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.

Fun with fallacies 5: Stop repeating yourself

argument from repititionThe argument from repetition is when a discussion has been had so many times, or a participant in a discussion repeats the same point over and over again, neglecting that other participants have either proven the point wrong or have conceded the debate. This is a form of “beating them into submission” and reminds me of a quote by Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

The goal of this tactic, is to exhaust your opponent into conceding the argument, because they get sick of being told the same thing over and over. The danger here, is that a person will engage in it to make their definitions carry over into the main debate, when they are hotly contested.

Fun with fallacies 4: That feels wrong to me

argument from personal incredulityAn argument from personal incredulity, happens when a participant in a discussion rejects an argument or evidence based on the fact that they do not believe it. This is very common in discussions where topics with strong personal ties are up for debate. Typical examples are religious people rejecting logic and science, instead insisting on that one must “feel” or “believe” rather than critically analyze the arguments and evidence.

A typical example from a discussion I had with a feminist recently:

BLL: Well, the gender wage gap has been largely debunked by mainstream economics, Warren Farrell tackles it in the “Myth of male power”, Thomas Sowell does the same in “Economic facts and fallacies”. Furthermore, there is a methodological error happening when the question is reduced to two variables: earnings and gender.

Feminist: The wage gap is 73 cents on the dollar, the statistics from the department of labor shows it.



Fun with fallacies 3: Ya’ll ignant!

ignorantThe argument from ignorance is a frequent guest in most debates on religion. The fallacy here is fairly straight forward, and is based on the foundation principle that a non-falsifiable claim must be regarded as false. The fallacy committed in this case, is to assert that a claim is true, because it has not, or cannot be proven false.

Those of you who have read your Karl Popper know that this a fundamental error in reasoning, and here is why. If we adopt a principle where all claims that cannot be falsified or have not yet been falsified, that has great implications. See the following conversation:

Person 1: So, you were out of town last week, your wife banged half the Harlem Globetrotters and the starting lineup of the Pacers. 

Person 2: That isn’t true, you can’t prove that it’s true. 

Person 1: Well, you can’t prove that it’s not, so until you can, your wife fucked half the globetrotters and Pacers. 

That’s is a bit of a glib example, but it teaches us the lesson that until something has been proven true, proven false, or as long as it remains impossible to prove it false, a claim must be regarded as false.

In the case of a criminal trial, the charges have to be believed until prove false: This would translate into “guilty until proven innocent”

Person 1: An allmighty being just told me that you have been living your life in the wrong way. It said that those who have should share with those who have not. So give me half your shit.

Person 2: I can’t prove that you’re full of shit, so here is my ATM card and PIN.

It also puts the burden of proof onto the person saying “No, there is no evidence for that” rather than on the person saying “This is true”.


Fun with fallacies 2: It happened to me!

anecdotal fallacyThe anecdotal fallacy is like an abusive ex, you wish you’d never have to see or hear from it again, but for some reason every time you go to get a coffee, there it is, in front of you in the line.

The definition of the anecdotal fallacy is using a personal example or isolated incident instead of proper argumentation or evidence. You see this in just about every single debate that deals with religion, in that sooner or later the religious person will ask you to just believe. God (or Jesus), Allah, and so on “are true to them”

An example could be:

Man 1: Just go up and talk to her man, nothing bad is going to happen. Last time I did, I got laid! (anecdote)

Man 2: Last week, a friend of mine did that, got maced, kicked in the balls and charged according to title IX.

The anecdotal fallacy is the spouse of the emotional argument. Often when it is used, it is followed by strong emotional appeals or other fallacies.