• 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.

10. Tu Quoque

We all remember the playground comeback, “Takes one to know one!” Well, these playground arguers are engaged in a tu quoque (too-kwo-kwee) fallacy without knowing it. Tu quoque is latin for “you too” or “you also,” and it illustrates a situation where someone who receives criticism directs it back at their opponent without addressing it.

For instance, imagine that your opponent says, “You are using fallacious logic.” You, in return, say, “You also used fallacious logic previously.” While it may be true that your opponent used an anecdotal argument, this fact does not dispute the allegation that you used fallacious logic as your opponent specified. It may dispute the credibility of your opponent, but it does not rebut the allegation of poor logic on your part–it merely deflects the point of contention.

The thinking here is that X makes a criticism A of Y, X is guilty of criticism A, therefore Y’s alleged criticism A is dismissed. This is false. This is often used, as previously mentioned,  on schoolyards or in politics as a way of making others look bad without addressing issues directed at the accused. It is also a variation on the ad hominem attack.

11. Personal Incredulity

We all know people who constantly commit this fallacy. The personal incredulity fallacy comes into play when someone argues that something is false simply because they can’t understand it, or are unaware about how the statement operates.

The absolute best example of this comes in the form of those who argue against evolution and advocate creationism. Living in Texas, I’ve heard many people say, “I didn’t come from a monkey!” or “If we evolved from monkeys, why do monkeys still exist?” This is a clear example of personal incredulity ruling over reason. Arguing with someone who makes these allegations will very likely prove unfruitful, simply because they are arguing against something they don’t fully understand.

The best way to avoid this logical fallacy is to know what you don’t know, and be fully willing to admit your ignorance. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something, but there is something wrong with not knowing something and pretending/arguing that you do.

12. The Special Exception

Anyone who is privy to these logical fallacies and uses them regularly will know that people really dislike being wrong. We dislike it so much, that sometimes we make up really strange excuses as to why we’re wrong. The special exception fallacy manifests when someone, instead of changing their mind or improving their knowledge, will make up excuses or bogus reasons as to why their previous belief or action was correct, despite the compelling evidence to the contrary.

The special exception fallacy can be illustrated by way of a video (to the right). Here, claimed psychic Uri Geller is on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and when his abilities were clearly undermined on national television, he claims that he was “not strong” that night, and insinuates that he would be able to perform the trick, had he been given time to prepare.

The special exception fallacy is different from most fallacies because it occurs after the argument or contention occurred, and serves as a way of saying, “Yeah, but…” in order for someone to not admit they were wrong. Being wrong is ok–that’s how humans progress in knowledge and understanding. Using special exceptions to hinder an advancement of knowledge is not only unhelpful, its socially-dangerous if performed on a large scale.

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