Chapter 29: Fallacies of Relevance

Chapter 29: Fallacies of Relevance

Chapter 29: Fallacies of Relevance Fallacies of Relevance (p. 329-341) Fallacies of relevance occur when appeals are made that do not give good reasons to accept the truth of the conclusion of the argument. Appeal to Force (pp. 330-331) Illegitimate appeals to force Threats are usually not good reasons to

accept a statement as true. Often the threats are implicit; it is part of an enthymematic argument. If your boss says, You should contribute to the United Way, since youre currently in a position to do so, the argument can be reconstructed as follows: Appeal to Force (pp. 330-331) If you dont give to the United Way, you will be fired. You dont want to be fired. So, you should give to the United Way.

Presumably, contributing to the United Way is not part of your job description. So, failing to give to the United Way is not a legitimate reason for you to be fired. Its an illegitimate appeal to force. Appeal to Force (pp. 330-331) Some appeals to force are legitimate. The police officer who threatens to fine or arrest you for breaking the law is engaged in a legitimate appeal to force.

If your boss suggests your employment will be terminated unless the skills listed in your job description are satisfactorily maintained makes a legitimate appeal to force. Personal Attack (pp. 331-333) The fallacy of personal attack always occurs in response to an argument. The attack is leveled upon the person giving the argument, rather than either the inferential strength of the argument or the truth of one or more of the premises.

A. Abusive In a political context this is sometimes called mudslinging. When Mr. Clinton was running for president in 1992, a common response to his arguments was, But Mr. Clinton was a draft-dodger, so , which was irrelevant to his arguments regarding questions of domestic policy, foreign policy, or military policy. Personal Attack (pp. 331-333) B. Circumstantial. In replying to an argument, the respondent either makes an appeal to what seems to be an inconsistency but isnt, or the

respondent suggests the arguers reasons are merely rationalizations. 1. Fallacious attacks Ten years ago, Professor X. had argued that euthanasia is always unwarranted. In a recent paper, Professor X. argued that euthanasia is justified under very specific circumstances. In reply, Professor Y. argues, Professor X. has argued that euthanasia is never justified. Now he argues that euthanasia is sometimes justified. Those two claims are inconsistent. Therefore, we cannot take his arguments seriously. Notice, this ignores the

arguments. Personal Attack (pp. 331-333) Father ORoark has presented an argument against abortion. Professor Z. responds by saying, Father ORoark is a Roman Catholic priest. The Catholic Church is officially opposed to abortion. So, you cant take his arguments seriously theyre merely rationalizations for the official line. Notice, this ignores the arguments. 2. Pointing out a genuine inconsistency is not

fallacious: a Lockean ad hominem. To point out a genuine inconsistency in a single work is a very serious criticism. So, if I show that Dr. No presented arguments supporting both some position p and its denial, not p, this is a serious criticism. Notice, such an approach does not ignore the arguments. Personal Attack (pp. 331-333) Tu quoque (you too) This is a case of responding to an argument by saying You dont follow your own advice or youre a hypocrite.

A number of years ago on the Rush Limbaugh Program, a caller said, It is your contention that the country would be better if everyone participated actively in religious programs and remained married to one person for life. But you never attend religious services, and between you and your current wife, youve been married six times. So, youre a hypocrite! Notice, there was no examination of Limbaughs arguments. Limbaughs reply was, quite properly, So? What does that have to do with my arguments?

Mob Appeal (pp. 334-335) Mob appeal is appeal to sentiments, particularly a sense of specialness as if it were a reason to accept a claim or engage in an action (accept the claim that you should engage in a particular action). A. Politics Political conventions are often strong on rhetoric and weak on evidence. The appeal is rather to be part of a special group, namely those supporting candidates X, Y, and Z.

