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Old 25th July 2013, 06:17 PM   #1
Natural Born Skeptic
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Name this Logical Fallacy - An Ongoing Discussion Dedicated to Fallacies

I thought it might be fun to have an ongoing thread where we post examples of statements, often from other threads here, and discuss whether they are a fallacy, and if so what fallacy. This is an area I would like to improve at, I often recognize fallacious statements, but am not sure which fallacy they best represent.

I politely request that we use this thread to only discuss whether the statement itself is a fallacy, not the subject of the statement. With that said, I will start, this is a statement someone made to be before the verdict came though in the George Zimmerman trial. I recognized it as an obvious fallacy, but was not sure which one it best represented.

Quote:
A not guilty verdict would presume the jury thinks chasing a black kid down and shooting him is self-defense.

Argument by assertion? False dichotomy? Some other?

BTW, I could not really find a good forum to put this into so I put it here.

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Old 25th July 2013, 06:35 PM   #2
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That can be classified as a clumsy attempt at begging the question. The conclusion ("self defense") is restricted to it's predicate ("the jury thinks chasing down a black kid and shooting him"). The jury could have as easily concluded that "chasing down a black kid and shooting him" was murder but did not conclude that was the case. It's also an appeal to emotion, since "black" and "kid" aren't usually elements for jury to consider for the generic crime of murder.
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Old 25th July 2013, 07:46 PM   #3
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Don't you think this belongs in General Skepticism given the topic?
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Old 25th July 2013, 07:58 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by tyr_13 View Post
Don't you think this belongs in General Skepticism given the topic?
OK, I give up. Loaded Question?

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Old 25th July 2013, 08:15 PM   #5
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False dichotomy. The assumption is that there are two options in the USA's legal system: guilt or innocence. This is not true. There's also "not guilty"--which can mean anything from "innocent" to "guilty as sin, but we can't prove it". It was specifically designed that way--only those guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, as defined by the jury of one's peers selected for the trial, can be found guilty. I'm not sure of the criteria for finding someone innocent, but I do know that reasonable doubt is all that is necessary to return a "not guilty" verdict.
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Old 28th July 2013, 08:12 AM   #6
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It's a straw man.

The jury were only saying that the prosecution hadn't proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The statement "the jury thinks chasing a black kid down and shooting him is self-defense" is clearly a highly distorted ridiculous and more easily refuted version than what they were actually saying. Classic straw man.
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Old 28th July 2013, 12:29 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by RichardR View Post
It's a straw man.

The jury were only saying that the prosecution hadn't proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The statement "the jury thinks chasing a black kid down and shooting him is self-defense" is clearly a highly distorted ridiculous and more easily refuted version than what they were actually saying. Classic straw man.
I'm going to second this... the statement as written does not represent the jury's findings. Zimmerman's story (true or not) was that Martin attacked him, and therefore the claim of self defense. At no time did the jury think 'chasing a kid down and shooting him' was self defense.
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Old 29th July 2013, 07:10 PM   #8
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Posts deleted?

Anyone know hat happened to the several posts from someone who thought that logical fallacies are more often than not incorrectly called, and the ones of people disagreeing?
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Old 29th July 2013, 09:37 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by RichardR View Post
Anyone know hat happened to the several posts from someone who thought that logical fallacies are more often than not incorrectly called, and the ones of people disagreeing?
There were some moved to AAH
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Old 30th July 2013, 10:10 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by RichardR View Post
It's a straw man.

The jury were only saying that the prosecution hadn't proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The statement "the jury thinks chasing a black kid down and shooting him is self-defense" is clearly a highly distorted ridiculous and more easily refuted version than what they were actually saying. Classic straw man.
The thing is, it's not a straw man in that case--again, they're equating "not guilty" with "innocent", which makes it a false dichotomy. I suppose a false dichotomy can be considered a special case of the straw man fallacy, but it provides a bit more specifics as to the logical errors. It's not JUST that they're making up some argument that's easier to deal with than the real one--they're making a specific and common type of argument.

