by Bradford Tuckfield (September 2015)
I have loved logical fallacies ever since I took a deductive logic class in college. To be more accurate, I don’t love the fallacies themselves, but I love learning and knowing about them. I find that familiarity with the most common fallacies, together with some other logical principles, gives one power to quickly understand, deconstruct, and cut through even the most formidable opponent’s arguments. It can mean the difference between “that doesn’t sound quite right, but I can’t put my finger on why” and “you’re using argument X, and it’s fallacious, and here’s why.” Of course, the latter response can make one an unpopular conversationalist, but that is a separate issue. more>>>
Dear Mr. Tuckfield, Thank you for your interesting and insightful article about the prevalence of logical fallacies in modern life, particularly in the media. As a philosopher I too am irked by the fallacious arguments I see regularly voiced by politicians, pundits, and other public figures. You are correct that fallacies are all departures from common sense but I believe you are too kind to their perpetrators: many fallacies both of politicians and pundits are deliberate constructions. One finds something similar in academia: while truth may not (as Descartes and Bacon believed with such touching hope) be readily apparent and transparent it is not productive of overly much speech or print - once one has found the truth and demonstrated it there is rarely little else to say. Error, on the other hand, is infinitely productive of publishable articles. The talking heads of the media are paid for their ability to produce what is euphemistically called "content". Errors and fallacies provide endless opportunity to speak and produce a crude simulacra of argument and discussion. As an aside, thank you for not linking to examples of fallacies in the media. It is in the interest of the editors of periodicals and newspapers to have their content shared, which draws readers to their website and allows them to justify their advertising fees. When people share this content talking about how offended they are they are in effect "paying for their own outrage." Best regards, Michael Flood P.S. I hope you will continue to grace this publication with articles in the future.
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