Mob Appeal (pp. 334-335) Advertising Here the focus is often on snob appeal. By drinking Doofus Beer you are one of the beautiful people (shown in the commercial). Those who shop at Frederics Jewelers are people of discriminating taste. So, you should drink Doofus Beer, or you should shop at Frederics Jewelers. Most cases of snob appeal could also be construed as cases of false cause (Chapter 31): shopping at a certain store or using a certain product causes you to be a special person.

Appeal to Pity (335-337) Commercials for various charities feature children pictured in squalid conditions. They pull at your heart-strings as if that were a reason to contribute. Its not. Almost every semester, some student approaches his or her professor with a tale of woe as a reason to receive at least a certain grade. I wont be able to graduate (take courses in my major, continue in school, etc.) unless I receive at least a B in your course.

Thats not an acceptable argument. Appeal to Pity (335-337) Pity is not itself a reason. It might be that we have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Pity is an emotion; it is not a moral obligation or the mark of a moral obligation. So, a sense of pity is not a reason to do something. B. Is it the best means to a desirable end? C. Is the end itself worthy?

Accident (pp. 337-339) The fallacy of accident consists of applying a principle in a case in which it does not apply. It might be your obligation to return things youve borrowed when the lender asks for them to be returned. It is not your obligation if doing so conflicts with some higher moral principle. For example, it is not your obligation to return your neighbors hoe if your neighbor makes clear (or you have reason to believe) that she plans to use it to injure her pet or her spouse.

Stereotypes (p. 339) Stereotypes are false general claims. Using a stereotype as a premise does not warrant the conclusion. Often the stereotypic premise is unstated: Dan is a redhead. So, Dan is shorttempered. (Since all redheads are shorttempered: implicit premise.) We would like to say that we dont stereotype, so we wont fall victim to this fallacy, but experience suggests that this might be one of the most common of the informal fallacies.

Genetic Fallacy (p. 339) This is a variation on stereotyping based on the origins of the person or thing under discussion: Herbert Hoover was not a good president, since he was from West Branch, Iowa, a town of fewer than 5,000 residents. Herbert Hoover might not have been a very good president Ill leave that for historians to discuss but if he wasnt it has nothing to do with the town on his birth.

Straw Person (p. 340) The straw person fallacy is always committed in reply to an argument. The straw person fallacy consists of ascribing an implicit premise to the arguer a premise the person did not accept or distorting the conclusion and attacking either the implicit premise or the distorted conclusion. Straw Person (p. 340) Yolanda has argued that those with strong academic

credentials should be awarded full scholarships to complete their undergraduate educations. But this assumes that those who already have much should be given even more, which is absurd. So, we must reject Yolandas argument. Whenever you criticize someone elses argument, you should state it as strongly as you can to avoid being charged with the straw person fallacy. Red Herring (pp. 340-341)

The red herring fallacy is always committed in reply to an argument. The red herring fallacy consists of attacking an argument by discussing issues that might be related to the topic under discussion, but are irrelevant to the premises or conclusion of the argument: Red Herring (pp. 340-341) Dr. Hernandez has argued that the local factory should be closed for six months so it can be renovated to remove serious health

risks. But the factory employs 600 people. If the factory is closed for even a couple months, it will have a very serious impact on the towns economy. So, Dr. Hernandezs argument should be rejected. Notice that economic considerations are irrelevant to the original argument. Irrelevant Conclusion (p.341) Also known as ignoratio elenchi or non sequitur

The conclusion doesnt follow. Typically, this is a case in which the premises suggest that a certain conclusion should be accepted, and the conclusion given is different from that conclusion. Irrelevant Conclusion (p.341) It can be either an inductive or a deductive argument: Deductive: All humans are mortals. Socrates is a human. So, Socrates was a Greek. (The expected conclusion is Socrates is a mortal.)

Inductive: Betty works at the plant, and she became ill. Jorge works at the plant, and he became ill. Amber, Heloise, Tom, and Luis work at the plant, and they all became ill. So, the plant needs to be renovated. (The expected conclusion is Everyone [or many people] who works at the plant became ill.)

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