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TOK/Philosophy Logic Fallacies


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What does Michael Shermer mean when he says: “Bold statements do not make true claims?”
As you might guess, Shermer means that, obviously, the fact that a claim is stated in bold or grandiose terms by no means affects its truth value, and in fact is usually a red flag signalling pseudoscience. For example, L. Ron Hubbard, the great father of Scientology, opens his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, with the statement: “The creation of Dianetics is a milestone for man comparable ot his discovery of fire and superior to his invention of the wheel and the arch.” Most of us can be fairly certain that this is ridiculous, and that Dianetics is in fact based largely if not completely upon psuedoscience.
Explain the phenomenon of “Ideological Immunity” AKA “The Planck Problem.”
This phenomenon was named after Max Planck, who formulated the problem as follows:

“An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by graduallly winning over and converting its opponents; it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.”

Thus, “ideological immunity” denotes the tendency of people, especially scientists, who are knowledgeable and whose theories rest upon a large amount of evidence, to become reluctant to consider and accept new claims, regardless of their merit. Thus, as Planck says, scientific revolutions often take place over a long period of time, and the new view is not fully accepted until adherents to the orthodox viewpoint have become extinct. In fact, in a study by psychologist David Perkins, a high negative correlation was observed between intelligence and ability to consider new ideas. So though you may have good reasons for accepting a viewpoint, you should by no means close your mind to new ideas, as they may have greater merit.
What is after the fact reasoning?
Otherwise known as ergo propter hoc, after the fact reasoning relies on coincidences. Although it is related to causation fallacy (after this, therefore because of this) it is not the same. At the lowest level it is a form of superstition. Just because the poker player happens to win both times he wears his lucky socks, does not mean that wearing his lucky socks causes him to win. Scientific studies can subtly succumb to this fallacy. The 1993 study finding that breast fed babies eventually have higher IQs than other babies led some to assume that breast milk held some sort of magic ingredient that increased intelligence. This assumption looked over the potential variance in amount of attention paid to breast fed babies by their mothers.
What does Michael Shermer mean by, "Rumors do not equal reality"?
One fallacy of thinking is believing something because you read or heard it somewhere. A rumor is a circulated story or statement that has not been confirmed or shown to be certain by fact. Rumors often seem like reality to some individuals as they are passed from person to person, and in some cases rumors are true. However, the majority of rumors is false and does not represent reality or truth, especially since they have not been proven through verifiable evidence.
Ex): Mr. A will award 100 points extra credit to anyone who shaves their head and joins a cult.
Ex): Shampoo is named thus, because it contains canine excrement.
Explain the phrase: “the unexplained is not inexplicable”
This basically means that just because a person cannot explain how something happens does not mean that there is not a simple or logical explanation for the phenomena. An example of this could be with magic tricks. While an illusion appears to defy logical explanations, it does not have to be supernatural or magic. Usually there is a very simple explanation to how the trick is performed.
What is the problem with Coincidences?
When two things happen simultaneously, or one even happens to follow another, we often connect the two, claiming causation is apparent, or that it's due to paranormal forces, when really it's more likely the result of pure probability, or no relationship at all.

At some point in your life, your horoscope will be right. It is probably a coincidence or probability or due to their extreme vagueness, but if you only remember when they are correct, you become a victim of confimation bias, where you only remember the coincidences that back up your beliefs.
What is a Straw Person?
One who attributes to one's opponent's ridiculous position that he/she does not hold, and that is easily knocked down (like a person made of straw). This person exaggerates, oversimplifies, or distorts other view, and sets themself up as an easy target. Frequently used in political rhetoric as well as commercial ads. A straw person is easily identified. Sister fallacy: Poisoning the well.