That said, I do believe we're dealing with multiple fallacies here. The version of the case presented is a straw man, and the interpretation of the verdict is a false dichotomy based on the straw man.
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Old 5th August 2013, 08:22 AM   #11
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I hope to be able to follow this enough to learn from this thread. I know the basics of some fallacies and I want to become better at identifying them. Some confuse me a little, and when I go to an Easy Chart to identify them, sometimes I see more than one that fits.

That said, I thought that this was a straw man, too, just given the sentence in itself. "Chasing a black kid and shooting him is self defense" smacks of Straw Man to me because it looks as if someone is trying to take away the big picture and have people focus on just that bit of it.

Now, in the entire picture, I would say is a false dichotomy. But, as Dinwar just said, I can see multiple fallacies in the whole thing.
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Old 5th August 2013, 08:26 AM   #12
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I remember a line from the old show called "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman." In it, the main character was trying to convince the townsfolk to follow her in some action to protect a black person in town.

She asked them, "What side of the war were you on? The North or the South?"

When the people said, "The North," she said, "Then that means we are all Abolitionists!"

I know that that was not the case. Many people were for the Union to keep the country united and did not necessarily care much about slavery. Others did. So, is that the "Broad Brush" fallacy? Or, if that is not the official name, I think you all know what I mean.
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Old 6th August 2013, 01:28 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Minarvia View Post
When the people said, "The North," she said, "Then that means we are all Abolitionists!"
Sweeping generalization.
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Old 6th August 2013, 01:36 AM   #14
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I don't think 'straw man' is a logical fallacy. It is a rhetorical device used to attack a position the other guy has not maintained. I would call the argument in the OP a false and/or unjustified inference (as well as a poor use of English since the verb should be 'suggest' or 'indicate', not 'presume').
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Old 6th August 2013, 04:43 AM   #15
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Quote:
A not guilty verdict would presume the jury thinks chasing a black kid down and shooting him is self-defense.
A straw-man argument.

Because they are creating a false caricature of what the jury most likely thinks.
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Old 6th August 2013, 09:05 AM   #16
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What about this one from a new thread opened today. The OP asks whether we should defend matter

Originally Posted by !Kaggen
Jack Turner's essay " The Abstract Wild: A Rant" asks us to embrace matter with our emotions, not just through tolerant abstraction.

https://catalyst.uw.edu/workspace/fi...d983725a3055ea

Has the tolerant abstraction of modernity succeeded in defending matter?

Is it not time to get passionate about matter?
When it is pointed out that matter does not need defending he continues

Quote:
Biological matter certainly needs defending from human thought.
Rhino's for instance are being murdered for their horns to satisfy the human thought that eating their horns will make you a better lover.
When it is pointed out this is an argument for protecting rhinos rather than matter, he responds:

Quote:
Are Rhino's not matter?
I thought this might be a category mistake but I looked that up and found out it wasn't. Rhinos are matter and they need protection but the OP was suggesting that matter per se needed protection, whether it had assumed the form of a rhino or a rock or a distant star.

Name this fallacy.
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Old 6th August 2013, 11:16 AM   #17
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Okay, I'm not good at fallacy naming at all, and that's why I am loving this thread. I need for now to concentrate on the simpler thing; the rhino part. That said, in the above matter with the Rhino, I would say that it could be -

Straw Man - creating the idea that the entire rhino needs protecting when it is their horn that are really the crux of the matter. I'd just think catch and release and take their horns and leave them alive. Still, isn't the Rhinos are Matter a Straw Man/Rhino?

Shifting the Goal Posts - taking one argument and then broadening it from what it originally was, ie moving from killing rhinos for their horns to matter should be protected and then since rhinos are matter it is now totally beyond what the original rhino argument was? But that last part I wrote sounds like a circle back to Straw Man. >_<
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Old 6th August 2013, 11:27 AM   #18
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I'm sorry but the rhino thing is not a straw man. Do people here know what a straw man argument is?
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Old 6th August 2013, 12:55 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
I'm sorry but the rhino thing is not a straw man. Do people here know what a straw man argument is?
I thought I did - probably. That is why I'm asking. Just when I think I DO know then an example comes up and I'm not positive.

How about this?

"I hate when dogs pee on the kitchen floor!"

"Oh, so you hate dogs?"

"But you said that you hate when the pee on the kitchen floor!"

"But I didn't say I hate DOGS! I just hate when they pee on the kitchen floor!"

And on and on. I've had conversations like this (unfortunately) pretty often with a friend of mine. I think it's either a Straw Man or a...false dichotomy?
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Old 6th August 2013, 01:39 PM   #20
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Minarvia

A straw man is just that - a straw man. Clear?. I mean it really is. You are arguing with someone, right? Rather than take you on, they build a straw man and start attacking that instead. IOW they dispute a point you never made.

You dog pee idea is correct but the rhino one isn't. In the rhino case the person who said matter needed protection did not have a false position attributed to him. He tried to shift his position from:

all matter per se (atoms, molecules, mountains, everything) needs protection

to

some matter, organised into vulnerable things like rhinos, needs protection

Nobody erected anything made of straw, literally or figuratively.
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Old 6th August 2013, 01:59 PM   #21
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Well, when you put it like that... Lol!

I guess I made that one much more difficult than it was. So, now I think I really do understand the Straw Man. And the Broad Generalization. And the "begging the question," I think.

Even here some people are always entirely certain, and I'm beginning to see that identifying the fallacy isn't always easy given the context, especially when a conversation or a debate gets lengthy.

But one of the most common examples everywhere is the - "If we don't know how X is/was done, then what was it? Wouldn't it be God?" Begging the Question, I believe. I hope I phrased that correctly.

All right, how about something that happens in everyday life quite often. Something like this -

"I play Second Life and I got expelled from the Church!" (I swear this is not ME but a friend!)

"Oh? Donna, who expelled you?"

"I can't believe that just because I was telling someone there to stop trying to talk up Bobby I got kicked out!"

"But who exactly expelled you?"

"I can't even go anywhere near there without being harassed!"

"But WHO expelled you?"

"Well, no-one, really. I just don't think I should go there anymore."

I see this all the time, and lots of time on TV when someone is asked a question. They don't answer it; they evade.

Is this some sort of logical fallacy, or not because it is not really a position in an argument, but rather general conversation.

BTW, everyone, thank you for your patience. I've always DREADED trying identify fallacies. I've found it rather tricky.
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Old 6th August 2013, 02:00 PM   #22
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Deleted. Duplicate post.
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Old 6th August 2013, 02:14 PM   #23
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LOL. I think we need to deal with 'begging the question' too because I'm not sure you have that either. I should say I really dislike the expression as I find it not at all clear. I think I know what it means but I don't know why anyone would call it that. It's also called (even more unhelpfully) petitio principii.

Begging the question means constructing an argument in which the conclusion is also used as a premise. The best example I can think of right now arises in the Amanda Knox murder case. In that case a witness called Curatolo claims he saw Knox and her boyfriend in a piazza on the night of the murder at a time when they claimed to be at his place. However, at trial he said he also saw 'disco buses' that same night. Now, it was established that there were disco buses the night before but not on the night in question. The prosecution argued that since it was known for certain where they were the night before, so they could not possibly have been in the square that night, it followed that Curatolo must have seen them on the night of the crime.

Complicated.

But, the prosecution argument contains a fallacy which emerges more clearly like this:

Curatolo saw them on 31 Oct or 01 Nov
We know he cannot have seen them on 31 Oct
Therefore he saw them on 01 Nov.

