Fallacy Summary and Application:
Three Fallacies and Organizational Examples
The concept of critical thinking can be a difficult task. The process involves analyzing an argument and determining whether it's fallacious or not. An argument is fallacious when there is an error in its reasoning. Bassham, Irwin, Nardone and Wallace (2002) suggest there are two types of fallacies: (1) fallacies of relevance and (2) fallacies of insufficient evidence. This case study will analyze three fallacies. First, one fallacy of relevance will be defined, the straw man fallacy. Next this case study will define two fallacies of insufficient evidence: (1) the fallacy of hasty generalization and (2) the fallacy of begging the question. Specific organizational examples will demonstrate how these fallacies affected real world situations. How the strawman fallacy is applied to the "No Child Left Behind" slogan will be explained. How the death penalty argument was affected by the fallacy of hasty generalization. Finally, an article analyzing the Federal Reserve and its evaluation resulted in a fallacy of begging the question. The Straw Man Fallacy
According to Bassham et al. (2002), the straw man fallacy was committed when an argument distorts an opponent's argument or claim in order to make it easier to attack. An attempt was made to ignore a person's actual position by substituting it with a distorted and misrepresented version of that position. The Nizcor site illustrates this concept in the following example. Person A has position X. Person B represents Y (which is a distorted version of X). Person B attacks position Y. Therefore, X is false and incorrect. This sort of reasoning is considered fallacious since attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. In critical thinking, it was important that this argument pattern provides no logical relevance in support of its conclusion. One must think about the actual relevance of statements to the issue on the table and resist any outside influences when making a decision.
According to Thomas (in response to an article All Children Can Leanr), the original author that prompted an immediate response was criticized of distorting the purpose of the No Child Left Behind Act. The original author's quote was, " We all know that there are many individuals that don't want schools to improve if improvement means successfully teaching all children. I sincerely hope that neither the authors nor the editors of this publication are among that group." The article received many negative responses and all but two were overwhelmingly positive. One respondent countered with the argument that many people are "paying lip service" to the idea of improving education, however, few are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to improve the educational opportunities for children in the U.S. This argument is fallacious because the author is accused of making this statement based on empty rhetorical phrases. In fact, it appears that the critic of this article went to great lengths to misrepresent their view. When making a wise decision it was crucial that the relevant facts be considered, that distorted information be interpreted objectively, and disregarded if not related to the issue involved. Fallacy of Hasty Generalization
According to Bassham et al. (2002), the fallacy of hasty generalization was committed when a stereotypical example was used to make a conclusion. When a biased sample or a sample that was too small was used, the conclusion will not be logical. The Nizcor site offers the following example. Sample S, which is too small, is taken from Population P. Conclusion C is drawn about Population P based on Sample S. This argument was fallacious because it involves the misuse of reasoning also known as generalization. The conclusion was drawn from a generalized, stereotypical and prejudiced opinion. Critical...
References: Bassham, G., Irwin W., Nardone, H., & Wallace, J.M. (2002). Critical Thinking. [University of Phoenix custome edition e-text]. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved November 2, 2004, from University of Phoenix, Resource, MGT/350 Critical Thinking website: https://my campus.phoenix.edu./secure/resource/resource.asp
Eddelman, T., Ten Anti-Death Penalty Fallacies. (2002, June 3). The New American. Retrieved November 1, 2004, from EBSCO database http://
Thomas, D., No Child Left Behind: Facts and Fallacies (2002, June 2). Phi Delta Kappan. Retrieved November 1, 2004 from INFOTRAC database.
Truman, E., Fallacies, Insults and Naivety Over the Way: Fed Should Do Its Work (2003, April 29). The Financial Times. Retrieved November 2, 2004 from INFOTRAC database http
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