by, 09-16-2010 at 08:57 PM (2398 Views)
One of the most interesting things to me is debate (go figure). So I have spent alot of time learning about debate techniques and how to try and win!
There are many different debate failures and I thought I would post some of em here, i know I make them often and im sure many others do!
Argumentum ad nauseam or the argument to the point of disgust; i.e., by repetition. Essentially this is the fallacy of trying to prove something by saying it again and again. But no matter how many times you repeat something, it will not become any more or less true than it was in the first place. Of course, it is not a fallacy to state the truth again and again; what is fallacious is to expect the repitition alone to substitute for real arguments.
Argumentum ad antiquitatem (the argument to antiquity or tradition). This is the familiar argument that some policy, behavior, or practice is right or acceptable because "it's always been done that way." This is an extremely popular fallacy in debate rounds; for example, "Every great civilization in history has provided state subsidies for art and culture!" But that fact does not justify continuing the policy.
Argumentum ad hominem (argument directed at the person). This is the error of attacking the character or motives of a person who has stated an idea, rather than the idea itself.
Argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument to ignorance). This is the fallacy of assuming something is true simply because it hasn't been proven false. For example, god must exist because science cannot prove he does not.
Argumentum ad logicam (argument to logic). This is the fallacy of assuming that something is false simply because a proof or argument that someone has offered for it is invalid; this reasoning is fallacious because there may be another proof or argument that successfully supports the proposition. This fallacy often appears in the context of a straw man argument.
Argumentum ad numerum (argument or appeal to numbers). This fallacy is the attempt to prove something by showing how many people think that it's true. But no matter how many people believe something, that doesn't necessarily make it true or right. Example: "At least 70% of all Americans support restrictions on access to abortions." Well, maybe 70% of Americans are wrong!
Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority). This fallacy occurs when someone tries to demonstrate the truth of a proposition by citing some person who agrees, even though that person may have no expertise in the given area. For instance, some people like to quote Einstein's opinions about politics (he tended to have fairly left-wing views), as though Einstein were a political philosopher rather than a physicist. Of course, it is not a fallacy at all to rely on authorities whose expertise relates to the question at hand, especially with regard to questions of fact that could not easily be answered by a layman -- for instance, it makes perfect sense to quote Stephen Hawking on the subject of black holes.
Circulus in demonstrando (circular argument). Circular argumentation occurs when someone uses what they are trying to prove as part of the proof of that thing. Here is one of my favorite examples (in pared down form): "Marijuana is illegal in every state in the nation. And we all know that you shouldn't violate the law. Since smoking pot is illegal, you shouldn't smoke pot. And since you shouldn't smoke pot, it is the duty of the government to stop people from smoking it, which is why marijuana is illegal!"
Cum hoc ergo propter hoc (with this, therefore because of this). This is the familiar fallacy of mistaking correlation for causation -- i.e., thinking that because two things occur simultaneously, one must be a cause of the other. A popular example of this fallacy is the argument that "President Clinton has great economic policies; just look at how well the economy is doing while he's in office!" The problem here is that two things may happen at the same time merely by coincidence (e.g., the President may have a negligible effect on the economy, and the real driving force is technological growth), or the causative link between one thing and another may be lagged in time (e.g., the current economy's health is determined by the actions of previous presidents), or the two things may be unconnected to each other but related to a common cause (e.g., downsizing upset a lot of voters, causing them to elect a new president just before the economy began to benefit from the downsizing).
Nature, appeal to. This is the fallacy of assuming that whatever is "natural" or consistent with "nature" (somehow defined) is good, or that whatever conflicts with nature is bad. For example, "Sodomy is unnatural; anal sex is not the evolutionary function of a penis or an anus. Therefore sodomy is wrong." But aside from the difficulty of defining what "natural" even means, there is no particular reason to suppose that unnatural and wrong are the same thing. After all, wearing clothes, tilling the soil, and using fire might be considered unnatural since no other animals do so, but humans do these things all the time and to great benefit.
Non Sequitur ("It does not follow"). This is the simple fallacy of stating, as a conclusion, something that does not strictly follow from the premises. For example, "Racism is wrong. Therefore, we need affirmative action." Obviously, there is at least one missing step in this argument, because the wrongness of racism does not imply a need for affirmative action without some additional support (such as, "Racism is common," "Affirmative action would reduce racism," "There are no superior alternatives to affirmative action," etc.).
Post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). This is the fallacy of assuming that A caused B simply because A happened prior to B. A favorite example: "Most rapists read pornography when they were teenagers; obviously, pornography causes violence toward women." The conclusion is invalid, because there can be a correlation between two phenomena without one causing the other. Often, this is because both phenomena may be linked to the same cause. In the example given, it is possible that some psychological factor -- say, a frustrated sex drive -- might cause both a tendency toward sexual violence and a desire for pornographic material, in which case the pornography would not be the true cause of the violence.
Red herring. This means exactly what you think it means: introducing irrelevant facts or arguments to distract from the question at hand. For example, "The opposition claims that science itself must be a religion?" When the debate is about their belief and not yours.
Slippery slope. A slippery slope argument is not always a fallacy. A slippery slope fallacy is an argument that says adopting one policy or taking one action will lead to a series of other policies or actions also being taken, without showing a causal connection between the advocated policy and the consequent policies. A popular example of the slippery slope fallacy is, "If we legalize marijuana, the next thing you know we'll legalize heroin, LSD, and crack cocaine." This slippery slope is a form of non sequitur, because no reason has been provided for why legalization of one thing leads to legalization of another. Tobacco and alcohol are currently legal, and yet other drugs have somehow remained illegal.
There are a variety of ways to turn a slippery slope fallacy into a valid (or at least plausible) argument. All you need to do is provide some reason why the adoption of one policy will lead to the adoption of another. For example, you could argue that legalizing marijuana would cause more people to consider the use of mind-altering drugs acceptable, and those people will support more permissive drug policies across the board. An alternative to the slippery slope argument is simply to point out that the principles espoused by your opposition imply the acceptability of certain other policies, so if we don't like those other policies, we should question whether we really buy those principles. For instance, if the proposing team argued for legalizing marijuana by saying, "individuals should be able to do whatever they want with their own bodies," the opposition could point out that that principle would also justify legalizing a variety of other drugs -- so if we don't support legalizing other drugs, then maybe we don't really believe in that principle.
Straw man. This is the fallacy of refuting a caricatured or extreme version of somebody's argument, rather than the actual argument they've made. Often this fallacy involves putting words into somebody's mouth by saying they've made arguments they haven't actually made, in which case the straw man argument is a veiled version of argumentum ad logicam. One example of a straw man argument would be to say, "Mr. Jones thinks that capitalism is good because everybody earns whatever wealth they have, but this is clearly false because many people just inherit their fortunes," when in fact Mr. Jones had not made the "earnings" argument and had instead argued, say, that capitalism gives most people an incentive to work and save. The fact that some arguments made for a policy are wrong does not imply that the policy itself is wrong.
Tu quoque ("you too"). This is the fallacy of defending an error in one's reasoning by pointing out that one's opponent has made the same error. An error is still an error, regardless of how many people make it. For example, "They accuse us of making unjustified assertions. But they asserted a lot of things, too!"