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Informal Fallacy As a Logical Mistake

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During the first week of class, we discussed informal fallacies. An informal fallacy is defined as a logical mistake. Five of the informal fallacies discussed were equivocation, ad hominem, straw man, appeal to authority, and secundum. Each of these fallacies is comparable to what happens in everyday life conversations. Through analyzing, one should be able to determine how these logical mistakes connect with our everyday lives.

Equivocation is a fallacy known for having two meanings of an ambiguous word over the course of an argument. The example used during lecture expressed that a feather is light, but light can ‘t be dark. Therefore, the feather can ‘t be dark. In this example, light is used as an adjective and a noun. When stating that the feather is light, one is making reference to the weight of a feather, not the color of the feather. The interpretation of the feather can be confusing because one can think that when expressing that the feather is light it is describing the color of the feather. Therefore, if you know the color of something is light, it can’t be dark as well. Equivocation is used when arguing; it goes to show that when people are arguing with one another, they’ll use an ambiguous word to try and confuse the other person.

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Attacking a person and not caring what they have to say describes the fallacy ad hominem. Meaning “to man,” one can witness this fallacy in action between political opponents. This past Monday, I watched the first presidential debate for this upcoming election, and while watching, it was one particular part that made me think of this misconception. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton made a remark about Republican nominee Donald J. Trump not releasing his tax returns. Republican nominee Donald Trump then stated, “I will release my tax returns against my lawyer’s wishes when Clinton releases her thirty-three thousand emails that have been deleted.” I felt that Mr. Trump ‘s statement was an example of this fallacy because instead of trying to hear Mrs. Clinton out, as soon as she expressed how she felt, he attacked her character with that particular statement.

The straw man is kind of similar to the ad hominem fallacy. Instead, the straw man fallacy is defined as attacking what a person has to say by creating one ‘s version of what someone else believes and attacking that version. Straw man is another deception that is used to political opponents. For example, opponent A can make a statement, but opponent B can take opponent A ‘s statement and twist it around completely to try and give themselves the upper hand. The example stated during the lecture was the statement that all Muslims want to blow themselves up to get into heaven. That statement was twisted around by someone who is trying to attack the Muslims. The Muslim remark isn ‘t a fair statement because all Muslims do not want to blow themselves up. I also witness the straw man when people engage in “he says, she says” conversations. Usually, statements get twisted in these particular conversations which demonstrate the straw man misconception.

The fourth informal logical mistake discussed was the appeal to authority fallacy. Appeal to authority is a fallacy where an assertion is deemed true because of the position or authority of the person asserting it. When learning about this fallacy, I immediately reverted to my childhood. Any time my parents or an older family member told me something, I believed it because I automatically thought it had to be true because of them being older. That ‘s not the case; something isn ‘t always true because of the position or authority a person has unless they have concrete evidence to support their points. Appeal to authority fallacy also correlates with attending lecture; you can’t automatically believe everything your professor says is true if he or she doesn’t have supporting material for the point they are trying to make.

Lastly, another informal fallacy discussed was secundum, which is an overgeneralization. I have practiced the secundum fallacy many times throughout my life. As I child, sometimes if things didn’t go my way, I would always say “bad things always happen to me.” At that age, of course, I didn ‘t realize I was practicing a fallacy, but after learning about it, I see I indeed was. In reality, bad things weren’t always happening to me, that was just something I planted in my head every time things didn’t go my way.

As one can see, most of the informal fallacies discussed are always being used around us. By analyzing each of these informal fallacies, I realized that I ‘d witnessed many people practicing them. I would have never thought that the particular thing they were doing was known as fallacy until learning about it in this class. Now as I continue through life understanding what informal fallacies are, anytime I witness someone practicing one I ‘m going to say automatically…” They just used an informal fallacy!”


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