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Logical Fallacies
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Posted 3/27/08

qweruiop wrote:

Consider this argument. Is it valid?

Reading is Knowledge. (T)
Knowledge is Power. (T)
Power is Corruption. (T)
Corruption is a Crime. (T)
Crime does not pay. (T)
----------------------------------------------------------
Therfore, reading will make you go broke. (F)

This argument form is the same as yours. It allows an instance of true premises and false conclusion, so is it valid.




I think the real problem is the difference between a valid argument and a sound argument. the argument is valid, it's a chain argument style. But it clearly is not sound. All validity means is that the conclusion follows from the premisses IF (it's a huge if) the premisses are assumed to be true. This argument satisfies such a requirement as if the chain of premisses are true then conclusion (which is linking the first atomic proposition to the final atomic proposition) follows from it. This argument is set up like this.

A > B
B > C
C > D
D > E
E > F
--------
A > F

If you were to truth table this out it would come out as valid. All validity really means is proper thought process.

Now an argument is sound if the argument is first valid and if and only if all the premisses are actually true. this argument is not sound and I think it has to do with ambiguity (a word changing meaning within an argument) in the premisses. I.E. corruption as it relates to power carries different insinuations as opposed to corruption as it relates to crime; Power as well is quite ambiguous, power as it relates to knowledge is different from power as it relates to corruption. few thinks are found to be sound.
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Posted 3/27/08
Well, I don't consider these arguments (even the second one) "valid" at all

Basically, all his premises are merely his impression or belief, rather than solid fact that can be verified and reconfirmed by everyone in controled manner.


qweruiop wrote:
Now is the argument valid or invalid?

I don't see it as a valid logical argument, at all.

First of all, "Reading", "Knowledge", "Power", etc etc, are not yet clearly defined at all.
They are too vague and generic.
What kind of reading is it?
What kind of knowledge?
What kind of power (for what)?
The subject has to be precisely defined.
Otherwise, writer can be thinking about one thing while readers are interpreting something else.

Constructing an argument using inaccurate premises is a pretty common logical falacy, and the source of countless misunderstandings and even fights among people.


Then, there is the problem of presenting "generic or vague impressions" as "absolutely true evaluations".

When we say A is B or an act of A will bring the result B, it MUST be 100% sure.
If not, we can only say A sems to be B, or an act of A often results in B, and these cannot be used as premises of valid logical argument.

Think about the are cases where A doesn't produce the result B.
If any case like that exists, then it can't be a part of premises.

In the case of Reading and Knowledge, the act of reading might at least results in the "knowledge" of the fact that we are reading or we have read, according to you, .... for a while.
But we can forget even that, and thus we can loose that nearly worthless piece of knowledge.

And even if the small piece of knowledge lasted, what kind of "power" it would give us?
Can it be really called "Power"?


As you might be able to see, there is a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE gap between mere impression and logically valid argument.

Most of our daily conversation ain't logically valid, so as most of our thought.
And it takes lots of effort to think and discuss more accurately.
It's not easy at all.

And somehow, not many humans are concerned about the accuracy of their thought....
I guess that's one of the reason we see so many stupid things such as racism in this world.

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Posted 3/28/08

qweruiop wrote:

Alright. I see they are not exactly equivalents. So I shouldn't really use the word "is"
But what if we change the form of this argument into a hypothetical syllogism?

If one reads, then he will gain knowledge. (T)
If one gains knowledge, then he will gain power. (T)
If one gains power, then he will become corrupt. (T)
If one becomes corrupt, then he will commit crimes. (T)
If one commits crimes, then he will not earn money (lawfully). (T)
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Therefore, if one reads, then he will not earn money (lawfully). (F)


Support for premise 1: If one reads, he will at least gain knowledge of the fact that he read something.
Support for premise 2: Knowledge empowers your mind.
Support for premise 3: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Support for premise 4: The definition of corruption from the Websters dictionary: inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery). Unlawful=crime.
Support for premise 5: The keyword is "earn lawfully."
Counterexample for the conclusion: There are several legal jobs that pay for reading. For instance, a book critic. He gets paid for reading and critiquing books.

