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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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Hilzar

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Hilzar


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#fallacy
#help me
#whatfallacyisthis
Wed, Mar 06, 2019 - 12:55 PM

Trying to figure out the fallacy here, I can't put my thumb on it.

Person A: I believe there are only two genders.

Person B: Why do you say so?

Person A: Because NO ONE'S ever proven that there are more than two

Now, I'm rather sure that there's a fallacy here but I don't know which, somebody help?



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Michael Chase Walker
Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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Michael Chase Walker

Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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About Michael Chase Walker

Michael Chase Walker is an actor, author, screenwriter, producer, and a former adjunct lecturer for the College of Santa Fe Moving Images Department, and Dreamworks Animation. His first motion picture was the animated classic, The Last Unicorn.
Michael was an in-house television writer for the hit television series: He-Man, She-Ra, Voltron, and V, the Series. In 1985, he was appointed Director of Children's programs for CBS Entertainment where he conceived, shaped and supervised the entire 1985 Saturday Morning line-up: Wildfire, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Galaxy High School, Teen Wolf, and over 10
Print Thu, Mar 07, 2019 - 11:25 AM
The claimant prefaces his or her statement with "I believe" which neutralizes the claim.
It is simply a statement of belief.

The belief states there are only two genders and thus
through its ambiguous use of the word, gender creates a Fallacy of Amphiboly.

Linguistically, an amphiboly is a type of ambiguity that results from ambiguous grammar, as opposed to one that results from the ambiguity of words or phrases—that is, equivocation. Logically, the fallacy of amphiboly occurs when a bad argument trades upon grammatical ambiguity to create an illusion of cogency.

As Dr. Bo describes:

Ambiguity Fallacy

(also known as: ambiguous assertion, amphiboly, amphibology, semantical ambiguity, vagueness)

Description: When an unclear phrase with multiple definitions is used within the argument; therefore, does not support the conclusion. Some will say single words count for the ambiguity fallacy, which is really a specific form of a fallacy known as equivocation.

Logical Form:

Claim X is made.

Y is concluded based on an ambiguous understanding of X.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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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 Wed, Mar 06, 2019 - 01:02 PM
Argument from Ignorance. The assumption of a conclusion or fact based primarily on lack of evidence to the contrary.

Scientifically, this is a strange dialog because gender (not biological sex) is a socially constructed concept to which no "proof" can exist outside of wide-scale agreement. A gender is XYZ because we, as a society, has agreed that it is.
Bo Bennett, PhD
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William Harpine, Ph.D.

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Print Wed, Mar 06, 2019 - 01:20 PM
It does sound like argument from ignorance (see Kahane, Logic and Contemporary Argument).

But there may also be a false dilemma. The argument assumes that only two choices are possible. (Getting into factual area here, many scientists have researched various intersex sates.) When someone tells you in a loud voice that there are only two choices, caution is advised.


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Joseph L. Hughey, Ph.D.
Joseph L. Hughey, Ph.D.

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Joseph L. Hughey, Ph.D.

Joseph L. Hughey, Ph.D.

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About Joseph L. Hughey, Ph.D.

Ph.D. Chemistry, UNC Chapel Hill
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B.S. Chemistry, Georgia Tech

Origin: Georgia

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Print Thu, Mar 07, 2019 - 02:48 PM
My interpretation of the statement:

Assertions without proof are absolutely True.

If I may cheat with an equivalent model:

Person A: I believe that God exists.
Person B: Why do you say so?
Person A: Because no one has ever proven that God does not exist.

I am reading LF for the first time, so I have no idea which one of the 300 violations this fits.
Joseph L. Hughey, Ph.D.


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Registered User Comments

Jordan Pine
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 07:17:31 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Is there are an “argumentum ad semantics”? If so, it has been committed here. Gender and sex are words used interchangeably. Most definitions of gender begin “either of TWO sexes ...” The usage goes back. According to Oxford: “The sense denoting biological sex has ... been used since the 14th century, but this did not become common until the mid 20th century.” (Because it most often referred to grammar usage.) We may now be experiencing a new shift in meaning, but honest argumentation requires accepting the commonly understood definition of words. The original arguer obviously meant biological sex. Granted, his support for the argument was weak. He should have replied: “Because: science.”

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 07:35:26 AM
This is tricky... there is the appeal to definition (https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/27/Appeal-to-Definition) and definist fallacies (https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/75/Definist-Fallacy). Definitions do change over time, especially in science where new data justifies the change. However, there are those who make poor attempts to change definitions of scientific terms for non-scientific reasons. I think gender and sex are a great example of a justified expanded definition adopted in the 1970s. There are clearly social aspects to being a man or woman and biological ones. The "new" (50 years ago) use of "gender" clarifies these concepts. An example where I see a major problem with an expanded definition is with "racism," and "sexism" where many in the social sciences are attempting to require "power" as part of the definitions. The problem is it would mean (according to them) that non-whites can never be racists and women can never be sexist, which is absurd.

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Jordan Pine
Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 09:24:58 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Is it, though? I run into this problem often in debates/argumentation. It is a variation of a red herring and an intellectual dodge when someone feels pinned down. It is something like the inverse of your "Appeal to Definition" fallacy. I think we should call it the "Appeal to Semantics." Or maybe the "Appeal to Uncommon Definition" or "Appeal to New Definitions." Using your example as a framework, it would go like this...

