Critical Thinking for Addiction Professionals

By Michael J. Taleff | Go to book overview

(place your own favorite model here) of alcoholism is the best explanation of alcoholism dynamics because it is superior to all others” has just begged the question. The claim has not come from a true argument, but from the premises just stated. Similar examples include the “fact” that alcoholism has to be a habit, moral failing, and so forth, because “that is what it really is,” and that's the way I want the answer to the question of “what is addiction?” to turn out. These fallacies are redundant, circular, and really say nothing.

Gambrill (1990) notes several variations to begging the question. One involves claiming something is obvious and certain without any evidence (e.g., “It is a well accepted fact that ‘X’ brand of therapy works best”). Another uses emotionally loaded words to influence an unsuspecting recipient (e.g., “I feel with all my heart and soul,” or “the moral model of addiction towers above all others in accuracy and truth”). Another uses the ploy of altering a definition rather than admit to a counterexample. The classic illustration is that alcoholics who return to social drinking were never alcoholics to begin with.

To engage this fallacy critically, point out the circular argument and ask the person who made it to present data to support his/her conclusion.


False Dichotomy

Either the client in question is an alcoholic or not. Have you ever heard that statement? If you have and you responded with one of the two options, then you fell for the false dichotomy, either-or fallacy.

This fallacy presumes that there are only two possibilities for a certain condition when in fact there may be many. Getting used to the idea of many possibilities for a certain conclusion or outcome is a difficult one to shed because humans naturally seem to think only in dichotomies not in many possibilities (Kerlinger, 1986). So, the false dichotomy is a potent fallacy. Those who use it often secretly prefer one alternative and delude you into agreeing with their position. If you don't agree, you can usually expect to be attacked by another set of fallacies.

The problem with the either/or fallacy is that the options are insufficient. To assume that the complex problem of addiction can be reduced to just two possibilities is just plain wrong.

-106-

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