Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fallacious Arguments

And we're back with a whole new fallacy!

"I have suffered [X] and that justifies my doing this!"

That is, where this is something negative or douchey. Nothing along the lines of, "I suffered fighting in Vietnam and that justifies me applying for veteran discounts." That's fine. It's statements more along the lines of, "I nearly died three months ago because someone almost ran me over in a car, that justifies me being a dick to you, because you drive a car!" or "/b/ trolled me so hard and that justifies me hating you for browsing /b/!"

It's not the ones which logically go from point A to point B which are fallacious. (Quite obviously?)
It's the ones which overgeneralize, which lump people into groups based on one or two traits. I vehemently hate this in all its forms. Racism, sexism, stereotyping (but then, again, pardon me for saying this, there's a difference between using trends and stereotyping. I'll explain that later. Promise.)

Let's take the car statement into consideration.

 "I nearly died three months ago because someone almost ran me over in a car, that justifies me being a dick to you, because you drive a car!"

The line of thought, I imagine, goes something like this:
- I nearly got run over by a car
- Cars run me over
- People who run other people over are dicks
- Dicks deserve to be treated badly
- If you drive a car, you will run someone over
- Therefore I am justified in being a dick to you

First off, sweeping generalization. That's the first problem with the argument. This person automatically assumes that since one car driver nearly ran him over (and it was only his fortuitous car-dodging skill which saved him) other car drivers must do the same thing. In fact, since some other car drivers do this, all of them do it, since they all drive cars, and even getting into a car means you have a chance of running other people over.

Sure, there's a chance. But that chance is minute, negligible even. It's increased for careless people, distracted people, drunk people, et cetera. You might as well argue that you should be a dick to all people since they step on your shoes. Accidents happen.

Anyways, moving away from the specific ways that this argument is fallacious (Oh, the irony), let's move to the next fallacy, as it's been established that over-generalization, or even generalization at all, is bad.

"Dicks deserve to be treated badly."

What. Is it ever arguable to say, this guy deserves X because of his behavior? I suppose this is just my opinion, and either side is arguable, and thus doesn't count as a fallacy so much as a clash of opinion. That's another thing which can be argued later (in the spirit of preventing this post from dragging on too long.)

So we get that this person is generalizing to come to his conclusions. If you're unconvinced that extreme generalization is bad...

- All people in the Middle East are terrorists
- All Christians are bible-thumping Darwin-haters
- All atheists are immoral sinners
- All people who don't drive electric cars don't care about the environment
- All politicians are only powered by money

Is that enough? I hope it is.

As unrealistic as the whole "car argument" premise is, it is likely to manifest itself in other forms, perhaps less conspicuous ones in everyday life. I chose a more striking argument to show how invalid these things are under scrutiny.

So, why is this invalid? It sure is invalid, but why? If all you can say is, "that's a fallacy derp", well, you've just bloody proved him wrong, haven't you?

Of course not. You've got to have logic.

The easiest way to take down a generalization is to say that not all X are Y. Provide examples, it helps if you can do that. If they don't believe you, provide other examples of other generalizations (see above). Hopefully they'll come to understand why they're wrong in using generalizations. Below are a few nitpicky arguments which might be used.

After you give another example, say the "atheists are immoral" one.
Scenario: "Oh, well that's true too."
Solution: Give another example. If that fails, bang head on wall (even better, band their head on the wall), make even more extreme generalizations. Make some that are personal to them.

Scenario: "Well, that doesn't even apply to this. What we're talking about and your example are two totally different things."
Solution: This person can't grasp metaphors or abstract concepts. Walk away, shaking your head.

I had a few more in my head earlier, can't remember them for the life of me. Ah well, just means you get a shorter post, haha.

1 comment:

  1. Rules 1 and 2, they do not only apply during raids