Begging the question: did he see them at all?
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Old 6th August 2013, 02:24 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
LOL. I think we need to deal with 'begging the question' too because I'm not sure you have that either. I should say I really dislike the expression as I find it not at all clear. I think I know what it means but I don't know why anyone would call it that. It's also called (even more unhelpfully) petitio principii.

Begging the question means constructing an argument in which the conclusion is also used as a premise. The best example I can think of right now arises in the Amanda Knox murder case.

(Abbreviated) ---

Complicated.

But, the prosecution argument contains a fallacy which emerges more clearly like this:

Curatolo saw them on 31 Oct or 01 Nov
We know he cannot have seen them on 31 Oct
Therefore he saw them on 01 Nov.

Begging the question: did he see them at all?
I do think I'm getting it. It's like that word that is on the tip of your tongue but you can't quite grasp it at the moment. But I'm on the verge! I definitely follow your example.

Yes, this one is awful and tricky. Your example is really quite good.

As for the "God Arguments" maybe it is more like this -

"God created the Universe!"

"Well, I wouldn't say that. With the help of scientific study we cannot see any gods and what we do see does not require any."

"But can you prove exactly what happened at the PRECISE moment of the so-called Big Bang?"

"Well, not exactly, but..."

"See! Then why can't it be God?"

Okay...hesitating to hit the "Submit Reply" button!
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Old 6th August 2013, 02:26 PM   #25
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Oh, goodness, Natural Born Skeptic, am I hijacking your thread? Okay, I'll admit I'm not too bad at forum etiquette, but I do slip up now and again.
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Old 6th August 2013, 02:31 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
I don't think 'straw man' is a logical fallacy. It is a rhetorical device used to attack a position the other guy has not maintained. I would call the argument in the OP a false and/or unjustified inference (as well as a poor use of English since the verb should be 'suggest' or 'indicate', not 'presume').
It's both.
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Old 6th August 2013, 02:42 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by John Jones View Post
It's both.
Help me out then. What is the straw man position in the OP example?
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Old 6th August 2013, 02:59 PM   #28
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Original quote -

A not guilty verdict would presume the jury thinks chasing a black kid down and shooting him is self-defense.

If I am reasoning this correctly, I think people call this a Straw Man because the statement includes the person's ethnicity, in this case, black. So, if he was not black, then the verdict could easily have been guilty. But if the person is black, then it must be all right to shoot him; thus the not guilty.

Ack...this sounds like a cross between building a straw man out of "race" and equaling that to either guilty or not guilty.

Taking the risk again to try this out for understanding.
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Old 6th August 2013, 03:06 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
Help me out then. What is the straw man position in the OP example?
I was disputing this claim of yours:
Quote:
I don't think 'straw man' is a logical fallacy. It is a rhetorical device used to attack a position the other guy has not maintained.
A straw man IS both a logical fallacy, and a rhetorical device used to attack a position the other guy has not maintained.
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Old 6th August 2013, 05:15 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by John Jones View Post
I was disputing this claim of yours:


A straw man IS both a logical fallacy, and a rhetorical device used to attack a position the other guy has not maintained.
I see. That is not very illuminating. Why is a straw man (argument) a logical fallacy?
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Old 7th August 2013, 11:10 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by anglolawyer View Post
I see. That is not very illuminating. Why is a straw man (argument) a logical fallacy?
Is this serious?

How can presenting an argument no one's making, showing the argument is flawed, and then claiming to have defeated a completely different argument NOT a fallacy? The specific error in logic is the last bit.

I've learned you like to quibble about language to the point of shutting down discussion. Let's call all erronious reasoning valsomas from now on. Will that make you happy? A straw man argument is definitely a valsoma. A fallacy is a type of valsoma, but for this discussion it's irrelevant if it fits both or not. (For the record, yes, the OP begs the question to some extent--however, most people recognize that, again, fallacy taxonomy is not precise).

