Fallacies.pdf - Chapter 8 Fallacies 8.1 CLASSIFICATION OF...

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Chapter 8 Fallacies 8.1 CLASSIFICATION OF FALLACIES In Chapters 3 to 7 we have focused on the task of testing the deductive validity of a wide class of argument forms. However, deductive validity was only one of the criteria for argument evaluation that were discussed in Chapter 2. The methods of Chapters 3 to :7 are of no help with respect to the other criteria: the actual truth or falsity of premises, the degree of' relevance, and the effect of suppressing evidence that bears upon the conclusion. Moreover, truth tables, refutation trees, Venn diagrams, and inference rules establish validity or invalidity only for argument forms, not for specific arguments. The informal evaluation techniques of' Chapter 2 do apply to specific arguments, but they rely heavily on intuition. In this and the following two chapters, we shall consider various techniques for evaluating nondeductive arguments with greater clarity and precision. We begin in this chapter with the study of fallacies. This is also informal, but it augments intuition by p:roviding general accounts of some of the more common mistakes of ordinary reasoning. The next two chapters will then focus on inductive validity and the assessment of probabilistic reasoning. Fallacies (in the broadest sense) are simply mistakes that occur in arguments and affect their cogency. In Latin, the verb fallere means 'to deceive'. Fallacic~us arguments may be deceptive, because they often superficially appear to be good arguments. But deception is not a necessary condition of a fallacy, as we use that term here. Whenever we reason invalidly or irrelevantly, accept premises we should not, or fail to make appropriate use of relevant facts at our disposal, we commit a fallacy. There is no universally accepted definition of 'fallacy'. Many authors use definitions narrower than the one just given, but not infrequently an author's actual use of the term is at odds with his or her definition. Likewise, there is no universally accepted classification of fallacies. We shall divide fallacies into six classes: fallacies of relevance, circular reasoning, semantic fallacies, inductive fallacies, formal fallacies, and fallacies of false premises. Other authors use different classificatory schemes. Fallacies ofrelevance occur when the premises of an argument have no bearing upon its conclusion. In addition, such fallacies often involve a distractive element which diverts attention away from this very problem. Circular reasoning is the fallacy of assuming what we are trying to prove. Semantic fallacies result when the language employedl to construct arguments has multiple meanings or is excessively vague in a way that interferes with assessment of the argument. Inductive fallacies occur when the probability of an argument's conclusion, given its premises - i.e., its inductive probability-is low, or at least less than the arguer supposes.
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