I recently wrote a post regarding a negative experience I had on social media. This experience concerned a post about the Constitution and its governing power. It turned into a bit of a problem when too many voices wanted to add their thoughts. It isn’t that people wanted to add their thoughts, since that was why I posted the piece in the first place, but it was how people started to add their thoughts (seemingly not putting much thought into their thoughts at all).
I thought about how terrible we act and react on social media. We say some of the most outlandish and cruel things via our laptops and phones. As much as I have seen social media as a major problem in how we communicate with one another, I actually gave it more thought than that and came to a different conclusion. I now see social media as an incredible gift that we must take advantage of in order to better our communication skills and our debating skills. I encourage you to read that post: The Gift That Is Social Media.
This is why I have put together this post (which has taken me some time). I have had to cut this down into two parts because there are so many rules of debate. This is the first section that has nine rules (or fallacies) of debate, and I give examples of each. I hope you enjoy this reading, and that you learn something you can use in your future online (and in-person) debates.
RULES OF DEBATE
Argumentum Ad Antiquitatem (the argument to antiquity or tradition)
This is an appeal to tradition. This fallacy takes place when a speaker suggests that something is correct because it has always been done that certain way. This isn’t to say that tradition or the past cannot be referenced in a debate. What it means is that you can’t base your entire argument on what has traditionally been accepted.
For example, you can’t say that X is X because it has always been X. The reason for the existence of X must be proven. For the longest time, the world was flat—at least in people’s minds. It was an idea accepted as fact simply because no one had ever gone around the world. It took someone to travel around the world to prove this fact. Although I’m sure that until they circled around, they were in slight anticipation to reach the cliff of the world. Therefore, fear is often a reason for using the Appeal to Tradition.
Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam (argument to ignorance)
This appeal utilizes ignorance as a stance to which one can hold and win a debate. It relies not on proven fact, but on thought that has yet to be disproven. Science is often the victim and culprit of this type of argument, since science continues to disprove previous thought and logic as either true or false.
For example: Before it was discovered that the earth revolved around the sun, it was believed that the earth was the center of the universe (not even just the galaxy) and that the sun (and the other planets) revolved around earth. Nicolaus Copernicus discovered this, but waited till his deathbed to announce it and publish his heliocentric theory due to fear of persecution by the Catholic Church. Almost 100 years later, Galileo Galilei published his findings that proved Copernicus’s theory correct, but was put under house arrest for the rest of his life and forced to recant his beliefs. This would be the Catholic Church utilizing the Argument to Ignorance (and lots of power) to win the debate.
Argumentum Ad Misericoridam (appeal to pity)
This is an argument where a stance is based not on any logical conclusion, but merely appeals to the pathos, or emotions. This is typically used, quite blatantly, by mixing the argumentum ad hominem (which I mention in Part 2) into the argument. It is used to make a person feel guilty for pointing out the negatives of what is typically a social issue.
For example: This type of fallacy is commonly used regarding America’s immigration issues. The argument, from this side, states that illegal immigrants should not be deported because of the poor conditions within their country of origin. In other words, you should feel sorry enough for them to allow them to stay despite the fact they are breaking the law.
Argumentum Ad Nauseum (argument of repetition)
This is when the debater repeats one point over and over and over as a means of arguing their point. This is often done in discussions of morality.
For example: If a debater argues that marijuana is wrong, they need to justify their stance by more than simply stating that it is wrong.
Argumentum Ad Numerum (appeal to numbers)
There is a saying we’ve all heard that says, “What is popular isn’t always right and what is right isn’t always popular.” This is very true in the sense of debating. Numbers and statistics are very important to use when debating, but in this sense they don't always symbolize fact.
For example: Approximately 70% of Americans believe that global warming is an actual phenomenon. Simply stating these numbers doesn’t make the argument ring true. In order to best support their stance, the debater should state the facts of global warming and then follow up with this being why 70% of Americans believe it is true.
Circulus En Demonstrando (circular argument)
This type of argument starts and ends in the same fashion. For those who are debating a person’s claim, they must pay close attention to the way their opponent phrases their argument.
For example: “America is the greatest nation in the world because we enjoy so many freedoms. People enjoy freedoms and therefore want to live in America, making our country the greatest nation in the world.”
This is a pretty nasty way to argue a point because it often leaves the other person incapable of answering the question. This question is typically unanswerable because there is either no good way of answering it, or the other person doesn’t know whether the other person is stating a factual claim. The first time I heard the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” was when David Stern, the former commissioner of the NBA, said it when asked an equally unanswerable question by Jim Rome.
For example: “Since a record number of Americans denounced their citizenship in 2016, isn’t it obvious that no one wants Donald Trump for president?” Although it is true that a record number of Americans denounced their citizenship in 2016, it actually had nothing to do with then President-elect Trump. The previous four years were record highs for denouncing citizenships and it didn’t have anything to do with who was president. Rather it was due to a foreign tax law called FACTA. A debater can easily be taken by surprise and defeated if they don’t know their stuff.
Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (with this, therefore because of this)
This equates correlation with causation. In other words, since something happens at the same time as something else, then the one must have caused the other.
For example: Consider the example for the Complex Question.
Dicto Simpliciter (sweeping generalization)
This is a very typical fallacy used in arguments, and is stated specifically when someone hasn’t done enough research. Although they aren’t always wrong, sweeping generalizations should be used only when they accurately apply and not when it suits the debater to try to twist the argument.
For example: “Since the Democrat Party is pro-choice, then all Democrats are pro-choice.”
The second and final section will come later this coming week. Till then, study these and let's all (myself included) understand how to debate better.