Originally Posted by Minarvia
Ack...this sounds like a cross between building a straw man out of "race" and equaling that to either guilty or not guilty.
Again, I believe the more critical error here is that false dichotomy. The options are NOT just guilty and innocent--"not guilty" doesn't mean innocent, not by a long shot. Yet that's what people present it as.
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Old 8th August 2013, 04:42 PM   #32
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I've always been curious about what this type fallacy is called:

In the first half of a football game, the score is Lions 13, Cowboys 10. The Lions try and miss a (3 point) field goal as the half winds down. The final score of the game is Cowboys 27, Lions 26.

Then someone will say "if only the Lions had made that field goal, they'd have won 28-27!"

Which of course is wrong. The entire course of the game would've been different, not to mention physics stuff like people being in a slightly different place, etc. But I don't know what this fallacy is called.
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Old 8th August 2013, 06:44 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Dragoonster View Post
I've always been curious about what this type fallacy is called:

In the first half of a football game, the score is Lions 13, Cowboys 10. The Lions try and miss a (3 point) field goal as the half winds down. The final score of the game is Cowboys 27, Lions 26.

Then someone will say "if only the Lions had made that field goal, they'd have won 28-27!"

Which of course is wrong. The entire course of the game would've been different, not to mention physics stuff like people being in a slightly different place, etc. But I don't know what this fallacy is called.
  • Hypothesis Contrary to Fact
  • Counterfactual Fallacy
  • Speculative Fallacy
  • "what if" Fallacy
  • Wouldchuck

"If [A] then [b]" is a valid premise.

The premise is considered fallacious if both ~A and A is not discretely linked to B.



But consider another example:
P: If [you had flipped heads], then [you would not have flipped tails].

Same format; discreet values; it's quite valid.
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Old 8th August 2013, 06:54 PM   #34
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Are conterfactual conditionals adequately formalizable in classical propositional logic?
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Old 9th August 2013, 12:10 AM   #35
Dragoonster
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Originally Posted by blutoski View Post
  • Hypothesis Contrary to Fact
  • Counterfactual Fallacy
  • Speculative Fallacy
  • "what if" Fallacy
  • Wouldchuck

"If [A] then [b]" is a valid premise.

The premise is considered fallacious if both ~A and A is not discretely linked to B.



But consider another example:
P: If [you had flipped heads], then [you would not have flipped tails].

Same format; discreet values; it's quite valid.
Cool, thanks! Absolutely what I was looking for.

It's a shame that many sports fans (and some broadcasters) fall for this one. And I've never seen it really exposed/pointed out as a fallacy by anyone of note.
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Old 9th August 2013, 08:28 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Dragoonster View Post
Cool, thanks! Absolutely what I was looking for.

It's a shame that many sports fans (and some broadcasters) fall for this one. And I've never seen it really exposed/pointed out as a fallacy by anyone of note.
It's a weak one, for the same reason as slippery slope: it's only a fallacy if the link between the values is weak.

Consider another one:
P: If [the gun hadn't misfired when he pulled the trigger with the gun in his mouth] then [he would have been seriously injured or even killed]

It's not discrete (I suppose we could argue that even if the gun went off, he could have slipped and the bullet might have missed entirely) but it's so unlikely that the premise looks pretty sound.

So for the football example, the validity of the statement probably changes with the amount of time left. Consider if the score was off by one and they missed a conversion with 1 second left:

P: If [they hadn't missed that conversion] then [they would have won].

Probably valid, and there's no clear moment during the play that you can point to where a statement like this changes from fallacious to valid - it requires contextual judgement of probabilities.

Again: similar to slippery slope analysis.
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Old 9th August 2013, 08:38 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Is this serious?

How can presenting an argument no one's making, showing the argument is flawed, and then claiming to have defeated a completely different argument NOT a fallacy? The specific error in logic is the last bit.