Logical Form: The definition of X sometimes includes uncommon usage Y. Therefore, Y is the meaning of X when it is used.

Example #1:

Ken: There are only two genders.

Paul: Absolutely not! Gender is a social construct.

Ken: No, gender is biology. It's a scientific fact.

Paul: Wrong. You are talking about "sex," not "gender." You need to check your definitions.

Ken: I use those words interchangeably, as do most people. In fact, if you look up the word "gender" in the dictionary, which is a reflection of the current accepted usage of terms, you will see my usage is correct.

Paul: Yes, but a notation under "gender" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary indicates this meaning may be changing to indicate something more fluid given current usage of the term. Therefore, you're wrong.

{Or more commonly: "Yes, but everyone I know uses the word the way I am insisting it be used." This is the reason I often reference the dictionary since it is at least impartial and has a more scientific methodology behind it.}

Ken: No, you are just arguing semantics. Because you couldn't debate my intended meaning, you've decided to attack my words. Nice try.

To paraphrase NN Taleb: Only charlatans attack what you said rather than what you meant.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 08:24:07 AM
@Jordan Pine: Hi Jordan!

It is a variation of a red herring and an intellectual dodge when someone feels pinned down.

Be careful inferring intent on others. Sometimes it may be obvious, but many times it is we who are projecting the intent. Again, you may be 100% correct, but just consider that you also may be 100% incorrect. We are much worse at mind reading than we think :)

The definition of X sometimes includes uncommon usage Y. Therefore, Y is the meaning of X when it is used.

The problem with this (as hinted above), is that it is very possible that Y was meant all along. Virtually every word has multiple definitions and the best way to avoid a painful argument and a seemingly endless trail of rabbit holes is to simple ask the person "What do you mean by X?" before making assumptions and creating strawmen. In formal debate, establishing agreed upon definitions is usually done prior to the debate to avoid these kinds of issues.

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Jordan Pine
Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 05:44:09 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Makes sense. Establishing definitions up-front would also neutralize the Appeal to Definition.

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Kaiden
Thursday, March 07, 2019 - 07:42:11 PM
@Michael Chase Walker:

I agree that an appeal to ignorance has been committed.

However, I don’t see why the arguments commits the fallacy of amphiboly. I am confused by your explanation for this, Michael Chase Walker. In your second paragraph, you state that “The belief states there are only two genders and thus through its ambiguous use of the word, gender creates a Fallacy of Amphiboly.” But in the very next paragraph—a chunk taken word-for-word from a website called The Fallacy Files and probably should have been credited, Walker—the definition of the fallacy of amphiboly states that it is a fallacy that does not occur from the ambiguity of a word (but from the ambiguity of grammar). Your support for the claim in the second paragraph actually conflicts with it. I would appreciate it if you clarify your position on whether or not the argument commits the fallacy of amphiboly, and provide a non-conflicting explanation of why it does or does not.

If amphiboly is not about words but grammar, then the argument’s use of an ambiguous word, such as “gender”, would not qualify for the fallacy of amphiboly, unlike what your second paragraph says. It would, however, possibly commit the broader fallacy of ambiguity, which IS a fallacy that can have to do with the ambiguity of a word, not just grammar.

Indeed, you criticize the argument for committing the fallacy of ambiguity according to the definition that Dr. Bo Bennett provides. You post the definition of the fallacy and claim that the argument commits it, but I don’t see a good explanation for how the argument commits it. It seems that you are trying to tell us that the argument CONTAINS an ambiguous word—gender—and therefore commits the fallacy. But to be clear, the presence of an ambiguous word in an argument is not sufficient for committing a fallacy. The argument commits the fallacy if it exploits the ambiguity of the word in order to pass off as cogent. So if you are trying to explain that the argument commits the fallacy simply by the presence of an ambiguous word, you are wrong.

On the other hand, perhaps you do think that the argument is exploiting the ambiguity of the word. Well, to explain how the argument commits the fallacy of ambiguity, then, you would have to show that the word “gender” undergoes a change of meaning in the argument in order to pass off as cogent. So, Micheal Chase Walker, what definition is being used for “gender” in the conclusion of the argument and what is the different definition that is being used in the premise? It’s not clear that Person A commits the fallacy of ambiguity. Without explaining how the argument is using different definitions for “gender”, you not giving any successful case for the argument committing the fallacy of ambiguity.

In sum, I notice that your paragraph two and three conflict. And I do not think that there is any apparent reason for thinking that argument commits the fallacy of ambiguity.

Thank you, Michael Chase Walker.

Kaiden










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Michael Chase Walker
Thursday, March 07, 2019 - 08:43:22 PM
Thank you, Kaiden!

Great questions. Good points. Thank you for making the effort. I will respond. Please allow me some time because I have a very exciting life right now. Haha!

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Kaiden
Thursday, March 07, 2019 - 08:58:54 PM
@Michael Chase Walker:

I’m glad you are doing so well! Please, take all the time you want.

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Michael Chase Walker
Thursday, March 07, 2019 - 09:00:16 PM
@Kaiden: please post your picture so we all can appreciate your personhood!

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Kaiden
Friday, March 08, 2019 - 04:47:11 PM
@Michael Chase Walker:

Yes, that might be a good idea! Maybe I’ll post a picture, soon.

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Hilzar
Thursday, March 07, 2019 - 09:57:38 AM
@William Harpine, Ph.D.: Thank you for your input and the addition of a false dilemma because it is clearly not binary.

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