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Logical fallacy

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In Logical Self-Defense, Ralph H. Johnson and J. Anthony Blair use "informal fallacies as the device for introducing students to the analysis and evaluation of arguments" (xv). Johnson and Blair stress the important connection between logical argumentation and logical fallacies. For Johnson and Blair, a quality argument upholds the RSA Triangle, of relevance, sufficiency, and acceptability. That is, a quality argument is understood by the relationship between its two component parts, the premise(s) and the conclusion. Specifically, a quality argument upholds the standard of relevance, the standard of sufficiency, and the standard of acceptability. Hence, a fallacy is "a pattern of argumentation that violates one of the criteria a good argument must satisfy and that occurs with some marked degree of frequency" (54).

In Attacking Faulty Reasoning, T. Edward Damer adds a fourth category: "There are four general criteria of a good argument. A good argument must have premises that are relevant to the truth of the conclusion, premises that are acceptable, premises that constitute sufficient grounds for the truth of the conclusion, and premises that anticipate and provide an effective rebuttal to all reasonable challenges to the argument or to the position supported by it. An argument that meets all of these conditions is a good one, and its conclusion should be accepted" (12).

Regardless of the number of categories, when assessing an argument, one must chart the quality of the link between the conclusion and its premises. A weak link between a conclusion and its premise(s) often indicates a fallacy.

According to Discovering the World through Debate, a fallacy is "An argument that fails to meet any one of the standards of acceptability, relevance, and sufficiency" (247).

Some types of fallacies include the following: argument ad hominem, ambiguity, appeal to fear, appeal to popularity, appeal to tradition, begging the question, equivocation, fallacy of composition, fallacy of division, fallacy of incompatibility, faulty analogy, hasty conclusion, Improper Appeal, loaded term, poisoning the well, post hoc fallacy, problematic premise, red herring, slippery slope argument, straw person fallacy, two wrongs fallacy, and vagueness.


"Works Cited"

Damer, T. Edward. Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments. Third Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing, 1995.

Johnson, Ralph H. and J. Anthony Blair. Logical Self-Defense. Idebate Press Edition. New York: Idebate Press, 2006.

Trapp, Robert, et al. Discovering the World through Debate: A Practical Guide to Educational Debate for Debaters, Coaches, and Judges. Third Edition. New York: IDEA Press Books, 2005.

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