Ex. Stacy says she is as tolerant of teenagers as the next person, but when the kids next door are partying so loud at 8pm and she can hear it from her porch, she finds it necessary to call the police for neighborhood disturbance.
Why does Shermer consider it a fallacy that "Equipment constructs results"?
The problem with this line of thinking is that there is an assumption made that anything not within the scope of the equipment that can be detected does not exist. For example, if one looks at a drop of water through a microscope, to assume that whatever lies outside of the view does not exist is a fallacy.
Why does Shermer claim that overreliance on authority is a fallacy?
This is a fallacy because even though authorities have a higher probability of being right, due to their expertise, but their claims should not be instantly upheld as fact, nor does it allow them to jump to conclusions in areas outside their expertise. An common example of this fallacy is "because _________ told me so."
Heresy Does Not Equal Correctness
We get the idea that heresy might equal correctness from studying historical figures like Columbus or Galileo who went against the “common knowledge” of their times to pursue ideas that are now commonly accepted as true. From those instances, we may be tempted to believe that many ideas that go against our “common knowledge,” are from “experts” and for which the heretic is willing to make great sacrifices, may have significant truth potential. However, not all heretics are correct. Each idea must undergo a series of peer review-type examinations and stand up under each appropriate test.
Argument from Authority
Argument from authority is a logic fallacy that is committed when we argue for a point because of the authority of the person who presented it, rather than because it is logical.

For example, we all know Ludacris is a credible and authoritative rapper. However, lyrics in his hit single “Move B****” go as follows.
“I'm doin' a hundred on the highway
So if you do the speed limit, get the **** outta my way
I'm D.U.I., hardly ever caught sober
and you about to get ran the **** over”
Clearly, in this case Luda is not setting a good example for his young and impressionable listeners so even though his claims are coming from “authority” people should not take his advise and act in the manner described in his songs. If they did, they would be victims of the logic fallacy of argument from authority.
Complex Question
A single question that actually contains several others, such that answering the first question entails a number of different admissions.

Ex: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”
Answering this question at all proves that the defendant has, in fact, beaten his wife at some point. The hidden question is: “Do you or have you ever beaten your wife?”

Another form of complex question occurs when one question includes several terms and asks for a single answer.

Ex: “Isn’t Mr. Andersen intuitive and spastic?”
To answer a question like this, one may want to divide the terms and answer them separately.
The “Accident” fallacy is when a general rule is applied in a situation that seems to warrant an exception.

For example, the sign says “NO running at the pool,” so therefore you should not run at the pool even if a man with a knife is trying to kill you. Recognizing this fallacy involves recognizing the generalization in the rule, arguing that there are exceptions to this rule, and that the specific situation is one of those exceptions.
Ad Hominem
Also known as “against the man” or “against the person”.
Definition: Attacking the person making the argument rather than the argument. A text book definition is “a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting).” (Nizkor)

Why it’s a fallacy: The character of a person should have nothing to do with the argument. Ad hominem is relevant when the character of a person is irrelevant.

• Henry: “I believe that physician assisted suicide is morally wrong.”
• Joe: “Yeah, you would. You’re Catholic.”
• Henry: “What does that have to do with anything; didn’t you take into account any of the arguments I made that justify why I think this way?”
• Joe: “Like your arguments matter. The only reason you support those arguments is because you’re Catholic, and because you’re Catholic, you’re only going to believe what the church tells you to believe”.
Ad ignorantiam
Also known as “Arguing from Ignorance”.
Claiming something is true because it cannot be proved to be false.
Ex. Claiming that cavemen had blue skin because there is no evidence to show that they did not have blue skin.

It allows a person to make a claim without any supporting evidence and is based on the uncertainty knowledge issue. If something is not known then the fallacy says it could be true.
Affirming the Consequent
Affirming the Consequent is one of the common ways to mess up deductive logic. The deductive argument looks like this:
• A
However, Affirming the Consequent is the idea that all arguments of the following form are invalid:
• B
In other words, deduction only works one way. This seems like a simple one to spot: but it usually works with a complex causal chain. For example, the following example is invalid:
Philosophy teachers assign heavy homework loads to students.
I have a heavy homework load.
Therefore, I take Philosophy.
This does not work because there is more than that one possible cause of having a heavy homework load.
A good way to challenge these arguments is to try and find an alternative cause of B other than A. This way you don’t come off as a shell-shocked philosophy student, dazed and confused, clinging to your logic fallacy guns because you didn’t remember anything constructive about philosophy.
Appeal to Popularity
A proposition is held to be true because society or parts of the population hold it to be true. This can also be an appeal to emotion because emotion can help convince a population

Example: Everybody knows that fruit is good for you, so why don’t you eat fruit everyday?
Appeal to Force
Also known as argumentum ad baculum.
Definition: The person is intimidated with unpleasant consequences should they not agree with the author

Example: You had better agree that the new company policy is the best if you expect to keep your job
Begging the Question
Definition: a circular argument in which one already assumes the point that they are trying to prove. They assume the conclusion is true by using basing the premises off of it.

Example: Someone asks a man why he loves his wife. He replies that he loves her because she is the mother of his children. When asked why she had his children he says because he loved her.
Circular Reasoning
Also known as begging the question.
Definition: Circular reasoning occurs when one assumes the truth of what one is supposed to be proving. In this logic fallacy, what at first sight looks to be an argument, turns out to be nothing more than a reassertion of the original position.

Example 1: I know that Jesus was the Son of God because he said he was, and the Son of God would not lie.
Explanation: The speaker assumes that Jesus was the Son of God in order to justify what s/he is trying to prove –that Jesus is in fact that Son of God.
Converse Accidents
The fallacy of considering certain exceptional cases and generalizing to a rule that fits them alone.
Examples: 1. Dennis Rodman wears earrings and is an excellent rebounder.
Therefore, people who wear earrings are excellent rebounders.
2. That teenager just ran a red light.
All teenagers are poor drivers.
Fallacy of Exclusive Premises
A standard form categorical syllogism that has two negative premises (a negative premise is any premise of the form 'No S are P' or 'Some S is not P')

Ex. No Manitobans are Americans, and no Americans are Canadians, therefore, no Manitobans are Canadians. (In fact, since Manitoba is a province of Canada, all Manitobans are Canadians)

Ex. No presidents are TOK students, and no TOK students are deceitful, therefore, no presidents are deceitful.
False Analogy
in an analogy, two objects (or events), A and B are shown to be similar. Then it is argued that since A has property P, so also B must have property P. An analogy fails when the two objects, A and B, are different in a way which affects whether they both have property P.
i. Employees are like nails. Just as nails must be hit in the head in order to make them work, so must employees.
ii. Pizza is like having sex. No matter how bad it is, it is still good.
iii. Alcohol and cell phones both impair one’s driving ability and cannot be used while driving. Alcohol cannot be used until the age of 21, so to cell phones shouldn’t be used until the age of 21.
False Dilemma
Also known as False Dichotomy
A false dilemma (also known as a false dichotomy) is a situation presented where an individual is forced to chose between two options when in fact there is at least one other option, if not more options. It is often used in conversation when a person says a situation is “black and white” one can only chose black or white where in fact in many situations there is a “gray area”.

An example of a false dilemma would be: In the after life one either goes to hell or heaven. In this situation presented there are only two options, when in fact there are an infinite number of choices, for example, nothing happens.
Gambler’s Fallacy
Also known as “the maturity of the chances”.
“The gambler’s fallacy is another important mistake to notice because it can trap people in the cycle of hope and desperation.”

Definition: Based on the prevalence of a certain appearance, an occurrence is thought to have an inaccurate probability of occurring.
Example from Common Mistakes in Thinking: Suppose a game is played where a coin is flipped and players bet on heads and tails. If heads is flipped five times in a row a player would most likely bet on tails since the record of five heads flipped in a row suggests that tails must come up since they haven’t in a while. “The maturity of chances suggests there is a greater chance for tails to come up.” One must bear in mind that at each toss there is equal chance for a head or tail, “the coin has neither memory nor consciousness”.
Personal example: Suppose I am playing charades with a group of friends. All three of us write down two events that can be acted out. On her turn, each person draws a card then returns the card to the hat. Now let us suppose that my two friends went before me and each one drew one of my cards. My tendency might be to assume that since both of my cards have been drawn, I won’t draw one of my cards. However, I have the same chance of drawing one of my cards as I have of drawing one of my friends’ cards.
Hasty Generalization
“Hasty generalization is a logical fallacy of faulty generalization by reaching an inductive generalization based on insufficient evidence. It commonly involves basing a broad conclusion upon the statistics of a survey of a small group that fails to sufficiently represent the whole population”

fallacy of insufficient statistics, fallacy of insufficient sample, fallacy of the lonely fact, generalization from the particular, leaping to a conclusion, hasty induction, law of small numbers, unrepresentative sample, and secundum quid

