Fallacies and It Is Important to Detect Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

fallacies and it is important to detect fallacious arguments and then form decisions. Below is an analysis of three such fallacies which have been described and examples are described to show why it is important to detect them.


Ad Ignorantiam

This fallacy is on the principle that in the case there is a lack of evidence to prove it to be true, it is considered naturally to be false. An atheist might claim that as a creationist cannot prove that God exists therefore God does not exist. Similarly a creationist can say that because the atheist cannot prove that God does not exist, hence God exists. Basically this fallacy deals with the burden of proof and in the absence of any proof it labels the opposite to be absolutely true. This fallacy is used in the judicial systems that are based on the principle of "innocent until proven guilty." Hence the burden of proof is not on the defendant but on the prosecutor to prove him to be guilty. If he fails to submit sufficient evidence then the defendant is assumed to be innocent and released. This type of fallacy compromises critical thinking because the absence of proof does not necessarily mean the opposite to be true. Disregarding every other argument because sufficient evidence was not put forward is certainly not critical thinking. It is important to detect such a fallacy and remove it from an argument that provides a conclusion based on the appeal to ignorance.

Senator Joe McCarthy used this type of fallacy to support his claim:

'I am only giving the Senate, cases in which it is clear there is a definite Communist connection ... persons whom I consider to be Communists in the State Department .... I do not have much information on this except the general statement of the agency ... that there is nothing in the files to disprove his Communist connections." (Richard H. Rovere, p.106-107)

The agency could not disprove Communist connection hence it was assumed that there were Communist connections. This assumption is not necessarily true and what he should have looked for was any evidence to prove Communist connections. This type of fallacy should not be used to make vital decisions as far as some cases are concerned. However in cases where the burden of proof is put on the prosecutor to prove the defendant to be guilty, this fallacy is well used otherwise the law and order system would get extremely corrupted. If the defendant was to prove his innocence then law enforcing agencies could put anyone in the trouble of proving themselves to be innocent for whatever alleged crime. It was wrong of Senator McCarthy to accuse anyone of having Communist connections or for Mahathir Mohammad to hold the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia as guilty (Interview of Mahathir Mohammad) based on the fact that they have not been able to prove their innocence.

False Dilemma

This is a fallacy that is also known as a black or white fallacy where a choice is given to be made between two extremes of a spectrum rather than acknowledging that an intermediate state could also be present. It's more like either black or white without giving the option of a grey. More like, accept either "A" to be true or "B" to be true, where both "A" and "B" could be false. Atheists use this fallacy to prove that God does not exist. Ask a Christian and he would say God is omnipotent. The Atheist would then ask if God is omnipotent can He make a wall so strong that he cannot break it. This would lead the Christian or any other theologian into a corner with no escape.

A classic example was seen by the speech of the President of the United States recently after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. He stated that every nation has to decide…

Sources Used in Document:


(1) Richard H. Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy (Methuen, 1960). Pages: 106-107.

(2) Interview of Mahathir Mohammad -- Fall of Anwar. [Online website] Available from: http://stoneforest.org/philosophy/anwar.html#innocence [Accessed on 17/9/2005]

(3) William Raspberry - 'With Us or Against Us' is a False Dichotomy [Online website] Available from: http://www.commondreams.org/views01/1014-04.htm [Accessed on 17/9/2005]

(4) Jerry White - Arab-Americans and Muslims attacked in the U.S. 15 September 2001 [online website] Available from: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/sep2001/atta-s15.shtml [Accessed on 17/9/2005]

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