Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fallacious Arguments Part 2

Now for Part 2 of Fallacious Research we’ll take a look at different methods of appealing to your audience through various tricks of words that can sometimes sound so reasonable. Also remember, fallacious arguments don’t just exist in dialogue. They can also occur inside someone’s own mind as a convenient method of justifying certain behavior.

First, we’ll start with circular causes and consequences. This is a fun one. This is where you claim that the consequence of the phenomenon is claimed to be its root cause. “The boy was poor and hungry because he was a thief.” Far more logical than the boy stealing food and other odds and ends because he’s poor and hungry, right? Well, we can always prove it by cherry picking. We’ll point out a few individual cases or data that support our argument – a man who lost his job because he was a compulsive thief, for example – and ignore all evidence to the contrary, even if there is more of it. Well, we could also throw in some Misleading Vividness and describe this one man, this incorrigible thief, in such glowing detail that – despite being an exceptional occurrence, it appears to be such a problem that people forget that this is just one man.

Ahh, but let’s say the members on the opposite team are giving me a really good counter-argument that might even sway me - thus destroying all my justifications for owning a mansion while homeless kids are arrested for stealing pears (oversimplification and exaggeration, did you catch it?). I could demand negative proof – instead of offering evidence that thievery causes poverty, I could instead demand that they prove the opposite, thus making my own position look like the generic one that they must disprove. If they do manage to bring their evidence to bear, I can then Move the Goalpost or Raise the Bar by dismissing their evidence because it doesn’t prove that poverty is the leading cause of antisocial behavior.

If they satisfactorily counter-argue, perhaps by successfully arguing that the goal posts were moved too far or that we were getting off-topic, I could try to win by giving Proof by verbosity and simply give them an argument far too complex and verbose to be truly dealt with and keep bombarding them with multi-layered questions that they can’t hope to answer. If they manage to get close to answering it, I’ll sprinkle a few Red Herrings around to distract the audience by introducing a separate argument that I believe will be easier to win. Such as how people today are so coddled they expect to be babied.

Better yet, I can instead take one of their phrases out of context and argue that or even attack the person instead of keeping to the argument. “Isn’t it true that YOU once stole a lolly from the teacher’s desk and YOU weren’t even poor!” I could even poison the well by beginning with a few details about any shoplifting they, or someone they know (if I’m going with Guilt by Association instead), did in their childhood before we get into the argument proper so that everything they say may be discredited or ridiculed due to past indiscretions.

Finally, if all else fails, we could go with a Sentimental Fallacy. It would be more pleasant if thieves became poor, and not the other way around; therefore it ought to be that way; therefore it is that way. This fallacy can also lead to the Fair World Hypothesis: If the world is fair, then people get what they deserve, therefore poor people deserve to be poor, therefore they have no right to steal, regardless of if it is a basic foodstuff or a Porsche.

And wow! I’ve still got enough research for a Part 3 which will include the various “appeal to’s….” After that, who knows?

1 comment:

  1. Alfred Hitchcock loved using the McGuffin which was the upfront gimmick he used to tell his real story. The McGuffin of mistaken identity to tell a story of love/betrayal in NORTH BY NORTHWEST or the search for stolen money which was only an excuse to get us into the Bates Motel in PSYCHO!