FanPost

Logic & Logical Fallacies: A Brief Note

The words "logic", "informal fallacies", " ad hominem" are occasionally uttered on Gang Green Nation within the context of members discussing each other's comments. For the most part, the terms and the ideas they connote are used correctly. However, this is not always the case. The mistakes are becoming more egregious, more frequently. I hope to informally give a basic understanding of what's at play to help prevent further misunderstandings.

The term "logic" in it's most fundamental understanding is the study of methods and principles used to distinguish correct reasoning from incorrect reasoning. As such, it's primarily concerned with the form of an argument as opposed to the truth or falsity of it's premisses. The most basic concepts involved are: valid,invalid,sound,unsound. An argument formulated in such a way that if its' premisses are true, then it's impossible for its' conclusion to be false is referred to as a valid argument.. One could have false premisses, and a true conclusion and still be valid. It is the form of reasoning that the concept of validity is concerned with. It's only connection to truth or falsity is the fact that if the premisses are true, the form of the argument guarantees the truth of its' conclusion. If an argument is valid, and its' premisses are true then its a sound argument. If an argument is valid but its' premisses are untrue then it's an unsound argument.

Starting with Aristotle's Law of Non-Contradiction and working through history logicians have formulated various rules of inference,(standardized valid argument forms really), which if correctly applied guarantee that if the premisses are true, then the conclusion must be true. This is so regardless of how complex the argument may be.

There is also a collection assembled of the most common forms of mistakes made that result in invalid arguments that are referred to as Informal Fallacies. That is, when these fallacies are committed they result is an invalid, or fallacious argument. IIRC, there are about a dozen of these to date. We're concerned with the one that is commonly referred to as argumentem ad hominem . This can be further broken down into a subset argumentem ad hominem(circumstantial). In the former, one is simply outright attacking the man advancing an argument in an effort to prove his argument wrong. In the latter, one is attacking the circumstances the man is in to discredit his argument. For example, "He's a religious individual so his theses on economic and political philosophy are skewed and unsound". Obviously, one could be the most pious individual on the planet, and advance valid and sound theses in economic and political philosophy. Another example, kind of from the other end of the spectrum, is provided recently by a member of GGN who argues something to the effect that:

Premiss: Stephen A.Smith & Skip Bayless are uninformed, unprofessional, sports blowhards.

Conclusion: Therefore I can reject their positive assessment of Bryce Petty out of hand without consideration of anything they said and know that I'm right.

Of course, even an "unprofessional, uninformed sports blowhard" could get something right on occasion. So the above argument could have true premisses and a false conclusion. As noted above a Valid argument can NEVER have true premisses and a false conclusion. So this member's argument is Invalid and fallacious. Yet he argues further, (citing Wikipedia), that where alleged incompetence of the authors' of the argument is grossly obvious it is valid to advance an argumentum ad hominem(circumstantial) position,(although he doesn't actually call it this). It's not really argumentum ad hominem(circumstantial) in extreme cases it is asserted.

We've already demonstrated this type of argument cited above is invalid and fallacious. If it's not really an example of argumentum ad hominem(circumstantial) what other type of invalid fallacy could it be? Whatever one can say about the argument cited, one cannot say that it is a valid form of logic.There is logic with its' rigor. That's it. There is no "Shortcuts For Dummies" book on logic for the intellectually lazy. Wikipedia might be a fine place to start research, but it's NOT the ultimate court of appeals on anything, and shouldn't be where research is ended.

For the record I graduated from SUNY Binghamton with Departmental Honors in Philosophy, and taught Intro To Logic for two years as a graduate student at SUNY Albany. I've successfully completed undergraduate and graduate courses in logic and set theory. That doesn't mean I know everything about it. I know more than enough to sort my way through this.

There is a book I taught from called, "Intro to Logic", by Irving M. Copi. I think there are about 19 or 20 revised editions of it out there. It's very approachable and doesn't presuppose any real background in math etc. It's pretty much the standard undergraduate text. You can pick up a cheap used copy of it easily. It doesn't matter what edition you pick up. Logic is logic forever. For a more advanced journey into the world of logic there is a book called "On The Development Of Logic" by William and Martha Kneale. An affordable used copy of that should be available too.

That will be 5 internets please.



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