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Fallacies

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Slanting

The assertion below exemplifies one of the fallacies in presentation. This fallacy is referred to as ‘slanting’ [Moore & Parker, 1998, Ch. 4] and has quite evidently taken place in an attempt to shift the reader’s focus from the actual the true fact. Slanting is a type of falsification in which a valid statement is made, but is presented in such a manner that the connotation is manipulated.

For example in a statement like the following example suggest that the space program has been using so much money that is unimaginable. The author’s usage of the words “can’t believe” gives this impression that any reasonable person would deem the money spent on the program heedless. The word “poured” has been used to offer a bias connotation, impressing upon the reader of the unnecessary amount of money that has poured into the program whereas its utility is questionable.

Example: “I can't believe how much money is being poured into the space program”

Straw man

Another fallacy that is seen in the same article is in the following sentence:

Example: “Those who favor gun-control legislation just want to take all guns away from responsible citizens and put them into the hands of the criminals.”

In this sentence the fallacy that is seen is called ‘straw man’ [Pirie, 1985, p. 160]. This is a fallacy that misrepresents the position of the opposition which is seen in the words, “those who favor gun control”. These words indicate the absurd assumption that those who believe that gun control are the culprit for creating an unsafe environment. By using the word “responsible citizens” as opposed to the phrase “put them into the hands of the criminals” the author attempts to give the impression that gun-control proponents are committing a crime by promoting legislation in favor of the criminals. Straw man occurs as it has here when an opponent’s position is misrepresented. This is done in order to ease an attack on an opponent, and is done so by distorting his or her views to unreasonable extremes. In the above example one can clearly demarcate between the proponents as the group who are “responsible” while the opponents were the irresponsible ones as they are the ones who are easing the process of criminal access to guns. Although the opponents are going through the legal channel to promote their views, the author is attempting to label them as the indirect criminals.

This may also occur when attacks are made on only the weak premises in an opposing argument while ignoring the strong ones. This is the case with the above statement as the author attempts to debase his/her opponent without concrete evidence or premises for his argument. This can be detected by the word “just want to take all guns away”.

Argumentum ad Hominem: Attacking the Person

Argumentum ad Hominem is the Latin term for “attacking the person”. In this form of logical fallacy, the content of an argument is overlooked and the arguer, the source of the argument, is directly attacked. The stages to ad hominem attacks are: X makes a statement, people feel that there is something wrong with the credibility of X. they arrive to the conclusion that X’s statement must, therefore, be false. Understandably, for simplicity’s sake, we often prefer to bypass reviewing or analyzing a long argument in favor of quickly deciding whether or not the argument could be valid by examining the arguer’s credentials. While basing the validity of an argument on the basis of the qualifications of the source of argument may seem rational in certain cases, as would be the doubt placed on the testimony of a convicted felon, more often than not this is a harsh fallacy that leads to the improper analysis of the argument itself. An ad hominem attack marks the presence of a lack of critical thinking. Such attacks focus on appealing to the emotions instead of logical judgment. Critical thinking involves the careful and deliberate determination of whether to accept reject or suspend judgment (Moore and Parker, 1994) based on the content of the argument. In ad hominem attacks, the subject matter and validity of the argument is disregarded or given little importance while the concentration is given to the person making the argument. Ad hominem is, therefore, a great fallacy when applied to critical thinking as it completely ignores thinking critically about the argument and instead focuses on making snap judgments regarding the validity of the argument based on the source of the argument.

Argumentum

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