Now is the argument valid or invalid?


The structure for which you are aiming is A->B, B->C, C->D, D->E, E->F, therefore A->F. This is a valid argument. However, the argument is false because the premises are false. It is not true that one necessarily gains knowledge from reading, nor that one will obtain the type of power that corrupts through knowledge, nor that one will commit crimes if he is corrupt, nor that someone who commits crimes will not earn money lawfully. I believe that there may still be a degree of equivocation (a standard fallacy where the same word is used more than once but has different meanings) in the way you use power, but it is not necessary to bring that up to criticize the argument.

An argument can be valid but false, i.e. All giraffes are frogs; all frogs are amphibians; therefore all giraffes are amphibians.
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Posted 3/28/08

gwgw wrote:

Well, I don't consider these arguments (even the second one) "valid" at all

Basically, all his premises are merely his impression or belief, rather than solid fact that can be verified and reconfirmed by everyone in controled manner.


When we say A is B or an act of A will bring the result B, it MUST be 100% sure.

Most of our daily conversation ain't logically valid, so as most of our thought.
And it takes lots of effort to think and discuss more accurately.
It's not easy at all.

And somehow, not many humans are concerned about the accuracy of their thought....



Hmmm........

What is a fact? Is it not merely a widely accepted opinion or belief?

For instance take the dictionary. Someone came up with the definitions and it became widely accepted, therefore all the definitions in the dictionary are considered facts.

So if an opinion is widely accepted does that guarantee that it's true?
Can we be a 100% sure of any "widely accepted opinion" aka fact?
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Posted 3/28/08

qweruiop wrote:

Hmmm........

What is a fact? Is it not merely a widely accepted opinion or belief?

For instance take the dictionary. Someone came up with the definitions and it became widely accepted, therefore all the definitions in the dictionary are considered facts.

So if an opinion is widely accepted does that guarantee that it's true?
Can we be a 100% sure of any "widely accepted opinion" aka fact?


I used the word "fact", here, as something all the participants of a discussion can agree and reverify as true under certain given conditions, not as "generic" or "absolute" fact, which you might have interpreted.
Sorry if I confused you.

The "difinitions" in dictionaries aren't fact.
Dictionaries merely list the definitions we might see in our daily (or artistic, scientific, etc) life.

So, you can have people using correct (according to some dictionaries) but different definitions, and not agreeing about a topic simply beacause of that.


It's important to have "common ground" among (at least) participants of the discussion, and probably most of humans with certain degree of intelligence.
And that common ground can be constructed using commonly acceptable (again, at least by participants) precise definition of the subjects and evaluation method for them.

That's why you see "definition of terms" in some legal/scientific papers, as there shouldn't be lots of confusion for readers.

If you want to think and discuss more accurately, you need to do the same or at least the defitions of each term must be pretty clear for yourself and you shoudl be preapared and ready to explain them if needed.
If you are not aware of the definitions of words you are using, you can't say you know what you are saying.
And a discussion among people who don't know what they are saying can't be very precise nor constructive, most of the time.

In your case, the first step might be stop using/interpreting words in generic and/or absolute sense.
For each occasion, we are possibly giving different definitions to a word, aware or not.

And also something "general" or "absolute" doesn't exist in the logical plane.
logic is a process of evaluation and any evaluation is only valid under certain conditions.
So, logical evaluation is always limited and cannot be "absolute" without any limitation.

Taking a matter that comes with conditions and limits as something "absolute" is a common form of fallacy.
It's somewhat close to something called "believing". I guess religion was born from this kind of human thinking tendency.

We are probably conditioned to learn and think in the "absolute" sense by birth, just like some animals are conditioned to think and follow blindly what they see first when they get out of their egg.
Tha'ts kind a cute ... but not logical nor intelligent.


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Posted 3/28/08

gwgw wrote:

And also something "general" or "absolute" doesn't exist in the logical plane.
logic is a process of evaluation and any evaluation is only valid under certain conditions.
So, logical evaluation is always limited and cannot be "absolute" without any limitation.

Taking a matter that comes with conditions and limits as something "absolute" is a common form of fallacy.
It's somewhat close to something called "believing". I guess religion was born from this kind of human thinking tendency.