I've learned you like to quibble about language to the point of shutting down discussion. Let's call all erronious reasoning valsomas from now on. Will that make you happy? A straw man argument is definitely a valsoma. A fallacy is a type of valsoma, but for this discussion it's irrelevant if it fits both or not. (For the record, yes, the OP begs the question to some extent--however, most people recognize that, again, fallacy taxonomy is not precise).

Again, I believe the more critical error here is that false dichotomy. The options are NOT just guilty and innocent--"not guilty" doesn't mean innocent, not by a long shot. Yet that's what people present it as.
Funny, I thought you were supposed to be ignoring me. I have never heard of a 'valsoma' before. Curiously, neither has the internet. I suggest we don't call it that as it already has perfectly well known name, 'a straw man argument' and your alternative doesn't seem to exist. I am sorry if that seems like a quibble to you.

Since you seem to be making up new words I am not really in a position to answer your post. I remain of the view that a straw man argument is no more logically fallacious than any other evasion and also that the OP has nothing to do with straw men.

Just to add, a straw man argument may be perfectly logical. It might utterly destroy the straw man it erected for the purpose of demolition. In the context of the argument which it seeks to evade it simply employs a false premise that:

Your argument is X

but it is wrong for reasons Y and Z.

A false premise is not a failure of logic. It's only a false premise. It contains no logic at all.

Last edited by anglolawyer; 9th August 2013 at 08:43 AM.
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Old 9th August 2013, 08:53 AM   #38
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With some of these, I think it's not logical fallacies, per say, but rather starting an argument with one (or often more) factually incorrect assumptions stealthily worked into the premise. "False dichotomy" comes closer than strawman here, but neither are precisely perfect.

Take the OP's example:

Quote:
A not guilty verdict would presume the jury thinks chasing a black kid down and shooting him is self-defense.
It's assumes that the jury is faced with a false dichotomy.
It assumes to know what 12 people believe or think without any nuance.
It assumes race is the only deciding factor in the potential "not guilty" verdict.
Etc and so on.

(I think the phrase "The stupid! It burns!" most accurately describes at least the subjective experience of trying to tease out all of the false assumptions in such an argument as well as the headache that results in trying to counter them. )

Here's how a similar argument could be a strawman:

"The problem with deciding that killing any black person will necessarily be a de facto act of self defense, is that over the course of US history, thousands of clearly innocent black people have been murdered simply because of the color of their skin. Some were small children. Tell me, why would anyone need to murder a 3 year old in self defense? What sort of sick mind wants to set such a legal precedent into law, and what's the justification?"
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Last edited by kellyb; 9th August 2013 at 08:55 AM.
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Old 9th August 2013, 09:45 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Dragoonster View Post
I've always been curious about what this type fallacy is called:

In the first half of a football game, the score is Lions 13, Cowboys 10. The Lions try and miss a (3 point) field goal as the half winds down. The final score of the game is Cowboys 27, Lions 26.

Then someone will say "if only the Lions had made that field goal, they'd have won 28-27!"

Which of course is wrong. The entire course of the game would've been different, not to mention physics stuff like people being in a slightly different place, etc. But I don't know what this fallacy is called.
Sounds like Sore Loser Syndrome.
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Old 10th August 2013, 12:15 AM   #40
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I think it's pretty funny that there are 38 replies and no apparent agreement on which logical fallacy the OP even represents. I think the issue is probably compounded by the fact that many Internet sources seem to give different explanations and examples of various fallacies.

I don't understand/agree with the suggestions that it is a strawman. I do understand how it could appear to be a false dichotomy, that was one of my suggestions. But I'm surprised that not many people seem to agree with Cylinders assertion that it is begging the question. I actually think begging the question seems to be a better identification of it.

If we are going to say it's a false dichotomy, it seems we have to assume that there is a second implied option, but that seems incorrect to me, since the author of the fallacy did not offer a second option as part of their reasoning, in fact part of the flaw in their reasoning in the first place is that they offered only one option.

At this point I vote for begging the question.
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