I talk a lot about logical fallacies. If I were shipwrecked, I might have a lot to say about water. Fallacies are not quite as plentiful as water in the ocean, but they are everywhere — and they’re just as deadly in the long run.
What is a fallacy? It is a path to error. That’s all. People hear the word fallacy and they think it means “false.” That’s not so. An argument defended by a logical fallacy may in fact be true. It’s just that the defense itself — at least the fallacious part of the defense — is not a good reason to embrace the argument. It is posible to reconstruct the argument without logical fallacies, creating a rhetorical structure that is logically unassailable.
Of course, most arguments defended by logical fallacies are madly, badly, stupidly wrong. And a significant number of those stupidly wrong arguments will be defended with logical fallacies because the proponent knows his argument is false. His objective is not to discover the truth, but to gull you into acting against your own interests and values.
This is why you need to learn how to identify fallacies in the informal arguments you hear every day. The best benefit to this undertaking will be to make your own arguments better. But as a matter of self-defense, even if you seek to persuade no one of anything, you need to learn how to tune in to the cunning deceptions of demagogues.
Below are links to some resources worth looking at. I’m not endorsing any of these sites, and I think it’s a fine idea to read more than one site when you want to know more about a particular logical fallacy.
- The Nizkor Project — Rigorous and easy to navigate
- How to construct an argument — The author is no friend to religion, so if you are, bring your A game
- Fallacy Files — Discussions of fallacies augmented by a blog of current examples
- Logical Fallacies — Broken out by taxonomy
How stupid is that?
Here’s what I say, in rebuttal:
Mind what goes into your mind.