As thinking human beings, all of us do have opinions on several issues. Opinions, being opinions, are decidedly our own windows to the world. The worldview they represent is how we perceive the world. Now, it is common that we get into discussions and arguments about these opinions, which, ideally should, invigorate and enrich them and, maybe, also allow us to see the error of our ways. Formally, the same is studied as argumentation theory. Quoting Wikipedia,
“Argumentation theory, or argumentation, is the interdisciplinary study of how humans should, can, and do reach conclusions through logical reasoning, that is, claims based, soundly or not, on premises. It includes the arts and sciences of civil debate, dialogue, conversation, and persuasion. It studies rules of inference, logic, and procedural rules in both artificial and real world settings.”
As we get into arguments and discussions, we might sometimes see the argument getting, for the want of a more suitable word, ugly. The counter arguments may seem to be using less logic and more circumlocution, or debasement of the interlocutor(s), or an assertion of authority (this is true because I say so) or personal attacks and so forth.
In informal logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually incorrect argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception. By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor (e.g. appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g. argument from authority).
Fallacious arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure any logical argument. The use of fallacies in Logical discourses is surprisingly common and is routinely used to persuade unsuspecting listeners or to trigger responses in line with the interlocutor’s point of view.
The listener would do well to be aware of the use of the fallacious logics and rhetoric techniques being used by the interlocutor, whether due to malice, or due to his ignorance and oversight. Fallacious arguments usually have the deceptive appearance of being good arguments. An understanding of these techniques is instructive and would certainly be helpful in seeing through the same.
The logical fallacies have several formal names and the descriptions can be found in several places, not the least of which are tomes of philosophical discourse which need a great deal of effort to parse and find. I plan to cover several of these fallacies in due course, striving to be a layman’s definitive guide to fallacious arguments.
Next Time: Classification of Fallacies and some of the Formal Fallacies described.