oracle says that p.
Therefore, p.

This argument makes no reference to any arguments supplied by the oracle. Indeed, by hypothesis the oracle never makes any arguments. One might reply -- correctly, I think -- that in my example, I am basing my conclusion on some observations and statistical inferences. My first premiss is based on my observations of the past reliability of the oracle and even it takes some inductive risk by projecting from the observed frequency of success to the unobserved propensity for success. Just so. And this is pretty much exactly the way legitimate appeals to authority work in real life, as well. We check the claims of experts in some cases and infer that they are as reliable in other cases. Or, more realistically still, we check the reliability of some members of a class of experts and then infer that typical members of that class are also reliable in that domain.

But again, such arguments do not rely for their cogency on the cited authority itself having any arguments. It is enough that the authority is known to reliably make correct reports.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 3:50 PM on January 5


That's not a fallacy either. Specialists can give advice to people who are not able to follow expert reasoning because of a lack of training in a field. It is rational, not irrational, to take the specialist opinions into account. The CEO of a company doesn't need to understand everything that her engineers understand as long as she trusts her engineers' expertise. You can trust your doctor to some extent without needing to understand all his medical terminology. I bet you believe in quantum mechanics even though you don't understand most of the science behind it. Etc.
posted by painquale at 3:53 PM on January 5


Oops, ninja'ed. I was responding to His thoughts were red thoughts.
posted by painquale at 3:53 PM on January 5


In addition, the author doesn't understand Goodman, and has Goodman invent traditional Humean skepticism about induction instead of his new riddle of induction.

I don't feel like he really understands Pyrrho, either, but at least, but at least no one got called sexist names, so there is that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:04 PM on January 5


That's not a fallacy either. Specialists can give advice to people who are not able to follow expert reasoning because of a lack of training in a field.

Yep. Not all appeals to authority are fallacious.

As discussed above, appeals to irrelevant authority are likely fallacious.

Further, in a deductive argument, as experts are not infallible an appeal to authority is better described as establishing a probability that a position is correct, rather than proving a fact.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:21 PM on January 5


Huh. Well, this thread has given me food for thought. Thanks, everyone, will try to consider all this.
posted by JHarris at 6:21 PM on January 5


Yep. Not all appeals to authority are fallacious.

As discussed above, appeals to irrelevant authority are likely fallacious.


I'm not a philosopher, but this seems false: doesn't the fallaciousness lie in the fact that citing an authority doesn't actually prove anything, whether or not the authority is likely to be correct? A fallacy is a fallacy because it is per se incapable demonstrating or proving the validity of its claims, right?
posted by clockzero at 7:02 PM on January 5


If that were how fallacies were characterized, that'd make all inductive reasoning fallacious. Arguments from authority are formally (deductively) invalid, which is what I think you mean when you say that they don't "actually prove anything." But an argument's being deductively invalid doesn't mean it's a fallacy, or even a bad argument.

Think of an authority as an experimental measuring device. When you claim that P is true because an authority said it and because she's always been correct on this subject in the past, you're making a non-deductive argument. It's the same as what you do when you claim that you are going 60 mph, because that is your speedometer reading and your speedometer has always been accurate in the past. Those are both fine, non-fallacious arguments with defeasible conclusions.
posted by painquale at 7:32 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


This site made my morning. Thanks for sharing!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:49 AM on January 6


Could ad hominem arguments sometimes be OK?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:07 PM on January 9


« Older If you've ever wondered why your dog dances back a...  |  Missing Glitch? A number of pr... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments