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.

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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.

Example:

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.

 

Rhetoric and Logic

rhetoricThis is inspired by a comment I got from Ontologicalrealist who asked me about the quote:

“for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” (Our discussion in the comments)

The quote is often attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi head of propaganda, and thus a brilliant rhetorician. The major difference between logic and rhetoric, is that the purpose of logic is to explore ideas, find new truths, remain rational and objective in your reasoning, and contributing to knowledge. The purpose of rhetoric is to communicate ideas, persuade and to “sell”.

I’m going to start by breaking down rhetoric in the same way I did logic in “The basics of logic 1” and “The basics of logic 2

Aristotle breaks rhetoric into 3 parts:

  • Logos – meaning “discourse” or “reasoned discourse”
  • Pathos – emotional appeals to the audience
  • Ethos – the character of the speaker

Rhetoric is a highly studied field, and has been broken down by many and there are many explanations and breakdowns that differ from the one I’ve used here, however my opinion is that this breakdown gives the clearest picture of what rhetoric is at it’s core.

Logos, or reasoned discourse, can be said to be logical and fact based. However, it doesn’t have to be. It can be valid but not sound, it can suffer from logical fallacies, or many other problems. It is therefore always important to apply critical thinking to any argument made.

Pathos, or the emotional appeals, very often make up the core of the rhetoricians overall communication. Emotional appeals in various forms, from anecdotes, appeals to emotion, identity plays, are effective because they add familiarity and makes the speaker likable to the audience. It is much easier to convince someone who likes you, and they are less likely to engage their critical thinking.

Ethos, or the character of the speaker, adds legitimacy to the pathos and logos. For instance, by having the title “Dr.” adds to credibility, so does having experience and/or education within the field that you are speaking within. However, “Ethos” to some extent has a transitive property. This is frequently seen when famous people take up causes outside of their field, such as Emma Watson for women, or Matt Damon for clean water. Their opinions and words are more credible because the person is famous, despite not having any qualifications and little experience on the topic.

Some key tips for telling rhetoric from logic:

  1. Look for qualifying words, rhetoric very rarely has qualifying words (some, maybe, opinion, etc) logic is full of them.
  2. Look for the emotional appeal, is the speaker actively trying to play on people’s emotions through voice use, loaded words, appealing to “romanticism” or identities.
  3. Would the speech be effective regardless of who speaks or is it effective because of who speaks?

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.

 

 

Basics of logic part 2

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In the first post, I dealt with deductive arguments, which is the “classical” form of arguments. They are such that if their premises are true the conclusions are true. Deductive reasoning forms the core of the scientific method, is what most people regard as being logic. Deduction is most famously cited by Sherlock Holmes as his method of inquiry, the process of deduction is reasoning from one or more premises to reach a logically certain conclusion. In the application of the scientific method, the premises are often data regarding observations.

Inductive arguments on the other hand, are such that the truth of their premises, makes the conclusion more or less probable. Inductive arguments are either strong or weak. The premises within an inductive argument are viewed as supplying strong evidence for the truth of a conclusion, unlike the deductive where the premises are viewed as being true. In colloquial use, inductive reasoning is often defined as progression from particular/individual instances to broader generalization. While the philosophical definition is more nuanced, it is sufficive for this article to outline that an inductive argument indicates some degree of support for the conclusion, but does not entail it.

Abductive reasoning, is a form of inference which goes from observation to a theory that accounts for the observation. As with inductive reasoning, the premises do not guarantee the conclusion, and a colloquial way of understanding it would be “inference to the best explanation“. Continue reading