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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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Thu, Jan 26, 2017 - 10:36 AM

Official term for "whataboutism"?

A person complains about problem with person T.

Instead of responding to the point made about T the second person says, "What about person O?"

So, instead of responding to the statement about T Person 2 deflects the argument to something about Person O.

Is there an "official" name for this type of fallacy?

Example:

Person 1: John is setting a bad example by jay walking in a school zone.

Person 2: What about Delores? She jay walks wherever she goes.


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Nina Gilliam

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Nina Gilliam


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Print Fri, Oct 05, 2018 - 02:51 PM
Would this not be an example of Irrelevant Conclusion (ignoratio elenchi) or missing the point?

I'm a newbie to some of these terms, but my understanding of the definition of irrelevant conclusion is presenting an argument that may or may not be valid, but doesn't address the issue in question.

Could it also be considered Avoiding the Question?


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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Thu, Jan 26, 2017 - 11:06 AM
It depends on the claim made prior. For example,

Person 1: All our students are lazy bums.
Person 2: Bob works 2 jobs, takes care of 3 kids by himself, and has an "A" average. Surely you don't think he is lazy?
Person 1: What about John... he has a "D" and smokes pot all day.

This might be moving the goalposts, because the claim was successfully addressed, but then ignored. It could also be a non-sequitur, since John's laziness is irreverent since it has already been demonstrated that Bob is not lazy, thus ALL their students could not be lazy. However, I think it best fits under Avoiding the Issue.

However, if we modify the claim a bit, there is no fallacy.

Person 1: Some of our students are lazy bums.
Person 2: Bob works 2 jobs, takes care of 3 kids by himself, and has an "A" average. Surely you don't think he is lazy?
Person 1: What about John... he has a "D" and smokes pot all day.

In your example,

Person 1: John is setting a bad example by jay walking in a school zone.
Person 2: What about Delores? She jay walks wherever she goes.

I would argue that it depends on the context. Is person 1 Delores' mother scolding John for doing what Delores always does? Person 2 is not rejecting the claim that John is setting a bad example, but pointing out the hypocrisy of person 1.
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Rich McMahon

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Print Thu, Jan 26, 2017 - 11:47 AM
At first blush this may seem similar to a classic tu quoque logical fallacy (subset of ad hominem), which usually applies to the inconsistency of a single individual’s assertion or behavior.

Fred: “You shouldn’t eat fried food, it may cause heart disease.”
Mary: “You eat fried food all the time.”

The fallacy lies in the Premise (fried food causing or contributing to heart disease) not being invalidated by the inconsistent behavior of the asserter. (Note: the Premise may or may not be objectively true; this is irrelevant to the presence of a logical fallacy)

The OP’s example is a bit different:

Person 1: John is setting a bad example by jay walking in a school zone.

Person 2: What about Delores? She jay walks wherever she goes.

Differences are:

1.There is no reference to an INCONSISTENT assertion or behavior of the asserter, Person 1) who is making a statement (Premise) about another individual’s (John) “bad example.” Rather, another party (Delores) is subsequently introduced.
2.(More importantly) Person 2’s reply is neutral. It is not asserting an inconsistency with Person 1’s premise. At most it is ‘Jumping on the bandwagon’ (i.e. Dolores is doing the same thing as John) - falling short of an attempt to either validate or refute this Premise.


Given the above, I see no evidence laws of logic were violated, thus I see no logical fallacy.

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Frank Doonan

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Print Thu, Jan 26, 2017 - 11:11 AM
This is sort of a fallacy of a faulty generalization beyond this issue at hand when shifting the argument to propose that if other people do this than . . .

Generalizing the argument to what others do is trying to shift the the argument away from John responsibility concerning his actions.

There may a better fallacy to describe this. I would like to here the suggestions of others.


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Jim Tarsi

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Print Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - 09:20 AM
It seems to me that this is clearly a non sequitur. The full syllogism, as I see it:

P1: A person who jaywalks sets a bad example.
P2: John jaywalks.
C: John is setting a bad example.

Saying Delores jaywalks does nothing to refute either of the predicates. It also doesn't counter how they logically reach the conclusion.

Delores's behavior is totally unrelated to John's behavior or the example it sets.


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Rich McMahon

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Print Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - 03:26 PM
@Jim Tarsi makes an interesting point, one well worth considering. However, I disagree for the following reason:

A classic non sequitur is an invalid Argument in which the Conclusion could be either true or false, but the argument nonetheless asserts the conclusion to be true (and is thus fallacious.) The Latin phrase translates to “it does not follow.”

While there are different types of non sequiturs, their common element generally conforms to a formalized structure consisting of an Argument containing both a Subject statement(s) and a Conclusion, e.g.,

“My niece is highly promiscuous. She lives in NY. All New Yorkers are highly promiscuous.”
“John was arrested for DUI ten years ago. He is (now) definitely an alcoholic.”
“My dog killed a rat. All dogs are ratters.”