We are probably conditioned to learn and think in the "absolute" sense by birth, just like some animals are conditioned to think and follow blindly what they see first when they get out of their egg.
That's kind a cute ... but not logical nor intelligent.


I like your response.

I do agree that many people do try to get too much out of too little. That is, according to logic, a common fallacy.

However since logic (as you stated) is limited, I wouldn't go as far as to say that there are no absolutes. I have been told many times that there are no absolutes in life, because there are always deviations. However I adamantly believe that there is an absolute truth, although we can't even begin to comprehend it. Since our minds are limited by logic, how can we hope to contain infinity?

If you still insist that there are no absolutes, isn't that statement itself an absolute?



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Posted 3/28/08
Actually the way I see the Socrates example is like this:

A (All men) has characteristic C (are mortal).
B (Socrates) is a subset of A (is a man).
Therefore. B (Socrates) has characteristic C (mortal).

It would not work if A is a subset of B instead, like in the following example.

A (Socrates) has characteristic C (is very intelligent).
A (Socrates) is a subset of B (is a man).
Therefore, B (all men) must have characteristic C (very intelligent).

This is clearly wrong.
However, it is possible to say that since Socrates is intelligent, then there is a possibility that other among the subset of A (men) are also intelligent.

This also works when A=B. However, for A=B, then they are actually the same thing are they not? How about in cases where A => B?

A (eating) leads to B (gain in energy).
A (eating) has outcome C (will prevent death due to starvation).
B (Gaining energy) has outcome C (will prevent death due to starvation).

This sounds perfectly logical, but this is actually not deductive reasoning. The reason for that is because A and B are actually separate events. In my example, other things may lead to B (there are other ways a body may gain energy other than eating, such as being physically pushed by someone else or being on a glucose drip or being electrocuted). In order for a A leads to B, B leads to C argument to be deductive, A can ONLY lead to B and B can ONLY lead to C. The opposite must also be true. B can ONLY be a result of A and C can ONLY be a result of B. Then and only then can you conclude that A leads to C.

That is the main problem with your argument, qweruiop. You are saying A leads to B leads to C leads to D, and D has outcome E. Therefore A should have outcome E. This is in no way deductive reasoning.
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Posted 3/28/08

qweruiop wrote:
I like your response.

I do agree that many people do try to get too much out of too little. That is, according to logic, a common fallacy.

However since logic (as you stated) is limited, I wouldn't go as far as to say that there are no absolutes. I have been told many times that there are no absolutes in life, because there are always deviations. However I adamantly believe that there is an absolute truth, although we can't even begin to comprehend it. Since our minds are limited by logic, how can we hope to contain infinity?

If you still insist that there are no absolutes, isn't that statement itself an absolute?




What is the "absolute" we are talking about?
I guess we are talking about something without any limit, boundaries, conditions, dependancies, etc, etc.

This kind of "absolute" can't be said to exist.
Something can be declared to exist if there is a possibility of both non-existence and existence, and if there is someone or something that can observe the existence.
In other words, anything that exists depends on these components and thus not totally free from limitations.
It's important to note that such a simple thing as affirming the existence actually comes with the cost of required components and conditions and limitations.

Since our "absolute" must be totally free of any limitations/conditions/boundaries/etc, there will be a contradiction if we declare that "it exists".


Any act of asserting/affirming/describing does limit and define the subject matter in a sense.
In other owrds, our "absolute" cannot be described, defined, affirmed in any way.
Only possible description is the total lack of any affirmative description.

It's devoid of any attribute, too, since any attribute is a sort of limiting factor.
So, the "absolute" we imagine is sometime called as "absolute void", "absolute emptiness".

Normally, people don't realize that something totally "absolute" can't have any attribute.
So, they dream that God (different name of something absolute) can do this and that, while the absolute has no possibility of anything.
In short, all we dream about the absolute in the affirmative manner is false (at least logically).

If you can fully understand and be confortable with these, you don't have to see (and pretend) something limited as something absolute, any more.