1) Shazaer is Pakistani. He has black hair. Therefore all Pakistanis have black hair.
2) Wei Chun wrote a TOK logic fallacy example about Sang Jin eating lard sandwiches. Wei Chun is Taiwanese. Therefore, all Taiwanese people write a TOK logic fallacy example about Sang Jin eating lard sandwiches.
Illicit Major
Definition: An illicit major falls in the category of syllogistic fallacies. This logic fallacy is one in which the conclusion is invalid because it contains a major term that is not distributed in the major premise. In the most basic illicit major, the reasoning uses words such as “no” or “all” in order to prove a point through false validity.

Example: All children love snowball fights.
No adults are children.
Therefore, no adults love snowball fights.
The assertion that multiple propositions are all true when the natures of two or more of the propositions are contradictory.

Ex: Kathy is an artist. Kathy does not like to use paint in her artwork. Kathy’s favorite medium for her artwork is oil on canvas.
Loaded question
Also known as a complex question
Definition: A question with a biased built in assumption that one cannot answer directly with yes or no without implying a falsehood.

For example the question “Do you always come to school dances drunk?” If you answered yes that implies that you always come to school dances drunk, however if you answered no that would imply that you only sometimes come to school dances drunk. In order to avoid a false implication in your answer you have to rephrase and clarify to challenge the assumption. In the example you would have to say “No I never go to school dances drunk” to avoid the false assumption.
Non Sequitur
Definition: An argument where the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises. It literally means “it does not follow” in Latin. The conclusion may be true or false, but the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises.

1. If you buy Coors beer, attractive models will be more attracted to you.
2. If you own a PC, you are a boring, and uncreative person who only likes to work on spreadsheets.
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
This Logic Fallacy is the assumption that because on thing, B, follows another thing, A, then A must be the cause of B.

Example 1:
Just because the murder rate in a country goes up after the abolition of capital punishment, it does not necessarily follow that capital punishment is an effective deterrent.

Example 2: Obama claims that George W. Bush is the cause of our recent recession. But just because the recession has followed his two terms as President, does not necessarily mean that his decisions in office have caused the recession. It is well-known that economies of our size are extremely slow moving. The cause of this recession could date as far back as George Bush 42 or even earlier.
Prejudicial Language
Definition: Loaded or emotive terms are used to attach value or moral goodness to believing the proposition.
1) A reasonable person would agree that our income statement is too low. [On the contrary, disagreeing with this conclusion does not make a person unreasonable.]
2) An experienced political candidate in foreign policy would see that invading Iraq was a poor decision. [This statement implies that an inexperienced political candidate saw invading Iraq as a good choice, however deciding to invade Iraq does not make a political candidate inexperienced.]
Reductio ad Hitlerum
Also known as “argumentum ad Hitlerum,” “argumentum ad Nazium,” “reductio ad Nazium,” and “playing the Nazi card.” Reductio ad Hitlerum is a logical fallacy where an argument is discredited if it relates in any way to ideals held by Adolf Hitler and/or Nazism – a form of guilt by association. Playing the Nazi card demonizes the opponent in a debate and can often derail the discussion.

An example of reductio ad Hitlerum is: The Nazis favored euthanasia. Therefore, euthanasia is wrong.
Slippery Slope
Definition: In order to show that a proposition P is unacceptable, a sequence of increasingly unacceptable events is shown to
follow from P. A slippery slope is an illegitimate use of the"if-
then" operator.
Examples: (i) If we pass laws against fully-automatic weapons, then it
won't be long before we pass laws on all weapons, and then
we will begin to restrict other rights, and finally we will end
up living in a communist state. Thus, we should not ban
fully-automatic weapons.
(ii) You should never gamble. Once you start gambling you
find it hard to stop. Soon you are spending all your money
on gambling, and eventually you will turn to crime to
support your earnings.
(iii) If I make an exception for you then I have to make an
exception for everyone.
Proof: Identify the proposition P being refuted and identify the final
event in the series of events. Then show that this final event
need not occur as a consequence of P.
Special Pleading
The Special Pleading Fallacy follows the form:
Established Rule: X’s are generally Y’s
x is an X.
x is an exception to the rule because it is an I (I is an irrelevant characteristic).
Therefore, x is not a Y.

