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Unformatted text preview: FALLACIES LECTURE A Fallacy is a mistake in reasoning. The most common reason for mistakes in reasoning is allowing the emotions to affect the reasoning process. That is not to say that we should not be emotional. The emotions can provide us with premises, for example, "I love Bob," which with the premise "If I love Bob then I ought not to eat his cookies" yields the conclusion "I ought not eat his cookies." What I am saying is that once you've gotten to the reasoning process, it ought to be as cold and calculating as solving a mathematical formula. For example, to reason "Well, Bob probably won't notice," when you know he probably will notice is to commit the fallacy of wishful thinking Be careful to distinguish the fallacy of ambiguity from the fallacy of equivocation. In the latter, both senses of the word or phrase appear in the argument (or are implicit). In the former, confusion is caused by a word or phrase that is imprecise or can be interpreted in different ways. For example, once I was at a social gathering and someone introduced me to Carolyn, the mother of a three year old who is a graduate student in Philosophy. If I draw the conclusion "Wow! I sure would like to meet the kid!" I've committed the fallacy of ambiguity or, perhaps, the person making the introduction has induced me to commit the fallacy. To argue "The Bible says Don't kill!, and therefore, mercy killing is not permissible" is to commit the fallacy of ambiguity, because "Don't kill!" is imprecise. It really ought to say "Dont Kill such-and-such under such-and such circumstances," since almost no one thinks that we ought never to kill. Every time you eat a carrot, you kill thousands of bacteria living on its surface, even if you wash it. But everybody still thinks it's permissible to eat carrots. I think Madonna is committing the fallacy of equivocation when she reasons "I live in a material world, therefore, I'm a material girl" (although students tell me I miss the point of the song). Why?, because the sense of Immaterial" in the premise is different than the sense of "material" in the conclusion. In the premise, she might mean that she lives in a world of material objects (rocks, chairs, trees, dogs, etc...) but in the conclusion she seems to be offering this as an explanation for being a materialistic person, in the sense that she is obsessed with owning furs and diamonds. Another way of looking at it is that Madonna senses that she is a part of a materialistic world, and, therefore, she must be a materialistic person. But this isn't true on account of the fallacy of division, which states that it's not always true that when a whole has a property that all of its parts have that property, too. Mother Teresa lives in a materialistic world, but she isn't necessarily materialistic. While the fallacy of division is about arguments that reason from wholes to parts, the fallacy of composition is about arguments that reason from parts to wholes. Most of the time, composition arguments are valid. If a build a log cabin with a maple floor, cedar wholes....
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- Spring '07