I want to use today’s post to talk about some of the arguments you will hear from politicians, pundits, enemies and even friends. Not that knowing the type of argument or logical fallacy will change a person’s mind making the argument. At least you can identify the logical fallacy being used on you and subsequently reject the argument from the standpoint of reason.
Mark Twain supposedly said – probably not exactly as phrased here – , “never argue with an idiot, they will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience”. A variation of the same saying is never wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty, the pig loves it, and onlookers won’t be able to tell the difference.
Five of the post common logical fallacies you will hear are:
Ad Hominem — Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument. Donald Trump is a 9th level Sith Lord of the ad hominem attack. One simply has to read his tweets to watch the master of this fallacy in action.
Argument from Authority – this one was a favorite of President Obama and his supporters. He once said, “we won, you lost, get over it” when negotiations broke down with Republicans over Obama Care. This is the might makes right argument – and its just as wrong as the others. The argument that a person is in charge and that he or she must know what they are doing is simply crazy.
Appeal to Ignorance — I really hate this one, it’s the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true or vice versa. Carl Sagan summed it up by saying “(the) impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Just because I can’t prove Elvis was not a time traveling alien who returned to planet Memphis doesn’t mean it’s not true. Ugh.
Non-Sequitur — Latin for “It doesn’t follow”. My rich neighbor uses an iPhone – so if I use an iPhone then I’ll get rich. My neighbor has a vicious pit bull, therefore all pit bulls are vicious. These arguments drive me crazy. A recent example a friend used was that a white man attacked an Indian couple in Kansas, so he must be a Christian extremist. Non-sequitur.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc — Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” This one is used often on both sides of the political spectrum. For example: Hillary Clinton lost the election, Trump was friendly with the Russians, so the Russian’s must have made Hillary lose. My aides did stupid things, the democrats are happy they got caught, it must have been the democrats that made them do it.
There are other logical fallacies – but I picked the ones I’ve heard recently on the news . Arm yourselves with knowledge, and don’t wrestle with pigs.