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Posted 3/28/08
uh...what's there 2 discuss?
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Posted 3/29/08

gwgw wrote:

What is the "absolute" we are talking about?
I guess we are talking about something without any limit, boundaries, conditions, dependancies, etc, etc.

This kind of "absolute" can't be said to exist.
Something can be declared to exist if there is a possibility of both non-existence and existence, and if there is someone or something that can observe the existence.
In other words, anything that exists depends on these components and thus not totally free from limitations.
It's important to note that such a simple thing as affirming the existence actually comes with the cost of required components and conditions and limitations.

Since our "absolute" must be totally free of any limitations/conditions/boundaries/etc, there will be a contradiction if we declare that "it exists".


Any act of asserting/affirming/describing does limit and define the subject matter in a sense.
In other owrds, our "absolute" cannot be described, defined, affirmed in any way.
Only possible description is the total lack of any affirmative description.

It's devoid of any attribute, too, since any attribute is a sort of limiting factor.
So, the "absolute" we imagine is sometime called as "absolute void", "absolute emptiness".

Normally, people don't realize that something totally "absolute" can't have any attribute.
So, they dream that God (different name of something absolute) can do this and that, while the absolute has no possibility of anything.
In short, all we dream about the absolute in the affirmative manner is false (at least logically).

If you can fully understand and be confortable with these, you don't have to see (and pretend) something limited as something absolute, any more.


I did not know the definition of existance. That's cool. I learned something new from this topic. So according to your defintion, something cannot exist in your mind? If it can, how can we observe it? Do illusions have an existence?

--------------------------------------

Since logic itself is limited, how can we use it to classify something unlimted and absolute? It's just not logical. All I can do is understand the limits of logic and state that "I don't know."

Now just because I don't know, doesn't mean that I can't believe.
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Interesting topic

Before Galeilo, it was widely accepted that the earth was flat and you fell off if you sailed pass the end of the world.
They were proven wrong.

On the previous example

"Reading is Knowledge." As noted this is false, since i can read a heck lot of manga (and with no real experience) think that high schools in japan have superpowered teenagers

"Knowledge is Power." - Unfortunately false, there's a lot of very knowledable people that don't hold any real power, but they do know their specialty fields very well

"Power is Corruption." - Depends on how corruption is definied. Is bribery corruption or the decay of one's morals or the increasing idea that only you are right? Some people are prone to 1, 2 or 3 or a mixture

"Corruption is a Crime." - Well is it a crime if you cannot prosecute them due to massive loopholes in the laws? (qv several asian countries like indonesia)

"Crime does not pay."- does it not? If you lived like a king for 20-30 years and got killed in a shoot out, does that mean its paid?
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Posted 3/29/08
I have no idea what its about ....
Posted 3/30/08

makimaki_sataandagi wrote:
I have no idea what its about ....

You are then doomed to be manipulated by propaganda for the rest of your life. You might as well send me all your money now.
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qweruiop wrote:

I've got a question:

You said that argument is valid, Right?
An argument is valid just in case that it is impossible to have an instance of true premises and false conclusion. If an argument has a form that allows an instance of true premises and false conclusion, then it is invalid. Right?

Consider this argument. Is it valid?

Reading is Knowledge. (T)
Knowledge is Power. (T)
Power is Corruption. (T)
Corruption is a Crime. (T)
Crime does not pay. (T)
----------------------------------------------------------
Therfore, reading will make you go broke. (F)

This argument form is the same as yours. It allows an instance of true premises and false conclusion, so is it valid.


I'm going to jump the boat a bit and skip some of the other discussions here. What you're doing is actually providing a logical framework, often times referred to as a syllogism. Syllogisms are deductive statements, where a given premise presupposes a transitory truth to another given truth. In other words, it functions like the transitive property of mathematics, where if a = b, and b = c; then, a = c.

However, syllogisms are susceptible to a form of fallacies referred to as Fallacies of Form, where the logical fallacy is made present when a given word is interpreted in a different form from it's intended statement. These discrepancies lead to what is termed as Non Sequitur, or literally, "it does not follow", based on the logical flow of statements.