Notice that a common element to this structure is not only the presence of, but an “absoluteness” of the Conclusion.

If we were to tweak one of the above examples slightly:

“John was arrested for DUI ten years ago. It’s POSSIBLE he is (now) an alcoholic” – you strongly mitigate the presence of a non sequitur.

Getting back to the OP’s question and your analysis, I do not see

1. that the OP’s example lends itself to the required non sequitur argument/conclusion structure, and
2.that the “Conclusion” (if one exists at all) is sufficiently absolute to meet the
requirements for constituting a true non sequitur.

Again, the OP’s framework:

Person 1 John is setting a bad example by jay walking in a school zone.
Person 2: What about Delores? She jay walks wherever she goes.

1. Your (parsing) syllogism (of P1)

P1: A person who jaywalks sets a bad example.
P2: John jaywalks.
C: John is setting a bad example.

is useful in that it provides a good example of Deductive reasoning/logic (i.e., a non, non sequitur:) but it does not add or reveal anything, since it is already posited by P1 that ”JOHN IS SETTING A BAD EXAMPLE by jay walking in a school zone.” However, P1’s verbatim statement could comprise the Subject of a POTENTIAL Argument.

2. I submit that P2’s neutral statement concerning Delores does not comprise a Conclusion, and when combined with P1’s statement, the totality doesn’t even form an argument. QED, lacking a discernable Argument with a Conclusion, the OP’s framework is not conducive to the presence of a non sequitur (argument).

To show a reasonable alternative, let’s try to force feed a non sequitur into this, using only slightly modified parameters:

P1 John is setting a bad example by jay walking in a school zone.
P2 Delores also jay walks repeatedly
P3 (Conclusion) ANYONE jay walking sets a bad example

I would argue that here, unlike the OP’s case, we have the requisite structure & elements for a non sequitur argument: a. an actual Argument with a Conclusion b. the Conclusion could be either true or false, but the argument nonetheless asserts the conclusion to be true and c: the Conclusion is presented as an ABSOLUTE.

I welcome further thoughts.





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Ignatius Udunuwara

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Ignatius Udunuwara


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Print Thu, Jan 26, 2017 - 02:30 PM
When JUDGMENT is personal, they use logic to justify their actions. The Organon philosophers use, is a tool that is double-edged!Ignatius Udunuwara


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Rich McMahon
Friday, October 05, 2018 - 05:06:10 PM
@Nina Gilliam: Yes, this could apply, however, so often, the relevant issue in determining a potential 'fallacy fit' to any argument or syllogism becomes one of SPECIFICITY, i.e., do the parameters of a given fallacy match up PRECISELY to the construct of what is being PRESENTED OR ARGUED? Or, is it a so-so fit that may apply, but less efficiently?
I am flexible on this, usually preferring to select from a more concentrated group of fallacies (e.g., 'non sequitur' is a favorite) which can then be laid out in formal argument, but also relishing those occasions when a highly specific fallacy provides a glove-like fit to a erroneous syllogism.
IMOP, more important than 'naming' a particular fallacy is intuitively recognizing if and how Logic has been violated in a potentially fallacious assertion, and distinguishing this condition from an opinion, even a factually incorrect opinion (which need not of itself, be fallacious.)

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Rich McMahon
Thursday, January 26, 2017 - 11:58:59 PM
@Ignatius Udunuwara:

One would think you might chose to back up your cryptic gibberish with a modicum of logic or insight into/addressing the question posed:

1.”When judgment is personal…” What Judgment? What is being made personal?

2. “they use logic to justify their actions.” Who is “they “and what actions are being justified?

3. “The Organon philosophers use, is a tool that is double-edged.” The Organon is a compilation of Aristotle’s six works on logic. What relevance does it have here?

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Ignatius Udunuwara
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 03:29:39 AM
Sorry, that you are annoyed! I did not mean to upset you! In FACT: I cannot upset you unless you are vulnerable. Hence vulnerability means GULLIBITY! HOPE I HAVE ANSWERED YOUR own CONTRADICTIONS! Glad that you are familiar with the six works of Aristotle. They constitute the logical system - syllogistic logic until it was set aside in the 19th century! CALM DOWN! AND SMILE. INSIGHT????? IU

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Friday, January 27, 2017 - 06:47:42 AM
@Ignatius Udunuwara: Let me rephrase what Rich said (while remaining calm and smiling) :) From your posts, I don't think you get what this site is about. The answers we are looking for are logical fallacies, not philosophical musings that have little to do with the original post. We all get off track at times, but that implies that we were once on the track. Please just try to answer the question asked.

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Ignatius Udunuwara
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 05:47:40 PM
Hello Bo,
Thank you for your calm and smiling response. Logic like mathematics seems to be engaged in solving problems. Whether 'solving' a problem means getting the right answer is, you will agree, a point of view.

