1. ## Thread on Logical Argument and Common Fallacies

I can't stand it anymore. I've been threatening to start a logic thread, and I finally have been compelled to do so because so many of the posters on this board have no clue what logic is or means. It sounds somewhat dry and dusty and may sound like it would be a difficult subject, but it is much, much more accessible than other areas of philosophy and (IMO) emminently more useful. I'll post some useful links below on logic.

We get into an amazing array of topics in this General Chat session, many of which are fairly complex issues that are truly important. I am starting this thread in the hopes of raising the level of argument here so threads become not only more productive, but more enjoyable for all, as well.

Before I start, I'd like to make two points. Well, knowing me it will end up being more than two as I ramble on, but what the heck, you're all used to that by now . First, my motivation is not to denigrate anyone or to insult your intelligence. In today's educational environment, unfortunately, not only are young people not taught logic, like my "old fart" crowd was. . .you are actually taught to argue illogically. What do I mean by that? Well, most of academia today have a very poor understanding of logic themselves, and they teach their students to argue from emotion, to judge positions by the motivation of the person holding the position, not by the facts put forth in support of it. I'd wager that the majority of university professors today, especially in the social sciences, themselves don't know how to contruct a tight argument and wouldn't recognize a logical fallacy if it bit them on the behind. Many of you younger posters are very good at constructing logical arguments, and I wonder how you acquired that skill. Props to you! Anyway, it's not your fault if you can't argue logically! This thread is here to help you.

Second point, most of the time, logic won't "prove" a point. There are two kinds of logical argument, deductive and inductive. Deductive arguments prove, inductive arguments simply make a case for a position being likely to be true. Most of life's questions are inductive in nature, so they don't lend themselves to one simple answer which everyone should accept. Example of a deductive argument would be this.

Toronto is located in Canada. ElPietro lives in Toronto. Therefore ElPietro lives in Canada.
That is not something open to opinion, if you don't buy the conclusion that ElPietro lives in Canada you're an idiot. You have to be careful, though, not to draw too much conclusion from the premises (each of the first two sentences is called a premise--it is assumed the premises are true when evaluation the conclusion. If the premises can be shown to be false, the conclusion may also be false.). For example, I might have stated as the conclusion that "Therefore, ElPietro is a Canadian." The premises are insufficient to draw this conclusion deductively, as ElPietro may actually be American or Mexican or Korean, and living in Canada.

Let's make an inductive argument, then.

ElPietro lives in Toronto. Eighty percent of people living in Toronto are Canadian. ElPietro is probably Canadian.
I didn't "prove" ElPietro is Canadian with that argument, but it's not bad inductive reasoning. He probably is Canadian, although without more information we simply cannot know that.

The point about inductive reasoning is that when you get into much more complex issues than whether or not ElPietro is Canadian, it becomes very difficult to prove anything conclusively and we need to understand that reasonable and intelligent people can look at the same fact pattern and draw different, but reasonable conclusions from them. So if someone disagrees with you, they are not necessarily idiots. Of course if you disagree with me, you've made a very strong inductive case that you are an idiot (JK ). Remember that. Especially on issues which we are passionate about, we can be uncharitably disposed to other points of view, to put it mildly. I, for one, will always respect a differing opinion if reasonable and intelligent arguments are made in its defense. I have those disagreements around here all the time, and others do, as well, but when they are with people who are truly trying to argue--not fight, but argue--they are usually very civil. It's when the poo flining starts that it gets ugly.

I guess I had three initial points, and here's three. Now that we understand most young folks have not been taught even rudimentary logic, and, in fact, have been taught to argue poorly by their teachers, I must disabuse you of something else you have been taught. Not only have you been taught to argue from emotion, to judge a conclusion apart from the supporting premises and to attack the conclusion when it is not politically correct rather than attack the premises, not only have you been taught that if you have reason to suspect someone's motives in an argument you can attack all of their conclusions. . .Horror of horrors, you've been taught that your opinions deserve to be respected simply because you hold them. And to that I say BULLFEATHERES!

Reasonable people can look at the same facts and draw different conclusions from them. However, bunky, you are not entitled to have any opinion respected simply because you woke up that day and decided to hold that opinion. If you can support your position with even the most rudimentary logical support (using facts, by the way, what a radical concept!), then you are entitled to have your opinion respected even by those who disagree with you. There was a thread about this very topic a while back. The poster asked how can someone respect me as a person and not respect my opinions, or something to that effect. Well, they can. I respect a lot of people for much that they have done, much of what they are. They are so illogical, however, I don't respect any of their opinions. You are not entitled to have your opinions respected, you have to earn that.

