Argument from fallacy

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Argument from fallacy is the formal fallacy of analyzing an argument and inferring that, since it contains a fallacy, its conclusion must be false.[1] It is also called argument to logic (argumentum ad logicam), fallacy fallacy,[2] fallacist's fallacy,[3] and bad reasons fallacy.[4]

Fallacious arguments can arrive at true conclusions, so this is an informal fallacy of relevance.[5]

Form[edit]

It has the general argument form:

If P, then Q.
P is a fallacious argument.
Therefore, Q is false.[6]

Thus, it is a special case of denying the antecedent where the antecedent, rather than being a proposition that is false, is an entire argument that is fallacious. A fallacious argument, just as with a false antecedent, can still have a consequent that happens to be true. The fallacy is in concluding the consequent of a fallacious argument has to be false.

That the argument is fallacious only means that the argument cannot succeed in proving its consequent.[7] But showing how one argument in a complex thesis is fallaciously reasoned does not necessarily invalidate the proof; the complete proof could still logically imply its conclusion if that conclusion is not dependent on the fallacy:

All great historical and philosophical arguments have probably been fallacious in some respect... If the argument is a single chain, and one link fails, the chain itself fails with it. But most historians' arguments are not single chains. They are rather like a kind of chain mail which can fail in some part and still retain its shape and function.

—David Hackett Fischer, Historians' fallacies[3]

Examples[edit]

Objection[edit]

Tom: All cats are animals. Ginger is an animal. Therefore, Ginger is a cat.
Bill: You have just fallaciously affirmed the consequent. You are incorrect. Therefore, Ginger is not a cat.
Tom: I speak English. Therefore, I am English.
Bill: Americans and Canadians, among others, speak English too. By assuming that speaking English and being English always go together, you have just committed the package-deal fallacy. You are incorrect. Therefore, you are not English.

Both of Bill's rebuttals are arguments from fallacy. Ginger may or may not be a cat, and Tom may or may not be English. That Tom's argument was fallacious is not, in itself, sufficient proof that his conclusion is false.

Counterargument[edit]

Joe: Bill's assumption that Ginger is not a cat uses the argument from fallacy. Therefore, Ginger absolutely must be a cat.

That one can invoke the argument from fallacy against a position does not prove one's own position either, as this would be an argument from fallacy itself, as is the case in Joe's argument.

Further[edit]

Argumentum ad logicam can be used as an ad hominem appeal: by impugning the opponent's credibility or good faith it can be used to sway the audience by undermining the speaker, rather than addressing the speaker's argument.[3]

William Lycan identifies the fallacy fallacy as the fallacy "of imputing fallaciousness to a view with which one disagrees but without doing anything to show that the view rests on any error of reasoning", using as examples G. E. Moore's naturalistic fallacy and Ned Block's fallacy of intentionalizing qualia. Unlike ordinary fallacy fallacies, which reason from an argument's fallaciousness to its conclusion's falsehood, the kind of argument Lycan has in mind treats another argument's fallaciousness as obvious without first demonstrating that any fallacy at all is present. Thus in some contexts it may be a form of begging the question.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ K. S. Pope (2003) "Logical Fallacies in Psychology: 21 Types" Fallacies & Pitfalls in Psychology
  2. ^ Burkle-Young, F. A.; Maley, S. (1997). The research guide for the digital age. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-7618-0779-7. 
  3. ^ a b c Fischer, D. H. (June 1970). "Fallacies of substantive distraction". Historians' fallacies: toward a logic of historical thought. Harper torchbooks (first ed.). New York: HarperCollins. p. 305. ISBN 978-0-06-131545-9. OCLC 185446787. "The fallacist's fallacy consists in any of the following false propositions... 3. The appearance of a fallacy in an argument is an external sign of its author's depravity." 
  4. ^ Warburton, Nigel (2007). Thinking from A to Z. Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-4154-3371-6. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Logical Fallacies > Fallacies of Relevance > Fallacist's Fallacy". "It is possible to offer a fallacious argument for any proposition, including those that are true." 
  6. ^ Morge, M. (2008). "The Argument Clinic: A Baloney Detection Kit." (PhD Lunchtime Seminar). Dipartemento di Informatica, Pisa. p. 20. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 

    c since A
    A is fallacious
    ¬c

  7. ^ John Woods, The death of argument: fallacies in agent based reasoning, Springer 2004, pp. XXIII–XXV
  8. ^ Lycan, William G. (1996). "Qualia Strictly So Called". Consciousness and experience (first ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-262-12197-2. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Fallacy Fallacy – The Fallacy Files
  • David Hackett Fischer, Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought Harper & Row, 1970, pp. 305–306.