This is the second and final installment regarding what I feel is a very necessary topic in our everyday lives. It is the topic of debate. Whether we like it or not, we debate with each other all the time over the most important things, like religion, politics, and human rights, and the things that aren’t that important, like food, sports, and fashion.
I really hope that you enjoy this second part of the laws of debate and how to abide by them. For the betterment of ourselves and for this country, let’s learn how to use them.
Petitio Principii (begging the question)
This is a fallacy, but it is actually identical to Circular Argument (refer to Part 1). The sole reason I point this one out is because the term “begging the question” is so often misused. People use this term as a turn of phrase, instead of using it to point out a fallacy.
For example: “Since more people have been killed by guns over the past 50 years than all of America’s wars combined, it begs the question of why shouldn’t we implement stricter gun control laws.” In this, the term “begs the question” is used as an emphasis in the statement rather than referencing it as a logical fallacy.
Non Sequitur (it does not follow)
This fallacy takes place when a debater jumps to a conclusion before taking the proper steps to reach it. It usually stems from either feeling a time crunch or knowing that you don’t have enough information to back up your claim.
For example: “Islamic extremists are trying to get into our country. We should keep Muslims from entering the country.” It may be true that Islamic extremists are trying to reach America and they claim Islam as their religion, but it is a huge stretch to correlate the two. The better argument would be, “Islamic extremists are trying to get into our country. Let’s increase security measures regarding immigrants from countries harboring Islamic extremists in order to better ensure our safety.”
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (after this, therefore because of this)
This fallacy suggests that since A took place before B, then A must have caused B. This is a very common debate tactic used and is typically believed due to the chronology of the argument, though often there isn’t an exact correlation. This is a very common method used in political discussions.
For example: “President Bush was a terrible president. His policies were the cause of the Great Recession.” The accuracy of this statement is very flawed because the Great Recession was caused by numerous variables, but, unfortunately for Bush, he was president at the time. His policies didn’t help matters, but the Great Recession received help from the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passed in 1999 during the Clinton Administration, the opposition of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act (proposed in 2005), the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan, mortgage brokers, and a whole host of others. In other words, there are always two sides to every story. And more often than not, there are more than two sides.
This isn’t so much a fallacy as it is a tactic that one should be aware of. Know when it is being used, so that you can avoid it, but also know when to use it, just in case you want to give yourself some time to gather your thoughts. A Red Herring is a diversion tactic in an argument, which tosses out a statement or question that only slightly relates to the subject but can get the other person off focus. This is used quite regularly and you’ll often see it on TV interviews, especially if a Liberal station is interviewing a Conservative or vice versa.
For example: The View hosted Omarosa Manigault, the current director of communications for the Trump Administration. While discussing the Administration’s plans, Joy Behar, the host of the show, asked when would President Trump release his tax records. The Red Herring was successful as it killed some of Manigault’s time on the show and caused the topic to slightly change.
This debating tactic is only a fallacy when someone concludes that Point A will undoubtedly lead to Point B or C if it is really difficult to conclude that will happen. There must be a correlative and believable sequence in order to create the “slope”. A slippery slope is simply something that can quickly lead to something else, but it is only labeled as a fallacy when that something to which it arrives is unlikely or absurd. In the negative sense, it is a bit like Non Sequitur.
For example: During the Women’s Suffrage movement, an anti-suffrage booster notably made this argument for why women should not be allowed to vote: it would create a “race of masculine women and effeminate men and the mating of these would result in the procreation of a race of degenerates.” Whether you agree that is the current case or not, that was a pretty steep and slippery fallacious slope.
This is a little bit like the Red Herring as it is used as a diversionary tactic. The Straw Man is simply arguing against a point that the other person never made, rather than their point or something similar to their point. It is an interesting method for leading someone away from the point of their discussion.
For example: If someone were to make the argument that America should never have been involved in the Vietnam War, and the hearer responds with, “Since you don’t believe America should be involved in international wars, are you suggesting that we adopt a pacifist foreign policy?” Instead of remaining on the precise topic of an individual war and opting to remain out of it, the debater argues an unmade point concerning all wars and the adoption of a new foreign policy.
Tu Quoque (you too)
This actually goes back to childhood. If a mistake is made during an argument, it will undoubtedly be pointed out. There is nothing wrong with that. It is when both speakers make mistakes in their arguments, but they both try to figure out whose mistake was worse. The fact is two mistakes were made and those must be admitted to before the argument can continue. Honesty in conversation is key, which includes admitting errors.
For example: This one is so self-explanatory, I don’t feel the need to provide an example.
Argumentum Ad Hominem (the argument directed at the person)
I figured I should place this one last because this is currently the major fallacy we incur during our debates. This fallacy is when the speaker begins attacking the one who asked the question or proposed the idea, rather than attacking or answering the question itself. What generally happens is a difficult question is asked or a topic is mentioned (typically religious, political, or social) and the hearer begins to lash out at the very character of the individual proposing the question or idea or they lash out at the very person/group/company that the question or idea is about. Instead of answering the question or stating their position, they use inflammatory words or phrases (such as racist, sexist, bigot, libtard, idiot, fascist, communist, anti-whatever) to avoid the question or statement and dissolve the conversation altogether.
For example: A person suggests that abortion is wrong and should be made illegal. In response, the hearer avoids defending their reasons to keep abortion legal and states that person is a sexist and against women’s rights.