There are folks here who can construct very good logical arguments, and who disagree with each other from time to time, but you can tell they respect each other (well, with the possible exception of Chris Mason, who knows you're an idiot if you disagree with him ). What they are respecting are not the opinions of the other party, but the way in which those opinions are put forth and supported. This can be a difficult thing to catch. Not all opinions are created equal, boys and girls. You may not like it, but that's life. You may not be an idiot, but if you argue like one, you've got to be prepared for people viewing you like an idiot.

Now the resources. I'm going to post some links here and encourage a discussion on logical argument here as a topic in and of itself, apart from any arguments that may be made as examples.

I'm begging the mods here to go along with this because it will make WBB a much more enjoyable place to visit. PLEASE chop any posts which attempt to continue an argument in this thread and suggest a new thread be started. Gun Control, the upcoming thrashing in Iraq, Smith Machines (horrors ) could be used as examples here, but the purpose is to analyze the argument and post something about logic! If you want to start another gun control thread, by all means start one, but the purpose of this thread is to be educational.
I'm hoping it resonates with people here and becomes a popular resource and actually increases everyone's enjoyment of the board. Perhaps it might even be made a sticky. But it's purpose is not to create a forum for pushing opinions.

OK, here's a great link on logical fallacies with examples. By a Canadian professor, too! Wooops! Can't know that. Too broad a conclusion! The main site is at the University of Alberta, but the professor may be Japanese for all I know.

http://www.intrepidsoftware.com/fallacy/welcome.htm

There are instruction links, and an excellent resource link with books (I'm going to review one shortly) on logic, too.

Now how about an example. From the many gun control discussions that have come up here, one of the most common fallacies I've seen is the False Dilemma. Remember, I'm not starting a gun control discussion here, I'm making a point about the logical fallacy called false dilemma.

If anyone posts that they are against gun registration, a frequent response will be something like this. "Well, if you are against gun registration, you must be for hundreds of people being killed in accidental shootings!" Or whatever. The actual statement isn't important here. The point is an implicit argument is made, but not stated, that posits registering guns will reduce accidental shootings. This may or may not be true, but no support is made for this unspoken argument. . .it is just assumed. The false dilemma, then, is that accidental shootings have not been shown to be the inevitable result of not registering guns. Facts must be assembled and arguments constructed to support that conclusion.

By the way, that kind of response is ususally made very authoritatively and with an air of moral superiority, a kind of chest-thumping, "I guess I showed you, didn't I!?" Umm. No. You look like an idiot, and your opinion does not deserve to be respected. Sorry. Stupid argument. It may be true or it may be false, but it is a stupid argument. Come back with a fact pattern and build a set of premises and conclusions and I might respect your opinion even if I disagree with it.

Here is a link to the list of fallacies on that website.

http://www.intrepidsoftware.com/fallacy/toc.htm

Don't feel bad if while perusing that list you recognize a lot of your own tactics. As I said, it's not your fault. You've been taught poorly. But now you have a challenge! Go and learn!

Hope this becomes a fun thread, and I hope it doesn't degenerate. Next to the training advice here, which is of very high quality, this thread could be the most useful thing you get out of WBB!

2. Nice post JC.

Rookiebldr has likely read the post. He has posted comment in thread indicating such. Therefore, rookiebldr will probably make better logical arguments if he makes any at all.

3. Excuse me for probably sounding rude but is this really necessary? The general thread is just that.....general. Just opinons on a multitude of subjects. Im sure frustrating at times for some but after all its just opinions and as everyone says you're entitled to your own opinion. Sorry if im sounding like im putting this down just asking a question. And were you saying unless i can back up my opinion with logic that appears logical to you then my opinion means nothing? Why do i have the feeling my post is gonna get chopped big time.

4. Originally posted by Lizzie

Excuse me for probably sounding rude but is this really necessary?

No, I don't suppose it's "necessary". Since posters here like to have discussions on lots of different topics, however, I thought it might be appreciated. I honestly thought it would generate more replies, but I might be wrong. Maybe nobody is interested. We'll see if it generates any interest. If not, well, lets let it die.

Originally posted by Lizzie

The general thread is just that.....general. Just opinons on a multitude of subjects. Im sure frustrating at times for some but after all its just opinions and as everyone says you're entitled to your own opinion. Sorry if im sounding like im putting this down just asking a question. And were you saying unless i can back up my opinion with logic that appears logical to you then my opinion means nothing?

Lizzie, that's kind of the whole point. If people just post "opinions" then it becomes a shouting match, and nobody likes having another's opinions shouted in their face at high volume. Unfortunately, people with opinions who do not understand logic are reduced to doing just that--shouting--because they simply don't have any other tools to work with.

