Exploring and understanding fallacious arguments

Throughout our lives, we find ourselves engaged in arguments with other individuals pertaining toward a variety of topics.  Some arguments that we come across may not seem very well constructed or may even be factually incorrect. Having explored how individuals may be manipulated by external stimuli, we know that without awareness we raise the risk to being influenced by manipulative external stimuli, but how are these stimuli able to manipulate us?

One of the largest external stimuli that we interact with daily is other individuals. When interacting with other individuals, there may be various attempts by them to manipulate others in a variety of ways. Whether or not the individual is aware of what they are doing is another question, but through knowledge and understanding we can determine the tactics individuals may use to manipulate us. Being social creatures, the best way for humans to communicate ideas is via discourse, namely an argument. One of the biggest mistakes an individual can make in an argument is a fallacy, which can be defined as “an often plausible argument using false or invalid inference”. Identifying fallacies can be a difficult task, but through understanding of what they are, we can start to determine whether or not an argument is fallacious.

Fallacies come in various forms, but are generally put into two categories: Formal fallacies and informal fallacies. Formal fallacies are arguments which contain errors in logical structure. The following is an example of a formal fallacy:

“Some boys like cars.”

“Jim is a boy.”

“Therefore, Jim likes cars.” 

While it is true that many boys do like cars, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Jim likes cars. We can assume that Jim may like cars because he’s a boy, but we cannot assume that he likes cars because he’s a boy.

On the inverse, informal fallacies are arguments that do not have structural faults, but have faults within the arguments content. Often these fallacies occur when appealing to something (fear, popular opinion, ignorance). An example of an informal fallacy follows:

I believe in God. Nobody has proven that God doesn’t exist.

This type of informal fallacy is called an appeal to ignorance, which asserts that the proposition of the claim (God existing) has not yet been proven; therefore their belief (in God existing) must be true.

Generally, fallacies are used innocently, stemming from an individual’s ignorance toward a subject, but some individuals, such as, but not limited to politicians or those with radical ideologies, may be aware of and use fallacious arguments for their own selfish purpose.

When we interact with other individuals, it is crucial to determine whether or not they are speaking fallaciously, not only for our own growth as individuals, but to help others grow. An argument that is fallacious in nature may seem alluring and agreeable, but, when we start to explore what people are actually saying, we see that individuals use fallacies daily in their social interactions. We live in a world riddled with fallacious arguments. Understanding how an argument may be logically and factually misleading allows us to objectively understand the argument.

If you found yourself interested in fallacies, please take a look here for further reading into the myriad of fallacies out there.


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