Fun with fallacies 10: Circular reasoning

circular reasoningThe circle never stops, it just keeps going around in circle. The circular argument is easier to understand when its named “assuming the conclusion” it is very common among ideologues, and the “sound-snippet” crowd.

It’s effective because it often sounds good because of the way it has been worded, and because the conclusion becomes self-reinforcing.

A very easy example is: 

Premise: The Bible is the absolute word of god and infallible.

Conclusion: The Bible is infallible because it is the word of god.

In this case, the conclusion is just the premise in a slightly different order.

Rhetoric and Propaganda

rhetoric and propagandaIn my post on rhetoric  I went through Aristotle’s breakdown of Logos, Ethos and Pathos. Where logos is the argument, or reasoned argument. Pathos is the emotional wrapping and ethos is the character of the speaker. Propaganda is rhetoric with a heavy focus towards pathos and ethos, while logos is manipulated for a purpose.

Propaganda utilizes a range of logical fallacies, fallacious statistics, misrepresentations and most importantly, it seeks to influence using emotion, rather than argument. The representation can be illustrated with the difference of “information communicated for it’s own sake” and “information communicated with an agenda behind it“.

If you understand the agenda, you can deconstruct the propaganda. In politics they call this spin. Not acting militarily and relying on diplomacy can spun as being a “advocate for peaceful solutions and limiting human casualties” and “A weak man, who fails to act decisively and relies on words.” The same facts ending up in two very different places.

Logic and facts communicated is informing.

Logic and facts communicated with a weight towards rhetoric is marketing.  

If you get the feeling that someone is marketing to you, become immediately suspicious, because numbers, facts and logic can be spun just as easily through rhetoric, through cherry-picking and many other means. To frame truth as a lie and a lie as truth, lies in the cornerstone of propaganda. To mix truth with lie, empowers the lie, as it may be viewed as true by repetition  or association.

I’ll end on a quote

“Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”


Fun with fallacies 9: Are you being shifty?

burden of proofShifting the burden of proof, is a fallacy so common that pointing it out is exhausting. The accepted decorum in debates and arguments is that the burden of proof is on the person making a claim. So, if I claim that there is a hobbit living in my television, I have to prove that claim, I cannot demand that it be treated as true until proven false.

This is also a very common argument that Atheists run into when debating believers, where they will run into a variant on

You are making the claim that God does not exist, therefore you have to prove that he does not

The reason why this is burden of proof shifting is that without a claim to there being a god, the Atheist position would not exist. The cause and effect cannot be:

There is no God! – > There is a God.

Where the negative claim comes before the positive claim. The positive claim always comes first and thus has the burden of proof. This is one of the funnier things to see in popular news programs or debate shows, where the people claiming that “X does not exist” are the ones that have to provide evidence.

Fun with Fallacies 8: Begging the question

Begging-the-question-animation1Begging the question is a straight-forward fallacy, that I was about a second away from making in my post on Kant. It happens when your conclusion is in essence provided in one of your premises.


Major premise: Women are discriminated against in the workplace.

Minor premise: Women earn less than men.

Conclusion: Women earn less because they are discriminated against.

In this case, the conclusion is contained fully in the major premise and is thus a case of begging the question. It is one of those fallacies that is very hard to catch in a debate simply because by the time you have had enough time to process it, the speaker will have moved on.

Why I enjoy breaking down ideologies

ideologyI’m naturally oriented towards systems-thinking and an ideology is a construct of ideas that in totality makes a system. An easy example would be religions that tend to consist of metaphysical ideas, ethics, aesthetic ideas and epistemology.


For instance in the Christian religion 

“God exists” is a metaphysical statement.

The ten commandments and the Golden Rule are ethical ideas, based on deontological ethics and objective ethics.

The design of the temple, the stone tables are aesthetic ideas.

Knowledge comes from divine revelation is epistemology.

There is a lot to be learned from deconstructing an ideology in this manner. For instance, you get to the bottom of what axioms are required in order for the ideology to be “true” and whether it is logical. You learn whether it is built like a house of cards or as a pyramid.

Some have taken to calling atheism an ideology, if Atheism is broken down into fundamental ideas there is really only 1 core statement in Atheism, which is the answer to the metaphysical question “Is there a god?”.

Atheism has no statement of ethics or of aesthetics. It does tend to view epistemology in the traditional western logical systems and scientific method. However, this is not a prerequisite. So, in this sense, Atheism isn’t an ideology, it is a conclusion.