And I'm not suggesting your opinion has to be logical to me. The rules of logic are well known and have been so for centuries. Anyone who understands the principles of logic could critique anyone else's argument using those principles (Um, you didn't bother to check the links, did you?). It has nothing to do with whether I think your argument is logical or not, it's whether your argument is a well-contstructed and strong one according to the rules of logic that have been handed down since Aristotle.

If it is not supportable, then yes, you are correct. I am saying your opinion doesn't mean much to anyone else but you and those who happen to hold the same opinion. That doesn't mean I don't respect you as a person, but I need not respect your opinion.

You'll see some great examples in the training forum. People who really know their stuff, Maki, PowerManDL, Chris Mason, to name just a few, start building a case from a series of premises based in physiological fact and draw a conclusion from it. When the person they are having a discussion with comes back with another case built up from a series of premises based in physiological fact, they are pretty respectful if it's a good argument even if the conclusion is different from theirs.

They get nuts with people who just keep posting the equivalent of, "Oh yeah? Well I don't buy it and you're a jerk, so nya, nya, nya.!" You'll see the folks I mentioned try to have an argument with these people by encouraging them to attack the premises they have used to draw their conclusions, but it's like talking to a wall, because their opponent doesn't have the tools to do this.

I really apologize if I came off as condescending in this thread. I honestly enjoy a good debate, it's fun for me. My intention was to help spread logical skills on the board and encourage folks who like to get into passionate discussions to learn a little bit about what they are not taught in schools today about logic. Because folks seem to enjoy that here, I thought this would be a popular thread. If it turns out not to be, well, OK then.

Anyway, Lizzie, I don't mean to offend, but all opinions are not equal. I suspect you find that statement offensive, but that's my position. Some opinions deserve respect and others don't and it has nothing whatsoever to do with what the opinion is--two diametrically opposed opinions could be equally deserving of respect if they are strongly supported by logical argument. If it's "just the way you feel", well--the old saw about opinions probably fits. It ain't worth much.

5. I applaud your effort JC. I think your article is very informative, by no means exhaustive, but a good resource so long as people take the time to read it through carefully and perhaps most importantly, not feel insulted by it.

I agree with you completely on the need for this sort of education. I believe that logic should be a mandatory part of a child's learning from an early age. Unfortunately from my experience, I had to wait until the university level, before I could voluntarily take a course in an area that I now believe to be absolutely crucial to human thinking and progress. How someone can graduate today with a university degree, be dubbed "educated," and not understand the basic forms of argumentation, when they are attacking a "straw man," attacking the person, begging the question etc., mystifies me.

7. I think i grew a full beard from the time i began reading this. anyways, isnt this all an "inductive arguement" to assume that we are all of the educational backround that teaches us wrongly in your opinion?

8. This was definitely needed and Thanks for posting it, JC.

sadly, so few people realize that attacking the person (ad hominems) is not attacking the argument, and I admit that often i've descended to that level out of frustration when my questions/arguments have not been addressed in a logical manner.

9. what he said...

10. Nice, JC.

11. I think every person on WBB should be forced to take a discrete mathematics course, and back each post with a mathematical proof.

12. McBain has ligament damage and maybe a fractured bone in his wrist.

let X = skill and Y = gumbyness:

therefore,

Y > X

13. Gumby definitely rules.

14. I think I have a "Cliff's Notes" version of JC's post that may help some of the more impatient among our loyal readers.

"Simply because you have a large supply of Preparation H, you are not entitled to talk out of your ass."

In attempting to clean up the posting habits of an internet board (even one as classy and relatively highbrow as WBB), you are surely in league with that guy who tried to clean out the Augean Stables with a whisk broom and small dustpan before Hercules came along**. But good on ya. I'm rooting for you, JC.

Cal

**Note the witty and learned reference to copious amounts of bull**** as the thing that needs to be cleaned up.

15. Yeah I love this thread! You had the syllagisms and everything I take philosophy now and I am minoring in it!

16. Wow, finally someone who thinks like I do. I was wondering if I had ever posted something like this if it would be received with open arms.

Here are some other links to wander through when you people have some time to kill.

http://www.midnightbeach.com/hs/fallacys.html

http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html

http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~burton/Ch.18/

17. hey jc. i totally disagree with your position. it sucks therefore so do you.

ps....bullfeathers?

18. Excellent post JC.

19. I hate to just agree with you completely... But I do.

20. Originally posted by Gyno Rhino
I hate to just agree with you completely... But I do.
Hehe

21. Originally posted by Tryska
hey jc. i totally disagree with your position. it sucks therefore so do you.
Now see? I knew this thread would be beneficial! Two premises and a conclusion, very logical! I like it!

ps....bullfeathers? [/B]
Well, I'm trying to behave myself more lately. I've been being cranky with not-so-logical folks and I didn't want to say bullsh|t even though that was what I really wanted to say.

