Anti-Fallacies Tool Kit

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Posted by andreas from ( on Thursday, January 30, 2003 at 8:06AM :

The Fallacies

by Ron Liebermann

People, for the most part, are not familiar with the rules of logic. Itís one of those subjects that people shy away from, feeling that itís too complex to understand. What people donít realize is that they employ logic every day.

Logic is often applied to human problems in an attempt to determine truth; and since truth is the foundation of liberty, free men must apply the rules of logic rigorously. Americans, until the counter-revolution of the sixties, had long been champions of this ideal.

Over the last hundred years, a problem has developed in America. Government has slowly turned away from the idea of using truth as a standard, and has replaced truth with the fallacies. The fallacies may be thought of as an organized system of anti-logic; they are an evil mirror-image of the truth.

Our government has seized upon the fallacies because logic, unlike truth, is mutable. Thatís why Christians use logic and faith together. Christians believe that God exists, that right is better than wrong, and that truth is a virtue. To say that there is a conflict between fixed Christian ideals, and the hidden and self-serving goals of government would be an understatement.

In order to maintain support for an increasingly irrational agenda, the government makes extensive use of the fallacies. To understand the government, look at the Fallacies. It then becomes easy to see how they operate:


Fallacies of Distraction

False Dilemma: Only two choices are given, when in fact there are more options:

(A) Invade Iraq, or

(B) Continue sanctions.

Complex Question: Two unrelated points are co-joined as a single proposition:

We must invade Iraq to restore democracy, and safeguard the oil supply.

Appeals to Motives in Place of Support

Appeal to Force: The reader is persuaded to agree by force: If you are a good American, you will support the war. If you donít, you are a traitor.

Appeal to Pity: The reader is persuaded to agree by sympathy: In these hard economic times, we must raise taxes so that no child is left behind.

Changing the Subject

Attacking the Person: The personís circumstances are noted:

Saddam uses Viagra and lives in a palace and steals incubators.

Anonymous Authority: The authority in question is not named:

Officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, claim that the British Ricin suspects are connected with Al Qaeda.

Inductive Fallacies

False Analogy: The two objects or events being compared are relevantly dissimilar: We must occupy Iraq to establish democracy, just as we did with Japan.

Fallacy of Exclusion: Evidence that would change the outcome of an inductive argument is excluded from consideration: Iraq has an arsenal of weaponry that must be destroyed. (Most of it is of American origin)

Causal Fallacies

Post Hoc: Because one thing follows another, it is held to cause the other:

The attack on the World Trade Center caused the invasion of Afghanistan.

Insignificant: One thing is held to cause another, and it does, but it is insignificant compared to other causes: The collapsing American economy is caused by low consumer confidence. (Rather than over-taxation, and over-regulation)

Missing the Point

Begging the Question: The truth of the conclusion is assumed by the premises:

American values are universal, therefore Arab society will eventually welcome American hegemony.

Straw Man: The author attacks an argument different from (and weaker than) the oppositionís best argument: U.S. military interventions are not a violation of the sovereign status of individual nations, rather they are a safeguard of human rights within those nations.

Fallacies of Ambiguity

Equivocation: The same term is used with two different meanings:

Affirmative Action is the intentional inclusion of members of a group, or alternately, the intentional exclusion of members of a group.

Amphiboly: The structure of a sentence allows two different interpretations.

Presidential Quote: Our goal is not to expand the Government, but to create an agile organization. (We will expand the government, but thatís not the goal.)

By the way, this is the origin of the expression telling a fib.

Category Errors

Composition: Because the attributes of the parts of a whole have a certain property, it is argued that the whole has that property: The American government will benefit from war, thus the American people will benefit from war.

Division: Because the whole has a certain property, it is argued that the parts have that property. Government spending is 40% of gross domestic product, so it claims to create 40% of the wealth. (In fact, the government creates no wealth, it destroys wealth).

Non Sequitur

Denying the Antecedent: Any argument of the form: If A then B, Not A, thus Not B:

If we invade Iraq, democracy will be established. If we donít invade Iraq: the people will be enslaved forever.

Inconsistency: Asserting that contrary or contradictory statements are both true. America is a peace loving country, and we are also the worldís Policeman.

Syllogistic Errors

Fallacy of Drawing an Affirmative Conclusion From a Negative Premise:

All Patriots are American, and some Americans are not Patriots, therefore some Americans are dangerous.

Existential Fallacy: A particular conclusion is drawn from universal premises:

All men desire truth, and some men are dangerous, so some truth is dangerous.

Fallacies of Explanation

Subverted Support, The phenomenon being explained doesnít exist:

Arabs want to destroy America because they hate democracy.

Limited Depth, The theory that explains, does not appeal to underlying causes:

The government is expanding so that it may better serve the needs of the people.

Fallacies of Definition

Circular Definition: The definition includes the term being defined as part of the definition: America is a democracy, because the American people believe in democracy.

Failure to Elucidate: The definition is harder to understand than the term being defined:

The U.S.A. Patriot Act stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to intercept and Obstruct Terrorism

For the full set of fallacies visit:

Modern media tries to make the case that some government agencies may be dishonest, but the government itself is trustworthy. This, of course, is hogwash. Or rather, it is a Category Error, Fallacy of Composition. (I think hogwash sounds better.)

The danger associated with government use of the fallacies is that lying comes at a personal cost to the people who engage in these activities. Like soldiers who develop bloodlust, lying government and media personnel eventually lapse into moral bankruptcy. And moral bankruptcy, as British writer Theodore Dalrywmple has noted, signals the onset of fascism. As evidence, consider the following dark unspoken proposition now coming out of Washington:

Old people: Do you want your social security check and your medicine? Young people: Do you want jobs in the new centrally planned economy? Then shut up. Weíve got some killing to do, and the sooner we get it over with, the better. After we take what we need, there might be something left over for you.

The purpose of this unspoken offer is not merely to buy silence; it is intended to make people feel as if they are morally complicit to a crime. Once you take the money, you are bought and paid for. Our government, which destroyed free enterprise with graft, now enforces the silence of its citizenry with lies and unspoken threats.

The solution to all this, of course, is to tell the truth, and to expect the same of others.

Learn to recognize the fallacies, and get into the habit of spotting them every time you read the news. They are easy to see, if you make the effort. And if you really want to fight, develop a strong moral code based on both logic and faith, and live by it.

January 30, 2003

Ron Liebermann [send him mail] is a contractor and manufacturer of Mylar balloons in Louisville, Ky.

-- andreas
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