Let me please explain this:
A country believes that it will be attacked. Hence it justifies itself in building an arsenal of weapons. It believes that without weapons, it will be destroyed.
A logician might argue that it is a chicken or egg situation - which comes first - like what you are saying that logic is not about philosophy but about solving problems.

Rich seems to believe that there are real problems and logic offers solutions: like the Aristotelian syllogism - all Greeks are mortal. What if Socrates is immortal becomes a problem and now we require logical tools to show: NO, Socrates is mortal because he is Greek.

We as human beings believe that logic offers us solutions. Sure it does. But solutions deal with problems. WHY do we 'believe' that we have problems?
Deductive thinking or inductive thinking is a brain operation. I can teach a monkey how to use a spoon but that money cannot teach another monkey? Why?

I am sorry for having entered into PROBLEM SOLVING' exercises. Assure you, Sir, that I shall withdraw gracefully and wish you well.

A LOGICAL REFLECTION:

I am reminded of the judge reprimanding the witness ' Just answer the question - if your don't, I will charge you for contempt of court'. Sounds logical because threats induce fear and compel one to offer an answer under pain of punishment - Rich is like a spoilt child who demands that he must have his tools to play.

Thank you once again and may I reassure you that I will enter NOT your site and even attempt to cause displeasure among politically correct animals as PORPHYRY would observe. Ignatius Udunuwara.

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Rich McMahon
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 07:48:06 PM
@Ignatius Udunuwara:

For the record, I take umbrage at being labeled “Politically Correct” :)

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Ignatius Udunuwara
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 09:47:08 PM
"If the cap fits, only you can wear it".
PLEASE consider this dialogue as a 'waste of my time'. I am really not interested IN LOGICALLY FALLACIOUS ARGUMENTATION.
Thank you, but NO THAKS.
I have deleted this site.

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Jim Tarsi
Friday, October 05, 2018 - 09:12:25 AM
What was that all about?

Sure, people use logic to draw conclusions and take action. If judgment applies to asserting one of the predicates of the argument is true, that would compromise the absolute validity of the argument. Qualifying the predicate would make the argument more accurate.

Judgment doesn't play into whether an argument is fallacious or not. Logic has strict rules; any equivocation on the conclusion can probably be traced back to a predicate that isn't completely factual.

Was that what this was about? If not, please ignore my ramblings. It was just a bizarre thread.

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former student
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 01:41:16 PM
@Rich McMahon: Aha! in my attempt to be polite, I didn't give a logical presentation to my question. Let's make it more clear by just moving into reality.

Person 1 was a Hillary supporter. Person 2 voted for Trump.

Person 1: How can you defend/support Trump when he mocked that disabled reporter and said he grabs women's private parts because he is a celebrity?

Person 2: What about Hillary? Bengazi and her personal email server.

THAT's the kind of whataboutism I saw all during the campaigns and beyond. Is there a name for that type of illogic?

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Rich McMahon
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 05:03:23 PM
This latest example differs substantially from your initial post (since we are now talking about comparing multiple, completely unrelated manifestations of illegality/bad behavior).

Depending on the precise context, I would go either with non sequitur, fallacy of relative privation, or perhaps no logical fallacy at all.

If there exists an implicit attempt in these statements to JUSTIFY illegality/ bad behavior exhibited by one individual, by comparing it to ‘worse’ illegality/ bad behavior exhibited by the other, we have classic a non sequitur.

Another possibility is The "not as bad as" fallacy, also known as the fallacy of relative privation: “Action B is worse than action A. Therefore action A is the right thing to do.” This fallacy can also be applied to individuals, and you often encounter it in comparisons between e.g., Stalin and Hitler. This may be the most specifically applicable fallacy, if one is present.

However, if beneath the rhetoric we have a behind-the-scenes, thoughtful rationale that recognizes two highly flawed candidates, accepting that one will inevitably become President, combined with a subjective calculus that weighs their respective strengths and weaknesses, leading to the conclusion that, net-net, one is more worthy of their vote than the other, I see no fallacy.


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Nina Gilliam
Thursday, October 04, 2018 - 01:44:59 PM
@Rich McMahon:

Would this not be an example of Irrelevant Conclusion (ignoratio elenchi) or missing the point?

I'm a newbie to some of these terms, but my understanding of the definition of irrelevant conclusion is presenting an argument that may or may not be valid, but doesn't address the issue in question.

Could it also be considered Avoiding the Question?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
moderator
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 03:56:19 PM
@Rich McMahon: Hi Rich, many informal logical fallacies are derived from formal ones, or have uses both in formal and informal logic. Informally, the non-sequitur is simply when something does not follow. You used the term "classic non sequitur," I am not sure what you mean by "classic." Formal maybe? Again, informal use of the non sequitur is quite common and useful (when something simply does not follow).

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Rich McMahon
Friday, January 27, 2017 - 05:13:27 PM
Yes, I was equating 'classic' with a more 'formal' non sequitur, and in particular the requirements for a non sequitur 'argument' to exist.

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