For example, your statement of Power is Corruption does not necessarily follow, because the initial statement, "knowledge is power" uses the term "power" to connote "influence or self-empowerment"; while the second term "power" involves a greater scope of coverage, including political and economic power. It does not follow, therefore, that someone "powerful" is necessarily corrupt; and when looked at the other way, it does not necessarily follow that someone corrupt is necessarily knowledgeable.

Your last statement is also a logical flaw of form, because it's not a syllogistic statement. It's not saying that "crime = no payment" ~ it's simply an idiomatic expression that means "there is no reward in being a criminal", but it does not presuppose that there is no physical reward in engaging in criminal acts. The statement is simply a deterrent that gives emphasis on the legal implications of a criminal act, and how it's consequences outweigh the benefits. You, therefore, cannot use an idiomatic expression in a syllogism, because it simply will not make any sense.


I don't really like discussing fallacies of form, because most of the time, we're playing with language, here. More interestingly, however, there are also Fallacies of Reason, or fallacies of argument, that are more apparent on a day-to-day basis, because they involve statements that they attempt to draw logical points from logically inappropriate sources, thus creating a contradiction, or a loss of logical flow.

Fallacies of reason include:

Argumentum ad Hominen ~ or an "appeal to personal flaws". I see this all the time in the forums. People say "You're an idiot and you're just a 13 year old kid. What would you know?" This fallacy of reason tries to debunk an argument by assuming flaws in the opponent's individuality, thus attempting to reduce the credibility of the opponent's points or statements. Logically, this makes no sense, because personal qualities have nothing to do with a person's point, if it is logically construed. They may be hypocritical in making a certain point, but logically, their point still weighs over personal qualities.

Argumentum ad Baculum ~ or an "appeal to force". This uses physical force or inherent power and authority to claim validity. For example, a chairman of a company might say, "My view is correct, or else you will lose your job." Argumentum ad baculum is also the common fallacy used by parents when scolding children, although children aren't aware of it. Regardless, always obey your parents, kids.

Argumentum ad Populi ~ or an "appeal to popularity". It assumes the logical validity of a statement based on popular claims. For example, "I haven't heard anyone say that they regretted aborting their child. Therefore, I don't see anything wrong with it." In politics, where it was originally coined, it referred to an "appeal to the masses", wherein a majority court session would claim validity over the minority. For example, "The defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Just look at all these people that are against him!"

Argumentum ad Vericundiam ~ or an "appeal to authority". This is sometimes confused with Argumentum ad Baculum, but it involves logical fallacies that are based on technical authority, rather than reasonable claims. It's sometimes referred to as "the fallacy of prestige", since it assumes that people in authority are never wrong. Again, a popular fallacy for parents, where they say "I'm you're father. I've been there, and I've done that, so you best do what you're told!" Again, kids... your parents aren't trying to engage in a debate with you ~ they just want what's best for you; even if it means throwing in a fallacy or two.

Argumentum ad Misericordiam ~ or an "appeal to pity". The argument is based by using one's personal woundedness as basis for an argument or logical claim. A comical, but valid, example of this is, "look at my client ~ do you think someone like this could ever commit a crime?" (the defendant is dressed shabbily, with a forlorn look on his face).

Argumentum ad ignorantiam ~ or an "appeal to ignorance". Arguments here try to base validity on claims of ignorance ~ meaning a given logical statement needs to be proved or disproved before it can be considered valid. This is the most common fallacy that occurs in religious debates between those with religious beliefs and atheists.


There are a couple more, but the funny thing about these fallacies of reason is that they can be used in non-fallacious instances. I'm not too sure on how exactly you'd be able to do that, but suffice it to know that it's possible. So kids, don't argue with your parents on the basis of logical fallacies, please.


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edsamac wrote:

I'm going to jump the boat a bit and skip some of the other discussions here. What you're doing is actually providing a logical framework, often times referred to as a syllogism. Syllogisms are deductive statements, where a given premise presupposes a transitory truth to another given truth. In other words, it functions like the transitive property of mathematics, where if a = b, and b = c; then, a = c.

However, syllogisms are susceptible to a form of fallacies referred to as Fallacies of Form, where the logical fallacy is made present when a given word is interpreted in a different form from it's intended statement. These discrepancies lead to what is termed as Non Sequitur, or literally, "it does not follow", based on the logical flow of statements.

