Fallacies of Logic: Argumentation Cons

By Shapiro, Irving David | ETC.: A Review of General Semantics, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Fallacies of Logic: Argumentation Cons


Shapiro, Irving David, ETC.: A Review of General Semantics


Introduction

NOWHERE, perhaps, can you be more easily conned than during an argument or discussion. You've taken a position on an issue, which you've thoroughly thought through. You have supporting data at your fingertips. You're a quick thinker and articulate. You unfold your argument in logical steps. Yet somehow you don't seem to be getting anywhere. The other guy keeps coming back with statements and questions that seem to be relevant, that seem to make sense. And yet somehow they're neither relevant, nor do they make sense. You become confused, frustrated, angry. What's wrong? The explanation may be simple--you're being conned.

Using con tactics to win an argument was raised to a high level of skill in Athens, in the Fifth Century, BC. It constituted the core of study at a school of philosophers called the Sophists. The school's faculty concentrated on teaching young Greeks how to win arguments and debates at any price, even if it included faulty reasoning, deception, trickery, or whatever was necessary as long as the opponent was not able to discern the difference between sound and specious argumentation.

What's happening is that your opponent is using what are commonly known as fallacies of logic.

There are lots of these fallacies. Here are just a few of them.

The con of over-generalizing

This con is common, seductive, and dangerous. Its Latin name is secundum quid, meaning "in some one respect only." It involves assigning a characteristic to an entire group on the basis of only one or two observations. For example: A politician is convicted of taking a bribe, therefore, all politicians are crooked; one malingering black person, and all black people are malingerers; one cowardly Italian, and all Italians are cowards; one drunken Irishman, and all Irishmen are drunkards; one grasping Jew, and all Jews are grasping; one welfare cheat, and everyone on welfare is a cheat; and so on.

To avoid being taken in by this con, always keep in mind that "One swallow a summer does not make."

The "thin entering wedge" con

The next con is very similar to the previous one in that it also reflects over-generalizing. The major difference between the two is that the former deals with observations that lie in the past or present, and the "thin entering wedge" con (also known as the "camel's nose in the tent" fallacy or the "give him a finger and he'll take the whole hand" fallacy) deals with projecting present or past observations into the future.

Here are some examples:

* If the Democrats regain control of the White House, they will spend the nation into bankruptcy.

* If the Republicans maintain control of the White House, the U.S. will know only bread lines all over the country.

* If we grant this request for a variance so that the developers will be allowed to build a high rise apartment house, our city will look like mid-Manhattan in five years.

* If we ban the possession of hand guns, we'll end up like Russia.

The con is illogical, because it completely ignores the vast number of possible outcomes that could follow a specific event, and focuses on only one with total certainty. But it is also vicious, because it puts you in a very difficult position if a con man uses it. All you can do in return is make the observation that this enormous leap into the future will most probably not take place.

If the argument or discussion is taking place before onlookers, which of the two antagonists will prevail, if one uses this con, will depend to a great degree upon how clearly and rationally the audience is thinking at the time. If it is emotionally detached, the intended victim will be favored. However, if the listeners are passionate about the subject of the debate, it's just about all over for the one at whom the attack is directed.

The "ignoring the issue and attacking the opponent personally" con

The Latin name for this con is ad hominem meaning "to the man. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Fallacies of Logic: Argumentation Cons
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.