This is the third in a series on Logical Fallacies or, as the title implies, self-defence for your own speech, arguments, and for your mind, by not allowing bad ideas with bad arguments or parasitic ideas to infiltrate your mental defenses.
I hope the second post helped you start to understand how logical fallacies work and what they are. If it wasn’t clear, fallacies are not very well thought out and lazy, and tend to be misrepresentative or even emotional arguments that do little to actually make one’s case iron clad for a given point or idea.
Keep in mind, even when you make a solid, well thought out argument, void of logical fallacies, others may simply ignore it or choose their own logical fallacy to counter your argument. Absent of a well trained panel of judges you will have to understand these fallacies well enough to know when the other person does not know how to argue or make their point appropriately, and you will simply have to know internally that you have won a given argument or at at least talking/arguing with someone who does not know how to argue or make their point properly or efficiently.
In such cases you do have some strategies. You could simply concede for the sake of the other’s ego and appearances; but this means you have to forgo your own ego, if you can. Or you could “agree to disagree” which only works if they understand the concept and accept it. Or, like many self-defence situations, you could simply walk (or run) away knowing it is not going anywhere.
All of these options are not only likely in most discussions or arguments but also very difficult, as you have to manage not just their ego but your own. If, of course, the debate is online you should just smack yourself for even engaging in the first place, and surf someplace else…
It can be quite the challenge to apply these strategies even when you applied logic properly, because as you know, to err is human.
For this post I will look at the next three logical fallacies on the list:
- Post Hoc Fallacy
- Loaded Question Fallacy
- False Dichotomy Fallacy
Post Hoc Fallacy
From the Latin “post hoc ergo propter hoc” translating to “after this, therefore because of this” or more simply, “because A happened before B, A must have caused B.”
Let’s stick with the alphabet for a second. If I did not know anything about language other than what I saw. I could assume that because A exists in the alphabet before B then A must have caused B to come into being in some omnipotent fashion. Thus A’s existence caused B’s existence. Except this would be a Post Hock fallacy, as I’m making a wild assumption based on the mere order of the letters without further evidence. After all it was a 3rd party that created the alphabet, and determined the arrangement for their own reasons, thus A could not and did not cause B.
Or let’s say, because “Big Daddy Government” created a policy like, oh I don’t know, Vaccine Passports, and case rates go down, in the news then the report reads “Vaccine Passports must have worked in Covid-19 transmission reduction.”
In this case, A = the Policy, and B = a Reduction of Cases as reported by the news.
Except there could be a million other reasons as to why the cases went down (yes that’s a hyperbole), the simplest explanation being that the news simply is reporting fewer cases, because they don’t feel they need to on account of new policies, or they were told to as a means to convince people that the policy worked.
Or because they perhaps changed the metrics of measurement in what constitutes a positive case.
Or because people who choose to get vaccinated simply don’t bother getting tested anymore.
Or, Or, Or…
In this particular case its probably a little bit of everything, if that is in fact what is going on in your particular country. But if you blindly accept the word of such news sources, which are biased (whoever controls the money stream, in Canada it would be the government and then advertisers), then you can easily believe what they say outright without further information and thus can easily make a Post Hoc fallacy in thinking or argument.
Just because something appears to have an effect on something does not mean it actually did. Often there are many factors, many of which are information you may be missing (or is generally unknown), to fill in the blanks. Thus you do what humans do best; assume and make and ass of yourself.
Remember, if there appears to be a pattern it does not actually mean there is a pattern, and to find out if there is something to it requires more data and information, either through reading or experimental research.
Here’s another video explaining this fallacy.
Loaded Question Fallacy
Like a loaded gun you can get your kill easily if the other chooses to stand right in front of it. This of course is the metaphor for this hard to avoid fallacy. The thing is, the fallacy is usually employed by the one asking the question, like the person who loaded the live round into the gun. It is usually intentional, to give the person on “offence” a advantage if the other isn’t paying attention. Though it can be done unintentionally if you simply know something that the other doesn’t.
If you haven’t figure it out yet the loaded question fallacy is just that, a loaded question or leading question. A question that includes, implies, or leads to the desired conclusion.
In a sense it’s a trick or trap question.
If your question presumes something it may very well be a loaded question.
A classic example might be something from a bad legal drama, where the lawyer asks to a witness, “Isn’t it true that person X did Y at this time?” This presumes that the person being questioned even had knowledge of what person X was doing and forces them to answer a yes/no answer. If they answer “yes,” then it seems they did have knowledge if they say “no” it could look like they also know something as they may try to correct it. Either way it’s a trap to try to get the person being question to admit knowledge.
The lawyer should ask “do you know where person X was at this time?” and then if they answer yes, then ask “do you know what they were doing?”.
In the first case it implies the person has knowledge of the situation, while the second line of questioning allows them to answer without implying they knew (they would have to offer the information). They could of course be lying, which if it proven in court would be it’s own crime in itself called perjury. But, of course, lots of people commit perjury and never get caught. Still, lawyers, at least to my knowledge, are not suppose to ask leading questions, a.k.a. employ the Loaded Question Fallacy.
Surprisingly, I can’t seem to think of a Covid-related example so I’ll spare you on this one.
Here’s a video explaining it further.
False Dichotomy Fallacy
This one is all about making things Black and White. Something which if you have been following this blog for a long time is something you know I detest. Life and the human experience is very rarely a matter of yes or no, chocolate or vanilla, this or that. Often there is a multitude of options, solutions, and causes. Some might even say things operate on a spectrum. Yet creating a false dichotomy is an easy way to screw with logic and people.
Essentially it says that, “either A or B.” As in, “I want A but if I don’t get A then I must get B.” Except, there are 24 other letters in the alphabet, so why not C, D, E, etc..
When it comes to being controversial this is actually a really easy one.
Have you heard someone say recently, “You are either Pro Vaccine or Anti Vaccine” which is very much a false dichotomy and usually one which you should respond with “which vaccine are we talking about and I can discuss whether I am more for it or more against it based on a variety of factors such as risks/hazards, age factors, exposure factors etc.?” At which point the person will usually just say “you aren’t an expert” (Appeal to Authority), therefore you must be Anti Vaccine, because you didn’t say you were Pro Vaccine.
Hey, now there’s something. If someone asks if you are you Pro or Anti Vaccine it may very well be a Loaded Question, because if you don’t answer what they want they will presume you are the other option, even though it is more nuanced than that. There, that is my example for the previous fallacy, and you are not sparred after all.
Essentially by framing it as a clear, broad, one-or-the-other choice, it sets up the False Dichotomy. One person may set this up as “Vaccines are good and always needed without question” and another may set it up as “Vaccines are bad and never needed.” Both cases are far from the truth, as whether or not a person actually needs or should take a vaccine depends on a multitude of factors like age, likelihood of exposure, risk factors such as obesity, and whether or not the vaccine actually stops transmission.
If something was actually a black and white situation then it would not be a false dichotomy, but this is less common than you might think.
Another example I can think of is in the US political system. The idea that there is only ever two parties, Democrat or Republican, is very much false, but because they have an entrenched and established False Dichotomy. Most people find themselves continuing the insanity, lest the other guy win; be it crappy option A or crappy option B. Even though there is crappy option C and D, etc…
*Sigh* Why must we humans always default to the simplest representation of reality?
Here’s a video explaining this one, even using a controversial example. I like him.
I hope this further helps you understand Logical Fallacies. The three presented in this post may have something you have seen in the media, or are ones you have used yourself. But now at least, you have a better understanding of these particular fallacies and you can now employ this knowledge to better argue or defend your mind from bad ideas and bad arguments.
Written by Jonathan Fader