For example, your statement of Power is Corruption does not necessarily follow, because the initial statement, "knowledge is power" uses the term "power" to connote "influence or self-empowerment"; while the second term "power" involves a greater scope of coverage, including political and economic power. It does not follow, therefore, that someone "powerful" is necessarily corrupt; and when looked at the other way, it does not necessarily follow that someone corrupt is necessarily knowledgeable.

Your last statement is also a logical flaw of form, because it's not a syllogistic statement. It's not saying that "crime = no payment" ~ it's simply an idiomatic expression that means "there is no reward in being a criminal", but it does not presuppose that there is no physical reward in engaging in criminal acts. The statement is simply a deterrent that gives emphasis on the legal implications of a criminal act, and how it's consequences outweigh the benefits. You, therefore, cannot use an idiomatic expression in a syllogism, because it simply will not make any sense.


I don't really like discussing fallacies of form, because most of the time, we're playing with language, here. More interestingly, however, there are also Fallacies of Reason, or fallacies of argument, that are more apparent on a day-to-day basis, because they involve statements that they attempt to draw logical points from logically inappropriate sources, thus creating a contradiction, or a loss of logical flow.

Fallacies of reason include:

Argumentum ad Hominen ~ or an "appeal to personal flaws". I see this all the time in the forums. People say "You're an idiot and you're just a 13 year old kid. What would you know?" This fallacy of reason tries to debunk an argument by assuming flaws in the opponent's individuality, thus attempting to reduce the credibility of the opponent's points or statements. Logically, this makes no sense, because personal qualities have nothing to do with a person's point, if it is logically construed. They may be hypocritical in making a certain point, but logically, their point still weighs over personal qualities.

Argumentum ad Baculum ~ or an "appeal to force". This uses physical force or inherent power and authority to claim validity. For example, a chairman of a company might say, "My view is correct, or else you will lose your job." Argumentum ad baculum is also the common fallacy used by parents when scolding children, although children aren't aware of it. Regardless, always obey your parents, kids.

Argumentum ad Populi ~ or an "appeal to popularity". It assumes the logical validity of a statement based on popular claims. For example, "I haven't heard anyone say that they regretted aborting their child. Therefore, I don't see anything wrong with it." In politics, where it was originally coined, it referred to an "appeal to the masses", wherein a majority court session would claim validity over the minority. For example, "The defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Just look at all these people that are against him!"

Argumentum ad Vericundiam ~ or an "appeal to authority". This is sometimes confused with Argumentum ad Baculum, but it involves logical fallacies that are based on technical authority, rather than reasonable claims. It's sometimes referred to as "the fallacy of prestige", since it assumes that people in authority are never wrong. Again, a popular fallacy for parents, where they say "I'm you're father. I've been there, and I've done that, so you best do what you're told!" Again, kids... your parents aren't trying to engage in a debate with you ~ they just want what's best for you; even if it means throwing in a fallacy or two.

Argumentum ad Misericordiam ~ or an "appeal to pity". The argument is based by using one's personal woundedness as basis for an argument or logical claim. A comical, but valid, example of this is, "look at my client ~ do you think someone like this could ever commit a crime?" (the defendant is dressed shabbily, with a forlorn look on his face).

Argumentum ad ignorantiam ~ or an "appeal to ignorance". Arguments here try to base validity on claims of ignorance ~ meaning a given logical statement needs to be proved or disproved before it can be considered valid. This is the most common fallacy that occurs in religious debates between those with religious beliefs and atheists.


There are a couple more, but the funny thing about these fallacies of reason is that they can be used in non-fallacious instances. I'm not too sure on how exactly you'd be able to do that, but suffice it to know that it's possible. So kids, don't argue with your parents on the basis of logical fallacies, please.




Wow, that was very detailed.
Thanks for all that info. It was an interesting read and I think I learned a lot.

The reason I brought up that argument was to ask "what if A and B and C and D etc... had more than one meaning?" In the dictionary some words have more than one meaning.

Logic works if you make it as pure as math, but as soon as you bring language into the picture things get hairy and ambiguous.




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