Critical Thinking Midterm Notes

Topics: Argument, Fallacy, Logic Pages: 29 (9739 words) Published: May 22, 2014
Pseudoreasoning/Informal Fallicies
Pseudoreasoning is where a claim is set forth as a reason for believing another claim but that is either logically irrelevant to the truth of the other claim or otherwise fails to provide reasonable support. In this part of the course we are beginning to examine arguments, or, stated more accurately, "would-be arguments," where people advance reasons for their beliefs that in fact do not support them. There are two main types of pseudoreasoning: those that appeal to emotions and those constructed like real arguments but failing in the essential task of providing real support. Lessons 10 and 11 will examine pseudoreasoning types that appeal to emotions. Lesson 12 will study pseudoreasoning types constructed like real arguments. Because pseudoreasoning is defined negatively (what it is not) it does not lend itself to technical categorization. The classifications offered in these lessons are not exhaustive and may overlap or fail to capture precisely what has gone wrong in an argument. While we must have a common language to communicate about different types of pseudoreasoning, the point of these lessons is to alert you to a number of ways in which reasoning fails. When you have finished this course, you may quickly forget the many names and labels but remain alert to failures in reasoning. Common Forms of Pseudoreasoning/Fallacies

1. Smokescreen/Red Herring
2. The Subjectivist Fallacy
3. Appeal to Belief
4. Common Practice
5. Peer Pressure and Bandwagon
6. Wishful Thinking
7. Scare Tactics
8. Appeal to Pity
9. Apple Polishing
10. Horse Laugh/Ridicule/Sarcasm
11. Appeal to Anger or Indignation
12. Two Wrongs Make a Right
The above list is not exhaustive. Each will be explained in the next section. Definitions/Descriptions of Pseudoreasoning Types
1. Smokescreen/Red Herring: Most pseudoreasons introduce irrelevant considerations into a discussion, but a smokescreen or red herring does not fit into one of the more specific categories. Typically it involves the deliberate introduction of irrelevant topic or consideration in order to throw the discussion off course. Example: Professor Conway complains of inadequate parking on our campus. Dut did you know that last year Conway carrried on a torrid love affair with a momber of the English Department? Enough said about Conway. - Notice the change from the tioic of inadequate parking to the irrelevant topic of a torrid love affair 2. The Subjectivist Fallacy: The structure of this fallacy is "That may be true for you, but it is not for me," when applied to matters of fact. Earlier, we made the distinction between matters of fact and matters of opinion. In the subjective world of pure opinion (for example, what I think of a particular movie), I am entitled to my opinion. However, in the objective world of facts (for example, the day of the week), I do not enjoy the same latitude. I am not entitled to my own facts. 3. Appeal to Belief: The pattern is: "X is true because everyone (many people, most societies, others) think that it is true." It is a distorted version of the reasonable practice of accepting the claim from a reasonable authority. Because people may in fact be experts on a subject, you must take care in distinguishing between good and bad versions of this reasoning. For example, "Physicians consider food high in saturated fat unsafe," is a good appeal to belief. On the other hand, "Physicians consider overseas stocks unsafe," is a bad appeal to belief. 4. Common Practice is where an action is defended by calling attention to the fact that the action is a common one (not to be confused with appeals for fair play). It seeks to justify an action on the grounds of its familiarity or typicality. It differs from appeal to belief in that it specifically aims at calling an action acceptable, without mentioning the beliefs people may have about what they commonly do. The most common form of this pseudoreasoning...
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