• SumoMe

Logical FallaciesEvery 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.

22. False Dilemma

If you look around you will see this logical fallacy everywhere. The false dilemma is when someone lays out two choices: you can do either X or Y. However, the statement often fails to account for the complexities of life and choice.

False dilemmas can arise either intentionally or unintentionally. An intentional false dilemma is when someone gives you a choice that is used to deceive. For instance, “you’re either with us or against us,” or “you can be part of the problem or part of the solution.” These are false dilemmas because there are other options: you can be an ally or neutral, and you can be part of neither, respectively. An unintentional false dilemma arises when a statement isn’t used to deceive, but simply because other options aren’t within the purview of the speaker.

Be careful when you give someone a two-choice option, because you might be wrong. Conversely, be careful when you’re given a two-choice option because there might be a way out of the perceived dilemma.

23. Begging the Question

Most of us have heard about “begging the question” at some point or another. In short, this fallacy occurs when the argument is one where the conclusion was included in the premise. This is also called “circular reasoning,” and should always be avoided simply because it’s just plain bad logic.

For instance, one of the best examples relates to religion. This fallacy would be presented as such: “The word of God is flawless and perfect. We know this because the Bible (the word of God) tells us so.” Granted, this is where faith comes in to fill the logical holes. However, the example is still fundamentally and logically sound. The conclusion that the word of X is flawless because the word of X says it’s flawless is clearly illogical, and requires faith to cross that mountain.

You’ll see this type of argument in most places where people have an ingrained assumption that is so strong it becomes a conclusion.

24. Appeal to Nature

We’ve already seen the appeal to authority in part 6 of this series, and the appeal to nature is very similar. This logical fallacy says that because something is present in nature it is therefore correct or desirable. Julian Baggini said it best, “Even if we can agree that some things are natural and some are not, what follows from this? The answer is: nothing. There is no factual reason to suppose that what is natural is good (or at least better) and what is unnatural is bad (or at least worse).”

The most common appeal to nature I hear is to justify eating meat: “Animals kill other animals in nature, therefore we should too.” Yeah, and they also lick their butts and lack vaccines–should we do that too? Sure, there are other arguments out there for eating meat (as well as ones against the practice), but we shouldn’t rely on the “natural” argument, or else be willing to face a slippery slope.

If you want to avoid this, just think about whether the “natrualness” of an argument means anything more than it is found in nature. If that’s all you’ve got to argue on, you might want to think twice.

What examples of these logical fallacies have you experienced? Interested in more? Go read part 7.