• SumoMe

Every man needs to know how to persuade. Everything from buying a car, asking for a raise, advocating for a client, or convincing your significant other to go to the steakhouse over the French bistro involves the subtle art of persuasion. This eight-part segment is dedicated to teaching men how to argue by explaining the most common weaknesses in arguments, and hopefully how to avoid them.

4. Strawman

In a debate, the worst thing you can do is argue against a point that is irrelevant, incorrect, or misinterpreted. This is the heart of the flawed strawman technique. This logical flaw is found when someone’s point is misconstrued and subsequently misused against them.

For instance, imagine a politician says something like, “Our country’s elders are an important group of people because they are living proof of our country’s history, and these are the types of people we should learn from.” A seemingly rational and uncontroversial statement. However, in an attempt to use that against the politician, an opponent might use the flawed strawman argument and say that the speaker “doesn’t think the country’s youth is important,” or the speaker “hates young people.” This argument is inherently flawed because that’s not what the speaker said at all.

This technique is one of the worst, because it goes to your credibility. If you’re willing to exaggerate your opponent’s statements to the negative, are you willing to exaggerate your own statements to the positive? The strawman technique is alive and well in many 24 hour snooze news cycle stations where commentary is irreconcilably fused with facts.

5. False Cause

Correlation does not equal causation. Remember that mantra from part one? Much like the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, the false cause fallacy is present when someone perceives a relationship between two events or pieces of data, and then automatically assumes a causal relationship between them.

For instance, imagine that someone’s studies found an increase in homicides in a city. Further, the same incompetent analyst found that blue jean sales in the same city are also increasing at the same rate. The analyst then concludes: the increase in blue jean sales caused the increase in homicides. Much like the Texas sharpshooter, people who argue the false cause fallacy often fail to account for chance–the chance that two things will increase at the same speed/rate/degree, at the same time, yet still not have a causal connection.

Another version of this fallacy is the conclusion that because event X occurred before event Y, that X caused Y. This conclusion is also absurd, and has the same general flaws in logic as the prior example. This technique is most often used in politics to show the alleged effects of policies or laws put into place by a political opponent.

6. Emotional Appeal

Sometimes appealing to someone’s emotions is a great tool. However, when you use this tool in lieu of making a rational or reasonable argument, your argument is flawed. The emotional appeal fallacy happens when you use an emotional response to fill the gaps in your argument.

For instance, imagine that instead of debating the merits of tax hikes, a politician asks his opponent to “think of the seniors, children, and impoverished people who will lose out on the benefits of state intervention.” However powerful the emotional vision might be, it is not a valid argument to show why an act or policy is rational or reasonable.

Appeals to emotion divert people’s attention from the issue at hand, point them to a poignant image, and conclude “Therefore, I win.” These types of failed arguments are all over the 24 hour news cycles and politics in general.

What sorts of examples have you found of these logical fallacies? Interested in more? Go read part one