Anyway, thanks for introducing some humor into this thing. I was hoping learning a little logic would be fun.

And Gyno. . .

I hate to just agree with you completely... But I do.

You're still trying to butter me up hoping you can show up at my doorstep, flash your concealed carry permit and sleep with my wife, aren't you? Can't fool me, bucko! I'm too logical.

22. I think the level of the discussions has been way high, I dont think the way some people, including my self express them selves is an actual downside, I think its great with a mix of angle and view of so many different people, age and nationality.

I appreciate your effort and I learned from your thread, but at the same time I cant help but feeling a litte patronized.

23. JC.

You have offered an excellent tool for people to practice something they already instinctively know. Syllogisms. And while they are a great tool you may be surprised to know that while much of today's youth have not heard of them, that same youth could orally form a logical argument without thinking about it. These are the youth that you have called "posers". Well they are not posers, they are those who grow up in an educational system which you may knock but is more advanced than it ever has been.

You redundantly revealed to us how we may make deductive conclusions from given pieces of information. However, your entire argument and reason for posting is itself based on fallacy and misinformation.

You state that young people today are not taught how to argue logically and are instead taught to argue emotionally. You also mentioned that in this day and age we must respect everyone's right to their own opinnion even though it may not be based in, if you would excuse the tautology; logical facts.

These statements are in no way backed up or proven in your argument. I am studying education at the biggest university in the southern hemisphere, UWS, and i can tell you that you are simply mistaken and off the track.

In current educational theory logic is not explicitly taught.
Newsflash: neither is grammar.
The reason: because logic and grammar are rule systems which the brain automatically picks up.

There is no reason to fill the brain with rules of grammar which in many ways are similar to the rules of logic because the brain, in current psychological theory, seems to have a mechanism for automatically coding such rule systems.

Allow me to explain. As we grow older and read more, our logic skills improve to levels beyond measurable understanding and through mechanisms not fully understood. JC has given an example of how to form a deductive argument......WOW.....WHAT AMAZING INFORMATION....well have you ever guessed what someone was going to say on tv?? Have you ever read a word in a book and knew what the next word was going to be even before you turned the page??? The answer is most likely yes, although as JC has very kindly pointed out, some "idiots" as he politely refers to them lack the faculties of advanced logic most of us use everyday.

The reason we can do this is the same reason the modern education system does not teach logic, because our brain does it for us automatically everyday.

Let me give an example from my school of thought.

Th qu c br n f x j mp d ov r th laz d g.

What does this sentence say? I am sure many if not most of you could answer this without any prior, explicit learning in logic.

The reason is that the chance of a particular letter occuring is not random. Everything we say, write or read in English obeys certain rules for us to make sense of it. When those rules are broken as in the previous sentence, our brain does not freeze like an IBM would, it goes one step further and applies it's infinite coded logic to help you understand what the sentence means. T

The posers as JC calls them are good at making impressive logical arguments, probably better than the man himself, because instead of focussing on the part, they focussed on the whole picture and wrote essays instead of learning syllogisms.

None of these ideas are unique to me they are part of the "Whole Learning" theory which is increasing in popularity around the world.

The biggest problem I have with your argument JC is the fact that you believe it is irrefutable and that for someone to have a problem with it they must be an idiot. Well I have a problem with your argument because of this view, other than that and the afforementioned points it is a sound argument. It really shows you how you do not practice what you preach, nor is it possible to write something which attains the attention of a human reader but at the same time is completely logical. I am younger than you and was brought up in a different educational environment to you, however It is just this environment which has allowed me to see massive holes in what you consider to be an absolute logical argument. Well my generation believe above all that there is simply NO SUCH THING AS SUBJECTIVITY, and this allows us to attack arguments on an emotive, logical, psychological, metaphorical, hypothetical and many other levels without even knowing that we posess such skills.

Perhaps Logic is a dated mechanism and although it is important we must also understand that it is not the be all and end all of constructive thought.

Food for thought, be it illogical or not.

24. You're practicing your new form of spelling, Westy. I was referring to "posters", not posers. Poser does not appear in my post.

I have no response to your post other than that. Your superior argument has taught me the error of my ways. Thank you.

Uh, you're not studying to be a teacher, are you? God save us.

25. I think the discussion threads at wbb has been of a very high standard," to present your argument in a way that indicates that youre a mature and intelligent person that has knowledge about the subject and arguments such that he includes the already stated facts in each of the different sides of the subject in his thought behind his argumnet,is ofcourse logical and most people at this board do,

People who are over 17-18years and does not argument with any logic behind their posts, are not people who needs a logic class, they are simply not intelligent enough to make a valid point, and that we cannot change.

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