Special Pleading often involves an established rule being argued to be not applicable due to a certain exception; however the exception argued is irrelevant and would be setting a ‘double standard.’
Personal Example:
One day Sang is at a party, and upon arriving, he is told by the host that there are only enough lard sandwiches to go around for each person to have exactly one sandwich. Sang has always loved lard sandwiches and cannot resist the temptation of eating lard sandwiches. Sang responds to the host:
“But I should be allowed to eat as many lard sandwiches as I feel I need to, because I am Korean and it would be racial discrimination if you do not let me eat those lard sandwiches.”
Style over Substance
The manner in which an argument (or arguer) is presented is taken to affect the likelihood that the conclusion is true. While it is true that the manner in which an argument is presented will affect whether people believe that its conclusion is true, nonetheless, the truth of the conclusion does not depend on the manner in which the argument is presented. In order to show that this fallacy is being committed, show that the style in this case does not affect the truth or falsity of the conclusion. This logic fallacy is often employed as an ad hominem argument because it attacks a person rather than addressing the argument itself
1) Nixon lost the presidential debate because of the sweat on his forehead.
2) Trudeau knows how to move a crowd. He must be right.
3) Why don't you take the advice of that nicely dressed young man?
4) He uses elegant language so his argument must be sound.
5) That man doesn’t know anything about politics because he is homeless.
Definition: the ambiguous use of a term in which the word(s) services multiple meanings.
Example #1: All banks are beside rivers. Therefore, the financial institution where I deposit my money is beside a river.
Example #2: The right path is always the best path to take. Therefore, when one is at a fork in the road, it is always best to turn right.
Example #3: “Who’s On First” By Abbott and Costello [edited]
Abbott: I say, Who’s on first, What’s on second, and I Don’t Know’s on third.
Costello: Well then who is on first?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: I mean the fellow’s name.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The guy on first.
Abbott: Who.
Costello: The first baseman.
Abbott: Who!
Poisoning the Well
The Logic Fallacy “Poisoning the Well” is when one side in an argument is placed in a position where it cannot refute the other without discrediting itself. A person does this by making the position immoral or illogical for any person examining the argument.
An example is that “Everyone that feels Mr. Anderson gives too much homework is a slacker and procrastinates and is therefore part of the problem.” In this argument, one cannot attack the idea that Anderson gives too much homework with out looking like the problem that they are trying to attack. Surrender, Anderson has defeated you yet again, you slacker!!
Complex Cause Fallacy
Definition: A complex cause fallacy is when only part of the cause is pointed out in bringing about the effect.
Example: The Boston Red Sox lost the American League Championship Series solely because of their pitching. (There were several other factors that led to their loss, but their pitching was the only highlighted cause)
Undistributed Middle
Definition: The middle term in the premises of a standard form categorical syllogism never refers to all of the members of the category it describes. Thus, two separate categories are said to be connected because they share a common property.
Examples: All trespassers are shot, and someone was shot, therefore, someone was a trespasser.
My example- Kings wear crowns, and the man is wearing a crown, therefore, the man is a king.
Unrepresentative Sample
Definition: The sample is unrepresentative of the sample as a whole.
Example: 1. The apples on the top of the box look good. The entire box of apples must be good.
2. I met three baseball players that don’t like the color red, therefore all baseball players don’t like the color red.
*Unrepresentative sample is a type of inductive fallacy that is similar to hasty generalization.
When a theory cannot be tested either because it is lacking in actual predictions, or because the predictions that were made would occur whether or not the theory is true.

An example of this is the theory that the universe exists because God created it. Although this may be true, it can’t possibly be tested because 1) there are no predictions, and 2) no evidence could be used to disprove it because according to the theory, God would have created the evidence.

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