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Philosophy_110_chp12[1] - What is a fallacy The Oxford...

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2/28/2009 1 Philosophy 110 Spring 2009, SFSU Mike Olsen What is a fallacy? The Oxford English Dictionary defines a fallacy as “a deceptive or misleading argument.” The premises fail to support the conclusion in such arguments. Fallacies usually have rhetorical force, but are simply not relevant to the conclusion that is reached. Formal vs. Informal Formal fallacies involve the structure of the argument itself Vs. Informal fallacies deal with the content of the argument Example: Tom Cruise is a big star. Big stars are made up mostly of hydrogen. Tom Cruise is made up mostly of hydrogen There is nothing wrong with the STRUCTURE. This is an example of EQUIVOCATION. FALLACIES OF RELEVANCE Positive/Negative Relevance Positively relevant statements Provide evidence for the truth of some other statement Ex: Socrates is a philosopher and Plato is a philosopher. This is positively relevant to the statement “Plato is a philosopher.” Negatively relevant statements Provide evidence against the truth of some other statement Ex: The Bible says murder is wrong, provides evidence against the statement “The Bible says nothing about murder.” Irrelevance This is what specially concerns us. Ex: Socrates is a philosopher tells us NOTHING about whether he owned a cat or an Italian Greyhound, and so on. Philosophers have distinguished many different types of irrelevance that arise in everyday discourse that we are going to look at….
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2/28/2009 2 Fallacies of Relevance Ad Hominem “To the person” or “to the man” Examples: You would vote for Proposition 4 because you are a Roman Catholic.” While this may be someone’s reason for voting in a certain way, it does not necessarily follow. “As a Caucasian you would know nothing about inner - city crime.” Appeal to Force Whenever force or threat is used to win a debate or argument. A weak attempt at arguing Example: I earned an A in philosophy 110 because my parents contribute a lot of money to the university. Appeal to Ignorance Scientists have not proved that evolution is true. Hence, evolution is probably false. Standard form of the argument: We do not know that S is false. Thus, S is true. OR There is no evidence for S. Therefore, S if false. Recent commercial for psychic hotline: “To anyone who is a skeptic about calling, just try.” Implicit in this is argument is what? Appeal to Improper Authority We must rely on authorities in a variety of matters. A doctor is a good authority on health matters, a lawyer on legal ones, etcetera. But an authority is improper when: 1. It is unnecessary. Sometimes we can simply rely on direct evidence. You do not need to say “My college instructor showed that 2+2 is 4.” It’s easy enough to show this on your own!
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